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How to Use Instagram to Build a Following for Your Art

We live in a world where information is hyper-visual.

Nowadays, it seems like everyone wants to be a photographer or visual artist, which is no surprise, considering most people are visual learners too. Luckily, with the introduction of Instagram and other similar platforms, it has become increasingly easy to create and share photos with a large audience.

If you’re an artist, you should look at these tech trends as a natural ally in building your fanbase. After all, 73% of adults who have access to the Internet use social media sites, and (according to a Pew survey) Instagram and Facebook two of the platforms that users check MOST often.

Instagram is especially great for artists because you’re already producing lots of great visual work all the time—sharing that work is just a natural extension of your creative process. It’s no wonder that a lot of talented new artists are flocking to Instagram to promote their work. . . and a lot of established artists use it too.

From Shepard Fairey’s Instagram

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time for you take advantage of the potential audience, collaborators, and clients that Instagram offers. Here are just 5 ways Instagram makes it easier to be a working artist:

1. You can show off your works-in-progress

As a social media manager at my regular job (and in my freelance writing and design work) there’s a three-word phrase that I throw around like ninja stars—”Work-In-Progress.” Or, sometimes I just shorten it to “WIP.” When my baby-faced interns ask me about the Tumblr ad campaign we’re planning to launch, “WIP” is my reply, followed by, “Get me more coffee.”

As an artist, the majority of your projects are “works in progress.” It’s part of your nature—you’re constantly creating, revising, and adapting your work to match your vision. But that doesn’t mean you have to disappoint your followers with long waiting periods between posts.

With Instagram you can post updates on projects that you’re constantly perfecting. This helps build anticipation within your fanbase and pique the interest of lurking art collectors. And of course, you always have full control of what you want to show the public, and what you want to keep private.

2. You can create #hashtag campaigns

In marketing terms, think of hashtags as keywords for social media platforms like Twitter, Intagram, Google+ and Facebook. Once you master using hashtags effectively, you’ll be able to reach audiences you never had access to back in the 1990s when your advertising campaign consisted of a bootleg gallery tent at a rave in the desert.

For instance, if you have a large ongoing project, you can create a hashtag with the title of the project you’re working on and continuously post individual pieces from that body of work. Your followers can then share your work by simply adding the specific hashtag to their own posts.

3. You can interact and engage with followers

Instagram is a very diverse and exciting social network. You have the option of making your Instagram profile private or public. If you choose the latter, this will give you the chance to engage your fanbase through conversations, and even encourage them to share their own work.

From Gary Baseman’s Instagram

Interacting with your audience is often a great source of inspiration, too. People of all ages, races, ideologies and backgrounds bring different perspectives and enrich your experience. If you’d like, you can even ask for critiques!

4. You can save photos for inspiration later

Instagram is a great tool for keeping track of anything that catches your eye—think of it like a digital sketchbook. If you’ve got a camera phone, you can upload photos to your Instagram account wherever you are. Whether you’re looking at beautiful architecture in Rome or examining street art in Brooklyn alleyways, you can easily take as many snapshots as you’d like and save them for later.

When you get home, you can even enlarge the photos, adjust them with software, print them out on transparent paper, or project the image on your canvas. Whatever you use your images for, Instagram makes it easy to hang onto them.

5. You can develop leads and make sales

Lastly, with Instagram you can do more than just show off your work—you can also sell it!

Remember, building your fanbase through social networking sites is simply a means to an end. You’ve got to make some actual profit from your work, too! The romanticized image of the starving artist keeping their art pure by not mixing it with money is outdated. New generations of artists know that you need a roof over your head and food in your stomach in order to produce your best work.

With Instagram you can promote pieces that are for sale, and include a link to your official portfolo online where visitors can purchase them. Or, if you’re not ready for that yet, you can at least give interested buyers a means to contact you, if nothing else.

Don’t be afraid of taking this dip into social media. It’s fine to break free from the crowd every once in a while, but the benefits of sites like Instagram for artists are too good to pass up. If you haven’t joined already, now is the time. Check out Instagram—and start growing your fanbase today!

Adrienne Erin is a writer, graphic designer, and social media manager. For more of her articles, please check out her blog, Design Roast.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

At the Global Art League, the highlight of our year is the annual exhibition of emerging artists. An entire year of reviewing art, contacting art buyers, and marketing on behalf of our member artists all comes to a head. . . It's truly a magical moment.

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