I’ve been using Instagram for several years to see it change and evolve. I spent hundreds of dollars on Instagram courses claiming to help me build the audience. While I don’t have crazy following like so many artists out there, I did learn a thing or two about it with lots of sweat and tears. I’ve decided to share some simple truths about the social platform that you can apply to your account today to see some growth and to hopefully cut on frustration Instagram can give us. Overall, I like it a lot. It’s my favorite social network mainly because it’s so visual and it’s easy to present art and connect with others in the field and beyond. Perfect for us – artists because it’s still free!
Why you need to be on Instagram
- Every art professional, gallery owner, curator, artist and art writer is on Instagram. You can connect to or reach out to people in a very informal way. Something that was totally impossible to accomplish a few years ago!
- If you have no website, no worries! Art professionals check your Instagram account first, website second!! You can host your art portfolio on Instagram for free.
- You expose your art to new audiences every day showing your inspiration and behind-the-scenes footage. In other worlds, you find your audience, opportunities and art collectors on IG.
How to use Instagram effectively in 2022
- The name of your account must include your artist name. If it’s taken, expand on it a bit more by adding art/painting/sculpture, etc. The word that describes your expertise the best.
- Treat your Instagram account like your portfolio. This means deleting photos showing what you ate or where you bathed. Think of it as your professional portfolio with the best images of your artwork available to sample. People are very quick to judge. So when they get to your account, they must see the consistency in style and theme.
- Include yourself into some of the shots. My photos perform a lot better when I’m standing next to my painting or I’m actually painting… This is important and makes IG different from regular, clean product photography. People want to connect to real artists, not just our artwork. Let them see your art, studio and the creative process! We’re always very interested in the process of making something (hint: make short videos and reels. More on that later).
- Show your WIP shots in a carousel placing your finished piece first. Shots of art with supplies in them work well. I think that you can experiment with wip shots in a video format since the reach is declining quickly posting photos only.
- Use description space to write a story about your process and art. How did it come together? What challenges did you have? Focus on inspiration, rather than art supplies. Although sometimes it can work as well.
- Follow your favorite artists, curators and art brands on IG. Leave meaningful comments to engage and befriend them like you befriend people in real life… This is a long-term strategy. You can’t expect to see them liking or engaging with you but there is a chance that you can develop a meaningful connection this way. Don’t pressure people to like you. It’s annoying. Rather try to connect to someone you really admire or like…
- Use dm’s to connect with people as well. There are no rules here. Don’t be obnoxious but think how you can be helpful or inspiring for others.
- Beware of spam! Don’t respond to messages stating that they can help you grow your account for a certain amount of $$ you spend with them. Also, there are big art accounts out there as well that promote you for $25-100 per post. Most of these accounts are scam. Don’t waste your hard-earned money on these strategies. Some take the money and give you a following that disappears in a couple of days or a couple of months. If you see that the engagement is low on big art accounts (500k-million), it means these are not real. There are some very large, legit aggregate accounts that post the best artists on their feed. Most of the time posting on their feed is not free, while the best artists can get a free post, which translates to considerable following to the artist’s account. I think the best strategy with big accounts is to use their branded hashtag, so when they look for art, they can spot your video or image.
- Your Instagram account will grow not only because of your daily engagement with other users but also because what you do outside of Instagram. This is important. You have to be social and proactive showing your art and personality elsewhere and the Instagram following becomes a byproduct of your main publicity efforts that include art shows, publications, guest posting on big sites and podcasts…
- Reels. Yes, you have to deal with them. All my courses went out of the window because the Instagram is having a new tantrum (strategy) in place that’s not discussed yet. Have you noticed a decline in reach when you just post a photo? The carousels of carefully curated images don’t perform as well as they used to. It seems that Instagram wants to become a video app to compete with tiktok now. (I’m rolling my eyes here:))
- My top tip on reels is to treat it as a very short demo of your drawing/painting process. First 3 seconds of your vertical video are very important. I’ve experimented with reels quite a lot to understand what does and doesn’t work. My actual painting/drawing reels do the best. Posting time matters but not to the extend to the quality of your reel. Show mini-tutorials and behind-the-scenes.
- Frequency. In my experience, posting reels every day doesn’t do much for my account growth. It seems that the second reel would get less reach and interaction and sometimes it performs just as bad as a regular photo post. Play with your reels and timing to see if it’s the same for you or different. Let me know how it goes! https://www.instagram.com/veronicawintersart/
- The immediate post engagement is very important for your reel to rank well. So reply to your comments instantly. Don’t delay.
Hashtags are still important. But not all hashtags are good for your business. Pick the relevant ones to your artistic practice. Avoid using large hashtags that have over 500k posts with them. Reason being if your account is small, your chance of being seen with a big hashtag is a fraction of a second. If you do your research and pick medium-size hashtags in your niche, you increase you chances to be noticed.
What about Facebook, you may ask? I think it’s still a powerful platform that has a slightly different, older demographic. Due to the recent changes in privacy, a lot of targeting is gone and my guess is that Facebook will transition to reels sooner or later. You’ve got to understand where your customers are, what platform they prefer to engage so you spend more time there. I think Facebook groups can be useful to build friendships, which is not possible on IG. I hope this post is helpful.
To wrap up, pick one platform to be active on it almost every day. Be professional by posting your art and story. Don’t obsess with the numbers, rather build real relationships and find inspiration and opportunities by being present and social there. Stay positive and helpful. I know it can be hard at times but I think people go to Instagram and Facebook for inspiration as a way to relax from day-to-day stress and work.
Connect with me here:
Check out my first 2022 podcast interview about colored pencils, art and life. 🙂