Running an online creative business today means you have a massive advantage…

You can create an Instagram page and start building up your fanbase before you even launch a product. You can reach out on Facebook and in a few threads you can find like-minded creative sellers willing to collaborate with you. You can get hundreds and thousands of people tuned into you as you stream your daily activities on YouTube.

Now, anybody can be somebody and that includes you.

Social media is an open playing field. You no longer need a huge advertising budget. You don’t need to be famous and you don’t need to know the right people.

All you need to do is show up, seize every opportunity and tool available to you and find the tribe that will back you the whole way.

Social media is an easy way for you to strike up an intimate conversation with your community. You can listen to what your tribe wants and you can also let your customers into your world.

 

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Instagram for makers and creatives because it’s a platform that celebrates visually appealing products. It’s the perfect place to share your creations, your creative process and let people peek into your life.
Best of all, marketing should be fun and Instagram is a great way to simply have fun with your brand.

 

Are you ready to use Instagram to boost your handmade shop sales and grow your influence using free Instagram tools and strategies? Scroll on…

 

The Instagram Success Formula

 

If you’re looking to kill it on Instagram, here are three core elements that you’ll need to focus on improving:

  1. Captivating Content. At the very heart of Instagram is showcasing and sharing images and videos that are beautiful and relevant. When you have amazing visuals, people will want to keep seeing it. You’ll naturally attract a loyal following.
  2. Follower Growth. Like a shop without customers, you can’t have an Instagram community without followers. These are the people who engage with you, motivate you to keep going, support what you’re doing and eventually turn into your most profitable customers.
  3. Community Engagement. There’s no use having hundreds and thousands of followers that don’t care enough to interact with your content. When you have an unengaged following, you have a list. When you have active followers, you have a community.

Part 1: Craft captivating content

 

How can you expect to grow a following if people don’t care about the things you post?

In order to truly wow your community your content has to be two things: relevant and beautiful.

 

Relevant

Your visuals should directly speak to your target audience and you should know exactly what types of images and words speak to them. Every time you upload a post to Instagram, whether it’s a new product announcement or a work in progress shot, think of how the post is relevant to your community.

 

Beautiful

When you whip out your camera, take the time to really align your image to the gridlines, use great lighting and give thought to the props, colors and visuals you include. Your content should come together and feel like a story.

 

Ready to create content that is beautiful AND relevant?

 

What to post on Instagram?

 

Instagram is constantly adding new ways to post to mix up their platform.

You can now post:

  • Images
  • Videos that are up to 60 seconds long
  • Albums or posts where you can upload multiple images

You can share temporary content like:

    • Instagram Stories
    • Story highlights

And since June 2018, you can now upload longer videos on Instagram TV: IGTV.

 

It’s always a good idea to mix up the types of content that you publish. People consume mediums differently. Some people are transfixed by an aesthetically pleasing image while others can’t stop replaying a moment you’ve captured on video.

 

Next, you’ll need to plan out the contents of your images, videos and stories.

Many creatives make the mistake of using their Instagram and social media feeds as a shop front. They sell, sell, sell and forget to share and give value to their community.
On the other hand, some creatives are afraid of asking their audience to buy. If you give too much, when it comes time to push your product it’ll be harder to push your community over the line.

To balance this fine line, think about categorizing your social media posts evenly into these three categories:

  • Brand
  • Sales
  • Personal

 

Branded content

Your branded posts reflect the story behind every finished product, creation or commission. Here’s where you share things like your work-in-progress shots but you’re not blatantly trying to sell your creations or directing traffic to your shop.

Here’s a list of content ideas that fall under Brand:

  • Work in progress
  • Your workspace, studio or desk with your product
  • Flatlay or a styled scene with your creation in the background
  • Process or in “making-mode” scenes
  • A repost from a collaboration series
  • Giveaways and competitions
  • Takeovers
  • Polls and surveys about your products

 

Sales content

Your sales content is a way for you to promote your products and encourage your followers to visit your website or shop. This is also your chance to foster a relationship with your customers by answering questions about your items.

Start selling with these content ideas:

  • Product catalogue
  • Items being modelled or “in-use”
  • A flatlay or styled scene with your creation highlighted
  • A repost from a customer with your item
  • Promotional offers and sales
  • Shop announcements
  • Collages of your products

 

Personal content

Your personal content is a reflection of your personality. It’s a way for you to inject a piece of yourself into your Instagram feed and to remind people that there’s a real, living, breathing human being behind your business.

Some ideas:

  • Inspirational quotes
  • Everyday: food, travel, family, shopping hauls and pets
  • Places or things that inspire you
  • Reposts from influencers you admire
  • Your tools
  • Holiday and seasonal graphics
  • Tips and life hacks

 

Start creating content that speaks to your customer

Download my free Editorial Calendar template as part of the Instagram Marketing tools bundle. It will help you plan out your Instagram schedule. You’ll also find a bonus Instagram challenge inside that will help you get through those “I can’t think of what to post” days.

 

Turn Instagram into your homepage

 

Remember back to the last time you went to a new restaurant in town or your friend mentioned a new brand they’re obsessed with…

Did you check out their Instagram feed or their website first?

When it comes to your feed, you need to think about the bigger picture. Your feed will be the first thing new viewers will look at when they’re interested in you and it’s where they make the decision whether or not you’re worth an Insta-follow.

 

First, you’ve got to think of the big picture.

Whenever you’re posting an image, think about how it will look in your feed, alongside your other pictures and whether it’ll complement them or not.

Some successful Instagrammers have a consistent theme running in their feed and it can look amazing if executed correctly. Try and channel this and have a running theme or a consistent element that ties them together.

 

The Grid

 

Let me introduce you to the Grid. The Grid is the basic layout of the Instagram feed. With a little visual awareness, you can take advantage of the grid setup to perfect your feed and weave a visual story together.

 

The first and third rule

Whenever I post a new image to my feed I always think – what will it look like next to my latest post and my third post?

Why just these posts?

Simply because when you upload you brand new snap, it’ll appear next to your last upload and above your third last one. Imagining it, yet?

I analyze my image to make sure that it fits in and doesn’t clash with the other two images. This helps me hone in my focus to just 3 images, instead of frantically trying to figure out if my photo is consistent with my entire feed.

 

See it in action! @thechildatheartblog has created a subtle alternating rule. She alternates between lettering on a white background and personal lifestyle pictures.

 

 

The series of 3 rule

Instagram will always lay out your images 3 grids wide whether you’re on mobile or looking at a feed on your desktop. You can use this to your advantage by capturing and uploading a series of 3 images. If you have a product, you can show it in 3 different angles or perspectives.

 

 

@visualjournal.it shines the light on a designer by sharing three of their designs to the visual journal community.

 

 

Tie it all together

Have you ever seen an Instagram feed that was a little bit haphazard but for some reason it still looked cohesive? A great hack to creating consistency is using a similar element across your images to tie everything together. Think flowers, plants, coffee, a color palette, books or an everyday item you can easily include in your shoots. Maybe it’s even your product itself.

 

@misspoppydesign uses flowers to connect all of her posts together using flowers and bright whites.

 

 

@ettavee takes inspiration from her bright artworks to fill out her feed by injecting color everywhere. 

 

 

 

Theme your own Instagram feed

Download the Instagram Marketing worksheet bundle. Inside you’ll find a theme and style sheet where you can start planning out your own look and feel.  

 

Part 2: Growing your following

 

It’s all well and good to produce top-notch beautiful content, but what’s the point if no one’s looking at it? Well, I’m just about to spill the beans on how you can finally grow your followers on Instagram and I promise it takes just a few minutes each day.

 

Make the first move

 

Once you’ve found your tribe members it’s now time to get their attention, woo them and convert them to join your tribe.

How do you do this?

It’s quite simple, you go out and you get them.

You engage with them first.

This means hopping onto the app, hitting that search button and finding your community on Instagram through hashtags and the influencers they follow.

 

Next, you start a conversation. Like a bunch of images that you really love. Comment and tell people how awesome you think their content is. And follow more than your friends and family on Instagram.

Every time you engage with someone, the user you are interacting with will see a little notification pop up in their Instagram app. Depending on who they are, they might let curiosity get the better of them and check out who their new fan is. This traffic on your feed is another opportunity for someone to notice you, see what you’ve got and join your community.

 

Here’s how you can break this strategy down using my hashtag and influencer growth worksheets.

 

Step 1: Find the hashtags that they use

Start by using the hashtags that you would normally use to describe your product.

 

  1. Now begin searching for these in Instagram.
  2. You’ll see related hashtags pop up.
  3. Scroll down and write down the hashtags that are both relevant to what you’re doing and the hashtags that your audience would also be using.
  4. Keep testing out related keywords until you’ve built up a hashtag library.
  5. Use your hashtag list to target specific hashtags. Scroll through the most recent posts and start engaging with people and posts that you adore.

 

 

Step 2: Find the influencers they follow

Just like hashtags, you can also find influencers with followers who overlap with your audience to target.

If you and another Instagrammer both make different products with a similar aesthetic, you can make a safe assumption that their followers would be interested in being in your community too.

So the next time you see an influencer or a competitor with tens of thousands of followers don’t feel intimidated or small! Take note of what they are doing and start interacting with their followers.

Start engaging with the followers of your influencers:

  1. In the People search on Instagram, type in the name of one of a similar account and tap into their profile.
  2. Tap into their latest post
  3. Tap into the Likes to see all the people who liked the post
  4. Start engaging with these superfans of your chosen influencer

 

 

See your Instagram following grow

Download the Instagram Marketing worksheet bundle to get your growth tracker. Inside you’ll find an Instagram tracker that will help you set goals and track your weekly and monthly growth.

 

Part 3: Turn your Instagram engagement up

 

Instagram engagement used to be simple: all you had to do was get your likes and comments up and you’re good to go.

But with so many new tools and features, there’s way more factors that go into driving your engagement up.

Here are just a few:

  • Image likes, comments and video views
  • Image and video shares and saves
  • Instagram Story and Highlight views, swipe ups and DMs
  • Even factors come into play like how fast you’re gaining your likes, comments and what percentage of your own followers are engaging with you.

 

Why do I need good Instagram engagement?

 

Ever since Instagram introduced their feed algorithm, the quest to increase your Instagram engagement is more important than ever.

Let’s face it, the Instagram algorithm cares about your engagement rate more than the number of followers you have. Good engagement means that your posts will be seen in more explore feeds, top hashtag feeds and Instagram will begin to organically recommend you to their users.

High Engagement = More Followers

These are my favorite little hacks that I use to get my Instagram engagement pumping.

 

Make it ridiculously easy to engage

How often have you scrolled past a post without doing anything?

Get your followers into the habit of engaging with you. When your followers are used to engaging with you, it’ll be easier for them to like, comment and DM you next time too:

  • Tell your followers to hit like if they agree with you
  • Get them to give you virtual hi-fives in your comments
  • Give them super easy surveys and polls in your Instagram Stories
  • Ask questions in your captions
  • Use your posts to drive engagement to your Stories
  • And use Stories to drive engagement back to your new posts

 

Use time to your advantage

Despite your posts being a permanent fixture on your feed (until you decide to delete them), the amount of time you have to hit peak engagement is a mere 72 hours. After 72 hours, your posts will not appear on explore feeds and top hashtag feeds.

Get the most out of Instagram’s time constraints:

  • Experiment to find out the time that your followers are most active and post around then
  • Post on a consistent basis, at least every 1 to 2 days
  • After you’ve posted your photo or video, start engaging with your followers to build instant traffic to your post
  • Reply to your comments and reciprocate any love you’ve received from your followers

 

Start experimenting and be creative

Instagram is all about having fun with your brand. So take some time and find the kinds of posts you like posting:

  • Post in all mediums – some of your followers might respond and stick to different mediums better so don’t be afraid to switch it up with photos, videos, albums and stories.
  • Post in different orientations – many posts tend to perform better when it’s in a portrait ratio
  • Mix up your hashtags to increase your chance of getting a spot in the hashtag’s Top Posts
  • Host a giveaway

 

What other tips, tricks or hacks do you use to grow your Instagram? I would love to take a peek at your Instagram so please pop your username in the comments below and anything else you’ve learnt here.