Do you want more followers? Imagine this:
You’re an artist trying to sell your work. Your follower count has been stagnant for weeks. You want to grow, but just can’t seem to get exposure. An account reaches out to you to promote your art. Just $10 to share a single post. Sounds reasonable. You pay. Your post is shared. You wait for new followers to roll in…
But nothing happens.
You’re Not Alone
I remember how frustrating it was when my Instagram account was stuck around 300 followers. I wanted to pursue my goal of being a full time non-starving artist, but how the heck was I going to do it if I couldn’t get eyes on my art? I needed new followers and I needed them now. (Anyone else out there incredibly impatient?)
It’s tempting to pay your way to a larger following, but does it actually work? Will it be beneficial in the long run? At all points of my Instagram journey, I have been baited by larger share accounts to promote my work. They leave a comment “DM us to be featured”
Or they send you a direct message with a “Do you want to reach more followers?” Once you respond, they give you the numbers.
Some accounts will charge under $10 for a single post. Ballsy accounts will try to charge over $50 for a single post. They are all over the place and they will take what they can get.
Should you pay to have large accounts share your work?
If you have read any of my previous blogs about growing an Instagram following (here and here), you know that I gained momentum when a couple of larger accounts shared my posts. It works to gain followers if the sharing account is legit. When one account shared a time lapse video of mine on 10/26/2017, I gained 3900 followers over 4 days.
In October 2017, I gained a total of 13,000 followers on my account thanks to a couple other videos going a bit viral and being shared by multiple accounts. It’s pretty clear that having accounts share your work can be beneficial, but I did not pay for any of those shares. (2022 Update: Instagram is constantly evolving and what worked for me in 2017 may not even be possible today. More about Reels later.)
I hadn’t paid for a single promotion for @messyeverafter until November 9th, 2018.
I paid an art sharing account for the first time as an experiment.
For the purpose of this blog, I wanted to pay for a shared post. Conveniently, an account DM’d me with an offer. Initially they wanted $40 for a single post. I laughed and said “That’s too much. I won’t pay more than $10.” They responded with “ok” and provided their Paypal address.
Just hours after a $10 payment, my post was live.
The post got 6,000+ likes and 21 comments. I estimate I gained an additional 200-270 followers above my normal growth rate over three days. But as a data junkie, here is a fun insight comparison of my original post and the shared account’s post (they were kind enough to sent a screenshot).
The share account I used has 522,000 followers. At the time, I had 86,000 followers. My post received 1,100 less likes, but reached 40,000 more accounts, had 450+ more saves, 23 more private message shares, and had 180+ more comments. I gained a couple hundred more followers, but the engagement on my own account is clearly more genuine.
Now, the share account in this example was very generous in supplying the analytics for this post, and I will not provide their name as an account to avoid. They were professional, prompt, and still provided a service that was beneficial. If I had only 300 followers and was suddenly up to 570 over a couple of days, the $10 would feel worth it.
Should you pay for a shared post?
From my experiment, you can see I actually benefited by gaining followers. Was it worth it? For me, no.
Numbers don’t mean anything on their own. I want to sell my art, and I have no idea if those new followers will buy my work, read my blog, or contribute anything meaningful to my account. I don’t even know if these followers were bot accounts or follows-for-follows.
If you are thinking about paying an account, do your research. Not every account will benefit you and some of them will actually drag down your engagement with meaningless followers.
Have you ever seen huge accounts with very little engagement on their posts? It’s likely they have meaningless followers. And getting exposure on these platforms might rope you into that meaningless follower network too.
Meaningless followers contribute nothing to account activities. Bots and other sharing accounts will inflate each other’s numbers. They may comment generic emojis or lines like “great job!” or “superb” but this engagement does nothing good for an account. And this is why accounts with 200k+ followers get 400 likes on a post.
Avoid these accounts.
How to tell if a share account is worth your time:
- Look at their likes and comments per post.
- If they have 200,000 followers, but get 500 or less likes per post you may as well burn your money.
- If they have thousands of likes on a photo, but 4 generic comments from other art sharing accounts, their engagement is likely from bots. Go buy yourself a burrito instead.
- Look for comments from genuine people.
- Look at the content they post. It will be a reflection of their audience.
- If you’re an abstract painter, you likely shouldn’t try to get your work posted on a graphite drawing account. That’s not your audience.
- If they have a bunch of weird non-art content, same thing applies.
- If they post a lot of content that just doesn’t aesthetically look “good” they don’t really care if the artists succeed. Avoid those accounts.
- Look at the price they charge.
- The accounts that served me well charged nothing.
If you do want to pay for an art sharing account to post your work, consider the following:
Be aggressive and negotiate.
These accounts can only stay in business if people actually pay them. They are desperate to take any amount of money from people so it’s quite likely they will negotiate. If they ask for $10, say you only have $7. If they ask for $5, go ahead and offer $3. There are thousands of art sharing accounts out there looking to profit off your dreams. Go ahead and fight for a better deal.
In an ideal world…
Having accounts share your work for free is obviously the preferred way to grow. It takes patience and more attention on the quality of the content you produce, but it’s worth it. Again, if you have followed my Instagram journey, you’re aware that I went from 300 followers in September of 2017 to 87,000 followers as of posting this blog, all organically.
I strongly encourage you to focus on free and organic growth. This will help you more in the long run with sales and potential sponsorships.
2022 Update: Quick and organic growth is still very much possible, but now you need to focus on video creation and Reels.
If you want large accounts to share your art without having to pay for it or reach out to individual accounts here are a few tips:
- Create videos (Update 2022: More specifically, create Reels.)
- Videos are easy to share and are really engaging.
- Pay attention to lighting, quality, and content.
- Have fun with the content. You don’t have to do a complete start to finish piece. You can capture moments of your process. You can capture the beauty of art materials. (Pretty much just watch all of @polina.bright’s videos. She’s a master at pulling an audience in.)
- Reels are the best way as of 2022 to get organic exposure. Whether it gets shared by larger accounts or not. Post reels. I’ll say it again: POST REELS!
- Create and post as often as you can.
- You need to produce and post quality content on a daily basis.
- Post 1 to 3 times a day and keep looking for ways to make your photos and videos better.
I rarely offer the “easy” way to do things in my posts. Easy is not really a word I would use to describe the process of following your dreams. I am very much a DIY, elbow grease kind of person.
Don’t Waste Your Money on Sharing Accounts
Paying for big accounts to share you work can produce results, but I honestly say don’t waste your time or money doing it. But if you do, make sure you are getting the best value for your money by vetting the accounts before paying.
Getting free, organic, exposure by posting attractive video content on a daily basis will serve you better than a large art sharing account reposting a photo of your art.
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.