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
Are you struggling as an artist to understand how to make effective use of Instagram? Read on.
First of all, unless you simply don't want to use social media as a way to market your artwork then you absolutely must start using Instagram. It is currently, by far, the most important social media platform for visual artists. After much reading, experimenting and observing of successful artists (and other Instagram power users), I've put together a complete strategy for visual artists who want to make the most of Instagram.
Instagram Content Strategy
The content strategy tells you what to post. This strategy is designed to help you market and sell art and focuses nearly all your content on you as an artist and on the art itself. The heart of this strategy is to use Instagram only to promote your art and your art career. If you want to post cat videos or politics, create a separate Instagram account for that. The secondary part of the strategy is to put more thought than you likely have been into your captions.
- Use Instagram only to show your art. Finished works, works in progress, you in the studio or at shows. Show a unified story about you as an artist. Don’t post anything unrelated to your art. Especially don’t post anything political or controversial.
- People really love “behind the scenes” posts: you in the studio, packing up for a show, on location painting etc, think of your Instagram account as a documentary about your art career.
- When you post, put some thought into the captions. You can increase engagement a lot with a good caption.
- Ask a question in your caption: Asking a question for example encourages comments, and getting comments increases the reach of your posts.
- Post images of your colleagues art and ask them to do the same for you. Post with a message like "here’s a friends work who I think you guys would enjoy." Tag the image with your friend’s account. Ask your friend to do the same for you. When a colleague posts your art, be sure to "Like" it so that Instagram shows it to your followers on the explore page. And be sure you tell your colleague when you post their work so they can "Like" it.
- If you provide images for others to post, add a small watermark at the bottom that reads “follow @yourusername” in the lower right so people can find your account even if that image isn’t tagged properly
- If you can, do some video posts. Sped up "works in process" videos are very popular.
- It should go without saying but, use high-quality photographs of your art.
Instagram Engagement strategy
The engagement strategy is designed to get your posts seen and to build your follower number. Instagram rewards engagement, so a good strategy to "tell" Instagram that you and your followers are engaged is essential. Failing to have an effective engagement strategy is where most people falter on Instagram.
There are three overall strategies here. Firstly is that you need to post frequently, a lot more frequently than you probably realize. Frequent posters are rewarded by Instagram and their posts are shown to more people. Secondly, you need other people to like and comment on your posts. Our strategy to ensure that happens is that you are going to create an "Instagram engagement group". Thirdly, you need to be engaged by liking and commenting on other people's posts and responding to comments and followers on your account.
- Form an Instagram engagement group as outlined below.
- Get with 5 or more other artists with similar or larger audiences and agree to like and comment on each other’s posts.
- This will increase the reach of your posts by greatly increasing the chance your post appears on the "explore page" of your colleagues followers.
- Post daily. Preferably at least 2 or 3 times. Instagram's algorithm places you in one of three classifications: 1. A daily poster. 2. A person who posts a few times a week. 3. A person who posts rarely. You want to be in the 1st, "daily poster" category if you want your posts to be seen more broadly.
- You also want your 5 colleagues to be daily posters. You all need to be in the 1st, "daily poster" category
- If you know any artists with a large following, ask them to like your posts. It costs them nothing other than literally one-click and most will be happy to support a fellow artist in such a simple way. This has the potential to greatly increase the reach of your posts.
- Like and comment on other people’s posts. This makes YOUR posts more likely to be featured on the explore page because Instagram rewards engagement.
- When someone follows you, send them a direct message and thank them for following you, let them know what to expect from your page, and let them know to feel free to contact you if they ever have any questions. This will show that you are human and make them more likely to continue following you. It may open the door to other opportunities as well.
Instagram Hashtag Strategy
A lot of people don't understand hashtags. Hashtags are a way to "tag" a photo with relevant words that help people to find images that interest them. That doesn't sound like much but, on Instagram at least, it's huge. Please do not underestimate how important this is. I mention it below but posts with hashtags generally get 70% more likes than posts that don't have them. And on a platform that rewards engagement, that's huge. Instagram allows people to follow hashtags as well as people, that has made the use of hashtags even more important. Want to get your work in front of me? Use the #boldbrush hashtag. Even if I don't follow you, I do follow #boldbrush. Here's your hashtag strategy:
- Use hashtags on every post. If you don’t like the way they look just make your post and then comment on your post with all the hashtags in the comment
- Hashtags take research but here’s a list of hashtags you can use to start: #art #artist #artwork #fineart #painting #artoftheday #contemporaryart #originalartwork #creativework #boldbrush #yourname #yourmedium #instaart
- Instagram posts with hashtags receive 70% more likes, according to a study by Agorapulse.
- Ideas for finding new hashtags - watch what other artists post, especially pay attention to other artists who paint "like" you and artists with a lot of followers.
- Here's a good tool for finding related hashtags: https://ritetag.com/best-hashtags-for/finear
- Don't use more than 30 hashtags on a single post
- Follow @boldbrush and use the #boldbrush hashtag. We run a weekly "regram" contest and you just might be featured.
Follow other artists (and other non artists) who have large followings on Instagram. Pay close attention to what they post and you’ll get other ideas from watching what they do. Copy what they do (with your own artwork of course).
What other ideas do you have for marketing art on Instagram?
Let me know in the comments and as needed, we'll update this post over time to make it even more comprehensive.
And remember, Fortune Favors the Bold Brush.
BoldBrush/FASO Founder & Art Fanatic
This post was inspired by my tweetstorm on the subject at https://twitter.com/clintavo/status/1160278355318575106. You should follow me there if you want my latest marketing thoughts before they are refined into blog posts.
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