There're so many social media channels right now. Is Instagram still relevant?
According to this chart, Instagram continues to grow, and people spend more time on it (while Facebook usage is declining).
Instagram can be thought of as an "Artist's Portfolio." It's ideal to quickly browse through artists' work and follow them. Plus, unlike Facebook, Instagram has a real global reach. With Instagram, you can find new followers all over the world.
Instagram also has a younger demographic than Facebook (while Snapchat and Tik Tok are even younger), so it's essential to be on both platforms.
One of the key advantages of Instagram, over say Facebook, is its global reach. While on Facebook, our circle of friends is more likely to be in our immediate vicinity. On Instagram, our followers can be anywhere.
For example, on my Facebook, only 16% of my friends live outside of the USA. Yet for my Instagram, 50% are outside of the US!
And when it comes to art, that means you can find art collectors who live far away from you and would never be able to see your art otherwise.
Who knows, you might become Big in Japan one day :)
Bio and Profile
The Bio and Profile section of your Instagram page is the one that will get the most views.
So, it's usually highly recommended to fill it in with the most relevant information:
* Short tagline (what makes you different, what's your mission)
* A little bit about you (e.g., where you're from, where do you live now)
* Actionable items (are you open for commissions, are artworks for sale, how do people contact you)
* Link to your website (!!!)
You can also use Profile Stories for your collections or series of artworks. I think of them as photo albums.
So what should you post on your Instagram?
* Your process, technique, and studio photos
* Your life (family, friends, pets)
* Your photos (posts with faces get 38% more likes)
* Your art exhibits
* Your artwork (close-ups, in interior design, with frames and without)
* People and other artists who inspire you (don't forget to tag them and include appropriate hashtags)
I think the key here is to mix it up, keep it lively and entertaining. For instance, I like to put photos of San Francisco murals, streets, my friends, artists who I like, my dog, and my artwork.
One of the main challenges with Social Media and Instagram specifically is that it requires constant updates. If you'd like to gain new followers, you'll need to post regularly, at least several times a week, and ideally once a day. That's a major burden.
However, Later app can help. For about $8/month, you can write 30+ Instagram posts and schedule to have them published by Later. Later even would let you post on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.
The app is reasonably easy to use and is designed to save time. You can batch upload a lot of images, copy and paste your hashtags, schedule time when your posts will be published.
As you probably know, hashtags allow you to categorize your post. So if you're a landscape artist, you can hashtag your IG post with #landscapeart.
However, note the number next to it. In this example, there're 1,146,418 other IG posts already tagged with #landscapeart. That's too many. And that means the chances of someone seeing your post are literally one in a million.
Instead, a better way to hashtag is to mix long-tail hashtags (fewer posts) with short-tail hashtags (more posts).
For example, here are what Instagram hashtags might be for a Wisconsin landscape artist.
~10 hashtags should be sufficient in total. You can add up to 30, but it doesn't have to be that many.
* 2 out of 10 with more than 1 million posts
* 3 out of 10 with ~100k posts
* 5 out of 10 small, less than 50k
You will need to research Instagram and find the best hashtags for your artwork.
Let's first consider short-tail hashtags. These usually will have millions of Instagram posts. They're called "short" because they usually have few letters and thus cover broad topics.
For example, these hashtags can be:
* style (#abstractart, #streetart, #popart, etc.)
* subject (#landscapeart, #nudeart, #portraitart, etc.)
* medium (#oiloncanvas, #acryliconcanvas, #watercolors, etc.)
The idea with short-tail is that you're unlikely to be noticed, but if you're, it'll be big (just like a lottery).
Next are medium-tail hashtags. These would be "hundreds of thousands" of Instagram posts. They're less popular than short-tail and more specialized. But it also means, each post with these hashtags gets more "air time".
For these hashtags, think of more specialized areas of your practice, and the artwork in the post specifically:
* location (#wisconsinartist, #sfart, #chileanart, etc.)
* subject in the artwork (#treeart, #underwaterart, #africanamericanart, etc.)
Finally, long-tail hashtags. These would cover tens of thousands or thousands of posts. This is your or your painting's niche.
You'd want to get creative here, as these hashtags don't come to mind easily (not to you, not to others).
One idea is to combine the short and medium-tail hashtags to create long-tail. For example, if you're a Wisconsin artist (medium-tail) and you paint landscapes, maybe there's "Wisconsin Landscapes" hashtag? It's your lucky day, there is!
Similarly, you can combine "Subject" and "Medium", e.g. #watercolortree.
Long-tail hashtags are your best ones (that's why we have most of them in the mix) as you're more likely to find people here who'd actually be interested in your content and likely to "follow" you.
I've researched many different IG Analytics options and concluded that most of them aren't really that useful.
I tried Semrush, Sprout Social, Iconosquare, Command for Instagram, and Diib, but ultimately the standard Instagram Insights is the best of them all, and most importantly, it's absolutely free. Of course, you will need to convert your IG account to a "Business" account, but I don't see any downsides to that.
IG Insights will report on your engagement rates, which posts get the most views, your follower's growth. For example, here's a screenshot of my Insights screen.
However, I wouldn't spend too much here and just focus on content instead. Notice the posts people like, and double-down on them.
Growing your followers
So how do we increase the number of followers on Instagram?
One way to grow is "naturally", i.e. follow people you'd like to follow: your friends, other artists, local art galleries, and other accounts that might follow you back. Use good hashtags (IG Insights will tell you how many Likes came from your hashtags), write good captions, and comment/like on other people's accounts.
Another way is to pay for the service that would help grow your followers. Typically, these services will "take over" your account, and you'd need to provide them a set of similar accounts to yours.
In this example, you can see the growth on my account before and after I started using SocialBuddy service. Others might be as good or better.
Lessons I learned after several years:
1. Be regular!! don't expect your Instagram to be popular if you don't post often (unless you're already a celebrity).
2. How often? once a day, or 2-3 times a week. I started posting more often than that (twice a day) but exhausted my content and energy quickly. So pace yourself :)
3. Get an app like Later. It's unrealistic to expect to post on IG daily (some people do, but most of us have other things to take care of). So, schedule your posts ahead of time.
4. Post educational content, or just something besides "work". I like to share photos of my city, San Francisco, my travels, my pets, my gallery, my photos, other artists.
So, Be You! :)
If you like this guide, please visit my other guides for artists:
Facebook for Artists | Email Marketing for Artists | Instagram for Artists | Websites for Artists (TBD) | Online Ads (TBD) | SEO for Artists (TBD)