So this happened: Christie’s had an art auction on Instagram, grossing $134.6 million. And an artist in New Orleans, Ashley Longshore, sells paintings directly from Instagram, for upwards of $30,000. Obviously there is some serious coin passing hands through an app that was designed just to share your own cell phone pictures.
I’ve grown a decent following by posting 3-4 times throughout the day. I love looking at my feed and hope Instagram doesn’t eff that up like Pinterest did (but that’s another story). My Instagram has become the main driver of traffic and sales to my website Lee Wolfe Pottery, in just 7 months. Here are my best tips for artists and artisans who want to gain and grow a following on IG for the purpose of selling their work. The basics can be learned anywhere, and by that I mean how to set up an account, use hashtags, comment on posts, etc. Let’s pretend you already know that, plus how to use your camera, editing apps, PayPal, online shipping, etc. The next level after the basics is where just being an artist, that is, having a lot of natural curiosity, an opinionated and focused point of view, and an aesthetic sense that you feel deep in your gut, will make you stand out.
1) Know who you are as a brand before you start. You might be very clear about what that is, but if you are not, try putting it into words. What is your artwork about? What larger trends, if any, are you aligned with?What are you opposed to? What need does your work fulfill? What problem does it solve? Visually, what represents you? Musically, what represents you? What gets expressed when you make things? You don’t need an autobiographical answer to each of those questions in order to open an Instagram account! But it helps if you could confidently answer a few.
2) Make sure that every post, and every element within your posts, represents you as a brand. This gets really obvious after you think about it awhile. Take me for example. Lee Wolfe Pottery is based in the organic, natural world and is connected to simple living, artfully prepared food, warm and welcoming homes that nurture and revitalize creativity. So, which of these does not belong in my photos as a staging prop?
a) a flower from my garden
b) works by other artisans, such as block printed napkins, hand carved wooden spoons, handmade soap
c) garden vegetables, fresh baked desserts, organic eggs
d) plastic cutlery from Dollar General
I hope you got that one right. It’s d.
3) Look at your posts as a whole. There should be enough negative and neutral space within each photo to allow the grid of your posts to seem harmonious and uncluttered. For example, my posts are usually shot on a white table. I space my dark background shots so that they have at least 2 white background shots before and after. This isn’t the only visual formula that works by any means! But a formula is important.
4) Be social more than promotional. A life lesson to apply: no one likes that person at a party who is always selling insurance or trying to list your house, even though you’d be likely to ask within your circle of friends when you need insurance or a listing agent. So use your IG as a window into your world more than as free ad space. Post a bit of daily life in your studio, new works shot informally, and other parts of your life that directly relate to your brand. Watch which posts get the most likes and comments and then post more like that. People will teach you about what to post if you pay attention!
5) Like and comment liberally. It’s free and it matters.
6) Space your posts out. I don’t like to post more than 1X every 4 hours, no more than 4X a day (usually less than 4). You don’t want your posts to be spam. If you have multiples of similar photos, pick only the best, the one that tells a story, the one with great lighting and composition.
7) This is really everything: always add value. If you can’t see the value, don’t post it! Give people something interesting, informative, revealing, inspirational, beautiful, and/or funny. Think about original and unique posts. Play with editing apps. Make still shots little collages. Bake things just for Instagram! Make your children hold things on their heads or until their little hands cramp while you get the perfect angle… okay, maybe not that. But do stretch your creativity and make an account that must be followed because it is that good.
you can follow me here LeeWolfePottery, if you like.