How staying engaged helped me grow my Instagram
I went on a mini hiatus during the holidays so that I could recharge and create content actually worth sharing.
I did take some time on Twitter & Instagram to do one-on-ones with a few of you to find out what do you need help with the most as an artist and here's what I got:
- Growing your audience
- Behind-the-Scenes of selling art
- Learning more skills.
This is awesome because these are 3 things that I for one, as an art hustler, have experienced.
Instagram has really been a game changer for me and I mean this, no lie.
All I had to do is learn how to use it effectively!
Here's what has been working for me and hopefully this works for you too!
You ever just look at your Instagram feed and think,
“why do I only have X amount of followers? So-and-so has [insert crazy long number] of followers and I know my stuff is x10 better than that!”
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been there and occasionally am there.
So before you get to read about how to grow your Instagram following I’m going to need you to do something for me, but mainly for yourself:
Stop comparing yourself to others.
It’s so easy to want to be envious. It’s so easy to want to compare yourself to someone. If you are anything like me, you end up spending more time comparing yourself to someone else instead of learning new techniques from them.
Learning is the key.
Once you start looking at other artists as teachers instead of competitors you’ll be more open to trying new ideas!
HOW DO WE TAKE MY SMALL FOLLOWING OF 50, 100, 200 AND GROW IT WITHOUT USING:
Apps that add 10000+ fake Instagram followings that disappear later
Being annoying / being insincere
Time that I DON’T have
Here’s my accidental list of actions that helped my Instagram following grow from 250 followers to 850 followers over time.
1 | Get to know your audience
Before I used to think that when things were going slow it meant that I needed to find something new. Find NEW followers, find NEW clients and so on.
Then I finally caught on to the concept of paying attention to the people who are around you RIGHT NOW!
The people who currently follow you, are they the people that you were trying to attract to your art? Look through you current following and engage with them!
Be sincere! Look through their feed and like things that you actually like, comment on things that you enjoy. Take a few minutes to say thanks for following me on a post.
The little things matter the most. It shows that you appreciate their following.
While you are sifting through your audience, look at the other people that they follow. You’ll get a sense of what your audience likes to engage with the most.
To make this process even faster I used Iconosquare *briefly* I started using it about a month ago and it’s pretty useful for gauging what kind of content resonates with your audience the most, the best time of day to post and more!
Iconosquare has a 14 day free trial so feel free to try it out. I'm currently scoping out a few more tools similar to it but more budget-friendly AKA free.
Main Point : Get to know your current audience so that you can post content that reaches them + others like them.
2 | Proactively seek out people who would find you dope!
I used to be passive on my Instagram and my social media period.. When I say “passive” I mean that I would post content and then wait. And wait. Waiting for someone to notice me. I was getting annoyed.
I just made some dope art and nobody’s saying nothing. Do you see that double negative I just used? I was pissed.
But then I stopped myself and did something more productive, like going on listening to a webinar with Caitlyn & Lauren Hooker on Instagram. I totally recommend listening / watching it by the way. but basically my take away from it was this:
No one will know you are out there if you don’t approach them.
Through the video I learned to pick one of my most used hashtags and pop them into Instagram and see who else is using it in the most recent posts. Seek out people who would like your stuff. You can find out if they like your stuff based on who THEY follow.
Now the main part of this is to remember, you’re not actually self-promoting. You're engaging with them. You’ll find posts that you like from them or posts that make you want to comment.
If they happen to have a website link in their bio check it out so that you’ll have something to talk about. Taking note of details like that shows that you actually care and are not in it just for the following.
Those people will come back to see who you are and will most likely do the same for you, which is engage. And that’s what you actually want, right? The amount of followers and likes, it’s just a numbers game. It doesn’t really MEAN anything unless you’re audience is actively engaging with you.
Engagement is just a buzzword that means that people value your content enough to take time out of their day to pay attention to you and what you have to say. Return the favor and engage with them back!
This can lead to anything like:
A new commission order
A brand deal
A new freelance contract
Create your own opportunities, you don’t need permission to get the green light.
Main Point : Practice engaging with people who don’t follow you for about 20 minutes in a week or where ever you can fit it in.
3 | Automate some of your posts
Like anyone these days, I have a slight addiction to social media and it’s a problem. I say that with a hint of sarcasm and a whole lot of guilt. Social media takes too much time away from more important things I could be doing for my business and myself.
So I said let’s make a change.
It’s pretty easy to use and the best thing is that is also has an analytics side that can track things like, likes / comments. It highlights “Top Posts” for content that did extraordinarily well compared to your previous ones.
If you have lots of photos of artwork or content ready to post but don’t have time to come up with the description / hashtag and the-whole-nine , just pick a day and schedule your posts for the whole week. BAM. Done.
Buffer will notify your phone when the time comes to post and will copy + paste the description you came up with earlier so you literally just have to post it.
AND if you like the post and maybe want to post it on Twitter or Facebook, you can just re-buffer it for that social media it’s done.
I don’t schedule ALL of my posts but if I have a bundle of content photos prepared then I will schedule most of those out. Since I work full-time as a designer I need to use my time wisely. And by wisely I mean not watching endless Youtube videos and Netflix.
But wait how will I know the best time to post?!
I'm totally assuming that you would have this question.
I'm showing Elle and Company a lot of love in this post because it really helped me out when I was starting to knuckle down and get serious about my own Instagram strategy. And blogging period.
Main Point: Schedule some or all of your Instagram posts to free up your time so that you can focus on something else for your business / life.
Which brings me to my last point...
4 | Don’t stress about people that unsubscribe / unfollow.
No matter what you do, there will always be people who love or hate what you do. The key is to remember is that part about “there will always be people who love what you do”.
If you think I made that little quote up all by myself, you are sadly mistaken.
It's generously borrowed from one of my favorite music artists, Logic ( The Incredible True Story, Track "The Incredible True Story (near the end of the song). Good vibe music. Ahem.
Those are the people you want to attract.
The people who unsubscribe weren’t the ones that shared the same interests so it’s fine. We aren’t trying to be people-pleasers here. We are simply creators with something to say. And whoever is still listening they are the real ones and are down for the cause.
Main Point: If people unsubscribe from your following, your message wasn't for them. Carry on :)
BONUS STEP THAT COULD HELP YOU GAIN FOLLOWERS & PRACTICE ART AT THE SAME TIME!
For me, I did have one accidental step that added 500+ people overnight (literally) and it was participating in an Instagram challenge! Now I say 'accidental' because my intention wasn't to gain new followers. I just wanted to have fun and create.
The one I did in July was TheStyleChallenge by @beautifulness87.
Little did I know there was an entire audience of artists and folks who just like pretty things that were following the challenge and they were actively LOOKING for more content like it. The results?
I ended up taking custom orders as well as gaining an audience that was engaged with my content.
I gained new clients for branding and illustration.
I networked with other dope artists that I would have never found otherwise.
Plus the challenge inspired me to experiment with different kinds of drawing styles.
Even though this worked for me it may not work for everyone. Other factors that contributed to this working out totally awesome included :
Posting consistently once a day
Answering comments and following back other artists that followed me *NOTE: I followed them because I liked their creations and not for the follow4follow method*
Explicitly stating in my post descriptions the cost + service for buying art
Tagging/reaching out to accounts that were reposting the style challenge art
Answering most of the questions that started to flood my DM
Making sure to communicate with the people who purchased the art
Getting the art done within a timely manner
So try committing to an art challenge on Instagram and do your best. Use the hashtag that goes with the art challenge and engage with the people who stumble across your page from the challenge.
And if things seem to be going well it's up to you if you'd like to monetize it in the future.
With that said,
I hope that I’ve inspired you or in the very least, helped you stress a little less about your Instagram following! Happy art-ting
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WAYS THAT YOU GREW YOUR INSTAGRAM? TELL US WHAT WORKED AND WHAT COULD USE SOME IMPROVEMENT!
Let me know in the comments below!
Trenita Finney is a Pittsburgh-based creative entrepreneur, artist and the Founder of Trenita Made it! She is most recognized for her vibrant watercolor works of women of color and photo-realistic portraits of inspirational musicians. As the creator of Trenita Made it! she promotes wellness + career development for artists + women of color through her youtube, podcast, Instagram, Pinterest and lifestyle illustrations + products.
Trenita has launched The Syllestial Collection VOL.1, an illustration book showcasing a collection of three years worth of illustrations during college. Trenita and her artwork have been featured in Raw Artist Pittsburgh, Redfish Bowl Art Festival, The Pittsburgh Comicon, Steel City Comicon and Layer Cake Festival. Follow on Instagram for the latest art creations.