Content Marketing | How to use Instagram to do growth marketing for Illustrators

As an illustration enthusiast, I have Instagram to post my sketches and digital pieces. After I came to new york and happened to have some illustrator friends, I began to realize that Instagram can be a good way for illustrators to promote themselves and showcase what they have as a portfolio to clients.

Set my friend Lulu Qu for example. Her professor and I knew each other from one event at the society of illustrators. He introduced Lulu to me by forwarding her Instagram to me, which has clearly shown what Lulu’s art style and personality.

From then on, I treated instagram as a window to let people know what you are doing and a useful tool to tell story for your audience. The following is my “Instagram Experiment Journey”.

Step One: Build the portfolio

I have posted 20 sketches in two months and gained 200 followers at first, these sketches recorded my life in new york city. I took my sketchbook to the spots I have been to, and wrote down detailed descriptions about it. The styles of all the pieces are black and white.

Step Two: the account and Purchase Ads

After two months of organic growth, I started thinking about promoting my account as an artistic portfolio which can get people’s empathy. Therefore, I upgraded my Instagram account to business type and promoted two posts. This transition has gained some success with my follower number growing by 200.

So, how can I promote my post to the best effect they can achieve?

You need to pay attention to these three: Timing, Audience, and Tags. These three posts are closely related to your post content too. If Van Gogh is still alive, I guess his posts can organically gain several million likes no matter when he posts it. But you are not Van Gogh, I am not too. So it is very important to “ post the right content at the right moment to the right audience group“. For example, I drew this sketch on the fireworks of independence day above Hudson river. It does not take me a long time to do it, but it still gains 150+ likes comparing to the average likes to my posts. The trick is, I have adjusted the filter to the tints and shades to fit for the atmosphere firework brings, When I promoted the post, I have targeted the group of millennial audience in new york right after the firework has ended. And for the content, I want to target those media which report lifestyle events. I have both tagged the major media name in the post, and # topics related to lifestyle and fireworks.

Step 3: Find the main direction for content

After a while of posting, the content of my account became diversified and a little messy. At this time, I started thinking about three questions on my Instagram account.

  1. What I can bring by this account? 2. What topic I pay attention to? 3. Why the others have to pay attention to the content I pay attention to?

After this, I also consider these factors: public opinions, the changing of the audience, and my personal feelings. For example, after the CNN bomb affair, I feel horrified and start drawing some pieces on politics. One piece I took a photo in front of CNN has even gained the like and comment from NYPD, but after posting four pieces, the amount of likes has gradually decreased.

The reasons for this has concluded by me into two: 1. The sudden switch of style from entertainment to politics lets my audience feel hard to adjust to it. 2. Instagram has been purchased by Facebook now, which encourages the content more with ” positive interaction“, and people feel intimidated to post likes on debated political content.

This is one unsuccessful try, but it also brought some surprising results. After this, the major audience of my account has transferred from the female from 18-24 to male from 35-44.

(the insight dashboard to see)

Then I want back to draw lifestyle content and tried my best to be coherent. In November, I have drawn one graphic novel on the coffee map and posted that series of photos on the Instagram. The storytelling skills let the later profile visitors have a clear understanding of what you are doing and be more willing to follow your account.

Step Four: Collect Friends and Build Community

Instagram is not only about presenting my art, but it is also a platform for me to communicate with friends with common interests. From that, I have met lots of artist friends and helped them do business partnerships. I helped Lulu to bring her art for Joe’s Pizza back to Shanghai and did modeling for my friend Emma’s illustration showpieces. Sometimes people found me through my account to seek for illustration partnerships, and I helped them to draw time-lapse pieces for business usage. In November, I cooperated with two Parsons graduate to do one business plan for a transparent art renting agency and won in one pitch.

In this December, I just graduated from Fordham University with a master degree of media management at Gabelli Business School, and the followers of my drawing account have increased to the number of over 1000.

These might be micro-achievements for some really successful figures, but it means something to me. My drawing account for myself is my side project for practicing media skills I learned, and build network upon my passion for media and art.

Hope this article can help illustrators or creators to know more about how to do promotion on Instagram.

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