2021 Artist Tips for Instagram Growth

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It’s been a bit since I’ve shared information on how to grow your Instagram following. If you’ve been following my blog or my Instagram account since I began my full time art business in 2016, you know I was a little obsessed with organic growth. My account gained its first 20k followers in three months through sharing videos, and it continued to grow steadily to 125k over two years. This was all organic. I didn’t pay for promotions or cut corners. Hard work pays off.

Annnnnd then my following stopped growing. Because 1) The app changed, 2) I dipped back into my depression and couldn’t focus on finding a new approach to IG (I’m not shy about sharing mental health struggles.), 3) I went through a breakup and moved across the country, and 4) 2020 in general happened. What a year! (lol)

Now, I’m back with good news! Not only have things improved with my mental health (Yay for that!), but Instagram growth is still possible and I can help point you in the right direction to build your online following for your art biz.

During the last three months of 2020, I focused my energy on Instagram again and gained roughly 6,000 new organic followers after a year of stagnation. I’m not going to tell you things I haven’t tested myself. I share what has worked for my own account, because that’s just my style. So, here we go!

1. Use new features.

When any social media app rolls out a new feature, they are going to prioritize its exposure. I know it is annoying to have to learn new app features when you are trying to run an art business. You’d prefer to focus your energy on your craft and not on the mechanics of how to create a reel or use polls and interactive features in stories. I get it. But this is where I am going to encourage you to have fun with social apps. (In hindsight, had I focused more attention on IGTV videos when that feature was released, I might have seen more growth. )

I don’t want social media to feel like a chore. Growth takes dedication and persistence, and enjoying the process makes it easier to stick to it. Play with new features and have fun.

2. Post frequently.

I recommend posting at least once a day, but up to three times a day if you have the content. Every day. Social media apps will favor accounts that pump out new content to keep people coming back. You’re feeding the social media monster. Keep it fat and happy so it can keep its users addicted (yes, even you.).

Feed posts (photos and videos) have a short engagement period. I notice they kind of run out of steam after 24 hours. IGTV videos last longer. Reels seem to last the longest for getting engagement after posting. Posting often will help engagement on your account snowball and bring in new followers. Which brings me to the next point:

3. MAKE VIDEOS!!!

I’ve said this SO many times in various blog posts, and all of my consulting sessions. Make videos. Make videos. Make videos. The content is more engaging that a static photo, it’s more likely to get shared by other accounts, and the Instagram monster likes them. Instagram has three video options right now. Use all three of them.

Reels- 30 second max

This is the newest Instagram feature and is basically TikTok. At first, I was like “This is dumb. I don’t want to do this.” And then I used the feature and gained thousands of followers. So–use reels.

You don’t need to do what everyone else does. Edit videos in ways that are fun for you. Try new things. Use music you like. Look at how other artists are using reels to get inspiration.

IGTV- 10 minute max

IGTV was favored when it came out, and this is a great feature to show longer videos. These videos still get good traction.

Feed Videos – 60 second max

If you use a feed video, this is an older feature and likely won’t have as much impact as IGTV and Reels, but they are still more engaging than static photos.

What should you record for videos?

Anything related to your brand and message as an artist. Your process, your life in your art studio, tips and advice for other creators. Time lapse, real-time process, small clips of a single brush stroke or pen line, close-ups of your work. Try anything. See what your followers like. Make it interesting and show your style and your personality. Be genuine. (Don’t do a choreographed dance if it’s not related to your art…please. I can’t wait until that trend dies.)

4. Start Conversations

This is social media. Things that start conversations do well. You can do this by writing engaging captions or creating interesting/relatable content. Get people talking and commenting on your posts. Ask questions, tell stories, connect with other humans.

5. Keep your account branded, cohesive, and attractive.

This is the most generic piece of advice I give, but it’s still one of the first things you should think about when managing your profile on any social media app. All of your posts should flow together. All of your content should feed into your brand and your style as an artist. The first nine photos of your feed should look polished and hook a potential new follower. Your photos and videos need to look good. I say this a lot, if your photo looks bad, your art will look bad.

Read: How to brand your Instagram account and 4 ways to create a branded and authentic style.

If you have no idea what your brand and style is, then I suggest checking out my consulting services and I can help you one-on-one.

***

Some of the points above reiterate things I’ve said in the past, but you might be new here, so it never hurts to review the tried and true tips. And with that, I’ll revisit the things that you can stop doing.

Do not waste your time or money on the following:
  1. Follows for follows.
  2. Likes for likes.
  3. Giveaways
  4. Commenting on other account’s posts to get their attention.
  5. Bots, paying for followers, paying for share accounts.
  6. Hashtags (I still encourage the use of tags in feed posts, but they don’t seem to do as much anymore in my personal experience. Use a couple of branded tags, location tags, or other niche tags. It doesn’t hurt to continue using them, but I don’t prioritize them anymore. Read: How to research tags.)

***

I have met a lot of great creators and people through Instagram. Have fun with it and focus on building a community around your art and your brand. If you have questions, I am more than happy to get you on my calendar.

My Consulting Services: Instagram Assessment and Branding Assessment

I don’t advertise this often outside of my blog, but I love working with other artists to help them improve their Instagram accounts and refine their brand and message. As of 1/28/2021, I offer a 90 minute Instagram Assessment or Branding Assessment sessions where you and I will look at your work and account. We go through everything you need to improve your online presence and kickstart your following. Or, if you just have a few questions, sign up for a 30 minute session!

You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

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