Creators shouldn’t depend on one social platform.
If you’re an artist, it’s smart to be on Instagram. For a long time, it has been a tremendous tool for creators to gain exposure, but it shouldn’t be your only focus.
Have you seen the videos of Instagram influencers crying to the camera because their account got deleted or because changes to Instagram may negatively affect their income and brand partnerships? I know people like to poke fun and say things like get a real job, but I can imagine how those crying influencers feel. I must also note that if you can make real money doing something, it’s a real job.
None of us have complete job security. Whether we are employed by others or enter the self-employed realm, we are at the mercy of change. We can get fired, laid off, the economy can tank, the market changes, and even social media apps can make changes that cut you off from your customers. Every single one of us needs to make a plan for change and be ready for the day that the good things we have going for us professionally take a negative shift.
Instagram may be dying.
Or at the very least, it isn’t at its full glory anymore. I am a numbers junky. I stare at Google Analytics for my website quite often to see where the traffic on my website originates, and the other day I decided to compare Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest traffic to my website over the last two years.
The number of followers on any social media account really doesn’t matter for a business unless those numbers can convert to meaningful sales/website clicks. Obviously, looking at this graph you can see that Instagram was a huge asset for me for my art business. My following started to grow in Sept 2017, and the traffic to my website grew right along with it. Until the algorithm shift in January of 2018–from then on it has been a roller coaster of traffic. Now with the new changes they have been making to the platform, my traffic has been on a steady decline since April of 2019.
I don’t put much effort into Facebook, and it shows. Then there is Pinterest, which has been steadily increasing for me since August 2018 when I actually started to put effort into creating consistent blog content.
Now, the reason why I say Instagram may be dying or just doesn’t benefit creatives like it used to is because of this:
In December of 2017, I had 25,000 Instagram followers. In June of 2019, I had 125,000 followers. That’s a 100,000 increase–but look again at the roller coaster of traffic. This is all organic growth, my content has only improved, I still post regularly, pay attention to peak times, and blah blah. Blah. Yet, my monthly traffic from Instagram to my website peaked in January of 2018.
Over a year and a half, 100k followers gained and my meaningful traffic peaked at 25,000 followers?!
Excluding the possibilities that my content sucks, people don’t like my art, or anything like that, I have come to the conclusion that Instagram is taking steps to keep users on the platform and to encourage business accounts to start paying for ads (over my dead body) rather than be gifted with organic exposure.
I’m not saying abandon ship. You can still make traction with Instagram organically. I will continue to use the platform–but it’s time to:
Broaden your social Horizon
I want to talk about two platforms that I think you should be using as a creative person (in combination with Facebook and Instagram): Pinterest and TikTok.
I have encouraged my readers in multiple blog posts over the last year to make and post art process videos on social media. (My video posts on Instagram have always done better than still photos.) If you haven’t figured out how to record and edit videos, you should get on that.
Tiktok is a video platform that gives you the ability to go viral much faster than any other platform I have used without having ANY followers on your account.
After only 6 weeks of using the app, my account gained 20,000 followers. I wish I could show you stats of traffic to my website, but at this moment TikTok doesn’t have a bio that allows for external links yet. Though, you can link your Instagram and YouTube accounts. I can also confirm that I have generated art sales from TikTok.
- Post videos filmed in the vertical format.
- Keep video length between 11-20 seconds (yay short attention spans!)
- Make the content bright, engaging, and branded.
- Use 2-3 trending hashtags that are relevant to your content (scroll through the explore feed to choose them)
- Use songs that are also on the trending lists.
- Post 3-5 times a week.
Pinterest has been around for a while and it’s still a powerful tool for bloggers and creators, though it’s becoming more powerful as they have added playing video posts. Since this feature is new, they are prioritizing videos at the top of search results. I posted a couple of videos originally used on my Instagram account and linked back to my website. Look at the views and pin counts below. These numbers are far higher than my Instagram videos on average.
My Pinterest account only has around 1300 followers right now, so again, this isn’t something that you need to have a huge following to see progress. And pins can live for a long time and continue to push traffic to your site, unlike FB and Insta where posts last 24-72 hours on average.
- Use square videos (I have observed better success with those)
- Use commonly searched keywords in titles and descriptions: start typing in key art words into the Pinterest search bar to see what kinds of phrases start to autofill. This is what is searched for most often and will increase the chances your post is seen.)
- Have a purpose for your post: Link back to your Skillshare classes, your product lists with affiliate links, your art store inventory, or whatever your monetization preference is. It doesn’t matter how many eyes are on your work if you can’t convert that to money.
- Music doesn’t appear to matter.
How to use the right video format across platforms:
When I record videos, I start with the vertical format (I turn my webcam 90 degress and then adjust the settings in Premiere Pro when editing. Or you can use your phone.). I export 30-60 second videos for Instagram, then I shorten the video to around 15 seconds for Tiktok. I post the full vertical video on TikTok, and then I crop the video in Instagram and use the square format for Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. When I am working on my art, I keep the camera focal point in the center of the vertical frame so crucial moments aren’t cut off when I crop to a square.
You can use the same length of video for Insta, FB, and Pinterest.
I hope this post helped give you a good place to start on Pinterest and TikTok!
I know that it can be easy to feel defeated when the things you try for your art business just don’t seem to work, or you start to see loss of progress like I have with Instagram. It’s not fun, but I’m here to remind you that it’s a normal part of the process. Every time you hit a roadblock, take a step back and look at the data, and then form a new plan of attack. It’s okay to wallow for a bit, but don’t accept defeat and don’t depend on once source of exposure for your business.
Try multiple platforms and give more energy to the areas that you see progress, but don’t fully neglect the less fruitful pursuits. Pinterest did nothing for me for months, and now it is my most productive traffic driver. Follow the data. Also, if you are thinking about paying for ads to boost your exposure, read this post first.
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P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.