It’s no secret that if you’re a creative business owner or in the wedding industry, if you get me talking about business, I will give you so many action-oriented tips for how to get your business going! At the open house for Twisted Ranch last weekend, the same thing happened. One of our favorite bakery owners approached me to thank me for sharing some of our photos of her work with her. We like to share our images with our vendors, as we know it’s a team effort and we couldn’t take the photos we do without their talent! So, we freely share our work with our favorite vendors! She thanked me for sharing the photos and said something about needing to be better about posting to Instagram . . . so . . . I started spewing tips that I think could help ALL creative business owners. Here is a bit of what was shared in that conversation about how to use Instagram for creative businesses.
1. Not knowing WHAT to post beside work.
She said she didn’t know what to post and felt that her audience on Instagram would get bored of her just posting her beautiful cakes. Yes and no. Your audience DOES want to see what you do! They hired you (or are looking to hire you) for your talent, so they WANT to see your work. If it’s cakes, flowers, or beauty, your audience wants to see what you can do for them, so post your work!
But . . . they also want to see the artist behind the work! They want to know who they are hiring and want to know if they like you and can trust you. Knowing this, post some images of yourself! You should be posting images of your face, so they can see your eyes. This sounds weird, but people want to make “eye contact” with you and read your facial expressions. Beyond posting a nice head shot, you can post images of you behind the scenes. What does it look like where you work? Post a picture of you in the bakery! What is your favorite part of your job? Post a picture of you pipping a cake or adding flowers to the top. How messy does it get when you’re mixing cake batter? Post a picture of your hands covered in flour, making you more relatable to your audience.
It may surprise you, but the photos that get the MOST amount of engagement on my Instagram feed are those that have me and/or Dylan (my husband and second shooter on wedding days) in them, NOT the gorgeous wedding photos we take . . . Yea – that should really tell you how important it is to make sure your face is showing up in your feed! Here is the shot that is my ALL-TIME most liked and most-engaged with image:
Back to our baker friend, she can also post photos of her brides and grooms cutting into their wedding cake or photos of the babies smashing into their birthday cake. Show other people enjoying your product or service. If other people like you and your product, your potential client sees that as a recommendation. If other people have had a great experience with you, the potential client will sense that they’ll also get that same great experience.
2. Not knowing what TO SAY to go along with your images.
You can only say “loved creating this GORGEOUS cake!!” so many times, am I right?!? I’ve found that telling stories to go along with the pretty pictures makes it easier. It’s human nature to want to hear (or read) stories. Stories are how we, as a species, passed down information for centuries. To this day, humans still want to listen to stories. Be a story-teller with your posts. You can tell your own stories or the stories of your clients, but tell the stories so that you can connect with your potential clients. With your headshots, tell me (your audience on Instagram) why you got into baking or share your favorite flavor combinations. Educate me about the process or answer a question that you get asked all. the. time. about your craft.
When you post a picture of your work, tell me about why that client picked the flavors they did. Maybe the bride has sweet memories of making strawberry jam with her grandmother as a child, so she wanted to have a strawberry filling in her cake. Maybe the groom would pick pecans up for his granddad, then they’d sit and eat them together, so he wanted pecans incorporated into his. Maybe there was a special diet from an important person at the wedding, but you happily accommodate special requests (gluten-free, for example) – tell me that so I know my dietary needs won’t be a big deal for you! If you do cupcakes and make lots of different flavors at no additional cost (than picking one flavor), tell me that! Maybe one of my hold ups is trying to pick ONE flavor – knowing you’ll let me have more options at no cost would make you stand out among other bakeries.
Tell me about the decorations on the cake. Maybe the lace pattern on the cake was created to look like the lace on the bride’s wedding dress. Maybe she shared with you that her cake topper was the same her parents used at their wedding – share those stories!
3. Not having time to post.
The cake baker was stumped on posting because she found it difficult to make time to post. My advice to her was to MAKE time! There is nothing worse than when a potential client finds you on Instagram, only to see that you haven’t posted in 6 months or only post every other week. When that happens, that potential client may think (respectively) that you’ve gone out of business OR that you’re not booking consistently. Ouch! It does you more harm than good to have an account and not use it consistently. My encouragement would be to post at least 3 times a week, but no more than once a day (twice a day at the absolute MAX).
Instagram just announced this morning that it is allowing business accounts to schedule posts. Now, there are no more excuses! Set aside 15 minutes a week and get those posts scheduled! If you don’t have a business account (which I would suggest, for now, to avoid having a business account, as they don’t get seen as often as personal accounts), there are apps out there that will allow you to schedule posts. Since Instagram doesn’t allow any other app to post for you, these apps send a reminder to your phone, along with the picture and caption you decided on earlier. Planoly is a free one that does just that! Check it out!
4. Other tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t join an Instagram Pod. These pods are where a group of business owners will join a group message and tell each other when they’ve posted so the others can like/comment on their post. The idea is to build engagement, but, in reality, you’ll be attracting other people who are NOT your ideal client. What good is having 1000 followers on Instagram if they will never be the ones to hire you? When you like/comment on those other business owner’s posts, Instagram will think you want to interact with those accounts more and will show you more of their work, not the stuff that will inspire you or keep you connected to the REAL people in your life. So, say no to Instagram Pods.
- Use only professional images. I’m not just saying this because I’m a photographer. People are on Instagram to find inspiration and want to follow pretty accounts. If everything you post is low-quality cell phone images, your feed or grid (the 9 images someone sees when they first land on your account) will not look cohesive or pleasant and it will be hard for people to want to follow you. It also makes you look professional if you use professional imagery. In the same thought, if you don’t post professional imagery, you don’t look like a professional.
- Don’t post stuff that isn’t your work. This drives me bonkers!! There is one wedding venue that we work at and they post images that were NOT taken on their property. How confusing is that to potential clients?! If you post a picture of a swing overlooking a beautiful lake, but don’t have that at your venue, a potential client will be sorely disappointed when they look for that swing and lake at your venue and can’t find it! It’s a waste of time for them and you! So, only post content that is true to you! You can repost things from other accounts (like inspirational quotes that you love), but make it VERY CLEAR where it came from and NEVER post another’s work as your own. If you’re a cake baker, don’t post someone else’s cake on your Instagram. If you own a venue, don’t post images that were taken at another venue. If you’re a florist, don’t post someone else’s bouquets.
- Geotag your images. You want to be found on Instagram, that’s why you’re posting your work – so potential clients can find you and hire you! Use geotags, where you add a location to your photo, so that others who use Instagram at that same location can find your photo and, hopefully, find their way over to your account!
- Tag others who participated in the making of that photo. A rising tide lifts all ships, so feel free to tag the entire creative team! If I post an image of a cake, I’ll tag the venue the cake is at, the coordinator who referred everyone, the cake baker (of course), and the florist who put flowers on it. If I know the rental company of the table cloth or know where the champagne flutes next to the cake were purchased from, you better believe I’m tagging them, too! When those companies share that image on their Instagram feed, they should also tag everyone. It’s the nice thing to do! If you want other companies/accounts to tag you so their followers know who made the cake, return the favor and tag them in your posts, so your followers can find them. Always, always, always, list photo credit. It doesn’t get much more frustrating, as a photographer, when the person who created the image and shared it isn’t credited at all. If you want the photographer to continue to share images with you, be sure to share the love in return and give them credit.
- Tell me, simply, what you do and where you are in the world in your bio. If I’m in NYC, I don’t want to hire a cake artist located in London. Makes sense, right? So, one of the first “yes or no” decisions for a potential client to contact you is: are they close enough to help me? Include where you are in your bio and tell me exactly what you do. “Cake baker” is a lot easier to understand than “culinary artist for sweet toothed people” – the second one could be a range of options, like jellies or chocolate covered strawberries. State what you do plainly and where you are located or what market you serve.
- Make your profile public. Clients won’t be able to find you or see your feed if your profile is set to private. If you’re using Instagram for business, you profile needs to be public. Yes, this means that whatever you post (or have posted in the past) needs to be stuff that you’re comfortable with strangers knowing about you. You control what you put out there, but be aware that anyone will be able to see what you write/post once your account is public.
- Keep it positive! There is something to be said for “being real” and keeping things “authentic” on Instagram, but, generally speaking, people are on this platform to find joy or escape boredom. So, keep your captions upbeat! Post things that are inspirational or educational and keep your feed a happy place to visit.
- Attempt to use a consistent color scheme. This one isn’t a must, but it is helpful. If your feed looks cohesive, it looks more professional and, therefore, trustworthy. Bonus points if they’re brand colors that match your marketing materials and website! You’ll see in this screenshot of my feed that I use lots of blushes, creams, and grays. With lots of our outdoor work, you’ll also see greens and browns throughout my feed. Around Christmas, there was a lot of reds, because it is a popular color of the season. Using similar colors just helps your feed to look more cohesive and feel like it flows together better.
- Make sure clients have a way to contact you besides direct messaging (the messaging program built into Instagram). Instagram permits you to have one link in personal accounts. LinkTree allows you to create multiple links from your one within a personal account (for free). It doesn’t do you any good to have people find you and not be able to contact you, so use that link to get them to your website or contact form. If you do have a business account, make sure you take advantage of the email and website buttons!
- Engage with accounts that you want to connect with. This one may seem too easy, but hang in here with me. If you, a cake artist, wants to get on a preferred vendor list of a certain venue, chat with them on Instagram! Comment on their posts and interact with them. Encourage them with your engagement and build a friendship with them online, so you can build a relationship with them offline. Just posting emojis doesn’t count – use real words and form complete sentences. Follow them so you can find ways to serve them in real life. If they’re celebrating a birthday or milestone, take them some sweets! So much of business is forming relationships with people. Do that online, so you can do that offline.
There is probably a ton more that I could share on the topic, but I’ll end there. Hopefully, you found this information about how to use Instagram for creative businesses helpful! As always, if there is a business question you may have, I’m an open book! Shoot me an email and you may see it answered in a blog post! Also, I do offer one on one coaching for creative business owners, so if you want something more specific for your business, I’d love to chat! And, of course, if you want to see my Instagram Feed, you can find me there as @MylahRenae.
– Mylah Renae