Vogue magazine recently called Instagram the “World’s Most Talked-About New Art Dealer.” It’s easy to see why. With previously obscure artists like Ashley Longshore and Donald Robertson rocketing to fame, and sales, because of Instagram, Vogue outlines how big-time art dealers and auction houses are using Instagram to sell art.
Over the past six months, I’ve interviewed artists who are doing exceptionally well on Instagram, and tested tactics from various other sources. I’m seeing that Instagram is a green-field opportunity similar to what Facebook was in its early days.
How To Sell Art on Instagram
Make some great art & be consistent. This should be self-evident, but it needs to be said. You need to be making art with skill and you should be expressing something. You also need to be consistent and make art in a series.
Set up a great profile & learn to photograph & use the editing tools. These first two points are the absolute minimum barrier to entry. If you can’t do these, you won’t get noticed. Far too many artists have Instagram profiles with no pictures, no description in the profile, and poorly composed, poorly lit pictures of their their art. You can take serviceable photos with even cheap smartphones, and late-model iPhones are better than most point and shoot cameras.
Here’s a link on How to Photograph and Edit Your Art for Your Site
The Instagram editing tools are pretty useful, especially for a smartphone app. You can edit colors, exposure, and cropping. The filters alone are usually enough to correct any issues you might have with low light or similar problems. Take good pictures, then use the editing tools to adjust your images to make your art look like it does in real life.
Embrace the Instagram culture and build your following. The very first thing you should familiarize yourself with are hashtags. If you’ve been on Twitter for any amount of time, this should be familiar to you. You’ll often see people add words like #art or #artistsofinstagram in the description of the images that they upload. These hashtags become clickable links, and you can also search them with the IG search tool. This is how people discover new artists.
The ideal number of hashtags is flexible, but it’s probably somewhere in the 3 – 8 range. You can put hashtags around nearly anything, but I would consider adding tags around your medium, subject matter, and the location your image was created. This last one helps people find local artists.
Here’s a great example of good use of hashtags.
You’ll also notice in that embedded image the @fumeroism. Again, just like Twitter, that’s called tagging, and it means that the person who was tagged will get a notification that they’ve been tagged in that image. You can use this to tag photos of groups that you took a picture of, or to let people know that you blogged about them, like I did here:
Just tagging a few of my fave #artistsofinstagram. Link to blog post with my fave #art images in profile #followfriday #followmonday A photo posted by Cory Huff (@theabundantartist) on
I would strongly encourage you to think of Instagram as a social network where you make friends and interact with people, instead of just another place to post your art. Instagram has a culture of being open to awesome stuff. While the company is currently testing a limited number of ads, people aren’t used to being sold to on IG, so keep your pitching to a minimum and instead be a lot more fun. You’ll accumulate followers quickly and when you do mention you have something for sale, people will be more responsive.
Identify the taste makers. Just like in every social group, there are a handful of people on Instagram who are going to be very influential. In my blog post How to Research Your Online Art Market, I talk about how to figure out where your ideal clients are hanging out, and who they listen to when they’re online. Instagram has these people too.
They might be art dealers or curators with big followings. They might be celebrities who are really into the kind of art you make. They might be bloggers or Youtube stars with huge followings. Whoever they are, be sure to follow them and interact with them on a regular basis. Do something cool like send them some fun pens and ask them to send you a doodle. Comment on their work and share it with your friends by tagging them in the comments.
Track your progress. It’s easy to get lost in the never-ending stream of new stuff. If you’re intentionally going about building up a new audience, then it makes sense to write down how many followers you have on a given day and set a goal of adding 10% more followers in a week, or something similar. Track what you do that gets more followers, then do the stuff that’s successful and skip the stuff that’s not.
Try some fan-generated fun. Instagram can be really great for contests, giveaways, and fan-generated fun. Brady Black, who goes by @seriouscreatures, has an awesome ongoing series where he encourages fans to post pics to Instagram and tag them with #scdrawthis, which stands for Serious Creatures Draw This. Every couple of weeks, Brady will pick a fan image and draw over it with his iPad and repost it as a new image. Here’s an example that was originally a bunch of pretzels from a food blogger:
“Pretzel Party” . 18th #SCdrawover . Thanks to @foodiewithfam for inviting me to draw over her amazing food photography. please check out her account, it is fantastic. . If you want to submit a picture for me to draw over tag @seriouscreatures and #SCdrawthis. I will try to draw as many of them as I can. – brady
Try a Flash Sale
A flash sale can be a great way to unload some inventory, and Instagram is uniquely suited to art flash sales. Check out our short guide on how to run an Instagram flash sale here: How to Run an Instagram Flash Sale.
What Questions do You Have?
In our upcoming Instagram for Artists webinar, we’re going to show you more – but I want to know what your questions are. What are the things that confuse you or frustrate you about selling your art on Instagram?
Let us know in the comments.
Not Sure if Instagram is the Right Choice?
Check out this post that will help you decide which social media selling platform to focus your efforts on.
Get Some Inspiration
Check out these 7 artists inspiring us on Instagram for some great ideas!
The How to Sell Art on Instagram Course
As I mentioned in my blog post on my favorite Instagram artists, The Abundant Artist is doing a course on selling art on Instagram. In that course, we go in-depth into the topics I mentioned above, as well as a handful of other killer ideas that successful Instagrammers are using.
It’s a live webinar where I distill down my months of interviews and work on Instagram campaigns into steps you can take to turn Instagram into the next big sales opportunity for you. You can sign up here: