In a previous blog, I talked about how to use social media, in general, to get discovered and sell your work. I stressed the importance of using apps like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram consistently to effectively to engage and attract new clients. I know from experience that social media works. Since starting to use social media, I’ve seen engagement go up with my audience. Every week my team and I sit down and go over the activity with each social media account, and I’ve seen an increase in traffic to my website and online shop, an increase in followers/clients, as well as an increase in calls and inquiries for events, framing, and installations. Trust me, I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t see results. And I know you’ll see results too if you give it a try.
One of my favorite apps to use right now is Instagram. And I am not the only one. One of the fastest growing trends in the art world is the use of Instagram to discover and buy art. Recent art industry reports show that 57% of buyers who brought work online discovered it first on Instagram! What’s more is almost a third of Instagrammers are currently following and engaging artists that they hope or intend to buy from. Now, don’t you want your work to be discovered and followed by people who intend to buy? Who wouldn’t?
Besides why (which I hope I’ve made clear—it’s a great way to be discovered and ultimately sell more art), one of the most common questions I receive from artists who I recommend using social media to is: How do I do it? I know it can be overwhelming. I can help you with that. It’s really simple. If I can do it, you can do it! So here are 10 Ways to Use Instagram to Attract Collectors and Buyers:
1. Set up a distinct Instagram account for you to use as an artist.
Use your artist name and make your page public. (Don’t worry, you can still keep a private account under a different handle for just you and your friends.) On your artist’s page, make sure your bio describes the kind of work you do. Include a link to your website and a way to contact you. Don’t be afraid to be playful or engaging. People come to social media to have fun and relax. Set up some expectations so your followers will know what your work is about. Remember you want to create and cultivate followers who are interested in the kind of work you do. If you love flowers and photography—let your audience know that. Chances are there are people out there looking for photographic works of flowers. If you’re an abstract painter who uses a specific color or technique, let your audience know that. Be up front and honest. When you reveal aspects of your personality and your work, you’ll naturally attract people who are drawn to the same things.
2. Play and discover.
One of the things my team I do regularly is look at other popular Instagrammers. Follow some of your favorite brands, celebrities, and yes, of course, artists. See what they’re doing. Are they appealing to you? Why? What works, what doesn’t? Who has a lot of followers and engagement? Do they have a theme? One of my favorite Instagrammers to follow is my sister, Sylvia Rombis. She uses her Malton Gallery Instagram account to explain the pieces of art in the gallery and she often posts videos of her talking and explaining the story behind each piece of art. I like to follow all of the artists I work with as well. I love to see the work they’re doing—what inspires them, what they’re life is like behind the art, and most of all, the art they’re working on.
3. Mix it up. Post photos of your work in progress, completed, and in environments.
Buyers and collectors are curious about the process. Be sure to include videos (set up a tripod or have a friend take a short 30-60 second video of you at work). Some artists show the entire process in a time-lapse video feature that is available on most phones. Photograph just a portion of the artwork. Or put the artwork in a finished environment. Play with it and see what works with your particular audience.
Glass artist Lea de Wit
Artist Kate Taylor
4. Be sure to post every day.
Yes, that’s it. Just once a day. You don’t have to post more than that. In fact, for Instagram, once a day is sufficient. The best way to build a following is to be consistent, but not overload the audience. If you’re working on a piece that takes a long time, show the work in progress. If you have multiple pieces, show your audience your favorite one. Away from the studio? That’s okay, show your audience what inspires you. Show your audience what you care about, what makes you interesting, and thereby what makes your art interesting. Just take a few minutes out of your day to take a photo and post.
5. Write a brief commentary or include a quote.
Don’t overcomplicate things. A lot of people hesitate to post photos on Instagram because they don’t know what to say under the photo. Just describe the work. Or explain what you’re doing. Or, just simply name the work. Another thing to do is to include an inspiring quote or a quote related to the work in some way. Does your work play with light? Google “Quotes about Light”—search through the thousands of quotes that will no doubt appear and pick one. Copy and paste it, include the author credit and you’ve got your post for the day. Don’t let “not knowing what to say” hold you back.
Photographer Julie Isaac
6. Use hashtags.
I mentioned in my previous post that 42% of art buyers are discovering works by exploring hashtags. Just what are hashtags you may be wondering? They’re the filing system for the app. By putting a hashtag (#) in front of a word, you are categorizing your work under that word so that anyone searching for say, #contemtporaryart #abstractlandscapes or #blackandwhitephotography, will find your work under that particular hashtag. You can use up to 30 hashtags in a post, but 11 will work just as well. (Our recommendation is to put hashtags in the comments section or to separate them from the body of the description of your work, so they don’t show up right under your photo.) Check out a recent Instagram post of ours to see how we do it. (Pro tip and timesaver: Type of your list of hashtags and keep them in your Notes App on your phone. Simply copy and paste your preferred hashtags every time you post, so you don’t have to retype every time.)
Photographer Julie Isaac
7. Engage and follow others.
If someone comments on your post, respond. Say thank you, and then like them back. Never let the opportunity escape you to engage with any interested audience members. If they ask questions, answer them right away. Use the DM (Direct Message) feature to respond to more in-depth questions about the work. Besides engaging on your own page, engage on others’ pages as well. Use the hashtag search feature to find other artists like you. Then look at who is following them (you can see who follows, likes or comments on posts by clicking on the photo and looking in more depth). Are there people you can follow? Is their profile public? Once you start following other artists or collectors, like their posts and engage with them. They will most likely reciprocate. The more you engage, the more likely you are to be discovered. Remember: Social media is about being Audiences will know if you’re only trying to sell and promote yourself constantly. But, if you show up to the site willing to engage and be social, you're endearing people to you naturally and organically grown your following. In other words: Don’t only hard sell to an Instagram audience while you’re trying to build an audience, it will turn people away.
8. Purchase Instagram adds to promote your work.
I said don’t ONLY hard sell. Occasionally, you will want to. There is a time and a place. Especially when you want to promote a finished piece or let people know you have a show or an exhibition like ACA coming up. Of course, let people know that your work is being celebrated or exhibited. And if you’re ready to take your promotion one step further, you can always pay for advertising too. Have a piece you absolutely love and just want the world to know about it? You can use paid advertising feature on Instagram to promote your page, a post, or your work. Decide what kind of campaign you want to run. Are you looking for followers? Are you looking to sell a particular piece? You can set a budget and promote your page for a day, a week, or however long you want to.
9. Look at your analytics regularly.
As I said before, each week we meet to discuss the effectiveness of our social media planning. Look at your posts critically each week—ask yourself which ones are most effective? Which ones received the most likes? Which ones received comments? And then do more of what works, and less of what you perceive as ineffective. Numbers don’t lie.
Your Instagram analytics can be found at the bottom left of each post.
10. Don’t Give Up.
Building a following overnight is impossible. You have to be consistent. If you post high-quality images of your work, make the best use of hashtags, and engage with your audience, you’ll slowly and steadily see an increase of followers.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at how to optimize other social media sites too. I know this is an important aspect of your career, and I want to share all my Secrets of the Art World with you to help you succeed as a working artist. I’d also love to hear what works for you! Comment and let me know how Instagram works for you. And in the meantime, I look forward to seeing you on our ADCFINEART, Blink Art, and Litsa's Instagram accounts.