Is it still possible to grow a following on Instagram?
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 by 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 paid 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.
What can you do to grow on Instagram?
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 in 2018 and 2019.)
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).
In-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. (2022 Update: IG has converted all videos to Reels. More on that below.)
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 than a static photo, it’s more likely to get shared by other accounts, and the Instagram monster likes them. 2022 Update: Instagram had three video options when I wrote this, but like I said above, all videos have been converted to Reels.
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.
In order to grow your Instagram aggressively though, you should consider using trending audio and even jump on trending video styles.
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. 2022 Update: Yep. Still happening. *shakes fists into the air*)
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, and 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.
If you have no idea what your brand and style are, 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:
- Follows for follows.
- Likes for likes.
- Commenting on other accounts’ posts to get their attention.
- Bots, paying for followers, paying for share accounts.
- 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.
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.
P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.