With more than 1 billion monthly users, Instagram is one of the biggest social media networks out there.
But as any newbie to Instagram can attest – standing out from the crowd is easier said than done. Between the ever-changing interface to the capricious algorithm, there’s plenty of obstacles for artists, writers and creators.
Don’t worry, this is what this post it here for! I’ll be sharing 5 quick tips to make a bigger impact on your Instagram.
But first, let’s cover why you should join Instagram if you are an artist!
Why should artists use Instagram?
Back in 2014, Vogue called Instagram the “World’s Most Talked-About Art Dealer”, and it wasn’t kidding.
“I can post a painting and it will sell before the paint is dry,” shared artist Ashley Longshore. Meanwhile galleries could go as far as seeing Instagram as a replacement for fairs. “For us online sales are still strongly connected to Instagram,” the Dawid Radziszewski Gallery said, “Instagram has a great interface—and many smaller virtual fairs lack that. Plus, Instagram is less expensive to run.”
Not everyone will see this level of success of course, but Instagram has several tangible benefits for artists:
- Finding a new audience across the world
- Increase sales
- Launch new concepts
- Discover new artists and techniques
- Make new connections
So why not help your customers, old and new, to buy your work? Every month 130 million users tap on a shopping post, whilst 50% of people who’ve seen a product in a story have gone on to visit a website to purchase it!
The odds are in your favour.
5 tips for artists to level up their Instagram
1. Get Your Grid On
Saying that visuals are important on Instagram is about as illuminating as saying that water is wet. However, as an artist, you need to have a profile that reflects your brand’s aesthetic.
Whilst an individual image might bring a visitor to your profile, what will help them stay is your grid. Your grid is the assemblage of all of your posts on your profile. A grid is a roadmap for what your style is and what content you are likely to share in the future.
A grid that looks unified and conveys a strong message makes you look professional, a grid that is a hodge podge of different styles and filters and image quality does not.
There are many ways you can improve your grid, from using the same filter or favouring certain colours in a group, to using a consistent set up.
Using the same filter or focusing on your key brand colours is the easiest way to achieve a harmonious look for your grid. For example, designer & maker Joanne Hawker has created a bold and colourful grid that feels unified thanks to her branded colours.
Galerie28.08 presents work in different painting styles, but they all feel harmonious together on her grid thanks to her staging. The props might differ but their colours resemble each other and the lighting remains bright.
If you are a maverick who plays with different medium then it is still possible to have a unified look for your Instagram by, for example, surrounding your work with a white frame. The effect of this is that it creates more white space on your grid and makes your profile look tied together, even if what’s inside the frame differs widely.
Artist Jon Koko uses white space effectively to bring together artwork created in different mediums. Through a mixture of photographing work in white and light spaces to adding white frames to the pictures, the grid feels cohesive, with strong branding.
Studio Ima also uses the white framing technique, varying the types of frame sizes so that the grid looks organic rather than rigid, whilst still achieving a sense of cohesion.
Another technique favoured by artists is to plan their grid in groups of 3, as this is the width of the grid. For example you could:
- Focus on the same artwork across three different posts, zoning in on a different detail every time
- Alternate image posts and text posts, such as quotes or screenshots. This can also be a great way of introducing white space to your grid.
- Split one image into 3 using a tool like Planoly so that each row of your grid is a different style.
Using one of these approaches gives you more flexibility in terms of style, whilst still making your grid look professional.
Whichever direction you choose, make sure it’s sustainable for you and makes sense for your style of work.
Next, we’ll be looking at a tactic that’s fantastic for attracting new visitors.
2. Let’s Get Reels for a Second
Reels are so hot right now.
In the ever-changing world of Instagram’s algorithm, reels are currently ruling supreme.
Author Ashleigh Renard shared that her Instagram followers increased from 2,000 to 15,000 in 2 months thanks to her use of Reels. She uses them to talk about her journey to publication as well as share tips on marriage that are related to the subject of her memoir.
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What is a reels?
An Instagram Reels video is a short video is a 15-30 second video that can appear in your grid, stories and in the explore section of Instagram.
- Be made up of multiple clips
- Have a soundtrack added to it
- Have special effects included
- Have text superimposed at different moments of your clips.
Reels is a simplified and shorter version of its competitor TikTok so if you haven’t dare visit that social media platform, you can still experiment on Instagram.
As an artist, reels are a great way to attract and engage your customers. You can use the format to show your creative process or give a behind the scenes tour of your workshop space, or simply make jokes that humanise you to your audience.
Ceramicist Helen of Nosey Mungo uses reels to show the process of creating her creatures from start to finish. Each reel attracts an average of 100,000 views, with some in the half million range.
For example, artist Nada Khatib regularly uses Instagram reels to share her palette knife paintings, with each reel attracting on average 20,000 views. She varies between focusing on a specific moment and cutting through different highlights.
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Laughter is one of the best ways to make a connection. Very Gay Paint, a mural painting company run by Jenson Titus and Nicholas Sheppard, goes for a more humorous approach. After all, art doesn’t have to just be inspirational or serious. If you’re naturally goofy, don’t be afraid to show it!
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Reels are therefore a great way to entice new customers to your Instagram and make them discover your world.
When it comes to convincing them to stay, however, the next tip is crucial. If reels are the tasty candy shop window, then your posts and stories are the meal that they’ll want to get a second portion of.
3. Authenticity is Key
“There is No One Alive Who is Youer Than You” – Dr Seuss
Being yourself on social media is not as simple as pressing a button or boosting a post. It requires you to look within yourself and work out what it is you want to say with the platform you have.
Instagram has a reputation for being full of inspirational, over-edited perfect images. Whilst that’s true, the way to stand out and make your mark isn’t necessarily to follow in those footsteps.
Humans respond to humans. Build yourself up as a real whole human being to your audience by showing the different things that make you you.
There are two main ways you can do this: in your stories and in your captions.
Artist Ekaterina Popova often writes honest and vulnerable captions to her post talking about her struggles or her process. This helps her audience feel a connection and root for her.
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Instead of filling your caption with a cloud of hashtags or a sales pitch, what could you use instead to connect with your audience?
In fact, you could go for a “captions first” mentality when it comes to your posting. Start with what you want to say, then think of the right image to accompany it second.5 Ways for Artists to Level-Up their Instagram Click To Tweet
Instagram stories are also a great opportunity to reveal yourself in your day to day. What you choose to show is up to you. Here are a few ideas:
- Share your other passions, even if they have nothing to do with being an artist. For example: playing an instrument, trout fishing, playing football, volunteering at a rescue, etc.
- Introduce us to your world. Your home environment, your working environment. Your family and friends.
- Boost other creators – share work you love. Share your inspirations. Join forces with others for joint livestreams.
- Be goofy! Play games! Run a mini-quiz on a topic you love. Survey your followers. Take part in viral challenges for the fun of it.
- Talk to us about important topics – if you are passionate about a subject, share it. Share important work by activists and boost their voices.
As stories are only up for 24 hours, this gives you flexibility to try out different things and see what resonates with your audience.
Additionally, you can choose selected stories to become a part of your highlights section in your profile, which will give access to your stories beyond the 24 hours.
You can use the highlights for several things such as:
- FAQs – people might be asking you why you use a certain technique, or how to commission work. Here’s where you can put all those details handily.
- Works in process. Keep a “best of” your process stories for those who love that.
- DIY guide – if you did a “how to” in your stories, make it a highlight so other people can access it later.
- Categorise your work. Use your highlights as a gallery by focusing each highlight on a different type of work you do. You can also use them to store past shows and events that you’ve done to showcase your experience.
To sum up, if you want your Instagram account to get people invested in you and your work, you’re going to need to get a little personal.
Want them to take the plunge and buy? Go to the next step!
4. Easy Buy, Easy Go
If you’re an artist on Instagram, chances are, you want people to buy your work. And yet, still too many artists make it really difficult for people to do just that!
Here are two things you can do to make it super easy for people to buy your work.
Bear in mind that whichever option you choose, you will need some kind of shop where people can buy your work. Whether that’s Etsy, Shopify, Prestashop, or your own website, the era of “DM me to buy” is over.
Use your link in your bio effectively.
You only get one clickable link in your bio so use it wisely.
What many artists do is use a third-party service such as Link.tree, which acts as a table of content. When people click the link in your bio they’d be brought to a list of different options that could include your shop, a place to sign up to your latest workshop, and more.
You could also direct your audience to a page on your website that has that same function, as Joanne Hawker does with her #MarchMeetthemaker event: https://www.marchmeetthemaker.com/links
Set up your Instagram Shopping
In order to set up Instagram Shopping you’ll need to turn your Instagram account into a Business account and either set up or link to a Facebook page. Then you’ll need to upload your catalogue to Facebook Business Manager, and then submit your account for review.
Once you are accepted, you have many options at your disposal such as:
- Tagging your products in your posts, so that interested parties can click to go to your store.
- Tagging them in your stories. You don’t need 10,000 followers to be able to tag a product in your story!
- Your shop will also appear as a button on your profile that visitors can click on to see your catalogue.
Here is how the Instagram shop of French ceramist Jessica Giraudi looks for example:
Solène Bombert, the creator of Astuces et Gribouilles has organised her highlight stories in her profile per type of object she sells. For example: crowns, boats, bedside lights. Within each of these are stories sharing photos of the products in their new homes, often with a product tag to encourage others to purchase.
Beyond these two options, you need to make sure that there are as few barriers between your buyer and the act of purchasing. Some things to bear in mind in your catalogue include:
- Do you have high quality photos of your product from various angles?
- Is your description complete (including size, materials, and anything else relevant)?
- Do you have a returns policy?
This brings us to the final tip, which in many ways the most important of all.
5. The Rules of Engagement
If you want to organically build your Instagram without paying for ads, then you’re going to have to become social.
Social media is social, it says it right there on the tin, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. Yet still too many artists post a publication then leave, and wonder why their account isn’t growing!
Engage with your community
Instagram, like other social media, isn’t a one way street. Here are a few things you should get in the habit of:
- Be pro-active and follow similar accounts to yours, then look through their followers for more suggestions of people to follow.
- Boost other people’s posts by sharing them in your stories.
- Periodically look through your followers to see the list of accounts you’ve interacted with the least, and take time to leave at least one comment under their post.
All of this will make you a part of the community rather than a broadcaster. In turn, it will encourage others to look at your profile and connect with what you are saying.
Make people want to answer back
Of course, engagement on your own content is also crucial. Comments and saves, in particular, make the algorithm happy.
Here are a few tricks to up engagement:
- Ask your audience questions in your stories.
- Create games in your posts that require people to join in (why a not a “name that painting” game).
- Giveaways that require people to tag their friends are another way to boost visibility.
Beyond posting your work, you could also think about creating the kind of content that people want to share and save.
For example, using Instagram’s carousel format (having multiple images in one post) you could create a guide to a topic you are familiar with, or share your creative process step by steo. If it’s useful to others, it’s more likely to be shared widely.
The carousel format can be used to also package your work up in a more enticing way. Illustrator Kamwei Fong used the carousel format to not just show her artwork but also the process it was created in.
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Ready to Make your Art Instagram-Ready?
Clearly Instagram isn’t a standalone solution for selling your art, but it’s a versatile and powerful platform. Used thoughtfully, it will help you to build your brand and form meaningful connections with buyers, galleries, critics, and more.
To summarise this blog:
- Make your Instagram grid look cohesive for your brand, whether through colour, filters, or a pattern of types of posts.
- Harness the power of reels to attract a new audience.
- Share some of yourself to Instagram, adopting a “captions first” mentality.
- Make it easy for visitors to buy your work through product tags or clever links
- Engage with other people’s content and encourage your audience to engage with yours.
Instagram tools for success
Finally, to help you on your way, here’s a roundup of my favourite Instagram tools for success:
- Planoply helps you create gorgeous grids. You can test them out before they go live, create one image split across several posts, and more.
- Lightroom app to edit your images to a high level. You can also save your own filters as a user preset ensuring all your images have a unified look.
- Canva is your new best friend for designing Instagram tools. Create a template in Canva and use its mobile app to save yourself time. You can also create your reels and stories in it for more consistent branding.
- Tag Me is a useful tool for hashtag research. For a better chance at visibility, aim for hashtags that have between 5,00-55,000 posts.
- Link.tree to replace the link in your bio with a branded and powerful table of contents for your visitors.
- Prestashop is a 100% free e-commerce solution if you haven’t set yourself up with an online shop yet.
What are your favourite tools? Let me know in the comments.
And if you want to connect on Instagram, you can find me here!
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