By Meighan O’Toole
Building an audience and creating community can feel like an enormous task when you look at it broadly. One could get the idea that a social media audience should be thousands deep—but that’s not always the case. In fact, the most important thing about creating an online following is the engagement you cultivate from the followers you do have.
While building a following takes time, laying the foundation for a highly engaged audience only takes converting one follower at a time. So while you may only have a handful of followers now, that doesn’t mean you can’t build upon your current following and develop a strong and robust community starting today.
Brandy Brown of Marabou Design shares a great shot of her daughter on Instagram.
2. Make Yourself Findable
Don’t make people guess or search for you—let them know exactly where to find you. It should go without saying that social media accounts should be accessible on your website, but don’t stop there. There are many other places for potential followers to find you.
Your email signature, newsletter, and blog or personal site should direct potential followers to your social media accounts and your Minted Artist Store. Add your most active social account to your business card. This is key for when you’re speaking with someone in person—hand them your card and tell them where they can find you. Promotional paper products such as hangtags, postcards, and notecards should spell out exactly where your clients can find you. Pinterest, Facebook, and Google+ offer areas within your profile to plug in other social media accounts. Utilize these to point followers to your other accounts.
3. Make a Strong First Impression
Studies have shown you have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention online, so it’s imperative that your accounts tell your story succinctly. Profile images should match across all platforms so you’re easily recognizable. It’s best to use the same (or at least very similar) username across all platforms for consistency. You can change your username on most social networks, so you could change that regrettable “@bonjovi4ever” username to one that reinforces your real name or your artist name. Using the same handle on all social networks will save you space in your advertising. Rather than listing a different handle for each network, you can say “follow @minted on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.”
Where it’s offered, choose a cover image that represents your brand (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all offer cover images.) For brand consistency, you may want to use the same cover image that’s featured on your Minted Artist Store. Fill out your bio using keywords (like “artist and illustrator in Detroit, Michigan”) so your accounts are easily searchable.
Pro Tip: If you have dormant social accounts (perhaps Twitter is no longer your cup of tea but you still have the account), make sure all of the above are up to date on these accounts, and your bio and most recent post points possible followers to your most active account.
4. Engage, Engage, Engage
The key to creating a supportive community online is responding to comments in a timely manner. Building a captivated audience rests on demonstrating that you hear them. Responding to followers takes a few seconds, and could gain you a follower for life. Engage with followers within 24 hours. Social media is a 24/7 game, and while no one expects you to respond immediately every time, there is an expectation of timeliness.
Responding to comments in an authentic way shows your audience that you’re interested in them and that you appreciate the time they spend to support you. They’ll recognize and respect you for your response, and will continue to engage with you because of it. Social media is a two-way street, and followers know that now more than ever.
5. Follow Back, Share, and Spread the Wealth
While you don’t need to follow everyone who follows you, it’s smart and spreads goodwill to follow others within your community and industry, especially those who have followed and supported you. Everyone has their own guidelines as to why they follow someone, but it’s important to pay attention to this aspect of community on social. Be aware of who your supporters are. If they have continually shared and bought your work, following, liking, and commenting on their content is a great way to say thanks and build a relationship that could become a true brand evangelist.
You’re part of a strong community on Minted—who are some of your favorite fellow artists? Team up with your friends and colleagues and share, like, and comment on each other’s posts. Offer to do Instagram takeovers (where you take over their account for one day) for fellow artists, spread the word on Twitter or Pinterest about their work and products, share their Facebook posts to your page. Not only does this give you more content to work with, it spreads the wealth of your fellow artists.
6. Diversify Your Content Across Platforms
Give followers a reason to follow you across all of your social platforms by offering interesting and dynamic content that isn’t the same thing you’ve cross-posted everywhere else. If you don’t have time to create completely unique content across platforms, you can repurpose the same or similar photos from a scene or story, and alter the copy.
Post behind-the-scene peeks, special discounts, giveaways, or exclusive looks at works in progress to specific accounts. We’ll share special holiday discount codes with artists with Minted Stores via email soon—offering your followers Minted discounts will be a good way to spread news about your Store and offer something fun and unique.
While it may seem daunting, offering varied and compelling content is possible if you take time to plan. Experiment with different types of content to make your voice unique. Providing diverse content encourages your audience to not only be loyal to you but also sets you apart.
7. Make Your Content Discoverable With #Hashtags
Using hashtags in your posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest helps people discover your content when they’re searching for topics they’re interested in, and essentially attracts new followers.
SocialMention shows trending hashtags, and Trendsmap is a fun tool that allows you to see which hashtags are popular by geographic region. Monitoring hashtag tools help inspire content ideas and make your posts more discoverable. In this screencap, you can see that #thanksgiving is trending in Canada, which makes sense since it was taken on the day that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving (October 12, 2015).
A few hashtags that are used by Minted and our artist community:
- #mintedartist: posts about artists
- #mintiespotting: spotting your fellow Minties covered in the press and blogosphere
- #whatinspiresme: Minted asks its community to share your sources of inspiration
- #artoftheday: a huge worldwide feed of art
- #detroitartist: (replace with your city, state, or country) tap into your local arts community
- #minteddesignchallenge: share your challenge submissions
- #mintedweddings, #mintedholiday, #mintedart, #mintedhome, #mintedbaby, #mintedkids, #mintedfabric: Minted product categories
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to clutter your Instagram copy with too many hashtags, upload your image and caption, and then post a second comment beneath your caption that includes your hashtags. This comment will be hidden from view once there are multiple comments on your post. Use a notes app to save your hashtags so you can cut and paste easily.
Add the hashtags as a comment within a few minutes of uploading your image and no later; otherwise, you’ll miss the opportunity to get your image at the top of the particular hashtag feed. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per image, and you can only tag your own posts. While others may add hashtags to your images, these do not show up in the hashtag feeds.
8. Be Dependable and Stay on Brand
People like reliability, and social media is no exception. Don’t disappear for days or weeks at a time and then suddenly flood your timeline or post one link on Facebook per month. Not only will algorithms ignore your activity, people may not remember who you are or why they followed you.
Pro Tip: you can pre-schedule posts on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Prepare a week’s worth of posts in one sitting, then set the date and time that you want them to be published.
Facebook Brand Pages allow you to schedule a post (click the pull-down menu next to the “Publish” button when you publish a post).
Tumblr allows you to schedule posts (look for the option when you publish a post)
Hootsuite is a tool that allows you to schedule tweets for Twitter
Post consistent content that aligns with your particular message and aesthetic. You may not consider yourself a “brand,” but you do have a style that people have chosen to follow you for. Stay on brand as it were—your followers have chosen to follow you for a reason, so give them what they came for.
Stay consistent with your posting activity so your followers not only get to know you, but depend on your content.
9. Look Outside Social Media
Go beyond your own feeds to find your community. Join Facebook groups, Twitter chats (one of my favorites is Caitlin Bacher’s #CreativeBizChat), and Pinterest Boards. These are all great ways to connect with other artists and build your following.
But don’t just look for community online—seek out groups that meet in person to connect with other like-minded individuals. Academy of Handmade is a great group of makers and artists that meets in California and is expanding elsewhere. Reach out to your local community as well. Is there a small boutique you admire? A creative workshop center? A craft store? Approach them and see if they’re open to partnering with you on social media. Discuss doing an Instagram takeover of their feed, or a giveaway of one of your prints.
Meighan O’Toole is a digital strategist empowering creative businesses online through social media, content creation, and cultivating community. Connecting people to technology to help make their work and personal lives easier and more enjoyable is her passion. She lives and works in Boston. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
This is the fifth article in our 2015 Minted Holiday Playbook for Artist Stores, a one-month program designed to teach artists how to better merchandise, market, and sell their work. Stay tuned to the Community>Resources section of Julep for more.
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Published October 15, 2015 • Learn how to become a Minted artist here.