My first post was an art piece I had on my phone- the key art for That Which Binds Us. I had very little idea of what to tag it and didn’t do any kind of close ups for it.
I started diving in to research on Instagram- how to use it, how to increase engagement, etc. Here’s some of the guides / courses I looked at…
My first one was actually the one I can most easily recommend. HubSpot’s Instagram course is great for a rundown on how the site functions, where things are, things like that. Watch it on 1.25x speed and an hour later you should understand how Instagram works.
I have a group of friends who frequently use Instagram to post art and with their help I was able to figure out good tags, what art would look best, etc. As with most stuff I do, I try to not do it in my own bubble- get feedback!
I reached my first 10 followers 2 days in on May 8th!
Steadily gained followers! May 13th, a week into the challenge
Got halfway to my goal on May 15th! However, I struggled getting past 60 followers for almost a week after this…
Although it was a day late, I reached 100 followers on May 31st!
Let’s go over some things to keep in mind…
- I didn’t post the link anywhere* except in my marketing channel, meaning I didn’t ask my Twitter followers and such to follow it. I wanted strangers to follow it**.
- A handful of people in the marketing channel followed my account, but none of them promoted my stuff (like sharing it on stories) to their audiences.
- I tried to post twice a day, alternating between finished art, sketches, and chibis.
- The account is a creator account (not a personal or business account) and isn’t connected to a Facebook account.
- A majority of recent/decent art I have is original art, so a slim portion of my posts are fanart.
*With the small exception of linking one post on a couple of Amino posts to try to promote it to strangers. This link was never clicked, as I tracked it, so it doesn’t count.
**Naturally, a few friends in the channel went ahead and followed me, and some friends who weren’t in the Devtalk+ server recognized my art and followed me as well. Due to IRL stuff I wasn’t able to get a “full” 100 followers (i.e. all strangers) but I’ll be able to reach it in just a few days.
What I Did
As aforementioned, I tried posting twice a day, but that’s because this was a sprint rather than a marathon. I would recommend posting once every other day, and posting stories at least once a day if you can. Don’t feel afraid to post old art- one person’s junk is another person’s treasure as they say. While it may not be up to your current standards, chances are people will like it.
Whenever I posted, I would go to anime art specific tags, scroll through, and like posts that I actually liked. If I saw something I really liked, I would comment on it. I would follow other artists if I liked their content enough. It’s a simple but easy way to sort of share engagement- you give some engagement and you’ll get some back.
While watching Instagram courses I found one that left a sour taste in my mouth- I won’t link it, but the gist was it was an extremely methodical and manufactured way of thinking about “content” in the worst way. I think following users and hoping they’ll follow you back isn’t an inherently bad thing if you like their content, but I can’t really back following people in mass droves and unfollowing everyone who doesn’t follow back. Suffice to say, I did not do any follow for follows, mass following, etc.
After a few days I started curating how my profile looked- I tried posting similar color palettes together so it looked more cohesive. This can be hard to do but well worth it.
I made sure to tag my posts with 10+ tags. These would vary depending on the piece, but I’d use bigger tags like #animeart as well as much smaller tags like #originalcharacterart.
I also started using Instagram stories more and actually learned how they worked…
I love Instagram stories now. They’re cool ways to give a more personal, quick feel to your audience about anything. You can ask a poll, people can ask you questions, you can share a video, you can post a picture of your dog, you can highlight a post, you can do a countdown, and more! And it’s archived after 24 hours!
When I first started using Instagram, I didn’t understand stories…
One of my very first stories on the Crystal Game Works account. We all had to start somewhere…
But now I’m able to make vibrant stories like these!
You can add fun stickers / gifs, type up text, tag people- there’s a lot of possibilities! By default anyone on Instagram can see your active stories just by clicking your profile icon, so it’s a marketing tool & a mini update platform. People can also reply to any story (by default, replies go to your DMs and are private) so sometimes you’ll have people you followed watch one of your stories and comment on it (one person say a story of Leroy and replied with “OMG ROUND” 😂).
Stories expire after 24 hours but as long as you have either a creator or a business account they’ll be archived for you to review, repost as a video, see votes, etc. Sadly you can’t view stats like who viewed it once it’s archived for more than a few days, but hopefully that’ll be added soon.
Original Art vs. Fan Art
A majority of my posts were original art, as that’s the majority of more polished art that I have. I still posted fan art, but when I did it didn’t do exceptionally better than original art like it would on sites like deviantART and Twitter.
If you had an account tailored for just one or a few fandoms then I could see it boosting you, but from what I tried posting a variety of fanart sparingly doesn’t help that much.
Very recently (at least, I’m assuming it was very recent as I tried this a month ago and it didn’t work) Facebook released an update to the Creator Studio tool which allows users to sign in via Instagram only (meaning the account doesn’t need to have a Facebook page attached). Basically, it’s a desktop website where you can upload to Instagram.
This is what the homepage of the creator studio looks like once you sign in. You can see all your posts and stories listed as well as view insights, create new posts / IGTV, and even schedule some.
Here you can see me creating the post for Dania. It autohighlights tags as blue so they’re easier to see and tells you how many tags you have left.
The cropping mechanic on creator studio isn’t the best as you don’t have as much flexibility as with the mobile app, but it does work good for vertical images. Basically, you select one of the presets in the top left (Square, Landscape, or Vertical) and can resize the crop. However, you can’t change the aspect ratio.
It’s very easy to schedule posts and they post just as they do when you create them, but not being able to crop images as much as in the app is a definite downside.
This is what everyone’s interested in, right? Here’s some of my final analytics.
Here’s my top reaching posts! Reach = unique impressions, i.e. every individual account who scrolled past this image or viewed it. If an account saw it multiple times, they were only counted once.
Think of Reach as a more detailed/refined Impressions count.
My posts that were most liked! Note: this screenshot was taken June 2nd. The Tifa art (#2) and the Miku art (#4) were both in my 7 most recent posts.
Just for fun, I wanted to see which posts had the most engagement in my profile. Surprisingly, my most recent post at the time of the screenshot is the highest one!
I couldn’t tell much of a difference between using 9-12 tags and using 16+ which was interesting. Some posts like Tifa had 19 tags, while Eileen’s headshot had only 11.
Highest Reaching Post:
Highest Liked Post:
I’m in a sort of, er, not able to do a lot right now so I may or may not do this. But basically, my next steps would be the following:
- Joining DTIYS (draw this in your style) competitions / events
- Doing shoutouts
- Engaging with other artists more
- Possibly an art raffle
- Posting art on websites (such as Reddit, Discord servers, and Amino) more frequently and linking back to the Instagram post
As a reminder, I didn’t ask for shoutouts from friends nor did I do any art raffles, DTIYS, or post to other websites frequently. All I did was post art I had already drawn (aside from one sketch I drew during the duration of this).
I believe you could go a lot further and a lot faster by:
- Posting fanart more frequently and / or of the same series
- Participating in DTIYS events
- Shouting out other creators
- Interacting and engaging with other creators more
Game Dev Takeaways
If you’re reading this looking for some kind of insight into helping your game dev Instagram account, never fear, I’ll be making a full article on that later. But for now, here are some takeaways:
- Art does the best. This is probably a no-brainer but really- art can do leagues better than other content.
- Engage with similar content. Don’t spam likes on everything in a tag, but rather go to tags you use and like content you actually like. Follow people who make similar content, comment on their stuff, etc. Just make sure it’s genuine. As I said before, engaging with others will in turn give you engagement.
- Use stories to your advantage! You can do so much with them. Give mini updates, ask questions, do a mini Q&A, have a countdown, etc.
- Keep your account looking clean. Have an icon that represents what you’re making as well as a good bio and a relevant link.
Although I’m not an Instagram celebrity after this, I did learn a lot about Instagram! During this I started using my company account more and we almost doubled in followers because I was able to see how people used the platform and what they wanted to see. If you’re unsure how to use a platform, make a personal account first before your company one. Get familiar with it on a personal level and those skills transfer to managing company accounts.
If you liked this article, consider checking out my other ones! Here’s a few I’ve handpicked:
9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Game Dev
How to Make Twitter Painless for Marketing
Game Dev Social Media Post Ideas
If you have any questions, feel free to comment or @ me on Twitter. If you want to talk to me about marketing, join the Devtalk+ server where I have an entire channel for marketing! And of course, feel free to follow me on Instagram.