According to the Pew Research Center, as of Spring 2016, nearly 60% of all U.S. adults ages 18-29 use Instagram, and more than half use it daily. And according to Artsy, 87% of collectors surveyed surf an Instagram art gallery more than twice a day. That’s one massive art-centric audience.
With its visual layout, simple interface and ability for networking, Instagram has become a popular platform for artists looking to market themselves, connect with fans and meet prospective collectors and galleries. Some artists may think simply sharing their work online will garner them success, but in most cases, that’s not true.
Rather, building meaningful relationships online with artists and arts professionals requires patience, specificity, and care. In offline relationships, we share glimpses of our day-to-day life, personality, and inner thoughts in order to connect; crafting a brand on social media is the same thing: If you’re going to Instagram art, you must consider whether each artwork you post fits into a larger brand look and feel. Whether you are an artist looking to establish, grow or further engage your audience, it’s useful to consider what your target market is naturally attracted to.
Some of the most followed Instagram art is equally beloved for the artist’s persona and how they make their followers feel. Emotional intelligence shouldn’t be overlooked in marketing. A study by Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas, and Daniel Leemon, revealed that fully (emotionally) connected customers are 52% more valuable on average than customers who are highly satisfied.
Just as you hope to feel when you view art in a museum, you should hope to make others feel when they interact with your art online. There are easy ways to make others feel closer to you and your work, and it begins with sharing Instagram art content that considers your process, personality, and intimacy. Within these buckets, we’ll explore specific marketing tactics and visual assets you can use as you develop your Instagram art and social media marketing plan.
Showcase Your Creative Process
First, there’s the creative process. Showcasing your creative process is what allows those who are not in your field to understand how your work comes to life. What may be commonplace to you – a jeweler’s saw if you’re a jeweler; mixing palettes if you’re a painter; a table saw if you’re a builder– are magical, dreamlike components of an alternative universe to someone else.
Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist and painter Lillian Farag often reveals materials and intimate looks at her creative process on her Instagram. Using Stories and video to illustrate things happening in the now, she offers a sense of real-time creativity.
In one post, Farag shares short videos of her marbling leather in her backyard. In the clips, you can hear both the outdoor environment and the music she’s listening to. This method gives life to her work, showing her in the midst of her creative process and adding motion to an otherwise static feed. Her followers can both get a sense of how she creates while feeling inspired to incorporate her methods into their own creative process. Reading comments on her posts, you will find notes such as, “This is amazing! This is so fun to watch!” and “Do you do the marbling directly onto the leather pieces?” People are so interested in her process that they engage with her directly.
Last year, Instagram revealed that on average people miss 70% of what’s on their feed. To address that, the platform changed its feed algorithm to prioritize content it believes each consumer most wants to see. This why engagement with your content is so important. The more engagement (likes, comments), the more likely your content will show up in others’ feeds.
Aside from materials, another interesting way to share your creative process is to shine a light on the mechanics of creation. How you get the work done in between your personal life, errands and eating are mundane details to you, but they’re fascinating to others.
Farag shares that despite how much she loves working in her home studio on a quiet day, it very rarely happens. She explains she’s usually juggling multiple projects or squeezing in work while traveling. For those with a limited understanding of the art world, it’s exciting to peek behind the curtain and see what’s really going on inside an artist’s creative process. We’re innately interested in other humans, so use that to your advantage and share the nitty-gritty.
To include a mix of your creative process in your Instagram feed, start by making a list of everything you need in order to create your art. Don’t bother with complete sentences – just jot down on a sheet of paper everything you can think of. When you’re done, you’ll have a ton of items, tools, and materials. From there, have fun plotting and planning ways to photograph these items – try combining them by color, by texture, by size. Once you get a hang of the basics, you can expand from objects to your environment and workflow giving followers a well-rounded sense of your creative process.
Show Your Creative Personality
After you’ve nailed down your creative process, there is your artist personality. Sure, your art could be considered an extension of your personality, but what’s driving it and lying just underneath? What mood is informing it? How can you display said mood visually or audibly? Take your fans on an emotional journey. Let them see your hobbies, favorite movies and music. This allows the audience to get a fuller picture of you, see what inspires you and makes you tick.
Beth Hoeckel, a multidisciplinary artist, and illustrator based in Baltimore, uses Instagram to share her collages and client projects, but she isn’t afraid to put herself and her artist personality out there. Hoeckel, who regularly shares both her interests and hobbies, also makes fans feel loved by re-posting their photos with her work. From being a proud art mama to an affectionate pet-lover, we get to know Hoeckel’s artist personality and explore the world around her.
In today’s political climate, we see public figures sharing their previously concealed social and political views. Whether or not you are comfortable with sharing your own, it has become a powerful way to establish commonality and trust with others online. When Hoeckel attended the Women’s March in Washington, DC, she not only revealed her position politically, she also revealed her fear of crowds. It’s in these quiet understated moments that we bravely show ourselves to the world and, in return, receive abundance.
Whether your fans agree or disagree with your views (and there will likely be those on both sides) or find your artist personality charming or utterly annoying, sharing your ideas and opinions will remind others of the person behind the art. We can dream of the day when differing views are met with respectful discussion, but until then, be ready to rise above any trolls. Stay the high road and just keep swimming.
Boiling your complex artist personality into tiny photographic squares sounds daunting. Here’s an easy exercise to give you a jumping off point: write down on another sheet of paper three of your favorite actors, actresses, movies, musicians, and artists. Now, make another line and write down three of your favorite smells, textures, noises, sights, and tastes. Finally, on the last line, write down three of your top goals, fears, values, loves, and places.
For example, you might name Julia Roberts as one of your favorite actresses and so you decide to take a stroll down memory lane on YouTube. In your search, you find the scene of her singing Prince’s ‘Kiss’ in the bathtub. You might consider posting a credited screengrab sharing how much you adore that moment. Or let’s say you reflect on scents and recall how much you love Bois d’Ascese by Naomi Goodsir with its woodsy and smokey notes. You could easily take a photograph capturing woods or smoke and reflect on your favorite scent in the copy. Ultimately, whatever you write in this matrix becomes something you can create content with and share.
Get Personal with Your Followers
As in life, after getting to know someone’s personality, you may together experience intimacy. In the same way, after you’ve built up a base of content pulling and posting assets ranging from your work, your creative process and your artist personality, you can go deeper with your content.
Multidisciplinary artist Frances Cannon sets a shining example for intimacy on Instagram. Cannon’s work primarily focuses on the body and the psyche and it can be viewed as diaristic, according to her bio. Because Cannon’s subject area is largely based on intimate, personal experiences, she has a clear opportunity to share those moments in her creative process. But, Cannon takes it one step farther by opening intimate moments outside of art to her audience.
Recently, the artist revealed a post in which she stated she had been crying and having an emotionally difficult time. In doing so, she demystifies the pain with which her art is created. Her fans not only consume her art, but they feel as if they know her, and can relate to the natural highs and lows so integral to an artist’s process.
But it’s not only about creating intimacy by sharing sadness. It’s also about celebrating the high points. Bonds created by emotion are always stronger than commercial admiration. From the basic tenant that black, brown and white bodies are equal, to the belief that a person’s reproductive organs are their own business, to the idea that different bodies do not indicate a different humanity, Cannon makes it her business to express her views. By doing so, she unites her audience around a value system rooted in communal safety.
Now, from the previous exercise, take the answers from the last line you completed (goals, fears, values, loves and places) and write the word ‘why’ next to each section. Jot down a sentence or two answering why you choose the things you choose. Why is that your top goal? Why are you fearful of that? Why do you consider that an important value? As you explore these areas, interesting ideas will surface. For example, if you wrote ‘kindness’ as a top value, perhaps it’s because you feel drained by the lack of compassion in the world today. Taking that a step further, perhaps you decide to dedicate a weekly post on Instagram sharing how you’ve taken action in being compassionate to those struggling around you. I hesitate to say this with the obvious pun, but get intimate with yourself before getting intimate with others.
As artists, despite differences in form, function or belief, we have the ability to dream up, create and destroy universes. Whether that universe is the art, the self or the means in which we share both or either, it’s something that can be leveraged to a grand effect.
Instagram as a platform can either be a place to dump photos or it can be a place where friendships are born, new artists are discovered and art is presented. When we distill online marketing into an exercise in thoughtfully revealing our creative process and artist personality, the complications quickly fade away and all that’s left is existence, and the sharing of it.
Rachel Wells is a writer based in Nashville, TN. In addition to her writing, she has a professional background in content development, digital distribution and public relations. Her projects and clients have been featured in the The New York Times, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine and Pitchfork.