This post is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner and founder of BoldBrush, known for FASO Artist Websites, the leading provider of professional artist websites, the $38,000+ BoldBrush Painting Competition and the free daily art marketing newsletter, FineArtViews. As a self-proclaimed "art fanatic", Clint delights that BoldBrush's downtown San Antonio, Texas office is full of original art, as is his home office which he shares with his two feline assistants Kiara and Lilly. You can connect with Clint on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog at clintavo.com
To be successful marketing your art on Instagram, you need engagement. In this article we're going to give you an idea on how to jump start engagement on your account.
Engagement includes the following actions: "Liking" posts, commenting on posts, following accounts, and frequency of posting.
Instagram rewards engagement.
If you want your artworks to be seen on Instagram, you need followers, you need people to like your posts, you need people to comment on your posts, and you need to post frequently. Otherwise, you're simply building a historical record of images of your artworks....for yourself.
The big question most artists have at this point is, "how do I increase engagement on my posts when I have no followers?"
It's easy once you already have a lot of followers and momentum, but how do you increase engagement when you're first starting out on the platform?
I propose you start an "Instagram engagement group."
The explore page
Before I explain what an "Instagram engagement group" is, there are a few things you need to understand about how Instagram works.
If you've used Instagram, you've probably seen the "explore" page. It's accessed with the little magnifying glass icon in your Instagram app.
Here's what the explore page looks like for me as I write this:
How does Instagram decide what to show on the explore page?
Notice how nearly all the posts Instagram recommends for me are artworks? How does Instagram know that I'm interested in art and not cars, or pop culture, or politics?
Instagram knows to show me art, indirectly because of the accounts I follow. But it's not directly showing me posts by accounts I follow, after all, that's what the main Instagram feed (the home icon) shows me. The explore page, by design, exists to recommend things I might like by accounts I don't follow. So how exactly is Instagram determining what I might like?
Here's (partly) how Instagram is determining what to show me: The "explore" page displays posts by accounts I don't follow that Instagram thinks I might like by mining engagement data from the accounts I do follow.
What that means is that likes and comments by the accounts I do follow are determining what to show me on the explore page. Like I said, Instagram rewards engagement.
This has important and powerful implications. It means that the simple action of "Liking" a post has far-reaching consequences for engagement and audience reach.
Here's a concrete example: I, personally, follow our @boldbrush account. If the @boldbrush account likes a post by an artist I don't follow, then that greatly increases the chance that I'll see that post in my explore page. If more than one person I follow engages with a post, it becomes very likely to appear on my explore page.
So, how can you use that information to help you market your art?
Use an Instagram Engagement Group to increase your reach
I'm glad you asked, because the answer is that you're going to form an "Instagram engagement group."
I want you to identify 5-7 or so other artists who you consider friends or colleagues. Each one of you should be on Instagram. You want to identify people who have at least as many followers as you do and preferably more.
The five (or more) of you are simply going to agree, at a minimum, to "like" everything you all post. Even better if you comment on each other's posts but liking is the minimum. This means that every time you post something, you are going to have at least four people engage with your post. By clicking "like" on your posts, your colleagues will be extending the reach of your posts to other audiences who are interested in art, and that action will greatly increase the chance that your post appears on the explore page of their followers . . . especially the ones who don't currently follow you.
Each time a member of your group posts, the person posting should email the other group members a link to their latest post. Don't rely on Instagram to show you each other's posts. Remember, the Instagram feed is no longer chronological and you may not always see each other's posts. Emailing each other will ensure that you all like and comment on every post.
This strategy gets even more powerful if you guest post one another's artworks. A guest post means that you would post a colleague's art to your timeline (and tag the image with your colleagues username and they will do the same for you). This creates a second vector for new followers to find you. And, it gives you more content to post, which will be important, as I will explain in the next section.
Post daily, preferably more than once
Lastly, you may have noticed that one element in my definition of engagement above was "frequency of posting."
Instagram rewards people who post frequently more than those who only post every now and then. You need to post daily. At least once a day, and preferably twice a day. You can post artworks, works in progress, behind the scenes photos of you preparing for a show, photos of you painting, or anything else related to your art career. This is another reason your engagement group members are going to guest post each others art works. It gives you more content to post so that you can post at least once a day. If you post less than daily, Instagram will drop you into the "posts a few times a week" (or worse) category and the reach of your posts will go drastically down.
So here's your assignment: contact 4-7 colleagues, form an "Instagram engagement group", and start posting daily. And we'll be back soon with what to do next in an upcoming post.
In the meantime, please remember that Fortune Favors the Bold Brush.
BoldBrush Founder & Art Fanatic
PS - Another powerful idea, if you've been following my advice to build an email following via regular newsletters, is to encourage all your newsletter readers to follow you on Instagram as another way to jump start engagement with your Instagram account.
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