Stop Wasting Your Money on Instagram Paid Promotions

I have strong feelings about this one as an artist.

If you read my last post about wasting money on big art sharing accounts, you know I’m a proponent of organic growth on Instagram. Creating paid promotions on Instagram can seem like a good idea to grow your following, but it can also just be a colossal waste of limited funds as a newbie artist.

I spend a lot of time on Instagram, (way too much time…) and through my scrolling I get quite a few paid promotions pop up from budding art accounts. I’m a curious person, so I poke around their profiles to see what they are working with. Most of the time, these accounts shouldn’t be paying for any promotions or ads, because if you are trying to sell your art and your ad pops up in MY feed you are definitely marketing to the wrong people. Your money is wasted. Not because I don’t love your art, but because it’s like Starbucks advertising to Caribou employees.

Since I don’t want to be that dick that offers unsolicited advice to the artists paying for promotions, I chose to write this blog instead. Basically, promotions can get you new eyes on your art, but it’s important to be strategic and plan your ads with a call to action in mind.

I’m not saying never use paid promotions on Instagram.

Running a business requires advertising. You have to get your name and your art out into the community in order to sell your work. That’s obvious. What I’m saying is to be smart about your promos and make them worth the money.

If you are going to pay for Instagram promotions to grow your following or make sales, check out these tips.

1. Make sure your profile is attractive and branded.

If your profile is ugly, it doesn’t matter how many new people see it. They aren’t going to want what you’re selling. Your art may be out of this world, but bad photos and a cluttered profile will repel your audience.

Your profile needs to make a good first impression. When viewed as a whole, it should look clean, cohesive, and inviting. I have another blog with tips for that! (Here)

2. Choose a post to promote that exemplifies your brand as an artist.

Don’t just pick one piece of art that you want to sell and promote it like a product listing in your store. Choose a photo that starts a conversation and introduces your potential new follower to your life as an artist.

Not every post is promotional material.

On the surface, the video or photo you promote needs to be attractive and eye-catching. Once you dig a little deeper into the image, it should also tell a story. I know that’s vague, but you are the one that knows your brand so it’s up to you to figure out that story. But if you want one-on-one help I can do that too.

3. Have a call to action.

Do you just want new followers? Are you promoting a sale? Do you want to introduce yourself? Do you want to start a conversation around a particular message?

It’s not enough to just put a picture of your art in front of people. If you are paying for a promotion, you must have a call to action. Whether you ask people to share their thoughts in the comments or want them to check out your store, make sure your caption urges viewers to act.

4. Use your unique voice. 

When you meet someone new, what’s your plan? Do you want to say something funny and make them laugh? I know I’m not the only introverted weirdo that plans ahead for social interactions. Your promoted posts should be given the same care. Your caption shouldn’t just read “Hi, I’m an artist. Check out my profile and follow me for more.”

Your post needs to pull someone in. Your photo/video will do the bulk of the work by drawing in the eyes. Then, your caption takes over to give more context. Naturally, your caption should complement the photo/video.

Spend some time brainstorming and write down as many ideas for meaningful stories as you can. What do you think people want to talk about? How can you create a long-lasting impression? How do you want your audience to feel?

You’re putting yourself and your work in front of strangers. Give them a reason to remember you and want to get to know you more.

5. Know your audience. 

Your audience is not anyone who likes art. That’s too broad.  I suggest really getting to know the types of people that respond well to your art. If I’m the one seeing your promotions and you’re trying to get art sales, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. Now, if you are an artist trying to sell an online class for your new art techniques, then it’s appropriate to advertise to artists.

When you choose your audience on Instagram promotions they allow you to build your own, or go with their suggested audience. When you allow Instagram to target your audience, they look at your current followers and those who interact with your posts. That means if I already follow you I may see your promotions. Seems like a waste if you’re trying to get new followers, right?

Get to know your target audience and take control of your promotions.

When you are thinking about your audience, imagine their daily lives. How do they decorate their home? What do they watch for entertainment, or spend their time doing? What do they wear and what inspires them? Why are they drawn to your art?

When you are interacting with customers at events, ask them about their interests. Do some research. Even think about making a survey for customers to answer a few questions so you can gather data.

Just remember, not everyone who likes art is your customer. I LOVE art, but I’m not your target audience. You don’t have to advertise to a huge group of people. Get specific and target those who will really respond to your brand.

Should you use paid promotions on Instagram?

Just keep these two things in mind before creating an ad:

  • Promotions with proper planning are good.
  • Promotions without proper planning are bad.

You have a product to sell. Whether it’s your art, your blog, your lifestyle, or your personality, you have to make your audience want it. The content that you choose for your promotion should make people want to be closer to what you are offering.

So, stop wasting your money and start planning.


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.

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