Instagram for Artists Explained
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
Instagram is a business tool providing artists with the space to showcase their work, with the opportunity to connect with fans and be discovered by art collectors, art critics and galleries.
Why use it?
Instagram is currently the most popular social media platform for artists. There are few advantages of it:
It allows having an online portfolio in a place where many of art collectors and gallerists are present;
It gives you a platform to grow your audience;
It allows to have a contact with buyers;
It is great tool for marketing purposes.
Instagram account types
Professional (business/creator) or personal.
Here are the reasons why you would want to have professional account:
Advertising option – you can pay to boost post;
Analytic tools – insights and statistics of your audience and your content performance;
Contact button and setting up quick replies – easier communication with customers;
Shop – an options to set it up on Instagram;
Swipe up links in stories when over 10k followers.
The purpose of the instagram content is to provide value, encourage engagement and connect with your audience.
Instagram content types:
Post – singles or multiples (carousel);
Story – a little visual blog – of something you do not want in your feed, something that is not necessarily visually appealing, or something personal that might affect the algorithm negatively. Stories can go in highlights section too;
Reels – short video with music.
Reels can be videos of:
I. Detail to the whole (see examples @traceonpaper and @yanagolikovaart); https://www.instagram.com/reel/CarbgaJIMns/?utm_medium=copy_link
II. Snippets of the process (see example @boelterdesignco); https://www.instagram.com/reel/CYHcWcbqXrA/?utm_medium=copy_link
III. Narrated story (see exaple @corralo_art); https://www.instagram.com/reel/CaTkob_FZoB/?utm_medium=copy_link
IV. It could be something as simple as signing your work, varnishing or time lapse of painting process (see exaple @stephenbaumanartwork and @mrdist). https://www.instagram.com/reel/CazoUspg5F_/?utm_medium=copy_link
Instagram fulfils most of the function of artist website, but it is way more interactive. People want to feel that they take part, they want to know what it took you to make something, the story behind it all, they want to learn, they want to get inspired and they want to feel that they know you to some extent.
Your instagram presentation can provide it. It is important to present your work in a context. Instead of posting just a photo of your artwork, take a photo of your art on the easel, or with the brush alongside it or in your own hands, or with your hand working on it. Presenting this way generates more engagement than the image of the painting itself.
Think this way – Does this image say anything about the size of the artwork? Does it provide any information about the tools or paints you used? Can you tell it is a painting straight away? Does is say anything about you as an artist? Does it teach anything?
Images that work well for artists in Instagram:
Artist working in the studio (see example @miguelescobaruribe);
Work in progress, but already at the stage that is very beautiful (see examples @claudiarilling and @francesfeatherstone);
Artwork on the easel next to the palette (see examples @colleenbarryart and @haideejosummers);
Artwork next to its subject (see examples @karenwernerart and @miriam.escofet.artist);
Sketchbook in context in hands, next to tools or at the scene (see example @liuscolanart and @dinabrodsky);
Educational post - step by step of the artwork in progress (see example @bernadette_timko_artist);
Comparison post – same subject painted years apart or before and after or morning and night, summer/winter (see example @verena_wild22).
The presentation of 9-12 top images on your feed are the most important as people see them first when visiting your profile. Those images are a decisive factor if someone wants to follow your account or not.
When you upload your content it does not necessarily mean that all of your followers will see it. There are over 1400 factors that determine if the post gets seen and how widely.
But the most important are:
How regularly you post. Active accounts are prioritised.
Initial engagement within the first few minutes after it goes up. You can influence it by making sure your content is engaging, by writing interesting captions or asking questions in your captions and by choosing the time to post.
Time that people spend with your post – reason why carousel (multi-image posts) and videos outperform photos. Educational posts (like mini tutorial or demo), something hypnotic (varnishing, tape being peeled off the side or similar) or writing a interesting lengthy caption tend to keep people engaged.
Hashtags are search mechanism good way to be discovered. They come in top (9-12 most performing posts, trending) and recent sections (chronological upload).
Hashtags you use must not only represent your niche, but also be specific to the size of your account (how big is the section of images you are putting into). The larger your account, the more general hashtags you can use.
Example - For maximum chance of discovery an account of 500 followers most benefits from hashtags with 10k-100k posts.
Bellow are few examples of hashtags for painters and how popular they are:
#painting – 143 million posts
#watercolourpainting – 2 million posts
#horsepainting – 185k
#horsepaintings – 24k
#landscape – 180 million
#landscapepainting – 3.5mln
#landscapepaintings – 223k
#landscapepaintingnow – 24k
#landscapepaintingsforsale – 8.4k
It is best to research a selection of hashtags that is relevant to your niche and specific to the size of your account and use it. Pick some of it and mix between it. There are 5 types of hashtags – location, brand, industry, community and description hashtags. Have it in mind when researching yours.
Although Instagram recently advised that you should use 3-5 hashtags for your post, some research suggests that posts with 20-30 hashtags performs the best. I, however, tend to use 10-20 hashtags.
You can add hashtags in the caption or as a comment under the post if you prefer not to have them next to the content.
Things to avoid:
Do not buy followers as they are not engaging – it does not matter how many followers you have – the most important is engagement rate.
Do not use following bots – instagram might pick up on that behaviour and might suppress your account.
Do not do a big unfollow or make any other move that might look like automated activity.
Do not put anything looking like poster, postcard or advertisement – at least do not use it as a cover image. If you want to post about your upcoming show it is much more effective to upload strong images of artists and their work in a carousel post and add the actual poster at the end.
Do not get shadow-banned – instagram suppresses (limits your visibility)your account if it violated community guidelines. Anything related to pornography, violence, racism and etc.
Do not pay for boosters.
To do list
1. Edit your account. Curate your feed. Take anything that is not representing you as an artist out. Upgrade it to business account. Update your profile. Put up a link to your website. Make sure it all looks beautiful. Keep 9-12 top images strong.
2. Start documenting your work and your practise. Get some great photos for your content.
3. Research and make a list of relevant and specific hashtags to your account.
4. Start posting regularly. Have a loose schedule to keep active. (For example – Monday - work in progress, Wednesday - ask a question in a story and a reel, Saturday - new artwork).
5. Be active in your niche. Find the biggest accounts and engage with their content as much as you can.
Finally, let me remind you that Instagram is primarily a business tool. Therefore you should think of a ways to drive your audience to more stable modes of contact - your website and mailing list. Instagram is not here forever and constant changes of its algorithm might work not in your favour one day.