We’ve all been there: you write a killer tweet, publish it, sit and wait for those retweets to start pouring in, annnd… nothing happens. Anyone who’s tried building a social following for their online store, their art, for their blog, etc. knows that it’s not as simple as “if you tweet it, they will ‘Like'”. Learning how to build your social media audience and then putting those methods into practice takes work, and definitely takes time. But they say, “the best way to learn is by doing.” So we decided to ask the experts who have already done it for a little e-commerce advice. We talked to a few of the Top 25 Artist Shop owners and asked them:
What advice would you give to people who are trying to grow their social media audience and Artist Shop audience? What did you learn when you were first building your own?
Check out their words of wisdom (and amazing Artist Shops) below!
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“Funny and sharable social media posts are always the best tactic. Don’t expect to get results from a post that says: “Buy my awesome t-shirt.” Bo-ring! Put your customer first. Show them how your art or brand is an extension of their humor, good taste, or personality and you will win fans and customers. Also, give your customers a choice by adding as many designs, formats and colors as possible to your Artist Shop. They might like your design as a bag, pillow or blanket, but not as a shirt if they already have a drawer full of tees at home. Print-on-demand puts your customers in control, and they love that!”
I HEART GUTS
“The key to growing your audience is perseverance and patience. Nobody wants to hear that because it obviously means ‘spend a lot of time doing it’, but that is ultimately what it comes down to. Making new designs to add to your shop keeps your content fresh and allows you to shout about your new stuff via Twitter, Instagram, etc. A stagnant shop is a stale shop, and nobody is interested in that.
Another key element is knowing WHO your audience is. Who are the people you want to be buying your products? Today, it’s easy to find people with similar interests, whether it’s participating in a Reddit community or searching a specific hashtag on Instagram. Connect with the community you share commonalities with and create products they would enjoy. But again, this takes time and effort to ignite and maintain.
We live in an online world that craves ‘instant validation’ through likes, retweets and whatever else…but building a solid audience takes more than a few designs and a couple of weeks. It needs time to grow, so we need to play the long game to achieve a concrete audience-base that will support our work. Hell, it took me 15 years to get where I am and I still need to push it like there’s no tomorrow. But everyone knows the old cliche…if you love what you do it won’t feel like work.”
“Social media’ing is hard, and competition is fierce, so get your products on everyone you know and grow your fanbase locally to start. Wear your creations EVERY DAY and always have biz cards + stickers to hand to people who give you compliments, or are even just eyeballing your gear. Take as many pics of your designs in the wild as you can to generate post fodder, and take no shame in relentless self-promotion. Tweet, message, and schmooze ‘people of influence’ to forge alliances and get them to wear your stuff in in their posts. We constantly remind ourselves that this design thing is a marathon, not a sprint; pace yourself accordingly, create constantly, and for the love of it all DON’T GIVE UP, because that’s the only way you lose the race. Hustle for where you want to be instead of where you’re at, and one day you’ll look around and realize that you’ve made it.”
“Regarding social media and building up my Artist Shop audience, I’ll have to say that it was almost all done through social media. I think the big things were: 1) Drawing upon my own personal social media community. People who knew me were more likely to repost, comment and then share to their networks, 2) Posting photos of myself or friends wearing my designs. Photos are more likely to be shared or show up in feeds than just links, and 3) Getting people to post photos of themselves wearing my designs from wherever they were. This created a feeling of community all over the place of people who owned my shirt. Every time that would happen I would get more sales!”
“Washed Up Emo has had the luxury of being on social media for almost 10 years, so there was a built in audience for the Artist Shop. What I didn’t have for 9 of those years was merchandise this varied. I took to showcasing different colors, sizes, genders and sprinkling in the home products. Each time I posted a different item, I saw almost immediate response. Also the other part was timing. I had designs that were timely to what was happening in the scene and culture at large that helped connect, and showed that it was something current.
The biggest thing I’ve learned building the social media on the website is listening. It’s been the best way to know what’s resonating with my audience and what they want to consume and when. In between the content I’m regularly posting on my socials consistently, the store has been a great asset for someone to feel deeper connected to the site and scene. That’s only happened after listening to what the audience is responding to and what they like to engage with.”
“Today’s artists and creators need to set themselves apart. Try to be unique and try to do something different. Why should people follow your page? Why should people buy your designs? If there are one hundred other people creating similar products, change things up. It’s an approach I’ve utilized for years. Even prior to getting an Instagram account or artist page. To appropriate a well-known slogan from a partly eaten Granny Smith rainbow: ‘Think Different.'”
“I use a mixture of my main social media outlets. Some topics get better traction on different mediums. Facebook for like, more long form and serious conversations. Twitter for quick quips, Instagram for food pics. Some ideas that work well on a t-shirt speak to different ways I used the web and talk to people online, so I focus promoting certain designs in the spaces that make the most sense.”
Frank William Miller Junior (Rappers I Know a.k.a RIK)
“Post, post, and more post! Having a constant presence shows people that you are invested in yourself and your product. You should have at least 2-3 different social media outlets that you constantly post on to help reach a wider audience. [What I learned when I was first building my own audience is] it’s a constant learning process, but the first thing I learned was hashtags matter quite a bit. You don’t always have to have a “hashtag essay” with every image, but that may be required when trying to establish yourself and gain the correct following.”
“Well my advice to grow their social media audience is be creative, explore new techniques. The success of my sales is given by the style and theme of my designs, and I try to adapt my ideas or suggestions from my clients when creating new designs. My Cubist style applied in a modern way, is the fundamental factor in the creation of high impact designs and garments, and nowadays people love to have this kind of art pieces on their shirts.”
“Growing an audience on any platform is a strange thing. For me, I just wanted to make comics and I needed somewhere to put them so tumblr and then, by extension, twitter seemed like good places to start. I think if you’re making stuff you like, eventually other people will find it and they might relate to it or find it funny or whatever, and if you’re lucky that will happen more as time goes on and then you’ll slowly be building an audience. It kind of just happens with time. I’m lucky that people seem to want to buy the things I draw and wear them around and tell their friends about them, it’s always cool and surprising to me.”
Jake Lawrence (Good and Nice Shirts)
“There are two kinds of social media followers: those who like your work and those who like your work and are willing to buy something. If your goal is to build some kind of business, it turns out to be more important to find the second kind. I’ve been using Kickstarter to build a community of people who know my work and are eager to support my projects. After a series of more than 20 mostly successful projects, I finally have a few hundred people who are interested in what I am doing.
The beauty of crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter, is that people browsing there expect to find projects they want to support. Unlike so much of social media where people are just looky-loos, on a crowd-funding platform they expect to open their wallets if they find a project that is intriguing.”
tl;dr Quick Takeaways
- Listen: Pay attention to what’s resonating, what’s not, and what your audience wants to see more of.
- Are you not entertained?!: Make your social media presence interesting and an extension of your brand – the humor that goes along with your brand, things you find cool or interesting, etc. And also post pictures of you wearing/using your designs and pics of customers doing the same. As I Heart Guts said, “Show them how your art or brand is an extension of their humor, good taste, or personality and you will win fans and customers.”
- ALL the choices: Give customers as many choices – both of designs but possibly more importantly, of products – as possible. If someone really wants your design on an art print and they can’t get it, boom – you just lost a sale.
- Don’t give up: Persevere, be patient, and keep trying – it’s not an overnight process.
- Keep things fresh: Consistently add new designs to your Shop to keep it fresh and interesting.
- Know your audience: Know who you’re talking to and trying to appeal to, seek out where you can best communicate to that audience, and market to them.
- Wear your own stuff: Rock your own designs and carry business cards and freebies (like stickers) at all times. No shame in shameless self promotion.
- Set yourself apart: be different, offer something that makes people want to go to you and not the other guy (or gal).
- Post post post! Post often, and post quality content to extend that social media reach! And know what posts fit best on what channels.
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We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share on “How to Build Your Social Media Audience”, please let us know in the comments! Thank you!
Illustrations done by the amazing Katie Lukes