Give your illustrations and photographs a leg up in the marketplace using these tips for promoting and selling your creative work on social media.

Did you know that shopping is a top priority for 48% of Pinterest users*? Or that 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile daily? Social media platforms allow you to engage with millions of potential customers worldwide. Plus, many of these platforms are also extremely economical for small business owners.

Finding and connecting with a customer base for your illustration, design, or photography work can be as quick and simple as setting up an Instagram Shop or Pinterest profile.

*Source: Hootsuite.com

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Promoting Creative Work on Social Media

Promoting creative products online has become increasingly important during the COVID pandemic, but luckily marketing images, prints, or products has never been easier with new ecommerce features such as Product Pins, IGTV Ads, and Facebook Shops. 

Here, discover quick-start tips for marketing your illustrations, graphic design prints or photography on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, with actionable advice for even the most hesitant of social media users.

Cover image adapted from interior photos by contributor Philipp Shuruev, featuring illustrations by Carly Allen-Fletcher, Luca Di Battista, and Helena Perez Garcia.


Why Should I Promote My Work on Social Media?

You might already have an online store or Etsy shop for your illustration products. But how will customers find them?

Improving SEO, Google Ads, or physical retail might produce results, but social media is one of the best-value, widest-reaching, and most effective ways of engaging and connecting with customers. 

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Facebook Shops
The Facebook Shop for hand-printed card business Ink Meets Paper.

Here are some more reasons why promoting your creative work on social media is well worth doing:

  • Users come to social media platforms to relax, interact…and shop! Compared to conventional TV or print advertising, social media connects with users when they are at their most engaged, in a setting where they are more open to engaging with ads and promotional posts. 
  • Many social media platforms, especially Instagram and Pinterest, are visual-centric. If you have a knack for creating compelling, beautiful imagery, your work will be a natural fit on these platforms. 
  • When it comes to finding your customer base, social platforms do a lot of the hard work for you. 97% of all searches on Pinterest are unbranded. So why does this matter? It ultimately means that users are open to discovering new products and ideas. Plus, users interested in art and illustration already follow related channels and businesses. The fast pace of social means that your work will always have the potential to get in front of the right sort of individual, and that they’ll also find your marketing efforts interesting, not irritating.
  • Home decorating is the most popular category on Pinterest. More than 56 million Pinners are actively engaging with home content on the site. For illustrators and designers looking to sell prints of their work or illustrated home products, this is a huge potential market to tap into.
A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Promoting on Pinterest
A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Selling Images on Social Media

Let’s look at strategies for promoting your illustration and design products across three of the biggest, visual-led social platforms—Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.


1. How to Promote Your Illustrations on Pinterest

Styled around a searchable mood-board of visual imagery, Pinterest is a natural home for illustration and art content. But, it’s surprisingly underused by marketers compared to Facebook and Instagram. Perhaps this is due to marketers dismissing the platform as overly female-dominated (more than two-thirds of Pinterest’s base is women). Or, maybe they perceive it as just as a means for recipe sharing and wedding planning. Either way they’re missing an opportunity. The statistics indicate that Pinterest is an exceptionally lucrative tool for creative businesses. 

For illustrators looking to market their work, it’s interesting to note that Pinterest has an aspirational edge over other social platforms. According to a Pew Research study, the majority of Pinterest users earn more than $75,000 USD a year. In general, Pinterest users have disposable income and are interested in home decoration, art, and creative products. This makes promoting on Pinterest a no-brainer for savvy illustrators.

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Pinterest Ads
Pins marked with a “Promoted by” caption are Pinterest Ads. These are regular Pins that you can pay to be placed where target consumers are most likely to see them. These Pins will appear in your desired audience’s home feed, category feeds and relevant search results.

The platform was founded around the idea of sharing creative content, most of which was originally unbranded. However, in the last year Pinterest has really upped its game in terms of promotional content. In addition to the ability to create a business account (rather than a personal account) designed to help you create and promote your pins, there’s also a variety of newly introduced features designed with creative businesses in mind.  

What are Product Pins?

The first of these features to know about are Product Pins. These are one of the four types of “Rich Pins” on Pinterest, alongside apps, recipes, and articles.

Rich Pins provide more in-depth context to an image or video, allowing users to read more text for a recipe, for example. For products, these pins update according to changes made on the ecommerce site they are linked to. This allows the pin to advertise a revised sale price or product image.

You can read more about converting your pins to Rich Product Pins here.

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Product Pins

Showcasing your Illustrations on Pinterest Shops 

Anyone with a business account on Pinterest can create a Pinterest Shop. This consists of shopping pins grouped into catalogs, imitating the shopping experience of a conventional ecommerce site. 

One account can create up to eight featured shops. Pinners can then browse related products within the same group, widening the reach of the original shopping pin. 

Discover how to create your first Pinterest Shop here.

Promoting your Illustrations on Story Pins

Although not necessarily promotional in content, a Story Pin is a new feature that allows you to engage with potential customers for longer than a standard pin or product pin. 

These mimic the format of Instagram Stories, inviting users to click on a cover pin and access a slideshow of up to twenty additional images or videos. Each of these pages can link across to your ecommerce store. 

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Promoting Illustrations Through Story Pins

Story Pins are a great way of telling a story about a product, brand or event, and, although in their infancy, are already showing excellent conversion rates compared to static pins.


2. How to Promote Your Illustrations on Instagram

Instagram was founded on the basis of users sharing their own photography and imagery, making it a natural fit for illustrators looking to promote creative content, products, or prints. 

For marketers, the highly engaged audience and tribe-like structure of interaction on the platform also offers something a little different from more passive social platforms like Pinterest. 

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Promote Illustrations Through Instagram

Instagram encourages users to find and foster their own micro- and macro-communities on the platform. While personal friendships might tie together some groups, other interactions are forged through a mutual interest in a particular subject, product, or idea. Users interested in illustration, interior design, or photography will curate their own communities on the platform. In other words, Instagram is already home to contained, targeted, and highly engaged customer groups. All you need to do is find and engage with them. 

In addition to using an Instagram profile as an extension of your ecommerce strategy—transforming posts into product shots, demos, or behind-the-scenes insights—Instagram introduced a number of new promotional features that aim to transform the platform into a fully shoppable experience for users.

Selling Your Illustrations on Instagram Shops

Launched in May this year alongside Facebook Shops (see below), Instagram Shops is branded as a solution for small businesses who are facing challenges during the COVID crisis. Instagram describes its new Shops feature as “an immersive full-screen storefront that enables businesses to build their brand story and drive product discovery.”

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Instagram Shops

What that means is that Instagram users will be able to access a shop through a business’ Instagram profile. Once there, the experience will mimic an ecommerce format. Users can browse products, explore collections, and also purchase products through the in-app browser.

Creating a shop is free, and the platform is rolling out the feature to additional businesses in phases over the next few months. Eligible business profiles will receive an email detailing how they can set up shop.

Promoting Your Illustrations with IGTV Ads

Experts predicts mobile video will account for 78% of total mobile data traffic by 2021. So, Instagram designed IGTV Ads with the mobile video generation in mind. 

The intuitive interface supports both vertical and full-screen video content (videos play as soon as you open the app) and curated content. That means your target audience can find your videos instantly.

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — IGTV Ads

IGTV Ads are the latest addition to IGTV, just launched at the end of May 2020. These video ads allow businesses to monetize their videos by promoting products for up to fifteen seconds. The video ads only appear if a user clicks the preview button in their feed. That means users aren’t forced to watch the ad. Instead they are more likely to have actively chosen to watch it. 

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Promoting Creative Products Through IGTV

So what does the IGTV Ads format mean for illustrators?

Most illustrators are accustomed to creating static imagery. However, the move towards video across Instagram and other social platforms means that video skills are becoming an essential skill for successful promotion. Animating illustrations, showing how you create designs “backstage,” or demonstrating how buyers can present prints in a home setting are just a few ways artists can transform static products into moving video ads. 

Discover more about using IGTV Ads here.


3. How to Promote Your Illustrations on Facebook

Facebook is the most established of the three social media platforms we discuss here. However, in many ways it has been the slowest to adapt to a rapidly changing ecommerce environment.

However, a huge number of people still actively use the platform (1.73 billion daily users during the first quarter of 2020). What’s more, the platform still offers the cheapest online advertising options amongst the big-hitting social channels.

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads are a good-value paid-for promotional option for the right sort of business. They’re also easy to create once you’ve set up a Facebook advertising account

Illustrators or photographers who have established business pages on Facebook can also maximize the potential of their existing audience with Facebook’s newest feature, Facebook Shops.

How to Sell Illustrations on Facebook Shops 

Facebook has taken “social commerce” a step forward. Social commerce refers to small sales that take place on a local scale, such as a bike advertised for sale on a post to the Gumtree-like structure of Facebook Marketplace.

Facebook Shops is a more sophisticated offering for small businesses, and uses the same format as Instagram Shops (above). This means that Facebook and Instagram users can create a single store that connects with users on both of these platforms. Creating a shop is free and simple, and users can find Facebook Shops on a business’ Facebook Page, or discover them through stories or ads. 

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Selling Creative Work Through Facebook Shops
The Facebook Shop for hand-printed card business Ink Meets Paper.

Customers can make purchases in-app or directly message the business using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Instagram Direct. Facebook is also testing out loyalty programs, which allow regular customers to collect and spend points through the Facebook Shop. 

For illustrators, the lack of financial investment involved in creating a shop, as well as the opportunity to offer products to an existing base of followers, means that promoting your prints and products on Facebook could be an opportunity to build brand loyalty and foster lasting connections with an established audience.

Read more about creating a Facebook Shop here.


Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media: Best Practice for Beginners

The three largest visual-led platforms—Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook—are responding quickly to the challenges facing bricks-and-mortar retail. That means there’s a much wider range of ecommerce features and options for creatives looking to boost their marketing efforts online.

While Facebook Shops allow you to tap into an existing loyal follower base and convert these into customers, Instagram’s Shops feature and IGTV Ads help connect creative businesses with highly engaged consumers in innovative and creative ways. For first-time social media marketers, Pinterest is a highly underrated and fantastic platform for visual content. Plus, Pinterest offers plenty of promotional potential for those with a knack for creating beautiful, visually impactful content.

A Beginner's Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social Media — Beginner's Toolkit

Whether you decide to focus your efforts on one platform or extend your reach across multiple channels, the message to small businesses and creative freelancers by social media heavyweights is loud and clear. Social media promotion is a low-value and welcoming alternative to conventional advertising methods. All you need is a little time on your hands and some creative ideas for presenting your products.

A few essential marketing skills will also help of course, but no need to fret—we’ve got your back!


Check out these handy tutorials and tips for becoming a social media marketing master in no time: