5 Tips for Artists Using Instagram
Social media is becoming more and more important for all businesses across the world to help grow their audience and get more customers. This is just the same for creative businesses. The current world climate with a seemingly endless cycle of lockdowns and restrictions makes social media a more important tool than ever before – with artists unable to attend events, galleries, markets and fairs to grow their audience.
Instagram is quickly becoming one of the top social media platforms for artists wanting to grow their business and show their work to more people. But how do you make sure that your page stands out in an ever more crowded market?
Here are my top 5 top tips for growing your art audience as an artist on Instagram!
Make sure that you are posting what people want to see! It sounds easy but how to do it?
Keep an eye on your analytics to see what types of posts are most popular. Check out some of your favourite artists to see which of their posts are popular and which are not. Try giving something away with your posts – not a literal item, but an idea, a little hint or tip – or a sneak peek into something you are doing.
Keep posts professional but friendly and personable – being yourself and finding your own voice is great, but many people and potential clients would be put off by swearing, poor spelling or oversharing every detail of your personal life. It is about finding a balance of what works for you.
Keep your posts about your art! Sharing more about yourself and your personal life and interests is great (if done properly) but it can make your feed look confusing – people won’t know if you are a professional artist, a hobby artist or a lifestyle blogger! I made this mistake early on too. Now I keep my feed for art posts and use my stories and reels for ‘behind the scenes/about me’ content.
Most importantly keep your content POSITIVE! This is one main reason people love Instagram – to see all the beautiful and positive posts as a pick me up. Honesty is great but people don’t want to see a huge rant about a difficult client or all about your bad day where your painting just wouldn’t go well. By all means post about them but put a positive spin on it (“I learnt so much from this painting…”).
Engagement is everything on Instagram and the best way to grow your audience. I placed this after content however, as without good content it will be difficult to get engagement!
Engagement can take many forms from people liking and commenting on your posts, sharing and reacting your Instagram Stories or you liking and commenting on other people’s posts. An easy way to encourage engagement is to ask a question in your post or Story – this encourages people to respond and makes them feel more linked to you as an artist, as they are involved. I like to ask people’s opinions on what I should draw for competitions or future greetings card designs. Instagram Stories have an excellent questions feature where people can type in a question for you to answer – an afternoon of “Ask me anything…” is a great way to pass a rainy Saturday! It is also important to respond to people’s questions and comments – even if it is just to like the comment itself – this shows your followers that you appreciate their effort and that you do take the time to listen.
Just as important is to like and comment on other people’s posts – other artists are always appreciative of some positive words on a piece that you like and it can be very useful to comment on potential clients’ posts (as I mostly do portraits of dogs I like and comment on a lot of doggy Instagram accounts!).
The best use of hashtags is a real artform and takes time and practice to get it right. That being said it only takes a little bit of time and attention to them to really start to see a difference in your reach and audience growth. This was the main way that I managed to grow my audience.
Make sure to only use hashtags relevant to what you are posting and try not to use the same hashtags all of the time. Both of these will be picked up by Instagram filters as ‘spammy’ which will lead to your posts being shown to less people – not what you want to achieve. For instance, if you are doing a pastel painting of a leopard, you may want to include hashtags about leopards, big cats and African wildlife – as well as about pastels, pastel painting and artwork – this will vary your hashtags with different subjects while remaining relevant to the post.
You need to aim for hashtags with enough people using and searching for them so that people will see your posts, but not so many that you get lost in the crowd. When you start to enter a hashtag into a post it will show you the number of posts with that hashtag. In general I would aim for hashtags with no fewer than 10k posts and no more than 500k posts – aiming to be between 50k and 300k as much as possible. This shows there is a large enough audience for the hashtag but not too many that your post will disappear. This takes a little time and research but it easy once you get the hang of it. Think a little outside the box and you can find some great ones! For an example – here are some hashtags I could use on my recent portrait of a lovely older dog, Nell – some have too many posts and some too few, some are spot on!
#dog (291 million)
#blackdog (3.1 million)
#labradorcolliespaniel (less than 100)
So I have something to admit here – this is a case of do as I say and not as I do! I am hugely aware of the importance of good branding and a branding rehaul has been on the top of my to do list for months, but I haven’t done it yet! So this top tip is one for myself to do just as much as a hint for you…
Good branding across all channels, not just Instagram, is super important for growing as a business. Your posts need to be instantly recognisable as your own. This comes through developing your style – just as you develop your own creative style for your artwork.
I find having a branding pack very useful – a sheet with my logos, colours I use (with the colour codes), fonts, camera settings, filters and any other information which can then be used across the platforms from Instagram and Facebook to your website and blog. This helps to create a coherent message for anyone looking into your business and following your artwork.
As mentioned in the content tip – it is really useful to find your own ‘voice’ – to be able to write posts in a way that sounds uniquely “you”. This differs for everyone and you need to find a voice that suits you and sounds natural and not forced. I tend to be very enthusiastic and light-hearted in my social media – and love to use emojis (I often use a heart emoji on my posts and keep this across my branding so my posts can be recognised by the little red hearts).
Good photography is essential. Photos are always best taken in natural (but not bright or direct) light. Most phones now will have a very good camera and the ability to alter photos. I generally find that upping the brightness and/or exposure will instantly lift a photo. Using text squares and other content is great to break up your feed. Make sure the content is good and relevant (see content tip – motivational quotes are lovely but will not help you grow your business!) and well presented. I personally love the Canva app which has a huge number of free templates to add a bit of something different to your feed. They also have a good range of seasonal templates too. Try to develop your own style for photography and other post content; use a variety of angles, with and without pencils/paints/brushes, you holding the finished artwork, etc. You will see from this that one artwork can give you a variety of different posts and if you can develop a recognisable style to these posts then people will know straight away that they are yours – and will be more likely to engage when they see it in their news feed!
Instagram will boost users that take advantage of the suite of tools made available on the site.
Make full use of Instagram Stories, Reels, IG:TV and Livestreams by posting regular content to each of these different tools. It is worth taking the time to get used to the different tools and how best to use them. This is a very large topic to cover in just a couple of paragraphs so this is on I would like to go into much greater detail in a future post. In the meantime have a look at the tools and don’t be afraid to give them a go and see what works best for you and your audience (don’t forget to keep an eye on those analytics!).
This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many other tips, hints and essentials for Instagram – keep and eye on my blog and YouTube channel for future posts on this and other social media platforms!