According to statista.com, Instagram now has roughly 1 billion active users on its platform in 2021. Yes, 1 billion! Imagine all the opportunity! With the right strategies in place, your Instagram account can become a key source of traffic and sales for your art business.
Whatever stage your business is in, this post is for you if you're ready to elevate your IG game and build a successful social media following of people that don't just 'Like' your work but actually buy from you.
Part 1: Set Up A Killer Profile
Think of your Instagram profile as your 2-second resumé. In those 2 quick seconds when someone has landed on your page, they need to be able to tell who you are and what you do so that they can decide if they want to scroll further to look at your posts and ultimately, follow you.
That may sound like a pretty big ask but there's no need to over complicate it. In fact, the simpler the better. The 3 key areas you need to focus on on your profile is the Name, Bio and Website section. Let's break it down, shall we?
Name: Apart from your username, this is the only part of your profile that is search-friendly. Meaning that if someone were to type the keywords you used for your name in the search bar, your account could potentially pop up in the results. So your name should be clear and include the kind of words your potential customers might use to describe someone like you. You only have a maximum of 30 characters so be concise!
As a general guide, your name can be:
"Specialty (niche) + Who you are/what you sell."
For example, if you mainly paint sceneries with oil paint, you could put 'Landscape oil painter' or 'Scenic & nature art'.
Bio: Here's where you can expand on your name. There is a limit of 150 characters in this space so again, being concise is key. Instead of plonking everything down in a single paragraph, split your bio into easy-to-read bullet points about what you offer or why they should follow you. I typically break them down into two types: informative and call-to-action (CTA) pointers. Continuing on with the example from before, here are some pointers that could work:
Original canvas paintings, art prints and postcards (informative)
Custom commissions available (informative)
New products every month (informative)
Featured in ___insert publications if any)____ (informative)
Join my mailing list for launch updates & exclusive discounts (CTA)
Visit my website to purchase (CTA)
Follow for my art process + daily life (CTA)
Always try to include at minimum ONE call-to-action pointer.
The important thing to note is that none of this is or has to be permanent so don't overthink it. Feel free to change them up to what's most relevant to you at any point in your business, especially when it comes to your CTAs. Your CTA should encourage your followers to take the most important action at any given time so if you have just launched a new collection, for example, then your CTA should direct them to check it out so that they can purchase.
Which leads us to the 3rd element of your killer profile, your website link.
Website: Instagram only allows 1 link on your profile at any point in time. To keep things simple when you're first starting out, put the direct link to where they can purchase from you, whether it's your own website or a third party platform like Etsy.
As you progress, there may be multiple links that you want to redirect your followers to like your mailing list signup page, specific collection/product pages or even your latest blog post. For that, you have tools like Linktree, Milkshake or Linkin.bio, all of which you can start with for free.
These tools allow you to consolidate multiple links into one that you can share on your Instagram profile. When your follower clicks through, they'll be led to a screen with the CTA buttons which will then take them to the respective links you have set up. While you can add multiple CTA buttons, I'd recommend keeping it to a maximum of the 4 or 5 most important ones. The last thing you would want to do is overwhelm your followers and have them sift through a bunch of buttons just to get to the link they are looking for.
Part 2: Ace Your Content Strategy
Now comes the fun part! You've got a killer profile and it's time to get your work seen by the millions of users out there looking for someone exactly like you!
In this part, we'll cover what to post, when to post and how to utilise hashtags to extend your reach.
What to post:
So you probably already know by now that there are multiple formats in which you can share your content on Instagram. There are Feed posts, Reels, Stories, IGTVs and Lives. Neither of them is superior as they all exist to serve a different purpose within a cohesive Instagram strategy. That being said, it doesn't mean that you have to engage in all of these formats in order to build a strong presence on the platform. It all boils down to your goals.
If your goal is to grow your following, then giving more attention to Feed posts and Reels might be your best option. However, if you're looking to nurture and engage more intimately with your existing followers, then focusing more on Stories, IGTVs and Lives could be better. Your goals can and likely will shift over time and therefore, so should your posting strategy.
At the end of the day, whether you choose to focus on one or multiple formats, your content should give your audience the opportunity to know, like and trust you more. Always pay attention to what they're responding to and create with them in mind.
When to post:
Are you ready to bust some myths? You don't need to post daily. You don't need to post every alternate day either. What you NEED is to post consistently and that looks different for everyone. Sure, if you have the capacity to do a daily (high quality) post, go for it. But if the most you can manage for now is 3 posts a week then that's great! Stick to that schedule and stay consistent.
As for what days and times to post, you'll be able to get a better picture of this the more you post and the more data you collect. With an Instagram Business account, you'll be able to easily access this information via your Insights but if you're sticking to a Personal account, you can still collect this data manually by comparing the performance of your posts across time.
If you're just starting your account however, go with your gut. Post at a time when you think your followers would be active and adjust as you go!
How to utilise hashtags:
Ahh, the oh so infamous hashtags. Before we continue, know that using hashtags does not equal tens or hundreds of new followers with each post. Hashtags are important as part of an overall strategy which consists of everything I have just shared but is not a miracle worker in and of itself. So then, what are hashtags good for?
Well, they help your content get discovered. Think of it as a virtual sorting system. Using the relevant hashtags on your posts categorises your content in the right section of this massive library that is Instagram, thereby increasing your chances of getting discovered by someone searching for exactly what you share.
Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post but what's more important than the quantity is the quality of the hashtags you use. Here's how to come up with your extensive list of hashtags that you can use in rotation.
1) On a piece of paper or Excel sheet, create 3 hashtag buckets- who you are, what you sell, who your followers are.
2) Going bucket by bucket, begin searching relevant terms on Instagram.
3) Scan the posts that appear under that hashtag. If the results that pop up are similar to what you share on your account and have between 5K to 500K posts in it, add the hashtag to your list.
4) From the results page, you should also be able to discover other accounts like yours. Check them out, see what hashtags they're using and repeat step 3.
5) Finally, repeat steps 1- 4 for all 3 hashtag buckets.
Here's a snippet of what it might look like for the example of a landscape artist again:
By the end of this process, you should have a list of at least 10-15 hashtags per bucket that are highly relevant to your niche. The next time you post, all you would need to do is refer to this list! Mix up the ones you use each time but just make sure they're relevant to the content you're posting.
Congratulations! You're all set to create a rocking Instagram account that has a purpose and a strategy behind it. You'll gain followers because you've created a profile and page that is a clear expression of your work and you'll be able to keep them hanging around because you've got a content strategy that consistently keeps them engaged.
Want to know a secret? You don't need a big following to start making sales! I made my first sale FOUR days after l started my Tiny Dog Paintings Instagram account and I had less than 30 followers.
I've created a free guide and action plan sheet below that includes the tips that I personally use to get sales through my Instagram to this day. I hope you find it helpful!