Instagram can be a useful social media platform for Etsy sellers to connect with existing and potential customers. I’ve lived vicariously through my wife’s Instagram account for years. I just set up my Etsypreneurship account yesterday! If you’re a “hip social media user”, you can call Instagram by the initials IG.
In my recently developed social media strategy for Etsy-preneurship, Instagram is a part of that strategy. It’s not the end-all of my strategy, but it does have a dedicated role. I’ll share more about that specific role in the future, but I want us to start talking about IG together in the Etsy-preneurship community.
I reached out to Deb Turcio (you know her – DebbieDrawsFunny/TheGoodTimeShop – she’s drawn us awesome comics like the “Cha-Ching!” And “Etsy Meets Office Space”). She loves IG and I invited her to give us a little introduction to how some Etsy sellers are using it effectively. Read on, Jason
My Love Affair With Instagram
I’m here today to gush about my love affair with Instagram. Not only is it a super fun app and social media site, it’s also having an amazing effect on my business! And just in case you’re curious, you can check out the love affair in action right here: Instagram.com/debbiedrawsfunny
I decided if I was going to write a guest blog post for Etsy-Preneurship.com, then I’d better do it right by asking for backup from others. Not only will I share my story, but I have awesome advice to share with you given to me straight from my new friends on IG who are killing it on there – each of them with THOUSANDS of followers! Yeah, we’re talking about big time Instagram superstars!
Does any of the following sound familiar?
I’ve done Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I spent the last year or so concentrating all my efforts on all three and the response? Crickets.
Now, I still use them, but there’s an undeniable lack of “likes”, comments, and retweets. I get a lot of love and support from my wonderful friends and family on Facebook and I really appreciate their sweet encouragement and all those little blue thumbs up! However, I know that in reality, I’m still not reaching my target audience of potential paying customers.
(Note from Jason: Don’t throw out Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media platform you’ve set up quite yet. All of them are helpful and there are ways you can increase the engagement you receive on each and a way they can all work together, but that’s another story. Also, don’t just start thinking IG is your lifesaver either – if you’re sharing boring and unengaging content, you will end up with bored and unengaged followers on those platforms, too.)
So after all those social media flops, why try Instagram?
I decided to get serious about my Instagram account partly because I began noticing a big trend of Etsy shop owners having great success on there and partly because I wasn’t satisfied with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
With Instagram, not only were there lots of other Etsy shop owners promoting their handmade and vintage products with gorgeous pictures, but they were actually getting LOTS of fans!
And those fans were not just “double-tapping” (aka liking) their photos, they were leaving comments. Comments like, “Beautiful!!” or “I love this!” or, even better, “How much?” and “Where can I buy this?!”
My Transition from Private to Public
When I joined Instagram about 2 years ago I only used it as a private account to post photos of my three children, the cats, and pretty cloud formations in the sky . . . you know, what we all use it for! Then about a year later, I decided to post a few pictures of my Etsy shop products, but I only did this when “the Spirit moved me” and never on a very consistent basis.
Then about 5 or 6 months ago I switched off the “Private Account” setting. I decided to start posting better quality photos of my products and the process of how I turned my sketches into illustrations for my greeting cards and posters.
When I went treasure hunting for great vintage finds for my other shop, I took my IG followers with me on those shopping trips! And then at moments when I was feeling stuck and needed to bounce ideas off of people, I reached out and asked my followers for their opinions. And guess what? They would actually respond!
I got likes! I got comments!
I received encouragement from perfect strangers, fellow artists, and Etsy shop owners! And I got followers- lots of them!
In less than six months, I went from 35 followers 445! Even more exciting and encouraging, is that some of these followers are now real live customers of mine! I can’t begin to tell you how fun it is to get to know my customers in a different setting and find out what they like, what they don’t, and even follow them back and get to know them on a more personal level.
My IG Routine
I now post at least once a day, but aim to post 2-4 times a day. Of course, there are those busy, busy, busy days that fly by when I realize after my kids have gone to bed, that I hadn’t posted at all. But for most part, it’s the overall consistency of posting more often (on as close to a regular basis as possible), the quality of the content of my photos, and the interaction with my followers (especially ones who leave comments) is what is making a measurable impact.
So is it really possible to get thousands of followers even if you’re not “Etsy royalty”?
– Yes, sir and madam.
Does it happen overnight?
– Um, not likely.
Do you want an organically gathered fan base full of potential customers as much as I do?
– Yes, please!
Let’s meet the IGSS! (Instagram SuperStars!)
(Note from Jason: Here are three Etsy sellers that use IG as part of their social media strategy. Be inspired by their success and look for ideas and techniques that you might incorporate in your own way for your IG account).
She started out on Instagram 5 years ago just casually posting personal photos, but started to use it for her Etsy shop in the fall of 2013 and now has almost 4,000 followers!
Melanie joined Instagram 3-4 years ago but only became more active in using it for marketing purposes 2 years ago and now she has over 12,000 followers! Yes, twelve thousand…pick up your jaw.
Vera has on been Instagram for one year, but her stunning photos have attracted over 3,300 followers!
So what are their IG tips for us?
I sent all three of the IGSS a short questionnaire to fill out to tell us more about how they got themselves such a large followings and, the sweethearts that they are, they were all happy to share their trade secrets with us!
First and foremost, when asked if they used a marketing service (please watch out for these guys, they’re just like the ones on Twitter and Facebook – selling you a bunch of fake account followers – not actual human beings). Each one of these ladies said NO to them. Their following is completely organic!
So, how do their followers first discover them? Is it through other social media? From their newsletter if they have one? Shout-outs from popular IG accounts? Hosting giveaways on Instagram?
Regarding shout-outs and giveaways:
“I have had the privilege of having many shout-outs from various accounts which has been helpful in giving my little shop and IG feed exposure. I had a shout-out from Etsy (YES, she’s talking about Etsy’s Instgram account!!!) which was awesome! I participated in a loop* giveaway recently that gained (my account) 250 followers. Giveaways like these are very helpful. There were many shops involved and they all had many followers. Generally speaking, I find collaborations of teaming up with other IG accounts is great!” – Vera Kirkpatrick
*A loop giveaway is when a group of Etsy sellers collaborate to give away products through a contest on Instagram and cross promote one another in the process.
“It is a combination of all of these elements that lead to gaining new followers or an interest in my shop! I think that being promoted by another Instagram account has probably been one of the most beneficial and then giveaways are the second most effective.” – Melanie Afshar
“I mostly gain followers through popular hashtags, definitely by participating in IG giveaways, and being promoted through other Instagram people but they are other artist friends and not promoters (not marketing companies).” – Sandra Dorn
How often do they post on IG?
Both Melanie and Sandra post an average of 2-5 photos per day, Vera is busy mother of five children (busy, wow, ya think?!) so she does her best to post at least once a day.
Each one of us have seen a huge increase in sales and views in their Etsy shop due to Instagram. “It’s my #1 way of advertising. I’m so thankful for it!” says Sandra.
Advice for Gaining an Enthusiastic IG Following:
- “Take GREAT pictures. Even if you don’t have a $1200 camera (I don’t!) you can edit with free apps. I like to use Afterlight and Vera uses VSCOcam. Imagine that this photo is going to grace the pages of a magazine or popular style blog.”
- “Engage with your followers- especially those that take the time to leave comments – even if it’s just a smiley face! This is SO huge.” And I’ll add to that: be sure to tag* them in your reponse (*use their @nameoftheiraccount in your comment so they’ll be notified, they’ll love it!)
- “Have a great attitude- showing that you’re excited about your products and sharing posts of you shipping out orders with a grateful attitude really shows that you care. If you saw a picture of an Etsian who was griping about being so overwhelmed with orders, wouldn’t you be a bit turned off? I don’t know about you, but I want to shop from a shop owner with a positive attitude that appreciates my business.”
Be IG Authentic!
“Be yourself. Make your IG account your own and not just a version of what you think people will like to follow. Your authentic self and unique style will actually draw the perfect customer base right to you- believe me! Look at all three of our Instagram feeds and you’ll see we are all totally different individuals!
We all make and sell different things and post different types of photos. We all lead very different lives and we share these moments with our audience. Everything from a behind the scenes look at our creative process, happy customer reviews, professional grade photos of our products, to family pictures, and outfits of the day.
When you show your true self, it resonates with likeminded individuals who can relate to you or just enjoy what you have to share. It does take some stepping out of your comfort zone – I am pretty camera shy and have had to force, and I mean really FORCE myself to get in front of the camera for photos and short videos.
When it comes to snapping my own selfies, I assure you the struggle is REAL. But people like to see the person behind the camera and the artwork, so I do it. Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone is where the MAGIC HAPPENS. I promise!”
See? I told you it’s not rocket science.
Are you all with me? Good. Let’s do this!
Closing Thoughts from Jason:
IG isn’t a magic bullet for sales in your Etsy shop and you will get out of it what you put into it. To create an account, you have to open IG from your phone the first time and desktop functionality is limited. So go to your Apple App Store, GooglePlay or Windows Phone Store to download it. Instagram integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and Flickr, so you can use the content you create on IG also on your other social outlets with one click after you take the picture.
My homework for you today is to create your IG account and follow me on IG here. I’ve posted some behind the scenes shots of my Etsy-preneurship office! If you don’t have time to create your account right now, favorite this page in your bookmarks now! Stay tuned for more assignments! Regards, Jason
P.S. – Deb has been helping and supporting the Etsy-preneurship community since the “early days” and she is now a Thrive Member. Thanks Deb for your continued support of the Etsy-preneurship community and blog through your comics and articles.