Why You Should Ask Your Customers to Slide Into Your Shop’s DMs

If you haven’t been encouraging your prospects and customers to slide into your DMs, it might be time to start. Private messaging is one of the most popular ways people communicate socially. Direct messaging gives buyers the opportunity to interact personally and one-on-one with brands they like, like your print shop. In the DMs, you can connect with prospects and customers to build better customer experiences – and stronger long-term relationships. 

“People like doing business with companies they like, know and trust,” says Kristine Shreve, director of marketing and outreach at Applique Getaway. “Having one person, or a few people specifically tasked with answering questions and replying to DMs allows your customers to get to know those people – and your shop. Don’t underestimate these connections that help new customers feel connected to your shop and trust they’ll be supported if they ever have a problem.”

If you’re wondering how to use direct messaging in social platforms like Facebook or Instagram, we’ve got you covered with this DM etiquette tips from the experts.


What Are DMs Anyway?

As the name implies, a direct message lets you talk directly to a person using a platform such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter in a chat or text setting. What’s especially effective is that you’re meeting them where they hang out.

For example, 200 million Instagram users look at one or more business profiles everyday. About 70% of those consumers on Instagram report that they use the app to discover new brands. More than 375 million people use Instagram Direct Message, and 75% of consumers want to interact with brands using DMs vs. phone or email. Using DMs is a powerful way for you to make connections with your customers.

Here’s an exciting stat: Instagram DMs are the most efficient way to increase income from sales at 56.8% — compared to 17.9% of sales due to follows, 10.3% to likes and 4.2% to comments. That’s because if a customer reaches out to you via direct messaging with a question or a problem, you have the opportunity to authentically connect with them, address any concerns and move them toward a sale, if they’re happy with their interaction.


How Does Direct Messaging Help My Apparel Shop?

If you’re not sure if DMs will help you reach new customers and nurture your current clients, consider the following:

  • DMs allow you to build connections by showing your customers your shop isn’t some “faceless online t-shirt business” that just takes orders.
  • DMs also let you increase brand loyalty by letting prospects see you as more of a solutions provider who’s there to help them achieve their marketing goals.
  • DMs allow people to place orders directly, even if you don’t already have an online shop. This, in turn, will increase your overall sales.
  • DMs also let your customers check up on orders that they’ve placed or ask questions about orders they’ve received. Some shops even use DMs to send artwork approval links to customers who prefer to communicate via direct messaging.
  • Finally, DMs allow you to connect with prospects and to overcome their objections or worries that keep them from becoming regular customers.

At first, it might feel a little bit cringey messaging into a follower’s DMs, or speaking to them in a manner with the ultimate intention to sell. But, neglecting this feature is doing you, your shop, and your bank account a major disservice. “SImply start by asking your customers how they like to communicate with you,” says Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe. “If they prefer DMs and texting, then commit to what platforms you’ll use to interact with them, whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.”


So, How Do I Connect With My Customers and Leads?

When you’re using direct messaging to chat with potential and current clients, keep these tips in mind for the best possible outcome:

  1. Be available. “If you put out the marketing message that you want to interact with people on social media, you should absolutely have a rep monitoring your DMs on Facebook or Instagram,” Atkinson says.
  2. Don’t barrage the recipient with message after message. This makes it feel like pestering at best and spamming at worst. Instead, send a couple of high-quality messages to draw in the reader as opposed to dozens of light, meaningless messages. “No one likes a pushy salesperson or customer service rep,” Shreve says.

Pro tip: “Always let your prospects make the first contact,” Shreve says. “Never DM someone who hasn’t given you permission to message them.” However, if a person comments on one of your public posts expressing interest or a question, you can respond to their comment asking if you can DM them. If they say “yes,” feel free to DM them to start a conversation.

  1. Don’t make your message all about a sales pitch. Your first goal should be to make a personal connection and see if you can help them solve a problem. Let the sale grow organically out of that. “Plus, don’t make assumptions about who the person is or what they want,” Shreve says. “Ask questions, so you can get to know them better.”
  2.  Take your convo cues from your prospect. “If they’re short and to the point, follow suit,” Shreve says. “If they have lots of questions and want lots of information, supply it. Aim to build rapport and make the prospect or customer feel comfortable. Don’t be fake, but be adaptable.”


Don’t Break the Cardinal Rule: Always Respond to DMs

Not responding to someone’s DM is the equivalent of ignoring someone who comes into your shop and wants to ask a question or place an order. The way to keep in front of your direct messages is to have one more more staffers assigned to monitor incoming messages. 

Atkinson recommends giving your reps the right tools to interact efficiently in the DMs:

  • Pre-written answers to frequently asked questions.
  • A freebie white paper or video that teaches prospects how to build their business with decorated apparel and products (showing your work and case studies, of course).
  • A Calendly link with days/times you’re available to chat with a prospect about their project via Zoom or phone if they’re ready to convert.
  • Art approval links to send via DM for current clients. 
  • Easy access to your order system to check on a status or make changes for current customers.

But how can you field all the questions all day, every day? Try auto-responders. Almost every social media platform has its basic version of auto-responders, with Instagram Messaging automation having a more robust offering. This is a good place to start and spend some time, since on average 70% of incoming messages on social media are “pre-purchase.” The auto-responders provide basic information and collect personal details before transferring the prospect/customer to a live agent.


“When you automate responses, you can serve clients when they reach out and then connect them to a human when they’re ready to make the next move,” Atkinson says. “There are plenty of tools to manage DMs to interact with prospects and prospects, both automated and in person. This is an additional piece of the customer experience that you can assign to a rep.”


What Organic Ways Can My Shop Initiate DM Convos?

Not sure how to strike up a conversation with a total stranger on social media? If you’ve decided to use your social media accounts and direct messaging as a way to connect with prospects, it’s a smart idea to have a staffer interact with companies or people you’d like to have as clients. Here are a few ways to start a potential sales conversation with an ideal client.


  1. Respond to their stories! This might be the most natural way to start a new conversation with an ideal client. You should already be following a lot of your top prospects, so spend at least 10 minutes a day scrolling through their stories or posts and responding to them. You can send a reaction emoji if you prefer. The more personal and thoughtful the response you leave, the better you’ll create a rapport.
  2. Thank them for following your profile. Let them know their “follow” or “like” doesn’t go unnoticed and feel free to ask an open-ended question to get a conversation going in the comments.
  3.  DM them instead of commenting on their most recent post. Did their caption resonate with you? Tell them! Love the way they edit their photos? DM them about it. Sending a private DM as a fan, not as a cold call, is way more personable than leaving a generic comment on your ideal clients’ Instagram posts.


Use DMs to Benefit Your Print Shop

You can capitalize on DMs to enhance your customers’ experience and keep them loyal to your shop, including:

  • Answering prospects’ general questions about your shop, products, services and more.
  • Connecting with your ideal prospects in one-on-one conversations.
  • Allowing customers to place orders directly through DMs, even if you don’t have an online store.
  • Moving the order process along, including sending art approval links.
  • Responding quickly to customer comments and complaints.
  • Establishing potential partnerships with other businesses or with influencers who can help grow your shop’s online reach.

“Mention your social media profiles in every promotional or marketing piece and feature them prominently on your website,” Shreve says. “Don’t be afraid to tell people that the best way to contact you is through social media messaging. Then respond promptly when you are contacted via this method, and watch your loyal customer base and sales grow.”


The Best Ways to Add Glitter and Shine to T-Shirts

Ready to add glitter or shine to a customer’s logo or artwork? You’ve got a lot of options if you’re ready to get creative. 

For example, Broken Arrow T-Shirt Printing & Embroidery (@brokenarrowwear) offers screen-printed and vinyl foils, as well as glitters. “We prefer screen printing because it can be combined with other ink colors a little bit easier,” says Kortni Remer, general manager. “Our favorite designs combine standard ink colors with glitters/foils as an accent and an enhancement. Foils and glitters add dimension and enhance certain elements better than standard inks. The enhancement speaks for itself when you use it correctly – and just adds that special something to a design when people want to stand out.”

We asked three experienced shops to share the easiest ways to add some dazzle to client designs for truly custom artwork, without it looking like you broke out the bedazzler. See how to use screen-printed foils and more for cool effects.


Our Need for Glitter and Shine

Utica Coffee Roasting Co. wanted a bold design that would get local coffee drinkers’ full attention. Howard Potter, CEO of A&P Master Images, chose an on-trend oversize long-sleeve t-shirt to apply glitter vinyl for the “Wake the hell up!” message. “With a simple, one-color design on a black shirt, the silver glitter makes the apparel pop,” he says. The A&P team produced 72 pieces for this order, but they can easily create one-offs as needed for the client. 

Pro tip:With glitter vinyl, keep the design simple and not too detailed to make it easier to weed and mass produce it if needed,” Potter says.



Shining Like a Lady Boss

LaTonna Roberson, owner of T-Shirt Shop Dallas, creates eye-catching shirts for her Lady Print Boss Consulting brand that helps people start their own decorating business. The “Just Boss Everyday” t-shirt is a great example of a classic white print on a black t-shirt, but with a little shimmer. “I used the tone-on-tone method to create a nice, clean garment that has just enough shine to get attention,” she says.

The “BOSS” logo shirt is another favorite with Lady Print Boss clients and fans. “We used black shimmer vinyl and STAHLS’ CAD-CUT Metallic Heat Transfer Vinyl in gold for a bold look,” Roberson says. 



Shimmering for Special Occasions

Roberson created the “LaTonna” t-shirt for Mother’s Day using STAHLS’ CAD-COLOR Soft Opaque Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl. “Opaque printable vinyl is a great way to get full-color printing for small orders,” she says. “We sprinkled on rhinestones to give the shirt shine.” 

Roberson created this flashy shirt for a first birthday party. She used STAHLS’ CAD-CUT Chameleon for this eye-catching effect. “A white shirt is the perfect canvas for colorful prints,” she says. “You can also pair colorful prints with whimsical fonts to create a fun tee.”



All That Glitters

Broken Arrow does a lot of shirts for racing teams. So it was no surprise when Caravello Racing reached out to ask if a specialty ink would work for their splatter-skull design. “They wanted something different than the norm,” Remer says. “We decided to use glitter on their design as an enhancement, without bringing any ‘dance mom’ vibes.”

Remer’s team used red glitter as an outline for the team’s name, specifically keeping the lines fairly thin so the glitter didn’t overpower, but still would draw attention. “We loved the result because the glitter added a pop to the design, while keeping with the artwork’s vibe,” she says.

Here are Broken Arrow’s tips for applying glitter:

  • To hide inconsistent coverage with the glitter ink, use an underbase on your glitter that’s a similar color to the glitter. For example, red glitter gets a red under base. 
  • Use a lower mesh count to allow the flake to come through the screens. Remer uses a 40 count or lower mesh.
  • Print the glitter last in your print order. “If you must print something after glitter, make sure the other ink is fully dried,” Remer says. “Avoid wet-on-wet printing.”




The Gold’s in the Foil

Broken Arrow did a fun project for a 30th birthday party. The client originally asked for metallic gold ink. “We wanted to give the customer more reflection on sunglasses and halo, so we suggested foil instead,” Remer says. “The end result was a tone-on-tone print with a gold foil enhancement. We created a design that would look entirely different with standard or metallic inks.”

Remer offers her top production tips for screen-printed foils:

  • Add a foil-resist additive to your plastisol inks or use water-based inks, if you want to combine a screen-printed foil with other ink colors.
  • The adhesive is key. “We generally use a plastisol transfer adhesive and run it through an 83-mesh screen to get a smooth, thick layer of adhesive down,” she says.
  • Set up the artwork to allow for the adhesive and other inks to expand when you heat press the foil onto the shirt.
  • To apply adhesive, a 70/90/70 durometer squeegee works best.
  • Keep your dryer temp below 300 degrees to avoid curing the adhesive through the dryer. You’ll cure the adhesive when heat pressing.



Get Started Today

If you’re ready to add some glitter and shine to your clients’ t-shirts, start trying the techniques shared here today to create your own samples. Show off those examples in your shop, on your website, on social media and in your emails. Don’t hesitate to suggest adding some dazzle to text or an element in your clients’ next design. Sometimes, people are afraid to request glitter in their designs, but when they see how eye-catching it is, they’ll be on board.


The Extreme Appeal of Streetwear & Ideas to Sell This Category

In the printwear market, streetwear is in demand for lots of reasons. Street-style apparel is often synonymous with edgy branded clothing or merchandise that makes a statement. Fashion-forward streetwear is also comfortable and relaxed – and versatile enough to be worn for casual occasions, work in the office and even nights out. Streetwear designers also create artwork that’s exclusive and makes people feel part of a community.

“Streetwear’s identified more as life wear for people of the culture, from the culture,” says Andrew Gilliam, CEO at Crypto Boxers (@cryptoboxers). “Just like in hip hop, the wider world is catching on to the vibrant color and statements on the clothing out now.”

We asked five streetwear designers and artists to weigh in on why streetwear – a $185 billion worldwide market – has such a universal appeal right now, what styles are hot, what artwork’s resonating with wearers, and who’s buying street-style promo clothing.


The Streetwear of Now

Streetwear style as an apparel movement has distinctive characteristics.


  1. Everyday Streetwear Style: More and more, streetwear styles and influence have integrated into other clothing styles. Streetwear has created brands and styles that allow staple pieces to read fashion-forward and appropriate for all types of occasions, from casual to formal. “Haute couture has come down from its pedestal to the street,” says Roy Harper, fashion designer and graphic artist at Ade Koya (@royharper4955).
  2. Inclusive, Yet Subversive: Streetwear meets and encompasses many cultural trends and movements. These styles also allow communities to express themselves in an in-your-face way. Urban fashion also challenges, changes and tests boundaries, leading to innovative ideas like unisex clothing.

“Streetwear has become synonymous with freedom of expression,” says Chad Montgomery, CEO of Gold & Gems Clothing (@goldandgems_). “As a result, in a country that values freedom of speech, you see people using clothes as a form of expression.” Montgomery, who’s visited 39 countries, has observed fashion trends around the world. “One commonality is that people want to express themselves, and you can see it in their clothes, whether their style is outgoing or conservative,” he says.

  1. Modern Luxe: Streetwear styles have an effortless timelessness – apparel that remains modern, yet classic. When Louis Vuitton partnered with major streetwear brand Supreme, that signaled a shift in fashion, as streetwear entered the luxury apparel space. Then, Louis Vuitton made further strides by hiring the late, great Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White, as its artistic director of menswear. Abloh had the opportunity to elevate streetwear design with luxe materials, and also paved the way for young Black streetwear designers to launch elevated brands.  

“With the popularity of Off-White, the influence Virgil had at Louis Vuitton has trickled down and impacted the fashion industry in its entirety,” says Dani Diarbakerly, owner and graphic designer at King Production and KingPro (@kingproja). “We can attribute the current popularity of streetwear to what he accomplished.”

4, Practical Comfort: When you’re dressed in streetwear, you look and feel great. “Athleisure and comfort dressing were already gaining popularity as the pandemic hit,” Diarbakerly says. “With stay-at-home orders, people really embraced dressing in street-style tees, hoodies and joggers – and that’s stayed with so many of us.”



What Are the Most Popular Apparel Pieces and Accessories in Streetwear Now?

“With streetwear today, everything is marketable within different niches,” Gilliam says. Two-thirds of consumers report that streetwear products never go out or style, and they’ll spend up to five times more per month on streetwear rather than non-streetwear, according to Strategy& and Hypebeast.

Here are some of the apparel and accessories items to keep in mind when you’re pitching streetwear:

  • Hoodies and pullovers: “People wear hoodies all year round now instead of just for a few months as in the past,” Gilliam says. The Gildan Hammer Adult Hooded Sweatshirt and Bella + Canvas FWD Fashion Unisex Raw Seam Hooded Sweatshirt are great options.
  • Joggers: We’re seeing designers pair pullovers and joggers. “We use Bella + Canvas joggers for many of the brands we serve,” Diarbakerly says. The FWD Fashion Unisex Sueded Fleece Jogger Pant and Unisex Jogger Sweatpant are two styles to check out.
  • Matching tops and shorts/bottoms: “This is a big trend for day and parties,” Montgomery says. “I’ve seen matching sets in solid colors, prints and florals. With florals, It’s always interesting the amount of variations you can make with that influence.”
  • Oversize silhouettes: “Streetwear now is oversize everything – shirts, dresses, pants, coats, hats and even shoes,” Harper says. “For instance, check out Billie Eilish.”
  • Street-style t-shirts: “The Gildan Hammer Adult T-Shirt is a keystone for my clients,” Diarbakerly says. “The fabric and fit are just perfect for the streetwear vibe.”
  • Bags: This season, bags are a staple streetwear accessory, whether it’s a backpack, duffle bag or fanny pack. Montgomery designs and sells signature backpacks and duffle bags. 


What Type of Artwork’s Popping on Streetwear?

“Streetwear is basically taking a standard product, like a tee, and giving it a small twist which makes it unique,” Diarbakerly says. When you’re printing, here are a few secret tricks KingPro uses to give designs that streetwear vibe: 

Diarbakerly used oversize printing on a shirt for producer Silent Addy and DJ/songwriter Diplo.
Diarbakerly used a smaller, lowercase print on this Grim shirt, the brand of recording artist Projexx.


  • Placement: Drop where you’d print a standard tee 1 inch for an instant streetwear vibe. 
  • Size: Make your design, including text, big or make it small. “We normally say a standard chest print is 10” wide, so if you make it 12” wide it’ll have a whole new look and feel,” Diarbakerly says.
  • Specialty Prints: Neons, puff prints, metallics and more are super easy to accomplish, but they give your client an elevated street-style look.


Today, many streetwear designs also show up as bold statement tees that make viewers face uncomfortable societal truths. “For example, Black Lives Matter or ‘I can’t breathe’ messages gave a clear sign on how wearers feel and what they want everyone to know,” Gilliam says. “With everything happening in the world, a human’s body has become the best billboard.”

Right now, Harper’s artwork is focused on all things Africa. The “Gye Nyame” shirt is Ghanaian and means “except for God, I fear none.” The “Natty Dread” design is a Kuba mask of the Congo and the “Benin Mask” is Nigerian.


New Strides in Streetwear

Some streetwear designers use urban wear for new and unique purposes. Spring Mooney, owner and creator at All Things Mooney (@onemoonmanystars), is the child of the late Paul Mooney, a comedic legend. “Streetwear seemed a logical next step in furthering my dad’s legacy,” Spring says. “As a comedy writer, his work for and with Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, and Kenan and Damon Wayans is legendary and his fan base literally spans generations, from old to young. Legacies matter and so our line is a way to keep his name, humor and wit alive.’

All Things Mooney’s street apparel offers “Royal tees,” “Legend tees,” “Woke tees” and “Race tees,” that pay homage to Paul Mooney’s famous comedic takes targeting race relations at the core of America. “We’re happily finding that people across all ages, genders and races, who had a love for Paul Mooney as one of the ‘godfathers of comedy,’ are loving and embracing our brand,” Spring says.



Like many others, Gilliam has added streetwear to his brand to keep it going and growing. Gilliam’s company has created a popular NFT of Tony Weeks, an American boxing referee who has been officiating fights since 1994. “But we’ve expanded the vision by bringing cryptocurrency and clothing together with our new NFT clothing line, which is a new, disruptive revenue source to retail,” Gilliam says. 

In today’s market, Gilliam says, it’s no longer just about the fanbase of the person in the image.  “With our NFT fashion line, we’ve been able to create new fans of the person in the image used to make the pattern,” he says. “Plus, we’re creating our own programming that takes an image and pulls the power from the photo to create a unique pattern.” 



Who’s Buying Streetwear Styles Right Now?

“Right now, streetwear has a universal appeal, with everyone from international bankers to art dealers, to yoga instructors to world travelers wearing streetwear,” Harper says. That’s good news for apparel distributors and decorators who want to pitch the trend to their existing client bases.

Part of that universal appeal, Montgomery says, is because streetwear has transitioned from “aggressive and graffiti influenced” to more laidback. “Now, we see clients pulling out all the stops at work, events and parties,” he says. “Instead of being ‘overdressed,’ people lean on streetwear brands that are more laid back for common mediums. This creates a fun, casual environment.”

For example, merch and uniforms can take on an urban feel to appeal to certain demographics. 

“The merch sector is all about streetwear and coming up with new takes to make products look unique,” Diarbakerly says. “We have several restaurant clients who also want to do streetwear-inspired looks to help them sell more retail tees.”



Diarbakerly created these stylish shirts for King Patty’s restaurant staff – and to sell as retail tees for patrons.

Gilliam points out that you can pitch streetwear apparel and accessories to every client, from  entertainers to corporate offices. “It’s about the right fit for the project. “Vegan burger chain Slutty Vegan, which started as a food truck, got a shoe deal, so that shows anything is possible.”

Finally, Diarbakerly points to live printing as a huge opportunity in the streetwear space. “The artform itself lends itself to great content for social media as well,” she says.