Get noticed on Instagram!
You may have heard that a lot of galleries, curators and writers now discover new artists that they end up representing, exhibiting or interviewing via Instagram. It’s pretty incredible that social media has created such a simple platform for sharing art worldwide. That being said, there are so many talented artists showing their work on Instagram these days that it can seem like a competition for followers and impossible to get noticed. But neither of these are true. Make sure your feed stands out for all of the right reasons!
Quality photography for artwork: We know, we say this all the time! As Instagram is a visual platform, it makes sense that all of your images should be high quality. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours to get a perfectly lit shot of your studio or an artfully messy image of your palette and brushes. Focus on clean, cropped photos of your work that can easily be reposted. Make it easy for others to share your work.
Along those lines, while it is fun to mix up the type of images that you share, like detail shots, an installation view and works in progress or even your cat, make sure you regularly show finished pieces (perhaps one of every three to five posts depending on how much work you have and how quickly you create new pieces). I came across a really incredible painting that I wanted to share on Create! Magazine’s Instagram so I went to look up the artist’s profile. I scrolled and scrolled, but could not only not find the painting I wanted, I couldn’t even find one single image of a nicely photographed, completed work cropped to the edges. Needless to say, I unfortunately wasn’t able to share this artist’s work.
Use the right hashtags: We discuss hashtags in more depth in our new book “The Smartist Guide” but the general rule is to be relevant to your work while not being too general or your posts will get lost in the mass of images. So if you make sculptures you could use #sculpture, but that has over 10 million posts and #sculptures has over 1 million. Instead you could try #sculptureart (200,000+) or #sculpture_art (9,000+).
It might be your goal to get reposted by a larger influencer account like an art blog, magazine, or curator. DM-ing them to ask for a feature isn’t professional and probably won’t work, nor does random tagging unless they specifically request it. Our magazine has specific guidelines that are easily accessible on our website for how to apply for features and it is likely these other platforms do too. Pay attention to them! Often, these accounts will post simple directions like using a certain hashtag on your posts. We look through #createmagazine regularly and love seeing the great images that the artists in our community share with us. Kat also mentioned recently on an Art & Cocktails podcast episode that Instagram doesn’t allow us to sort through all the messages that are sent to us. With the volume of DM’s we receive, after a day or two it is hard to go back and find specific ones even if it was an artist that we liked. Do the math - if we get even 1 message per day that’s 365 artists per year asking for a feature (it’s actually more)! Emailing is much more effective and we receive far fewer requests that way.
While I can’t speak on behalf of other publications or curators, I personally don’t care what an artist’s follower count is. If I like the work, I will happily reach out for an interview or repost the work whether they have 50, 500, or 50,000 followers. There’s no need to play games by following a bunch of accounts hoping that some will follow you back and then unfollowing them a few days later. People definitely notice (I do) and will remember you in a negative light.
Make connections with other artists, curators, galleries, and arts publications that you genuinely like. This way you can meaningfully engage with their posts. For example, if you leave a particularly nice or interesting comment on a post, it is likely that they’ll click through to your page. It pays off to be a friendly follower ;)
Don’t feel pressured to post new content all of the time. It’s likely that only a fraction of your followers will see any given post so if one has performed particularly well feel free to share it again a while later. Especially as you get more new followers, it is a great idea to keep putting your best work out there - you never know when a new writer or curator will end up on your feed!
When you do inevitably get your work shared, you can definitely repost it on your profile to be proud of your accomplishment and it’s also good practice to leave a comment thanking them for the feature. Hopefully one shared work will cause a chain reaction leading to more! That happened to Kat last year with a piece she didn’t expect and early in my career as well with a completely different type of work than what I usually made. Be patient and consistent with your posts and it will happen to you too.
Above all, none of this is important if you aren’t yet happy with your work or don’t have finished pieces to show. Put the time in your studio to get to the point where you have a really strong body of work to post about first and then trust us, the rest will follow.
If you’d like to hear more about what writers are looking for on Instagram, you can check out the Art & Cocktails episode Kat did with our other magazine contributor Christina Nafziger at createmagazine.com/podcast.
Looking for additional career tips like these for emerging artists? We’re so excited to share our recently launched book, The Smartist Guide, which discusses topics ranging from perfecting your resume and writing the perfect pitch to a gallery you’d like to represent you to dealing with rejection and finding the best opportunities to show your work! Learn more here.