5 Tips for Promoting Art on Instagram

Image via Midjourney

Promoting art on Instagram can be a highly effective strategy for artists to gain exposure to a global audience, connect with their peers, collectors, and art galleries, and even sell their work.  As a visual artist who consistently seeks avenues to promote her artwork across various platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, I’ve discovered that Instagram stands out as the most effective social media platform for this purpose.

And here is why, in a nutshell.

Instagram is visual-centric, making it an ideal platform for me to showcase my work in a grid layout that can in itself tell a lot about my artistic journey. With almost the same number of followers, I usually get more audience engagement in the form of likes and comments on Instagram than on Facebook. My Instagram followers belong to a younger age range than my Facebook followers, which is beneficial when I want to promote my work to a younger audience.   

Drawing from my personal journey of promoting art on Instagram, I would like to offer five practical tips to fellow artists.

Tip #1: Have a creative profile

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Your profile picture should be a good headshot of yourself. Alternatively, you can use a photo of your brand or an artwork that defines your artistic style.  I have tried both a headshot and my artistic logo, but have found the page more intimate and personal with my picture. People love putting a face to a name.   

Write a short bio that describes your style, medium, or anything that makes you stand out as an artist.  Instagram is not very wordy, so your bio needs to be short and sweet.

Make sure to include a link to your website, portfolio, and online store, if you have one. You can only add one link, so make sure that it opens a page with all your contact information.  I use a link created with LinkTree, a free landing page creator customized for social media contact information sharing.  The LinkTree landing page allows adding your other social media pages, as well as any other content you might want to promote, such as an exhibit or a sale.  As a bonus, a LinkTree landing page also comes with a shop, which I found to be a great asset.

Tip #2: Post High-Quality and Engaging Content

Your post images should be as high-resolution as possible and should accurately depict your artwork colours. However, posting high-resolution images is a double-edged sword for artists, as images can be easily pirated with no attribution or compensation to the artist. To avoid that, I always add a copyright watermark to all my images and even to some of my videos. I also limit the size of my images to 1000 x 1000 pixels or less.

Create posts consistently on a daily basis in different formats like carousel posts, videos, and reels to keep your content diverse and engaging. This is also a good way to see what content resonates more with your audience.  In my experience, single images and reels with work-in-progress are the best for getting likes and comments.

Do not forget to post your exhibition posters and related videos or reels.  Posting time-lapse videos of your creation process, photos of your studio, creative tips for other artists, and work-in-progress shots are all excellent ways to engage your audience and gain followers.

There are several online platforms where you can create content for social media. I have been using Canva, which is a great creative platform for images, videos, and reels.  Canva caters to both novice and more experienced creators without the complexity of Photoshop or Adobe Premiere, which have a much steeper learning curve.

Tip #3: Use Art-Relevant Hashtags

Research and use popular and niche-specific hashtags relevant to your art style, medium, and subject matter.

According to BestHashtags.com,  some the most popular hashtags for artists are:

#art #artist #artwork #drawing #love #photography #digitalart #painting #artistsoninstagram #illustration #design #photooftheday #sketch #beautiful #nature #artoftheday #picoftheday #fanart #contemporaryart #artforsale

However, the most popular hashtags are saturated, meaning that, for instance, if #artforsale was used in 8,566,587 Instagram posts, your post using this hashtag might get lost in a sea of competitors.

Personally, I like to add a hashtag to reflect a specific artwork, such as #underwater or #swimming for my artworks with a water-based theme. Or #reflection, #meditation, or #transcendental for my artwork titled “Transcendental Reflections”.

I also use #ottawaartist #localartist #ottawaart to target a local audience.

Be careful, though, not to go overboard with too many hashtags. More is not always better. Keep your hashtag numbers between 3 to 4, for maximum benefit.

According to Stacy Jo Dixon, Statista researcher from the United Kingdom, specializing in internet-related subjects with special emphasis on social media: “A March 2022 report found that Instagram posts containing three to four hashtags had an average impression rate of 3.41 percent, making this number of hashtags the most effective in terms of user impressions. User engagement decreased when more than five hashtags were used. Posts containing between 17 and 18 hashtags had the least amount of engagement, indicating that overuse of hashtags on the platform can have a detrimental effect on engagement. Overall, hashtag use did not appear to improve post impressions on the platform. “

Tip #4: Engage with Your Audience

Always try to respond to any comments or direct messages within the same day.  Do not ignore negative criticism comments, unless they are clearly spam or just plainly offensive.

Initiate conversations by asking questions or seeking feedback from your followers. For example, I like to ask my followers to come up with a title for a painting I am currently working on. I might end up choosing one of the suggestions, or might not. Regardless, my supporters and followers enjoy participating in the creative journey, which proves to be a fulfilling experience for them.

Tip #5: Collaborate with Peers

In my experience, an artist’s main followers on Instagram are usually other fellow artists, whether they are friends, acquaintances, or just fans interested in the artist’s work or creative process. A good practice that I often pursue is to follow back fellow artists and interact with their posts. By following other artists, I often learn new art-related tips and techniques or learn about exhibition opportunities.

Cross-promoting each other’s works to leverage each other’s audience has also proven beneficial and a win-win situation.  Instagram allows the creation of collabs (collaborative posts) between two accounts. Collaborating with another artist is a good way to create posts with content that will be displayed on both account profiles and gain new followers. 

In conclusion, by implementing these tips consistently and staying authentic to your artistic voice, you can effectively promote your art on Instagram and build a loyal following of supporters and collectors.  In this article, I only looked at budget-friendly tips that will not empty your wallet. For a more aggressive promotion strategy, you might consider investing in paid advertisements, collaborating with influencers, hosting giveaways, and exploring additional marketing tactics. But in those cases, be prepared to open your wallet, as some of them, especially some influencers, come with a considerable price tag.

For more helpful tips, you might want to check out the following articles:

Whether you are an artist or not, I am interested to learn how you promote yourself or your business on Instagram. And if you don’t use Instagram, why not? Please leave me a comment below.

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