Home Magazine How Artists Are Using Instagram To Be Successful

In 2010, when it was just invented, Instagram was simply a photo-sharing app. Nine years later, we have the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report saying that it is the art world’s favored social media platform, with as many as 65% of their survey respondents choosing it for art-related purposes. Simply put, while it still is a fun little corner saturated with pictures of sunsets and food that we all cherish, it is also a place of serious and successful business, and for many collectors and artists alike the only thing they use to buy and sell artworks.

I’ve heard people say that Instagram for the art world is like Twitter for journalists: it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, everyone is there, and everyone is active like crazy - just look at Banksy and his 6.3 million followers, or KAWS with 2.3 million, or JR with 1.4 million, to name a few. All superstars in their own right.

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How shall we interpret the fact that these artists, alongside many others, managed to create their own microcosmos and large fan bases entirely outside the traditional art market? With 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram is a force to be reckoned with (just ask Facebook, although they might not be too worried about it, since they own it), and for a lot of collectors under the age of 35, it is a to-go place for finding new artists. Clearly, this social media network is packed with potential, and with the right way of using it and a bit of luck, it can shoot an artist straight to stardom and secure their future for good. 

Why Instagram is a Great Tool for Artists

Unlike Facebook, Instagram focuses only on image-sharing, often without any accompanying text. Many people use it as a visual diary, documenting every minute of their every day, and it is all done from a cell phone, wherever one may be. For someone who makes a living by making art, this might be an ideal scenario: with a few clicks, they can show their fans and collectors their work, but also their process in the studio, their exhibition openings, their residencies, their way of life. This type of approach, one of familiarity and openness, certainly appeals to collectors, 67% of whom said that the posts by artists had the biggest influence when buying an artwork. With Instagram being so visual, just like art is, this comes as no surprise. Staying with the Hiscox report findings a little bit longer, we also discover that 79% of art buyers use Instagram to follow and keep up-to-date with artists that they are already familiar with, while 75% of them check it to see what’s popular or trending, and to ultimately find art to purchase. Read more about How To Discover Emerging Artists...

Similarly to other social media networks, one of the key elements is the spreading of the word, which comes very much in handy when marketing an artist. Through hashtags, but also fans’ likes and comments new audiences are found and engaged with - and if the profile catches an eye of one of the Instagram influencers or ends up on the Explore page, the bullseye is definitely hit. So yes, Instagram is quite democratic, and it gives younger collectors in particular the opportunity to explore art in peace, without the physical presence of a possibly greedy middleman or an overly eager gallerist. What Instagram provides is an exclusive virtual gallery space on the go, and for many millennials this is a much preferred way of buying art. Close to this topic is our new article How Do Galleries Sell at Art Fairs?



Tips for Selling Your Art on Instagram

If you are an artist today, having a nicely done webpage and at least one social media profile is something of a must. Many have Instagram as the network of choice because, as I mentioned before, it is a visual tool. Naturally, posting pictures of high quality can be considered mandatory and many artists learn to photograph their art themselves. Avoid using filters - those interested in your art will want to see your work in its true colors. That being said, be creative in other ways! Think about the composition and lighting instead.

While images are said to speak a thousand words, a good accompanying caption is always a good idea: telling the story of your artworks’, your inspirations and thought process, something that will encourage your audiences to engage. Get them to like and comment on your pictures, and thus spread the word about it! Of course, it shouldn’t be all about art - show the fanbase how you live your life, where you make your art, where you are traveling, opening your exhibitions and the people you are meeting - it will keep your followers interested and curious about what you will do next. Be ready to answer messages as well, both public and private ones - fans will feel closer to your work and collectors will appreciate your dedication and accessibility.

How often should an artist be posting on Instagram? Not too often and not too seldom! The content you create and put up should be frequent enough as to keep your fans and collectors around; many agree that posting once a day is the right formula. Another important element of Instagram are hashtags, ie. deciding which category to put your posts in to raise exposure. How many hashtags should do? Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, but that may seem redundant - 5 to 12 should do the trick. Choose the ones that are relevant to each picture and the art you make. The way to find out which hashtags work is to check out the “competition” - more successful artist profiles, but also those of galleries, museums, curators and dealers. Once you reach a substantial number of followers, you can also consider creating your own campaigns and reach even more people. It also won’t hurt to share your Instagram posts to your other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Discover more about how an art Instagram profile does work, follow Kooness...

Last but not least is the way your profile looks. People like seeing the faces of the people they follow, so it is recommended that you put a nice image of yourself as your main image. Your handle should preferably be your name, but if it is already taken, consider altering it by adding a number or a symbol. Your bio should be short but sufficiently detailed - you can let people know a little bit about you, where to find your work and how to contact you.

Of course, let’s not forget other features that Instagram offers, such as Stories, Live, videos (both short version that you can post on your profile - up to one minute - or the longer ones that go on IGTV). All of them can be used as additional tools in the promotion of your art and it is highly recommended that you use them. Stories and Lives are short-lived as they only last 24 hours, but are good for showing stuff that are not meant to be permanent on your profile anyway (details of everyday life, etc.). 
If all goes well, your strategies worked and you now have an interested buyer, knowing your price and having shipping and packing details already in place is a sign of how serious and prepared you are. This will surely help speed the process up, and swiftly too.



Artists To Follow On Instagram

As mentioned, here’s a good way to get your Instagram account going - see what those who have a good following are doing with it. Many of the artists we will cite here are surely successful, but most of all they are interesting individuals with captivating profiles that we love to visit and explore.

I have listed Banksy, KAWS and JR already - Banksy, for example, gained a lot of followers after infamously shredding his own artwork at that Sotheby’s auction in 2018, and after he posted a video in which he explains how and why he did it. JR often uses Instagram to promote his socially-engaged projects on a global scale, so much so that people are making their own now. As for KAWS, it is indisputable that he is an art market sensation and a big collectors’ item as we speak.

Who else is out there? We have Ai Weiwei, who often posts selfies with other cultural figures, but also social commentaries in China and abroad, as well as reportages from protests, seminars and refugee camps. On Instagram there is a little something for everyone: among photographers, notable is the profile of Martin Parr, as he often posts his snaps there, Petra Collins, and Cindy Sherman, whose profile is a real gem filled with twisted and turned portraits of the artist. Olafur Eliasson and Molly Soda, on the other hand, use their networks to spread awareness about their art but also topics such as the environmental crisis and cyber-feminism (respectively). If you are into street art, you can follow American icon Shepard Fairey, especially since in 2019 he is marking 30 years of his career with murals and exhibitions around the world.


Stay Tuned to Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.