Standing out among the sea of talented designers on the ‘gram is a challenge. These tips are here to help, with ideas on how to boost your account and bring more eyes to your work.
Instagram is about so much more than just creating a beautiful feed. Long gone are the days of mindless selfies. And however much we love bird’s-eye view food porn, cultivating a successful account is not only about the images themselves. While you may not be naturally inclined to marketing, you’ll have to up your skills if you want to build a blossoming community and grow your brand. Today, our beloved Instagram serves as a platform that any creative can highly benefit from – as long as they know how to use it in the right way. This, coupled with sophisticated web design on your graphic design portfolio and mood board, are the tools you need to showcase your creative work and present your brand in a professional light. But it’s not all little red hearts and rainbows - as these best portfolio website examples show. As oozing with talent as your works may be, we all need an extra push in the right direction to get noticed when in the process of becoming a freelance graphic designer. We’re here to help. Other than curating a stunning feed and developing a universal visual language across all aspects of your account, here are 10 steps you can take to boost your online presence on Instagram.
Instagram for designers: 10 key tips
01. Optimize your Instagram bio
Let’s start from the top. Your bio plays a crucial role in urging people to delve further into your account. This is particularly important if you're doing freelance graphic design and want to build an online presence and attract more clients.
Your bio gives them a quick summary of who you are and what you have to offer. That’s why it's (one of the places) where you should be showing off your skills.
Make the most of the 150 characters available on your bio. Include your name, relevant hashtags, and an informative and catchy introduction to you or your business. Don’t forget to add a link to your website or design portfolio, along with a CTA (call-to-action) directing visitors to take a look. If you have more than one site, there are various tools that will enable you to add multiple links to your bio. By including links to your site directly from your Instagram bio, you can offer one of the best portfolio websites in your field.
See how Amber Magazine’s bio includes all the right info in a clear and succinct way, with a to-the-point CTA leading to their Wix website.
02. Be social
This one may sound obvious, but don’t underestimate the power of interacting with your community. This crucial Instagram marketing technique helps you build bonds with your fans and other professionals in your industry, and it will also send positive signals to the Instagram algorithm. In turn, this can improve the performance of your posts.
Being social involves replying to comments on your feed, visiting other profiles that you like and chatting to people who follow you or use the same hashtags as you. And when we say chat, we don’t just mean sending a “hands in the air” emoji. Send honest, authentic replies that will foster communication.
03. Find creative ways to involve your followers
Encouraging your audience to engage with your content is a great way of bringing more eyes to your work and promoting your personal brand. More engagement around your social posts can also help them get seen by more people. There are a number of ways to involve your audience:
Get wordy: Write catchy captions that pique the interest of your audience. You can include questions from time to time, as well as info on your product and a touch of humor if it suits your vibe. This will get your audience more involved and you’ll probably also genuinely enjoy reading the responses. If you’re posting the same content on your Pinterest account, try rewording the description to better fit the platform. Here you can read up on more Pinterest graphic design tips.
Sharing is caring: Repost content that inspires or interests you. This shows that you appreciate other people’s work and have an array of sources of inspiration. It’s also super useful if you don’t produce content at a fast enough rate. Just don’t forget to adopt your best etiquette by giving proper credit on social media and asking permission from the accounts you’re reposting from.
Give your fans some love: Create a community around your product by featuring your followers or customers. This depends on your type of offering, but find creative ways to involve them in your posts. You could show them enjoying a new hand-printed bag they’ve just purchased from you, or one of your illustrations hanging up on the wall of their home.
Create contests and giveaways: If you really want to pamper your followers, consider running raffles or competitions that will prompt them to respond. After all, who doesn’t love winning things? The prize doesn’t have to be anything flashy – it can be a signed copy of one of your works, for example. See how illustrator Noa Snir engages with her followers with a tempting raffle.
04. Collaborate with other designers
Life is all about give and take, and the same goes here. Bartering your skills is a great way to work with other creatives, and it can really be a win-win situation. For example, if you’re great at designing business cards, but not so talented in product photography, reach out to a friend who is. You can help each other in the areas you’re less confident about, complementing one another’s skills.
Want to take it a step further? Track down popular Instagram accounts that showcase various artists and designers’ works (a.k.a. “hubs”) and try to get featured on them. Brands with many followers often have a dedicated hashtag that you can include in your post to bring their attention to your work. Examples of these include Adobe, Apple and The Design Kids.
In other cases (such as Design Milk and Dezeen), you can reach out to them directly, submitting your work and also standing a chance of getting featured in their design magazine. The result: you’ll gain more exposure – and to the right target audience.
05. Add plenty of CTAs
Instagram offers many options for you to add CTAs (a.k.a. calls-to-action) to your profile, and you should take advantage of these promotional opportunities. Other than adding a link to your portfolio website on your bio, include CTAs in your captions. You could invite people to check out your profile, read your latest design blog post, vote for their favorite design, or anything else that will help bring engagement. Have a look at these call-to-action examples to learn how to write clear and persuasive copy. If you have over 10K followers, you’ll be able to use link stickers on your stories, sending your audience directly to a specific webpage. Lastly, if you have a business profile, you’ll also be able to add action buttons to your bio. This means that alongside the Following and Message buttons that visitors will see on your profile, they will also see any action button that you choose. There are a number of different buttons available, such as Contact and Email address. See how Wix users Stolen Goods have done just that, incorporating a Contact button so that visitors can easily reach their online store.
06. Be organized and consistent
Picasso may have said “if you know exactly what you are going to do, what is the point of doing it?” and it’s true – being spontaneous can lead to truly wonderful results. But when it comes to planning your feed, knowing what lies ahead can really ease the process.
A good way of doing this is by defining a number of content anchors (or “types” of post), such as behind-the-scenes, the “making of,” general inspirational images and so on. Also consider which special days or events are coming up that you’d like to acknowledge on your page.
This selection of different types of content results in a balanced feed that clearly depicts what it is that you do, and what you or your brand are all about. The same consistency you have in your visual language should be applied to your scheduling times. You don’t have to bombard your followers with many posts every day, but also don’t wait too long between posts.
If you've hit creative block when it comes to your feed, browse a few Instagram design accounts to inspire you. Ceramic studio and Wix user Noni Ceramica has a perfectly balanced feed full of images that make you want to dive into a warm cup of tea.
Illustrator and Wix user Isabelle Feliu has also created a harmonious feed that is balanced in terms of the type of content she shares. She posts her final pieces, as well as products with her illustrations printed on, and prints of her works hung up on the wall.
07. Use hashtags effectively
Hashtags with many followers are overrated. Using only these big hashtags means that your post could easily get lost in the crowd. That’s why you should combine popular ones (like # design and # inspiration) with more obscure or specific ones (like # grainy and # pastelshades), making sure to keep them relevant.
In addition, in the same way that you’d use local SEO on your website, use local hashtags on your designer Instagram account. See what your local buddies are tagging these days and adopt the same hashtags (for example # DesignNYC) to tap into your local community.
When hashtagging, careful not to go overboard. A post with over 20 hashtags could appear spammy and put people off. To avoid this, consider how to visually separate the hashtags from the rest of the caption. You could add gaps or full stops between lines for a cleaner look.
08. Share video content on IGTV
Released as an innovative new feature in 2018, IGTV (Instagram TV) offers you the chance to share plenty more video content with your audience. Enabling hour-long videos, this is your chance to get truly creative and offer real value.
Use this feature for all types of engaging content that your audience will connect with. You could start a vlog, let them in on your work processes, or even create a webinar in order to share your much-admired skills with your fans.
To get more views on your videos, you can promote them on your feed by sharing one-minute previews. These previews will appear as regular posts on your feed, alongside a small IGTV icon in the corner.
09. Drive engagement in your stories
Stories offer you a great opportunity to share extra content with your followers. They’re your chance to run wild, showing them that there’s a real person behind the screen. And don’t worry about your stories getting deleted after 24 hours, as you can highlight them to keep them on display on your profile.
Give your audience a peek into what you’re eating for lunch or share shots of your work-in-progress. In addition, take advantage of Instagram’s features to keep your viewers engaged. Experiment with polls, questions, quizzes and challenges. You can then share your responses to help build a relationship with your audience and show them that you care.
If you’re already in the swing of things, take it to the next level with live streams. Seeing as live videos appear first on your followers’ stories bar, there’s a high chance that people will take a look. Share “how it’s made” videos, interviews with you or other creatives, host a debate, or anything else that could tickle the fancy of your target audience.
Art director, motion artist and Wix user Liron Ashkenazi Eldar uses the highlight stories feature to showcase some of her impressive new projects, as well as giving a glimpse into her personal life.
10. Manage your results
Without delving too deep into numbers, tracking the results of your posts can show you what works better for you. As a result, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about what kind of content to share and create.
What exactly should you be checking? For those who don’t have business profiles, you can see the number of likes, the types of comments received and your number of followers.
However, you can also upgrade to an Instagram business account or creator profile. While these accounts differ in their offerings, they will both give you access to many more metrics, such as the age range, gender and location of your audience. You’ll also be able to see the reach and impressions of your posts, plus the number of users that check out your profile and then click the link on your bio. A creator profile will also provide you with additional tools for growing your business, so it’s worth looking into both options to see which type of account suits you.
If you want to invest in paid posts, this data will help give you an understanding of what works well for you, in terms of content and timing.
And don’t forget to take your eyes away from the numbers from time to time and just have fun with it. After all, this is all about fulfilling your passion and doing what you love most.