Instagram is the perfect social media platform for fine artists and photographers because it is optimized for images.
Unlike Twitter (where words are king) or Facebook (where videos often gain the most traction), Instagram is a place where images can still draw attention and acclaim.
Consequently, it follows that Instagram would be a pretty great place to find art buyers, right?
Instagram is a great place to find art buyers. They're just not often going to buy right away. What they will do is follow you. For weeks, months, or years. And then, when some wall space opens up for them, then they will buy.
Excelling at Instagram is all about understanding this journey. To make your decisions based on it. And to never forget that the random person who likes your posts this year could be a huge customer next year.
So, let's take a look at our five golden rules for building an audience of art buyers on Instagram.
#1 – Direct Message (DM) Every New Follower
This is something you, as an independent artist, have the unique ability to pull off. We call it doing things that don't scale.
The giant art retailers with hundreds of thousands of followers could never hope to DM every single new follower they get throughout the day. But if you are currently only receiving 1–100 new follows a day, you can.
Sending off a quick, personal DM to a new follower takes just a few seconds and is a great way to make an unexpected connection with your newest fans. To grab their attention and ensure that when they see your name in their feed over the coming weeks, they remember exactly who you are.
It's also a great opportunity to do some market research by asking your new followers a quick question such as "Where did you find my profile?"
#2 – Respond to Every Comment
Don't just build your audience, engage with them!
Replying to comments on your posts allows you to improve your audience's emotional connection with both you and your art (hint: this is what leads to sales).
Even a quick emoji response can make an impact.
It also doesn't hurt that you'll be constantly doubling the comment count on your posts, which will often snowball into more and more activity on your account.
#3 – Post to Your Feed Consistently (and At the Right Time)
If you want to be your followers' new favorite art account, you need to be consistently visible. That means posting regularly – at least several times a week.
Decide on a frequency that works for you, and use tools like Later.com to schedule your posts ahead of time.
You'll also want to keep a careful eye on the days and times that give you the best results (a free Instagram Business account will make this easy). Leverage this intel to post during the times that your audience is most likely to be using Instagram.
#4 – Post Stories as Often as You Can
Instagram Stories are likely the most effective way to build an audience on Instagram.
These off-the-cuff snapshots and video clips that expire after 24 hours are perfect for artists to share behind-the-scenes looks at what they're up to.
The more casual nature of Stories means you now have a place to post unrefined, on-the-fly updates. Whether that's a tour of your studio, a look at a work-in-progress, or a walkthrough of your latest equipment, audiences will love getting a more intimate look at the life of an artist.
Stories also have the benefit of living on the very top of the app, meaning if you're posting frequently enough (we recommend 3-10 Stories a day, a few days a week), your audience won't have to scroll to find you.
#5 – Be Accessible
Specifically, be accessible as a person, not a company.
The conception, design, and creation of fine art is a fascinating mystery to non-artists.
As your Instagram activity increases, you'll get more and more people reaching out in an attempt to make a connection with you – to just compliment your work, or to perhaps ask you about a piece.
This is where all your hard work posting on Instagram pays off. Be sure to be available and accessible to your audience when this happens.
Too often we see artists attempting to model their online presence after corporations because they believe it will help them appear more professional to prospective buyers.
This can be a mistake because it rejects every advantage an individual artist has over the huge art-selling corporations. Primarily, the advantage of being a real artist people can get to know and even chat with.
Buyers love a story about the artist to accompany their purchase, and you can give them one by simply being available to connect with on Instagram.
Bonus – Boost Your Engagement with Instagram Ads
If your account has begun to take off and you have a small marketing budget for your art, you're ready to take Instagram to the next level with Ads. This is when things really get exciting.
So, when it comes to Instagram, there is really no "cracking" it – it's just about doing the work. No individual post or week of posts is all that important, it's about consistency.
Stay focused, keep posting, and ensure your profile is constantly bursting with new content, comments, and Stories. Who wouldn't want to follow that?
The results won't be immediate - this is a slow-build task that will ramp up over the months and years - but when it comes to social media, there's no place more fitting (or fun to use!) for artists than Instagram.