“I can post a painting and it will sell before the paint is dry.”
It’s the truth for artist Ashley Longshore, who sells her eccentric pop art for upwards of $30,000 straight off of Instagram.
And, she’s not the only one. Artist Chris Austin enjoys “flash sales” of his latest work, getting emails from eager buyers within minutes of posting on Instagram.
With these examples and more in mind, it’s safe to say Instagram has become the social media platform for artists. It’s launching careers, eliminating the need for big-name critics to call the shots, and helping artists connect with buyers across the globe willing to pay for their work.
So, how does an artist turn their Instagram feed into another revenue stream?
It all comes down to getting more engaged followers. Because, the more popular your account is on Instagram, the more in demand your art will be.
But the truth is, gaining followers doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a healthy dose of effort and strategy. So, whether you need to post better content or learn how to hashtag the right way, it’s time to step up your game.
Check out eleven ways to attract more followers and make Instagram more profitable for your art business.
Post only the best of the best
You wouldn’t dream of letting a piece out of your studio until you were satisfied with it, right? Well, you need that same attention to detail in your Instagram posts!
Your Instagram account is an extension of who you are both creatively and professionally. Blurry, poorly-lit images give off a bad creative vibe—pretty much saying you don’t understand design. And, who wants to buy art from an artist who doesn’t understand, or at least care about, good design?
A clean background and natural light are always a good option when it comes to capturing your artwork. Set your art up by the nearest window, and remember to tap on your phone screen to focus!
Don’t forget to edit your photos if need by so they look like the real thing! If the colors and lighting don’t show the true quality of your artwork, potential buyers are either going to be turned off from your Instagram feed altogether, or they’ll be annoyed that the piece they thought they were buying doesn’t match what they got in the mail.
There are a bunch of apps available these days to get your art looking as true-to-life as possible. You can learn how to use our favorite photo-editing app here.
How would you explain your work in 3 seconds?
Branding can be a foreign concept for those artists without a marketing degree. Basically, it means posting images about different things, but using a cohesive style (both aesthetically and in writing) for each post.
We know what you’re thinking, why should artists care? But, it’s really a magical thing!
With the short attention spans of people online these days, you only have an instant to grab their attention and make a statement. With the right branding on your feed, followers will understand who you are and what your art is all about, all at first glance.
And, the more impressive and succinct your Instagram feed is, the more credible and professional you will seem—giving you an edge up when it comes to collectors.
If you’re ready to get started, think about what kind of art you create and the kind of people that buy it. What will they respond to the most? Will your posts be friendly and colorful or edgy and bold? Use these answers to determine your brand strategy.
Whether you use a certain filter, hashtag, writing voice, etc., stick to a style that represents you and your art so that your target customers are poised to buy.
Don’t underestimate the power of creative content
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: always go for quality over quantity when it comes to social media.
Think about the posts you hit “like” on as you’re scrolling through Instagram. Friends may forgive a blurry, spontaneous photo because they know and love you. But, when you’re trying to pique the interest of collectors across the world, they may not be convinced when your photos—and captions—are poor.
Your photos need to catch their attention. Excite them. Leave them in awe of your abilities as an artist.
If you are scrambling to find something to share, consider the possibilities. Try posting progress posts, before and after shots, behind-the-scenes in the studio, a timelapse of your process, quotes that fuel your practice, a vote between two works, a video tutorial, testimonials about your work, a revelation you’ve had, exciting news, etc.
Or, do a little digging on artist accounts you admire, then make their ideas your own!
Instagram is a wonderful chance to share your experience as an artist with your fans. Stay enthusiastic, authentic, and follow the 80/20 rule, and people will flock to your intriguing account. The door is then opened for you to sell more art and hear about other profitable opportunities.
And, don’t overlook the importance of captions
“Here’s a picture of my art you know nothing about and here is the price”—something seems a bit off about that sort of caption, doesn’t it?
While it may be easy to throw up a piece’s title and price, your followers yearn for more. They don’t want to be blatantly sold to, they are bombarded with ads all day long.
No, they want to be enticed. They want to be told a story—who you are, what you’re feeling, your inspiration, the problems you solved, how the artwork came to be. Letting people in on your inspirations, process, and story behind the work can be the tipping point for customers to click emotionally and pull out the checkbook.
Of course, you can acknowledge when something is still for sale, but be creative about it. Ending with, “Excited to see where this piece finds a home!” does the trick without being too boring.
Every post should start a conversation. The goal is engagement, don’t forget!
One of the best ways to do this is by asking thoughtful questions at the end of your posts. Even if your followers don’t respond at first, eventually they will. Especially if you respond to others’. Keep asking and keep engaging.
Finally, before you post anything, ask yourself if you would engage with this post. Is it worth it to share? If your answer is no, or you doubt if you would engage with the post, then maybe something needs to be tweaked.
Get a handle on how to hashtag
Hashtags are like maps in the land of Instagram. They are keywords that make your posts discoverable for the people searching for art like yours, making them one of the biggest and best ways to grow your fanbase.
Which hashtags reign supreme? Well, it takes a little digging to find the answer.
The first rule when it comes to hashtagging is to narrow it down. While #art is extremely popular (it’s tagged in over 350 million posts), it could also apply to anything: someone strolling through the Met, a box of pastels, a styled plate of food, or even a sunset—all extremely different results.
That’s why you need to get specific.
Marketing maven Hubspot explains, “As a user, I’m more likely to find what I need if I search for something specific, and when your business comes up for my specific search request, I’m more likely to be happy with what I found.”
Think about the exact keywords your audience will search for. For instance, #abstractart may be more specific than #art, but #blueabstract might be specific enough to bring you a new buyer.
You want your hashtags to be popular enough that people are searching for them, but not so popular that you get lost in the competition.
Type a hashtag into Instagram’s search bar, and it shows you related hashtags to add to your list. Or, take a look at what other artists and influencers with the same audience are using, and try them for yourself.
Instagram allows you to use up to thirty hashtags at a time, but different numbers work for different people. The magic number could be seven or it could be twenty, reminds HubSpot. The best way to figure out what works for your art business is to simply test it out.
Social media success is all about testing the waters and adjusting your sails accordingly.
Keep a list of the best ones you’ve found that you can pull from for different posts. Just be sure to match hashtags with what is going on in your image. #inthestudio won’t apply to every picture you post, and a mismatch can turn followers away.
Take the time to get hashtags down and you’ll be on your way to more followers in no time.
Follow the recipe of success
There is a tried-and-true recipe when it comes to Instagram success. Yes, different cooks will throw in different spices from time to time, but no one can ignore the main ingredients. Without them, the recipe simply won’t work.
So, what are we talking about in terms of using Instagram? Let’s dive in.
While small, your bio should not be underestimated. It’s the only place where followers can click on a link, and the whole point of your account is to sell your work!
You can change out the link depending on what you want to feature (or use a site like Linktree that opens into a menu of links), but a link to your website or Artwork Archive Public Profile Page is the perfect place to send fans who want to peruse and purchase more available art.
Paired with a short and sweet bio dripping with personality, your Instagram account will be ready to go. Make it extremely clear what sort of value people will get from following you. Use keywords that your audience would search for in the description.
When it comes to your username, it’s best to use your art business name, if it’s available, so that it’s consistent with the rest of your online presence. Typically it will be your full name with a keyword like “art” or “studio” attached to the end. Remember, you want it to be as easy as possible for people to find your account.
Finally, let’s talk about privacy settings.
If you are using your account to promote your art business, it should not be private! Otherwise, there’s no point wasting time on social media. It’s essentially another website for your work, and people and influencers need to be able to see your art immediately. Short attention spans, remember?
When people come to your page, having these bases covered will help ensure they stick around.
Socialize with the right people
It is a social networking app after all!
Befriending other artists and influencers on Instagram who might someday share your work with their followers can open a lot of doors and help you gain followers of your own.
While you’ve probably already connected with family and friends on Instagram (learn how here), the next step is to identify some Instagram accounts connected to your target audience. This could be galleries, interior designers, art consultants, fellow artists, artist organizations, etc.
The first step? Start following them. If they follow you back, great! But that’s not where the story ends.
Step two: slowly but consistently start liking and commenting on their latest posts. Be complimentary or pose questions, but always be insightful. There’s nothing worse than an Insta user clearly using you for their own gain.
The goal is to be social as possible so that these accounts (and the ones following them) see your comments and are impressed enough to check you out. You’ll not only spark curiosity about your own page, but you’ll begin to build relationships. And, these interactions will make them want to engage with your posts as well.
Which brings us to the Instagram algorithm…
Learn the secret to Instagram’s algorithm
Thanks to Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm, it’s now estimated that you see only 10% of the posts from people you follow. And, the same goes for the people following you!
So, what’s the trick? Engagement.
In fact, the more people engage with your post, the higher it appears in your followers’ feeds. And the people who engage with you consistently are more likely to see your posts in the future.
So if you’d much rather schedule a post and be done with it, think about it like this:
The more engagement you get on your posts, the more people will see it in their feeds and search results. Which means a higher chance for even more people to engage with it and discover your account. And the more engagement you get, the more people will want to follow you. Hence, the more followers you will get!
The bottom line is, you get out what you put in. You need to engage with others so that you will get engagement and followers yourself.
But that means you have to spend the time communicating on other people’s posts (so they remember you and eventually come over to your account), as well as posting amazing content of your own that people will want to interact with and follow.
Find your posting “sweet spot”
Social media gurus at CoSchedule determined that posting one to two times a day on Instagram is the sweet spot. If you post more than once, remember to mix up what type of content you are sharing with your potential art buyers to keep their attention.
But no matter how many times you post, keep it regular! You need to stay fresh in people’s minds, not forgotten.
When you post regularly, you stay on your followers’ radar. And, you are able to build a connection where they consistently like and comment on your posts. So when you aren’t consistent with posting, you are more likely to lose engagement and get lost in the dreaded algorithm shuffle.
Even if it’s a few times a week, pick a posting schedule you feel comfortable committing to. Enough to get on people’s radars, but not so much you burn out. You need time to create art, too!
The best time to post?
With a free business account, Instagram offers insights such as fan demographics, how often your post was viewed, if they found you through hashtags, when your followers are online, and more. Knowing the right time to post can make a huge difference when it comes to engagement. And the faster you get engagement, the better.
Remember, besides posting, you need to make time for quality interactions with certain accounts. Creating a marketing calendar can be a great way to keep track of it all.
And these days, you don’t have to sit around and wait for the clock to strike posting time. Work smarter and save yourself some time by using a scheduling tool for Instagram. Instagram didn’t always allow scheduling, but now that it does, artists should hop on board A.S.A.P.
Don't forget about Instagram Stories
Aptly named, Instagram Stories is all connecting with your followers on an even deeper level, showing them up close and personal the story of you and your art.
This could not be more convenient for artists! Because art is so much more than paint on a canvas. It has its own story: the inspirations behind it, the message it’s telling, the care and devotion taken with every stroke.
And, telling this story helps sell your art.
So, how do you use Instagram Stories to market your artwork? Learn the in’s and out’s of mastering Instagram Stories here with our in-depth guide for artists.
Sometimes all it takes is a little visibility
Get the Insta word out by including a link to your account on your other social media pages, and remind new fans to follow you periodically.
Don’t stop there! Put an Instagram icon on your Artwork Archive profile, and add your username to your business cards, event materials, and more. Have a newsletter? Share your account with your email followers. All these steps can add up to get more eyes on your art account.
Become an influencer yourself
Here’s yet another way to make money from your artist Instagram account that you might not have realized: when your following becomes big enough, companies might be willing to pay you to promote their products in your posts!
Of course, you need to truly love and believe in the quality of that paintbrush, clay, or watercolor paper, but it’s a great way to rake in some extra money for your Instagram efforts.
In the end…
The bigger the Instagram fan base, the more interested buyers will be fighting over your art. Following these steps for getting more art fans on Instagram will help you turn the social media app into something profitable for your art business.
Then when you start making sales, you can keep everything organized on Artwork Archive. Mark which pieces have been sold, generate invoices to get paid and track sales insights so your Instagram account stays profitable.