I've recently been asked how I grew my instagram following to over 28K in just over two years so I wanted to spread the love and help some of you creative types who may just be starting out on the platform. I believe that sharing always brings good karma, and since I've benefited so much from this amazingly supportive community I wanted to share some of my tools with you.
1. Post every day! This is so important! You want people to get to know you and your artwork, so be sure to post every day. Instagram is paramount in marketing art on social media, so use it to your advantage. Post a variety of content including detail shots, studio scenes, shots of your work in a gallery or in a collector's home, process videos, photos of what inspires you, photos of your favorite places. If you're going on vacation, stockpile your images in advance and plan your posts so you won't be disrupted while relaxing. Try to keep all of your content related to your creative niche. For example, if you're a painter, don't post about your latest cooking endeavor or your kids playing soccer because it creates confusion. Sure it's ok to share what is important to you so your followers can know you from a different perspective, but you also want your account to be professional and concise. It's a delicate balance, but I recommend creating a separate account for your family life so you can preserve those memories while maintaining your privacy. Also try to share what is inspiring and what will connect you to others. Of course not every day is roses and sunshine, but nobody wants to follow someone who constantly complains about the difficulties of being an artist. It's ok to post when you're having a bad day because instagram is one of the best places to find support, but be mindful how often that happens. Try to minimize your posts to once or twice daily so you don't over-saturate anyone's feeds.
2. Have a clear profile. Be sure to use a profile name that is clear, concise, and easy to remember. Why not try to use your given name? Make sure you list your city in your profile so collectors will know if they can expect to pay for shipping. Also set your account to public so potential collectors can find you.
3. Be genuine and consistent. What makes your work unique? Write down words that people use to describe your work and how you would describe it including styles, subjects, and mediums. Narrow down your findings and focus on the top three results. I believe my work is unique because it is focused on texture and color, therefore I use those as common elements for all of my posts. Perhaps your work is unique because of your unique medium or social message. Whatever it is, make sure collectors and followers have a clear idea of who you are and always remain genuine to yourself.
4. Hashtag away! Don't be shy about posting at least 25 hashtags in your comments. This is how people will find and follow you, so use it to your advantage! Post a variety of hashtags from different topics. For example:
Try to switch up your hashtags daily so new people will continue to discover your work through different channels. Use a mix of more popular and wide-ranging hashtags like #painting or #artdaily along with some very specific hashtags like #womenartists, #southernartists, #thickpaint. Also brainstorm a new hashtag that is unique to your work. People can use this to easily find your work and it will continue to help with brand recognition. Some examples of mine are: #annmariecoolick, #GoSnapArt, or #avisualdelicacy. You can ask your followers to post using the hashtag and you can repost some of the best to your own feed or on your stories. Your followers will feel more invested in your content and will want to participate more.
5. Start a community on instagram. Networking with fellow artists both on-and-offline is a win-win. Many times artists are turning down shows or pop-ups due to scheduling conflicts and such, so why not start a mini-community of artist friends to share info and opportunities? Last year I started the East Coast Art Collective as a way to network and host joint studio sales through our platform on instagram. It's a fantastic way to leverage the power of everyone's combined following. These mini-communities are also a great way to mutually support one another by commenting and liking on each other's work.
6. Feed the machine. Follow other creative accounts on instagram and be a good instafriend. Comment on other's work, follow them, be supportive, and try to become real-life-friends if/when you can. They will in turn support you back, and if they don't reciprocate, don't be afraid to unfollow. Also set an advertising budget and advertise on big accounts when you can. I try to advertise on other accounts every 3-4 months. Some accounts will suggest some of your pieces that might fit in with their feed, but if you know what piece has generated the most likes and comments on your own page, then it could possibly do even better on a larger page so don't be afraid to speak up. Some good accounts to advertise on are @ratedmodernart and @popcultureinpictures (this is not a sponsored advertisement).
7. Create a sense of urgency. Growing a following takes time and daily commitment, but you also need to make sales. Creating a sense of urgency may be just what you need to give a boost during slow periods. Many artists accomplish this through "painting releases." Personally I like to work on a wide variety of pieces at a time so this model does not work for me. You can also host flash sales where your work is a certain percentage off, but limit your sales because you don't want buyers to just keep waiting for the next sale. You also don't want to give the impression that you can't sell your work at full price. Also remember that just because your work hasn't sold in over a year doesn't mean it never will. Sometimes it takes a couple years to find the perfect collector, so definitely don't paint over your work unless you really don't like it anymore. It's also important to look back on what you've created over long periods of time to see your growth.
8. Use your best photos. I've seen so many wonderful artists on instagram who can't take a good photo. Use natural lighting any chance you can and always photograph your work during the day when the lighting is good. I usually photograph outside on cloudy days and then edit in photoshop. You can also reach out to local photographers who may be interested in swapping a piece of work for a photo shoot. It's also great to see posts of the real you in your messy paint-covered shirt, so get yourself a tripod or improvise a setup with your phone.
9. List your work for sale! Make sure your profile is linked to your website and always list your prices. Nothing is more irritating than seeing a button that says "inquire to purchase." This exudes an air of snobbery and also discourages potential clients from asking about the price because they might be embarrassed that it could be out of their range. Why not avoid all that discomfort and list the prices up front?
10. Collaborate! There are so many ways to gain exposure through collaborating. You can collaborate on a joint piece of artwork or simply exchange posts with another artist. Recently I collaborated with a woodworker for some custom frames, a local photographer for some great in-work shots, and hung a few pieces in a local high-end shop.
What have you learned about marketing your art specifically on instagram? Please share!