When I finally reached 10k followers on my Instagram last year, I felt that I had passed some kind of milestone. Even after sharing my work for many years, it’s still hard to believe so many people are interested in following my journey; the introverted creative who doesn’t even know 100 people in real life!
It’s been quite a journey to get this far, so for any artists trying to grow their following, the key for me is consistently posting quality content.
I’ve kept posting (with some exceptions) at least 1–2 times a week (sometimes more frequently on stories) which has helped steadily grow my following. You’ve probably read recommendations of how many posts you should be making each week, but I find it’s easier to show up regularly with what works for you, whether it’s 4 times a week or just once a week.
What sort of content do I share?
In the early days, you could only post images, so that made life easier. Now with stories, reels, and whatever else comes next, it can feel overwhelming and hard to keep up. I still love static posts and find stories a really easy way to share more ‘real’ content. Reels take a bit more work and I don’t enjoy those as much, but the video content is a great way to share a bit more of the behind the scenes as an artist.
‘Quality content’ can take time to determine, but I tend to think of it as content that gets good engagement and, particularly with posts, visually they fit with your brand. Content that gets my Instagram more engagement are ones about art licensing, photos, or videos from an event, like a market and artwork where I have two different color ways and ask my followers to pick their favorite, whereas product photos seem to get less interest. I try to do a mix of posts, stories, and reels so there are multiple ways for new followers to find you and existing followers to see your content.
Finally, it’s important to share what reflects you. I’m not someone who likes talking, dancing, or showing my face on camera, so I steer clear of that sort of content.
Over the years I’ve tried different things to grow my following including:
I’ve done a few competitions in the past that generally involved teaming up with complementary brands. Each of us would contribute a product so we could offer a bigger prize to the winner. The great thing about competitions is that it’s a fairly low-cost way to gain new followers by using each other’s audience to promote the competition. Even if you don’t have physical products, you could offer a digital product or service. The only downside is that after people follow each of the accounts to enter the competition, they sometimes unfollow you afterwards.
2. Paid ads
Not quite an organic way to grow your Instagram, but I did want to mention I tried paid adverts a couple of times over the years. I only invested a small amount and both times it didn’t result in that many more follows or even likes on the posts, let alone sale conversions. I do think you need to be prepared to invest a bit of money over time to see whether this is worthwhile.
3. Forming a group to increase engagement
I joined a small group of similar creative businesses (which started within a Facebook group) and the idea was to boost engagement by commenting and liking every post by other group members. While it started out as a bit of fun to follow each other’s work, it didn’t take long to realize that I was spending quite a bit of time making generic comments on 10 people’s posts almost every day. The time it was taking wasn’t worth gaining a handful of extra followers or extra comments.
I’ve also placed my Instagram profile and posts in Facebook groups where there may be a call-out to share and like each other’s posts. I found this to be much less pressure than the engagement group I joined and was great in the early days to gain new followers, while helping others grow their accounts.
Related Article: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as an Artist
4. Engage with other accounts
Some other ways I’ve tried to grow my account include engaging with other accounts myself, by liking and commenting on their posts a handful of times, so they’d notice me and often follow back. Although I found this was great to connect with other artists, it wasn’t actually the best way for me to find my target customer (art buyers or customers for my products), so I only tried this for a short period of time.
Sharing my work, especially patterns in two different color ways and asking my followers to pick a favorite, generally gets more engagement than just sharing one pattern. Image mock-up from rawpixel.com.
Tips to remember
The platform’s algorithm constantly changes, and it can feel like there are so many talented artists out there (with much bigger followings). So, when you’re feeling a bit disheartened about social media, here are a couple of things to remember.
More doesn’t equal better
It’s better to have genuine followers and a smaller number, than a huge following that don’t really engage or even see your content (not to mention you get more spam followers). More followers don’t automatically translate to more buyers or more work.
You don’t own the platform
I’m sure you’ve heard stories about artists’ accounts being hacked and closed down completely. It’s pretty awful to think that something you’ve spent years building up could be gone in an instant. Focus on growing a mailing list in addition to your Instagram, so you’ve got ways to contact your followers directly.
Whether you’re out there just trying to share your art, or in the business of selling your work, social media is a great way to find your niche. So keep showing up, share your work, and enjoy the process.
Written by Beck Ng
Beck is a surface designer and maker living in Melbourne, Australia, who has a love of creating patterns. She started her creative business Fabric Drawer showcasing her work on a range of products, as well as collaborating with a range of local and international companies.