Dylan Gilligan, owner of Upstate Merch, a custom screen-printing shop in Whitney Point, NY, has been a champion of social sharing for over a decade. Back in 2006, he started a 1-inch button company called Merch Buttons, using then-popular social media service Myspace to contact bands directly.
“Being in a band myself, I understood the importance of networking online to get shows and followers,” he recalls. “Instead of talking to the same group of kids on message boards, now I could reach fans I never could. I spent most nights messaging bands and businesses, as well as following them and engaging in conversations on their page.”
These days, however, it’s all about Instagram for Gilligan. “It’s the perfect way to showcase what you can really do in your shop,” he explains. He’s posted more than 2,700 photos and videos on his @upstatemerch account and boasts a robust following of over 11,200. Gilligan says he tries to post to Instagram at least three times a day, not to mention updating his daily Story.
I asked Gilligan to share his top five Instagram tips.
- Peel back the curtain. “A lot of shops make the mistake of showing nothing but pictures of finished prints,” Gilligan notes. “I get most of my likes and comments when I post a behind-the-scenes photo – how things are really made, the blood, sweat and tears that goes into making your T-shirt.”
- Get personal. Break up the shop and product photos with “personal stuff” you or your staff is into, Gilligan advises. “Followers get connected with your shop because they can relate.”
- Tell your story. Gilligan is a big fan of Instagram Stories, a Snapchat-like feature that lets you share multiple photos and videos throughout the day, all of which disappear after 24 hours. “You can do quick how-to videos and shots of prints spinning on press,” he says.
- Be involved. “Don’t just be another stalker troll,” Gilligan says. “You need to like and interact with the people you follow.” Try posting compliments or thoughtful comments on stuff you like or find interesting.
- Use key hashtags. Think of hashtags as interest groups, rather than random add-ons. “People who are into certain topics will search for those hashtags,” Gilligan says. Do some research and trial and error to find the hashtags that give you the best engagement.