333: 9 Steps to Instagram Success

–MY favorite social media platform is Instagram (if you want to see painting updates click here). Many assume that internet sales are a common occurrence, but they are rare. Yet I’ve sold several paintings solely from Instagram. I’m followed by several nationally esteemed galleries who occasionally make comments and hit the like button, which is a great boost. More importantly, I secured representation in two galleries from exposure on Instagram. These relationships seem more natural than professional relationships formed via traditional methods like cold-calling galleries or sending portfolios.

In the communication revolution, those who communicate best prevail. If that’s true, and I believe it is, what are the hallmarks of an Instagram feed that communicates well? Here are nine ideas:

1). Authentiticty– Authenticity means being yourself. Present your best self but refrain from mythologizing or tweaking reality. Most people easily discern honesty, especially when contrasted to the inauthenticity so frequent in modern culture.

2). Clarity– If you can’t think clearly, you can’t communicate clearly. Self-education is the cheapest, easiest, and best remedy–and it’s available to all. A good book for starters (although it is not complete by any means) is Elements of Style.

3). Focus– Focus is essential to any success. Define what you want to communicate and stay on target. I have a two-strikes rule about posting food items. If your daily painting feed suddenly has what you are drinking for breakfast, it dilutes your message. Some people have a philosophy of posting occasional images that humanize their feed and introduce a personal side. I see the logic of that strategy. But don’t overdo it with irrelevant images.

4). Warmth– I probably err on the side of being too impersonal. My feed could probably benefit from adding a few more personal images showing me painting in the field or at the easel. These images allow your followers to get an inside glimpse into who you are. Such images also allow followers to recognize you at painting events or gallery shows.

5). Clear Profile Page–  Instagram should have a more customizable profile page. For example, they only allow one link which seems pointless. You will need to be creative to make the severe profile limitations work. Keep your profile message concise. I thought the business option would possibly remedy profile limitations, but my impression was that it simply funneled views into Facebook (Instagram is unfortunately owned by Facebook). If your experience with the business option is better, please leave a comment.

6). Identity– Enabling people to find you is critical. I’m lucky–I have a short and unique last name. Always use your real name as your Instagram moniker if possible. Alternatives include using a middle name or initials. Only as a last resort use a slogan or random moniker. Some people will find a humorous or culturally freighted nickname irritating and might unfollow. I’ve read that adding hashtags is a good way to add identity to your posts but frankly I have not discovered how it is useful. If you understand how hashtags actually work please post a comment.

7). Evolve– Allow your feed to evolve without over editing past images. Your feed allows your followers to track your artistic journey. There are images I wish I had left in my feed and others that I might delete. Be aware that you are creating a visual journal and curate accordingly.

8). Personality– Don’t edit or curate to the point of eliminating your personality. One of my favorite artists is creating a daily sketchbook and accompanies the image with creative writing–sometimes a couple of paragraphs. Such long entries are not my style, but they work perfectly with her sketches, and she has many followers. 

9). Graphic flair– I try to shake up my feed occasionally with an animated image (I occasionally use Ripl to create an animated poster for a show). I use an em-dash and all caps for the first word at the beginning of posts, like on my blog. And I keep written descriptions short. I feel such uniformity allows followers to have a sense of familiarity, like a corporate brand, as they view each post.

I’m hardly an Instagram expert and am constantly looking for ways to improve my Instagram communications. I invite you to view my Instagram feed here. If you have additional ideas, please comment. Many thanks.

Brad Teare –August 2017

Above: Autumn Color, 36″ x 36″, oil on canvas, available at Anthony’s Fine Art

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Updated: 13th July 2024
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