A 12 Step Guide to Promoting Your Artist Shop On Instagram

We caught word of a pretty incredible Artist Shop owner milestone from fellow Shop owner, Paul Smith. He shared in our Threadless Artist Facebook Group that his Shop just had a major sale. The success sparked a great conversation about the ways Shop owners can use social to promote not only their designs, but to truly engage with potential fans, customers and like-minded folks. Paul breaks down some interesting tactics he uses to promote his Artist Shop and we encourage you to take a read.

I have used numerous well-known websites over the years, but none of them ever felt like they could provide me with what I really wanted. Then I found Threadless.

I should probably introduce myself: my name is Paul Smith and I have an Artist Shop, powered by Threadless. I am the sole creator and designer of ZOMBIETEETH clothing and have been designing t-shirts since 2006 (wow that’s a long time). My design style comes from my love of horror movies/TV and Punk/Rock music. I started designing things I liked and would want to rock on a tee; thankfully other people like them too! However, not every design is a hit, so you shouldn’t be disheartened if one of your pieces isn’t a hit or doesn’t go viral like your last one.

We live in a great time for marketing and advertising. Social media provides us a free platform to show our artwork and for it to potentially reach further than we could ever imagine. By using Instagram (I’m @zombieteethclothing by the way), I have managed to promote my Artist Shop, gain sales, and find opportunities to push my artwork further.

Below is a twelve step guide to how I’ve promoted my Artist Shop on Instagram. Hopefully it will help you in promoting yours, too!

1. Have a public profile

This is a no brainer. Really, if you have a private profile, only your followers can see your work. With a public profile, your posts can appear in hashtag searches, and more folks can follow you.

ZombieTeeth Clothing on Instagram

2. Make it human

An Instagram account that only posts products can feel clinical and unapproachable. Mixing up your posts can make a huge difference. Post something loosely connected to your designs, your style, and your niche. I tend to design on the dark/goth side of things so I might post about a band or a movie/TV show that I like. It shows your potential followers that you aren’t a robot, and that a real person is behind the account.

3. Comments are golden

A lot of people think that a way to gain followers is by following a bunch of people. Although this will earn you a certain amount of new followers, the more exciting and fun option is to comment on other users’ photos. The more genuine the comments, the better. Likes and comments on other users’ photos will (a good percentage of the time) bring people to your account, and your excellent designs will make them want to stick around and follow you.

4. Be consistent

Followers can be fickle, and consistency is key. Try to post at the same time each day. I tend to post before I head to work and when I get home. It’s easy for me to remember that way. Don’t worry about reposting the same image twice as long as you mix it up throughout the week. It also doesn’t have to be a new design each time. I add new designs when I’m motivated. Though, sometimes I can go months without a new design. I have also designed 6 designs in one go and released them all together as a Spring/Summer collection in my Artist Shop.

5. Show the world the art you are working on

I always find it hard to post a design before it’s finished. I want to wow my followers by surprising them with a shiny new design but in fact, work in progress pieces like sketches, time lapses, and videos are well received. People like to follow along with the creation of a piece of artwork because it makes them feel as though they’re part of the journey.

6. Hashtags are your friends

Adding hashtags to your posts means you can show up in multiple searches without much work. But be sure to keep your hashtags relevant to your posts. You can use up to 30 tags on a post before Instagram hates you. Too many hashtags will post your image without the caption and hashtags. So all that time you spent coming up with a great caption and placing your strategic hashtags will be wasted (annoying). As I said, you can use 30, but about 10-15 max is what I would suggest.

7. Use Stories

Instagram introduced Stories a few years ago, but I’ve really only been using them as a tool in the last few months. If you aren’t using all the free features Instagram is offering, what’s the point? Stories are a great way to highlight a new post you made or something you don’t feel is worthy of posting in your regular feed. Posting something you fun you do or even a video of you running errands can humanize you as the artist behind the account. You can also hashtag and tag people in Stories. And now, you can even add music from Spotify to those posts. The more ya know, ya know?

8. Keep it professional

I know earlier I said ‘make it human’, but you can make it human and still have a professional looking profile. For instance, I have an app called PhotoLayers that I use to add my logo onto every image I post. So then, anyone scrolling through their feed will instantly know it’s my image. Whether I’m posting a new design or a photo of a cat, I always add my logo. Consistency is vital. You can always download free photoshop T-shirt mock-ups/templates which allow you to add your artwork and see how it looks like on a physical product or on a model. Customers respond a lot more to your items when worn by a real person. With regards to your Artist Shop on Threadless, the best advice I can give you is to always have a good shop logo on your banner. The better your banner looks, the better your Shop will come across.

9. Give stuff away

An excellent way to spread the word about your work is to run a giveaway. The prize for your fans doesn’t have to be money – it could be a custom piece of artwork sent digitally to the winner or product from your Artist Shop. What I tend to do is wait until I have a payout from Threadless. I then use some of those funds to give a shirt away so it doesn’t technically cost anything. Sometimes Threadless will even offer Shop owners coupon codes to give away! Get fans to enter by reposting the prize image. Their followers will see it, come look at your work and hopefully join the giveaway too. Then THEIR followers will see it, and the circle continues!

10. The gift of art can give back

In the past, I have drawn my followers or done artwork for a band I’m a fan of. Generally, a follower will repost artwork you have done for them because they are usually blown away (people love personalization). The bigger challenge is getting your artwork seen by a musical artist or actor! Even if they don’t see it, use hashtags on the art and tag them in the image as well as in the caption. Then you can attract fans of the artist/actor with the searchable tags!

11. The Golden Rule

Always treat other Instagram users with respect, even when they aren’t treating you with respect. When I post a design that is a tad controversial, people can comment some nasty things. I always shut them down, but I do it in a way that hopefully educates them to realize the error of their actions.

12. Cross-post on other social media accounts

In the profile editing section of Instagram, there’s an option to link to other profiles on Facebook or Twitter, for example. Doing this means when you make a new post on Instagram, it takes just one tap of the screen to share your posts to your profiles on other social media platforms.

I want to express how much more I achieved once I paired Threadless and Instagram together.

  • One of my designs was chosen for a trial sale at Hot Topic.
  • I got a shirt in a Kevin Smith Movie (and hopefully the new Jay and Silent Bob movie too).
  • I had a photo shoot with my favorite band and gave them some of my artwork.
  • I designed t-shirts to raise money for charities on several occasions.
  • I’ve sold my shirts all over the world.
  • I was asked to create a poster for a documentary.
  • I was asked to design merchandise for bands.

I’m sure there is more that I could say of how using Threadless and Instagram boosted my brand, but these are some of the biggest achievements.

Remember, customers won’t just fall into your lap. The more work you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it! Ultimately, the hard work pays off. It feels great when you see people wearing your designs. But especially great when you hit those earning milestones in your Shop.

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