Creative Business idea number 5: Social Media marketing – photography, storytelling and strategy tips for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Steller
As a small creative business owner myself, I know all too well that social media can easily take way too much of your time if you’re not careful. It’s all too easy to fall down a bit of a rabbit hole and waste time that you just can’t afford to waste. For me, time is the most valuable, and most stretched, resource, so any time I do spend on social media needs to be well spent.
The key is, I believe, to get expert advice on how to use the different platforms effectively and strategically. And to take time to analyse the analytics so you can see where your time is delivering benefit for your business, and where it isn’t. I don’t pretend to be any kind of social media expert myself, but I do know a few people who are, and who have really helped me. So I thought I’d share this with you here.
Instagram is an important platform for creatives and makers and I would recommend the following inspirational experts to help you up your Insta game:
Sara offers a range of Instagram help and advice, including a free 7-seven day course to get you on the right path. Her Insta Retreat is aimed at getting you to the next level if you’re already using Instagram. This is particularly suitable for anyone inspired by Sara’s own somewhat elemental/ethereal style and looking to create a beautiful, creative Instagram page of their own.
Sara has written some really helpful and inspirational guest blog posts for me over the years, which include this great piece of advice about avoiding the perfectionist trap as a creative business owner or maker:
‘As soon as we misstep or stumble, we feel like we’ve ruined the whole thing. It’s just another perfectionist trap. Chasing a ‘brilliant year’ takes our eye off the real target in our creative pursuits – happiness, fulfilment, making enough money to feel safe.
Here’s what I’ve found out about success: it’s sometimes lonely, often quiet. It happens in a series of small, hopeful wins that you never quite take seriously at the time, and certainly never label with that S-word. It never feels like success – there’s always a bigger fish, someone higher up the ladder.
How do we keep moving forwards in the face of all this? My process is simple: Never go to bed at night without having taken some small step towards your goal.
One day it’s writing a blog post or sales page – the next day it might be just a list of ideas. On bad days it might be nothing more than a single email response, or watching a tutorial in bed with a cuppa. It doesn’t matter how big or how small. When we make every day carry us forwards, little by little, we get to our goals.’
Created by Laura Pashby (deputy editor of 91 Magazine) Circle of Pine Trees is a great place to go if you’d like help creating visual stories, beautiful images and a unique voice. Laura offers a free storytelling e-book for subscribers as well as paid-for Little Stories of My Life e-courses throughout the year.
Laura has also written a really lovely guest blog post for us: MEET Laura Pasby, Circle of Pines, which includes this great piece of advice:
I’d echo Nora Ephron’s advice to ‘be the heroine of your own life’. Sometimes it can take courage to find your voice but don’t be afraid to tell your story- you’re the only one who can play the starring role. If people engage with your story, they engage with you. You don’t need a grand narrative arc to make an impact – the smallest stories can be the most powerful when shared with honesty and even vulnerability.
If it’s authentic, inspiring creativity you need, you really won’t do better than artist and Instagram queen Philippa Stanton (aka @5ftinf). I speak from personal experience as I’ve been lucky enough to take part in a couple of Philippa’s workshops and online courses. Time with her always leaves me creatively buzzing and recharged in ways I didn’t expect. Check out Phil’s website for current online courses and you can order a copy of her book here which is bursting with ideas and creative inspiration.
There’s a lot of copy cat content on Instagram in particular which can block people from finding their own creative voice and story. Which is why Philippa is such a breath of fresh air. She is a genuine innovator and always totally authentic and individual. In my opinion, there’s no one better for helping you to reconnect with your own creativity.
That’s where Philippa is worth her weight in gold, as she encourages and emboldens you to do just that. To nurture what sparked the dream of running your own creative business in the first place. Trust me on this one – time spent with Philippa herself, or reading her book, will inspire you and set you off with renewed creative energy in directions you didn’t expect.
This quote by Alexander Trenfor perfectly describes what Philippa offers: ‘The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see.‘
I asked if she’d like to share some thoughts with us here and, characteristically, she wrote the most wonderful, honest piece. Once she’d started writing, it sort of grew and grew, she explained. Till she’d actually written more than a thousand words. There isn’t space to share it all here, but you can read the whole wonderful post on Philippa’s blog: Creative Life or Creative Business? I think her words will resonate with lots of makers and creatives out there, feeling pressure to be living the dream and so the sense of failure is hard to live with when you’re not. Because dream lives and real lives are two different things, aren’t they?
Having poured out her thoughts and feelings on the subject, Philippa distilled these words of advice to share here:
‘I want to create things, I don’t want to strategise. I’ve tried and I can’t. My advice is to basically do what you enjoy doing and if that leads to setting up a business, targeting audiences etc, maybe even getting a bank loan, make sure you actually enjoy doing that bit too. But you shouldn’t feel any pressure to set up a business doing what you love just because it seems like that’s what’s expected of you. I believe it’s completely fine for ‘doing what you love’ to remain just that: To lead you down unexpected creative paths which enrich your life rather than your bank balance!’
What I love about Philippa’s take on this is that it recognises the sense of pressure that can come with trying to make money from doing what you love. It’s great advice to make sure that you also love the business bit too. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t find the reality of growing your own business exciting, give yourself permission to do what you love for that reason alone. There is so much value in following your creative passion, whether or not you also try and make a business out of it.
A Quiet Style
Emma Harris offers a range of helpful workshops and e-courses to help you improve your Insta game. Her one-to-one photography course is aimed at helping you to find a photography style you love and to start creating images you feel proud of using your camera phone. Emma will also critique your social media/website, to help you move forwards with a clear strategy.
Emma wrote an inspiring guest blog post for us Meet Emma Harris of A Quiet Style where she shares a few of her inspirations, tips for finding creativity and simple pleasures.
Of all the social media platforms I do enjoy posting on Instagram the most, even though I was late to the party and have far fewer followers than on other platforms. It’s something to do with the creative, supportive vibe of the community over there. And it is quite addictive to see all the likes and interactions flying in after you post something. That said, I have never wholeheartedly embraced the idea of sharing too much on social media. For me, it’s really important to enjoy lots of potentially Instagrammable moments without doing a single thing about it. Apart from actually experiencing it. By myself or in the company of whoever I’m with. In the moment, and nothing to do with editing and publishing something for an audience. For me, it’s time spent away from the agenda of posting or publishing that leads to my best new creative ideas. Ideas I then feel very happy to share.
In a way, it’s quite liberating having fewer followers over there than elsewhere, because it means I feel free to use Instagram in a more creative, enjoyable way. To share the content I want to. Not promoting every blog post like I do on Pinterest and other platforms for instance. Just the stuff that feels right for the community I enjoy interacting with over there.
Photo editing tools
There are some really useful tools to help you create the look that feels right for your Instagram images. Many of the courses and workshops listed above include creative sections on photo editing and the use of presets as they can be a really creative way to do this.
Blogger and Instagram influencer Beth Kirby of Local Milk has shared two free sets of presets from her most popular Instagram Collection – one bright, modern set and a moody, vintage one. Get the presets for free here
Beth also sells a collection of other Lightroom Presets including sets for travel as well as food and lifestyle photography.
Photo editing, and how far to go with it, is a personal thing. I feel myself drawn to lots of accounts with a beautiful, consistent and curated look. But, to be honest, I just couldn’t apply the same look and feel to every image in my own Insta gallery. For one thing, I’d get bored in no time, but I also would never want to use a one size fits all approach to photography or editing. Some days I feel like rejoicing in colour and sunshine. Other days I’ll revel in gloomy, wintry moodiness. I know you’re ‘supposed’ to set a style and stick to it, but I’m not really up for that.
That said, I do enjoy tinkering and improving images using the following apps:
A huge collection of presets and editing tools on mobile to make your photos and videos beautiful. Entry level is free. I upgraded to the next Membership level but to be honest I find the amount of choice slightly mind-boggling now. It doesn’t suit my slightly obsessive nature of wanting to know ALL my options before I commit to anything!
A cloud-based photography service that enables you to edit, organise, store and share your photos across all your devices. What’s great is that edits on one device are automatically applied everywhere else.
Beth Kirby of Local Milk has some lovely presets available to buy as well as this free collection.
Perfect for retouching, smoothing, healing, lightening and restoring images on your ipad or iphone.
For adding effects or animations to your images
For adding magical light effects to your images.
Simple to use app that allows you to adjust and tweak photos – like removing a blemish, covering up a logo or deleting a rubbish bin..
A useful place for connecting with like-minded communities. I love that the tweets have to be short and to the point and do find it a hugely valuable tool for connecting with creative businesses.
Buffer is the scheduling app I find works best here and particularly useful for posting lots of content to a specific twitter event (such as #ethicalhour #HandmadeHour #UpcycledHour…). I will tend to set up tweets with links to relevant landing pages to post every 5-10 minutes or so throughout the hour. That way you’re free to be more active in responding to the general chat and specific interactions to your content. It can be quite manic and difficult to stay on top of. Impossible, I’d say if you hadn’t already scheduled the key content that you wanted to share.
To be honest our Twitter page built up pretty easily and organically – we set it up in the early days and it just grew by itself. However, if you’re looking for some expert help with Twitter, I do hear really good things about Samantha Kelly (aka Tweeting Goddess) who offers business and Twitter training. I did enjoy listening to this podcast with Sara Tasker too, which has lots of good advice as well as being great fun: How to be Brilliant at Twitter
Full disclosure: I do not really get on with Facebook. I don’t like how it works or looks. However, there is a sizeable community of people on there, who rarely interact with my posts but do go on to visit my site. So I have got over myself and now look past my reservations about the platform itself and make sure I put all my social media content on here too. That way I don’t lose a single person that might want to know more about what we’re doing and go on to connect and share with us.
I used to think Facebook was a waste of time because we were getting so much less interaction on here than on other social media platforms. But, when I looked at the analytics, I realised that Facebook was sending a few thousand visitors to my blog every month. Nowhere near what Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram sends, but definitely worth staying in touch with. Your community lies in different places and it’s up to you to find as many of them as you can and bring them together.
This is a really creative and satisfying place for sharing visual stories with a highly engaged community. It was Philippa Stanton who introduced me to Steller, describing it as ‘like Instagram when it first started.’ I know what she means. From day one of sharing my visual stories via Steller I was getting around 300 likes and lots of engagement with a totally new creative community. It’s also great fun to do. It’s simple and quick to make a book and I love that you can create what feels like a digital journal. So satisfying for someone with a background in magazine journalism and a love of turning the page…
Download the Steller app here. The template I like to use is The Classic one but there are lots to choose from.
I have included Pinterest because it’s such a valuable platform for creatives and small businesses. But it’s really a search engine – not social media, so I’ve written a separate post about the power of Pinterest: Creative business idea number 3: don’t underestimate the power of a solid Pinterest marketing strategy.
Pinterest has been real game changer for me, so I’ve shared all the expert contacts and favourite resources that have helped me grow my monthly viewers to almost 3 million, with an extra 50K+ visitors to my website each month. It’s easier than you might think. Click through below to get all the info you need to do the same for your own business. Good luck and happy pinning! X
I’ll be sharing my key 10 Steps to Creative Business Success over the coming days, as well as a PDF at the end, with all the information in one place for you to download and keep.
The 10 steps I’ll be covering are:
- Creative business idea number 1: website design inspiration using WordPress and Squarespace
- Creative business idea number 2: photography tips for makers
- Creative business idea number 3: don’t underestimate the power of a solid Pinterest marketing strategy
- Creative business idea number 4: the best online tools and apps to help you
- Creative business idea number 5: social media marketing, photography, storytelling and strategy
- Creative business idea number 6: profitability & how to build a sustainable business
- Creative business idea number 7: make a clear marketing strategy plan
- Creative business idea number 8: don’t be afraid to learn from mistakes
- Creative business idea number 9: the power of planning to help you build a sustainable business
- Creative business idea number 10: sometimes forget the plan and seize the moment
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A PIN TO SAVE TO PINTEREST