Instagram for Creatives

How to make the most of your time on Instagram

This article is all about assessment and goal setting – that’s right, productivity. It might not sound sexy but assessing your social media and then setting goals is the best way to make the most of your time on Instagram.

Instagram can be a great way of interacting with your community to meet a whole range of goals. You can use Instagram for reaching out to new contacts; making current contacts feel loved; finding out what it is people love about your work; and, reaching out to your community for ideas about new works. You can use it for self-expression and self-care.

An example of Follow Magazine on Instagram.

WARNING, this article will help you focus your time on Instagram and it does require action. To make the most of the post, you need to do 10 minutes of work. Not 10 minutes every day. Just 10 minutes now, while you’re reading the article.  Time to pull out a paper and pen. Or audio recorder. Or keyboard.

If there's one thing I've learned from my work at Follow Magazine interviewing dozens of creatives about how they market their work on social media it's that everyone uses social media differently. It really is an expression of your personality.

One of the things I really love about Instagram is the instant feedback. When I post something I often see likes and comments coming back within seconds and will usually receive the majority of my engagement over the next hour or so. For someone who is easily distracted, Instagram keeps me in the zone for just long enough.

For all of my social media work I follow two simple guides:

  • do what you’re already doing but do more of it, and
  • decide what you want to get out of that particular platform.

Social media can easily take up every available moment in your day and you don’t need that. As creative people you need space, you need boredom. Of course, you probably don’t need these things every day; everyone will have different rhythms and different needs but whether you’re a filmmaker, writer, visual artist or musician, you know creative work takes root in a complex soil of monotony and deadlines, paucity and resources, inspiration and imitation and unique vision. Social media is a great tool but is most productive when your time in that world is contained.

To keep your time on social media contained you need to make some decisions. Think about how you already use Instagram. Is it part of your art practice? Do you use it for feedback? Does it nurture your soul? Do you post cat gifs? Do you post snippets of poetry?

It’s time to grab your writing implement. Have a look back at your feed and make some notes. Don’t spend more than five minutes. Do you post personal photos? Do you give tasters of your work? Do you show behind the scenes shots? Write it down. While you’re at it, note down how often you post. It’s also useful to record the level of engagement. How many people like each post? How many people are clicking through from Instagram to your other platforms?

Now, take a look at the list below and work out how your posts engage your community.  Do you use Instagram for:

  • finding new contacts
  • talking to current contacts and making them feel loved
  •  encouraging contacts to buy work
  • receiving feedback on work
  • market research for new work?

Tasters of your work are about encouraging contacts to find out more and hopefully become customers. Behind the scenes shots are all about making contacts feel loved, etc.

The next step is to set some goals.

Whatever you’re doing at the moment, that’s what you want to do more of. As an independent creative you spend a lot of time marketing. You need to make sure that your marketing is almost as rewarding as actually creating your book or film or song or artwork.

The best way to set yourself up for failure is to make your goals too ambitious and complicated.

If you’re currently encouraging contacts to become customers then you need to know how many people are clicking through from your Instagram account to whatever your sales platform is. If you’re getting 7 click throughs a week, make your goal 8 or 9 click throughs a week. The aim of this is to build slow, sustainable growth into your time on Instagram.

If you’re using Instagram to conduct market research for new work then it’s all about engagement. How many likes and comments are your posts getting at the moment. Make your goal about 5 to 10 percent above that.

To get more engagement on posts you can try a couple of different ‘calls to action’. Try asking direct questions or asking for a specific action to give you the feedback that you’re looking for. You can also assume that many people aren’t going to read whatever you write so you could try putting the call to action in the image itself.

Typorama is a great app for putting text on images.

Typorama is a great app for putting text on images.

To grow your account and reach out to a new audience use different hashtags that target the audience you think will be interested in your work. Comment on other people’s posts and sprinkle your likes around freely. Follow other people working in your space to get a sense of what they post.

Now, take a look at your piece of paper. Do you have an overview of your current habits on Instagram? Do you have one or two concrete and achievable goals?

The next step is to put a date next to your goals. What is your deadline for hitting those targets? I recommend about a month is a good timeline. There’s just one more step before you’re finished. Make yourself accountable to someone else. Tell a colleague, a friend, your agent, whoever, what your goals are and invite them to ask you how you’re going one week before the deadline and then again at the deadline.

You will be amazed how much you can achieve through this process of assessment, goal setting and accountability.  Good luck with it. I’d love to hear how you go. I expect to have a flurry of comments in about a month from you - my amazing, creative readers who are making the world a better place through creativity.


I'm currently offering Social Media Audits and Mentoring packages. If you like what you've read here and want one-on-one advice to take your marketing to the next level, email me