Instagram for makers: Hummingpea talks art, social media and hashtags.

Pennie is a visual artist who mostly hangs out on Instagram under the brand name Hummingpea.

…I’ve been signed up to it for a long time, but I never really used it. I went on one time and all these people that I’d made presents for or given different things to had posted and tagged me years before and I thought, “oh, that’s cool”. That’s what made me start using it. That was a year and a half ago. It went along with me making a conscious decision to try to seriously make a business out of what I do. And ever since I made that conscious decision it’s kind of just taken off.


Once Pennie made the decision to promote her jewelry through Instagram how did she grow her audience?

…I just learnt from looking at other people’s Instagram accounts and trying to figure out what people who have a lot of followers were doing to make it work.


Hot tip #one, hashtags. (See what I did there?) Pennie quickly learnt how to rock the hashtags.

…at first I was very opposed to hashtags. I remember, before I started using Instagram, I was against them. I don’t know why but I just thought it was a bit silly. After I was looking at Instagram for a while I realised how the hashtags really help. If you can figure out which hashtags to put on your photo to make other people see it people actually do search through hashtags to find things and then follow you from finding that. I spent a long time researching hashtags. You write in a hashtag and search it and look at what other people are putting with that hashtag and it tells you how many other photos there are with that hashtag. Some of them have four hundred thousand and some of them have just five hundred. You can try and do the ones that have higher hashtags because people obviously are looking at them. I made the decision to use hashtags even though I felt like it was going against everything in me to do that but as soon as I did I saw a huge increase in followers and likes and people seeing it and even now if I don’t put hashtags on a photo it will have half the likes. I like putting the hashtags in a separate comment so I always do an actual comment and then put the hashtags in afterwards. You’re allowed to have thirty per comment so I try to use the full thirty if I can and I’m not too bored thinking of ones to write.


It can take a long time to craft the right combination of hashtags. Pennie has developed a system to make it easier.

… I have a little bit of a set block that goes along with the photos but I always change at least some of the words depending on what the photo is. Sometimes I put in colours or describe the actual piece of work. I’ll have another set with my location and the fact that it’s a local business and the business name of the lady that makes the hoops that I use and things that are always relevant.


The next step in the system is,

…preparing things in advance is something I’ve done for a long time. In my phone I’ll have the caption that I’ll want to say and I’ll have all the hashtags so then when I go to post it I just have to copy and paste it and it’s just take me five minutes at that time. I find it a lot more overwhelming when I don’t do that because then every day I’ll be feeling the pressure of having to post it right now and make it work. If you can look at it at the start of the week, if you can have an overview of what you want to post in your mind, it helps me to be less overwhelmed.


Hot tip #two

…I’ve figured out along the way the best time to post photos.  For me it’s about eight o’clock in the morning and about two or three in the afternoon. I’ve got a lot of followers from America and Australia and generally that gets the most people seeing it. It’s good to try and post the more important ones that you want people to see at the right time to gain the most exposure. That’s totally just a trial and error thing for you and your business. I have a lot of mums and young people who are on their way to work looking at it. Two o’clock is down time before they go and pick their kids up from school. I actually find the times to post on Facebook different to the times to post on Instagram. A lot of mums are on Facebook in the afternoon when the kids are asleep and they feel like they have time and then later at night.


It’s difficult to sell directly through Instagram. Pennie sends customers to her Etsy shop to complete the transaction. 

… I found that there was a huge Etsy community on Instagram. The more I got involved in that I realised how many Etsy sharing pages there are and even Etsy itself and other people with Etsy shops.  You just make a few hashtags about Etsy and people who are on Instagram searching for what people are selling on Etsy. In that way it becomes really good to have an Etsy shop instead of just having your own website because it’s a lot easier for people to find. What made me start getting Etsy sales was Instagram.


What are the mechanics of funneling customers from Instagram to Etsy?

…part of it is the hashtags so every product photo I use #Etsy and #Etsyseller. There’s #Etsyauseller for sellers in Australia so people learn them and then they search for that hashtag and then that directs them to your shop. That’s the main thing. You can’t put links in the comments on Instagram but it’s in the profile so customers just have to go and click on that. That’s what seems to work for me.


And how are sales on Etsy going?

…I’m still trying to work out the consistency of it because sometimes I’ll make a lot of sales in a few weeks and then I won’t make any for a few months. I’m still learning.


Photos are a huge part of Pennie’s marketing plan. It can take time to get good at photographing your own work.

…when I first started doing it, it took hours to post a photo. It’s been trial and error for me working out which backdrop is best to use and whereabouts in your house is the best spot to take it. I don’t have proper lights or anything so I use natural sunlight for my photos. I have read a few tutorials and if I have a question or something that’s frustrating me I just Google it to work out how I can fix it. I always try to use white backgrounds for most of my products because it makes it look clearer and that’s what people like. It does get difficult to keep the background white. It goes pink and green and those kinds of things but you get used to which spot in the house is best to take it at what time of the day. I use a photo-editing app called Filterstorm, which I like. It’s pretty easy now to work out how to take that green tinge out. Sometimes I’ll take a photo and I’ll try and try to edit it and it doesn’t work so I’ll just have to try to take it again at a different time of day.


Success means different things to different people. For Pennie? Well,

…growing up, my dream was that I could just make things and sell them and that would bemy job. On the weekend I did a market and my five-year-old daughter came and stayed with me the whole time. If I have to go to work at another job she can’t come. I love what it’s teaching my kids morally and giving them values about the world that I agree with. They say, “mum does sewing for her job” and I love that. Most people wouldn’t think that it’s a viable job but they just think that’s what she does. I don’t have a huge expectation of becoming rich or making lots of money. Success is supporting me and my family without having to go to do a different job for somebody else. Instead of going to work in a café for five hours a day I can be at home making fabric hoops which I just enjoy and I just enjoy the feel of the textures and making the pattern, framing the pattern in the perfect way. It’s being able to do what I love and have that sustain my life. It still seems very surreal to me that that can even work. I guess that is what success is for me now.

Hummingpea can be found here


This article first appeared in Follow Magazine: Issue 02. You know where to find it, don't you? Right here...

Hashtags, beautiful photos, post-times, do you have some great Instagram tips to share? Leave a comment below.