Before I start, let me clear the air. This is not one of those Get loads of followers on Instagram quickly schemes.
If you’re a budding artist just starting on Instagram (or you’ve been there for some time now), and you really want to grow your reach, because you love doing what you do and you want your art to reach more people, then this post is just for you.
Before you read this post, please read my detailed tutorial on becoming an Illustrator from scratch. You will find it really helpful!
I created an Instagram account sometime in December 2016. But I only really started posting sometime around June 2017. I built my following from scratch.
It took me 2 months to touch 10K followers. And once I hit that mark, getting to 100K was easy-peasy.
READ MORE: HOW TO MAKE MONEY AS AN ARTIST ONLINE
There are a lot of tutorials online that share tips on growing your Instagram account. But most of them may not work for you because you’re an artist.
You upload art.
And by doing this, you and I both fall into a completely different category.
Accept this fact.
So, the tips I’m going to share with you are specifically written for traditional artists/illustrators/comic artists, and so on.
WARNING: This post is slightly longer because there’s a lot to consider when growing your Instagram Account.
1. Picking your niche
Now, not many people tell you this, but as an artist on Instagram, you need to have a particular theme going on. You need to know who your target audience on Instagram is.
You may ask, why?
Because not everyone is going to like what you make. It’s as simple as that.
I’ve blogged before, so I’ve had my very own website and I’ve tried my hand in quite a few things. Let me tell you a very important fact that definitely aided my growth in Instagram. A niche.
My comics are 90% about hair. So, I’ve attracted a crowd that loves to look at comics about curly hair/straight hair.
Therefore, having a niche establishes you as an expert in that particular field, so whatever you do, don’t stray away from your path too much.
I know Comic Artists that focus on just parenting, or just mental health and they do very, very well.
Because they attract an audience that is interested in that one particular thing. The minute they realize that you’re an expert in that field, they’re going to want to log onto Instagram almost every single day and they will look forward to each and every post you publish.
So, decide what it is that you want to really talk about in your art/comics. Be it daily life problems/challenges faced by kids/a doctor’s life, stick to it. You’re free to mix things up once in a while, but have a constant theme.
My target audience on Instagram generally are women between the ages of 18-35 who love laughing about the snippets I make about curly hair/hair in general.
As you can see, it’s very defined. No doubt, there are a few men in my following or children who love reading my comics. But I’m talking about the majority here.
Pick your niche. Know exactly what topic you are focusing on and have a theme.
Examples of a few defined niches:
My friend (and buddy from college) @jeffseq creates comics mostly based on puns.
Or take @yesimhotinthis, who creates comics that share her adventures on being a Muslim Woman in America.
Or take @iraville who loves to use watercolors that center around autumn and cozy things.
Get the drift?
Take your time to find out what it is you love drawing about, and once you have your niche defined, you’re ready to grow your following!
2. Nailing your Instagram Profile
1. Choose an Instagram Username
A name is very important. Aside from your actual name, your username is what will help people identify with your art series or comic series. Therefore, choose a name that is suitable for your niche.
I chose Stray Curls because people will think of hair the second they read it. It was @maryangela1992 before. Not very attractive to be honest. It looked amateurish. And changing the name definitely helped me attract a more stable audience.
2. Upload a relevant Profile Picture
As an Artist, it is imperative that you let everyone know who you are, the minute they see your profile. The best way to do that is to have an illustration/artwork as your profile picture. Showcase your style in your profile picture. If possible, draw a character that either resembles you or will feature in your posts multiple times.
This is so that your character becomes recognizable and people are able to identify immediately that it’s you. It helps you stand out and become more authentic to the world.
Now that you’ve changed your profile picture, let’s move on to the bio.
3. Use your full name
When people see your art and they’re intrigued, the first thing they’ll do is follow you.
Sometimes, however, they may be more curious and jump over to your profile to check if you’re legit. Because art is re-posted a lot and people copy and paste other people’s art on their own profiles, so your followers will want to know if you are the original creator.
Upon seeing your profile, they should confirm that you are indeed the creator.
This is why it is imperative that you write your full name. If you want people to love your art, they need to understand that you created it! That’s what makes it so unique.
People will feel more connected to you when they know that there is a human being behind the art account.
4. Craft an Instagram Bio that speaks your personality
Instagram doesn’t really let you add a new line for each sentence. It clumps it all together and makes it look very amateurish.
So, open your Notes app. Any app will do.
And type a nice, well-thought-out bio. You have about 150 characters to your advantage, so use it well. Infuse it with your personality and write something that makes you, you. I use emojis because they’re more colorful than bulletin points.
The first thing you’ll want to mention is that you’re an artist. You can specify which type if you want to.
5. Use your link wisely
Instagram lets you add 1 link.
This can be to your Patreon account/website/other social media. It helps Instagram identify that you are a valid entity and not just a spam account.
Apart from this, you can also use Link Tree. This is a link to a page where you can upload more links. A lot of people use this and it’s really helpful if you want to showcase all your links.I choose to not use Link Tree because I like to give my followers just one thing to focus on.
So I keep switching between links to my shop/website.
6. Use Highlights to get the most out of your profile
Instagram’s recent feature of adding highlights to your Profile makes it easier for people to navigate through your profile and understand you better. You can use the Highlights Section to show a little bit of you and the links you want people to visit.
Here is mine:
Here is one amazing profile that I love by @thecuriousjalebi:
She not only uses her Linktree to showcase all her links, but she uses cute little icons to highlight the most important parts of her profile.
3. Stepping out onto the Instagram Business Platform
1. Convert to a Business Profile
I’ve been asked a lot whether converting to a business profile is useful and yes, it is.
You will get access to very important analytics that will help you determine when to post and what to post.
Instagram Analytics will show you the days and times that your posts do extremely well. And based on this, you will understand when to post.
Knowledge is the key to success.
By knowing which day and time my audience was most active, I changed my time of posting. I started posting at 5:00 pm everyday and it dramatically upped my game. If I was gaining 100-200 followers normally, Instagram Analytics helped me gain 1000 followers.
Not only this, but the second you convert to a business profile, a “Contact” button will appear on your profile. Make sure you put in your email address. Because this will help you land commissions. People that love your art/comics will want to get in touch with you and have you do work for them.
Most people turn away when they see they cannot email you. Not everyone is comfortable typing out long DMs (Direct Messages).
2. Create a Facebook page
If you’ve not done this already, you’re missing out on a lot of followers. Create a Facebook page. It should have the same name as your Instagram Username. My Facebook Page is Stray Curls too.
Connect your Facebook page to your Instagram account. This helps Instagram understand that you are a genuine artist and you’re not just some spammy account posting other people’s pictures. This is the best way to get verified on Instagram.
Now that Instagram and Facebook are connected, you’re on the right track.
3. Allow people (who are interested in similar art) to follow you
Login to your account on your computer, and select the box that says “select similar accounts” This means, that if people are following comic artists in your niche, your name will appear as a suggestion to them and you’ll earn more followers.
4. Building a consistent brand on Instagram
1. Have a consistent art style
If you are still finding your style, it’s okay. Take your time. Don’t rush it.
This is my very first comic.
And this is how my comics look now:
As you can see, it took me a while to find my art style. And that’s totally alright.
It’s okay to experiment and it’s okay to take your time. However, once you discover your art style, stick to it. Make more art. Your style will eventually change because you’re drawing every day. But it won’t change to such an extent that it’s not recognizable by your fans.
When people recognize your art, they will search for you because they’ll want to see more of your work. And by having at least 100-200 published pieces of art in the same style, you’re increasing your chances of being found.
2. Create a visually appealing theme.
Now, Instagram is a visual platform. And a lot of people care about the theme and the loveliness of it all. Being an artist, it can be tempting to do many things, but by having a theme, you will attract a lot of followers.
My theme consists of pinks, yellows purples. And I tend to use a lot of these colors in my art for the very same purpose. So apart from my drawing style, people recognize my art with the colors I use.
3. Take better photos (If you’re a traditional artist)
Now, if you’re a traditional artist that works with actual tools like pencils and paintbrushes, you need to up your Photography Game. I took this online class on Domestika that taught me how to take photos of my Drawings. And it was very useful.
And it really helped me understand how lighting works and how to take better shots of my sketches. I highly recommend this class because good photos can make a huge impact on your audience and can be the difference between a 100 and 1000 follower gain for each photo you upload.
5. Tips to posting on Instagram.
1. Post every single day
I cannot stress this enough, you guys. Posting every day boosted my follower growth like crazy.
Instagram sees that you’re active and your posts are more widely shown.
Now, if your art takes you about 14-16 hours to make, and you are unable to post every day because you’re churning out 1 art piece a week, then that’s okay.
For egs, @g_singh_b takes a couple of weeks to create one pencil sketch portrait. But he constantly posts WIPs. Read his descriptions. He keeps his followers in the loop by describing the technique he’s using and the tools. Sometimes, he posts short videos so you can see his hand movement and the way he applies pressure.
He has a very engaged following and people look forward to his posts!
I posted almost every day for 6 months straight. i.e. I created a comic/post every single day for six whole months.
Once you’ve gained a good following and you feel you’re established, you can slow things down a notch and post a little less frequently.
2. Posting at the right time
The Instagram ANALYTICS will help you understand which days your posts are doing well and what is the best time to post. I used to post early in the morning but realizing that my audience is more active at 5:00pm my time, I changed my schedule and noticed a HUGE spike in followers. For me, Wednesdays and Thursdays are really optimum for posting, so I save my BEST comics for those days.Save your best posts for the days that do really well on Instagram for you. Click To Tweet
3. Spice up your posts
You need to be a little unpredictable and keep your audience on your toes all the time. I sometimes mix things up by posting a random illustration, or just a thank you note or a blog post image. Post a photo of yourself once in a while or a photo of your workspace.
TIP: It’s easy to run out of ideas, when you don’t keep track of them. Make sure you have a notebook where your write all your ideas down. That way, when you don’t know what to make, you can just browse your notebook.
READ MORE: 50 WAYS TO FIRE UP YOUR CREATIVITY
4. Watermark your art
Copyright every single image you post on Instagram by watermarking your images. You may wonder why it’s necessary.
But your art is very susceptible to art theft. A lot of accounts like to post other people’s work. And they conveniently forget to tag the artist. These accounts have 200K or 300K followers and by posting your art, they’re gaining more followers and you’re gaining none.
So even if they don’t tag you, people who really love your work, will search for your Instagram handle and hop on over to your account to follow you and see more of your work.
By watermarking your images, you are signing on your artwork claiming it’s yours.
For example, look at the comic above. Not only do I write my social media handles below, but if you look closely in the background (in the water) I’ve put a subtle watermark “straycurls” there too.
5. Geotag your work
Geotag your work. Don’t put the exact location. You don’t want everyone finding out where you live. Just mark the city in which you stay. Since I’m currently living in Bangalore, a lot of people in Bangalore are able to find me because I use the geo-tag. These are the little ways you can boost your exposure in your own city.
6. Building relationships
I’ve seen a lot of artists just post their art on Instagram with a description.
#sun #photooftheday #likeforlike
Don’t even do that, yo.
Your followers are real people. People who are taking time out of their day to see your posts. You want to connect with them. Because you want them to feeeeeeel your art. You don’t want to just shove your art in their faces and ask them to like it or follow you because you want followers.
So, how do you do that?
1. Understand how comments work
Instagram judges how well your post does only in the first few moments.
And emoticons or anything less than 3 words is not considered comment in Instagram’s Database, sadly. So, comments play a very important role in boosting your post and making it look popular.
If your post gets a lot of comments within a few moments, Instagram realizes that your post is popular and you will automatically rank higher in the hashtags you’ve used. Yes, it’s as simple as that.
Therefore, each post you create must have a specific call to action.
You can either:
Ask a question that is related to the post. Having them share an experience will help them write a comment.
Ask them to tag someone.
Ask them to comment.
Before you do this, make sure you share a small snippet of the day. People won’t really feel like writing a long comment, if you don’t put something out there.
Sharing a little bit of your day, or just a meaningful quote will encourage your followers to comment on your posts.
2. Respond to comments
Each and every comment is precious, and by responding to every comment at least in the first thirty minutes, you will double your engagement. It tells Instagram that you’re engaging and there are loads of comments. So, keep replying.
People like it when you respond to their comments. They feel encouraged to write on your posts. And you will attract a more engaged audience each time you reply to comments.
3. Go live
Okay, this was undoubtedly scary for me the first time. But I make it a point to go live once in a while. Especially when I hit a new target. I went live for the first time when I hit 20K. But I should have started at 10K.
Better late, than never… right?
Anyway, going live will let your followers know that you’re indeed a real human being behind your art account.
Answer their questions. Talk to them. Build a relationship. It really matters, especially in the long run.
Your followers will feel more connected to you and will look forward to your art.
There are loads of things you can do when you go live aside from answering questions. You can show them the behind-the-scenes of your workspace or you could draw them a little something or you could show them the tools you work with.
Get creative. :)
4. Build relationships with fellow-artists
It’s very easy to sit on your little raft and row it all alone in the mighty ocean. But it’s even better when you’re not alone.
Follow artists you admire. But don’t expect a follow back.
I know a lot of people who follow people because they expect a follow back. And when they don’t get it in a day or two, they unfollow the artist. They’re only wasting their time.
So, do not, I repeat. Do not do that.
Follow a fellow artist, because you love their work. That’s exactly what you’d expect from people who follow you too. You don’t want to be emotionally blackmailed by a new follower to follow them just because he/she is following you. Right?
Everyone wants to see work that they really love on their feed.
Once you’ve done that, start talking.
Start a conversation.
Start group chats.
Get involved. Dammit.
5. Do collaborations with fellow artists on Instagram
This is an incredibly fun way to gain a huge audience and help your artist-friend do the same.
For instance, if you have 2k followers and your friend has 1k followers, you can suggest a collaboration. This collaboration could easily earn you 100 followers or more.
TIP: If you have 1K followers, and you notice that another artist has 200K followers, don’t suggest a collaboration. This goes without saying. Because the artist who has 200K followers doesn’t have much to gain by doing a collaboration with someone who has a 1K following.
It’s a one-sided gain, so try and find artists who can really benefit from your collaboration with them.
6. Comment and like generously
Aside from building relationships, this will also help you gain a few followers.
Comment on 5-10 posts every day. Don’t force the comment. Write from your heart.
If you see a funny post, write how it made you feel. And if you see a post that stirs an ancient memory, talk about how it did that.
Or, if you want comments on your posts, you have to understand that what goes around, comes around. Give back the love. Share the love.
By commenting on other artists’ posts and engaging with people in your field, you are putting yourself on the map. And this makes your account visible.
Now, when you post a comment on a fellow artist’s post, people who are commenting on that same post may see your comment. If they like what they see (added to your profile picture), they may click to your profile and see that you too are an illustrator/comic artist/artist and give you a follow.
7. Holding Contests and Giveaways
Every time you hit a new landmark, hold a contest or giveaway.
This is by far one of the best ways to increase your exposure and give your follower growth a much-needed boost.
If you don’t have anything to give away, you can do a free portrait or share something exclusive to the winner.
I normally do a free portrait.
When you hold a contest, remember that your post should have one and only one motive. The motive usually is to gain more followers.
So in the description, make sure you ask your followers to do the following:
- Follow you. (you gain more followers because the people who want to win a free portrait obviously like your style and will want to see more posts in your style)
- Like the photo. (This boosts the post because more likes boost your post’s popularity)
- Tag 2- 3 friends. (This increases the number of comments as more comments boost your post’s popularity and also result in a chain reaction.) When people tag their friends, their friends will also want to enter the contest and win a free portrait.
Announce the day you are going to declare the results in the description. And when the day arrives, disclose the winner in the description by editing the caption and tagging the winner. Change the caption to “Contest Closed.”
Use relevant tags like #giveaway #contest #contestalert and so on.
For more related tags to giveaways, you can read this.
8. Using the correct hashtag strategy.
Okay, this little tip really helped me boost followers.
Now, when you’re starting out, everyone is going to tell you to use the most popular hashtags.
A popular hashtag like #art might have 361 million posts under it.
How do you have a chance of being found if you post your art in such a hashtag? Within 0.2 seconds your post will be buried under a thousand others using the same hashtag.
Meaning, even if you manually visit that hashtag and scroll at the speed of light, you may not be able to discover your post because there will be so many new ones being generated under the same hashtag.
So, the lesson here kids is to be reasonable with your hashtags.
Therefore, use at least 15 hashtags with just under 1000 posts. Be more specific. See the screenshot below:
For example: Look at the hashtags under 1000 posts above. They don’t have many posts under them. Use at least 13- 15 hashtags in this range.
Use about 12 in the range of 2000-3000 posts.
At the last 5, can be hashtags with a broad range like 40,000 to 50,000 posts.
Now comes the time-consuming bit: Monitoring your post after you post it.
After 15-30 minutes, see if your post climbed up to the Top Posts in the smaller hashtag range. If it did, you can start increasing your range to hashtags with 2000 posts. Get the drift?
If not, keep trying, or lower your range to 500-600 posts.
Basically, you need to make it to the Top Posts for a few hashtags that you use. The longer you stay in the Top Posts, the more likely you’ll be discovered. And the more popularity your post gets, the more likely it is that you’ll make it to the Top Posts in the hashtags (of the higher range).
9. Focusing on Trending Topics
You have to understand that creating posts on trending topics is the best way to get people’s attention. I don’t do this often. But if there is a topic that everyone is suddenly talking about, you can jump on the bandwagon and take a quick ride to fame.
For egs., when the famous Carrie Fisher passed away, a lot of artists drew/illustrated her as a sweet token of love. The Star War hashtags were used a lot because a lot of people were searching for posts related to Carrie Fisher.
When people realize that you’re covering trending topics, they will look forward to your posts every time a major event happens because they’ll want to see your views on it.
10. Analyzing the competition
Another way to get on top of what works best on Instagram is to analyze your competitors. See which posts do really well for them in terms of likes and comments. And make something similar along the lines of the same topic.
Now, don’t exploit this tip often, because the quality of your posts will drop. Do this very rarely. I’d suggest once in a month or once in two months when you need a quick boost.
TIP: Reading the most popular and liked comments is a very good way to know what people want and what they’re looking for. It may even give you new ideas to work with.
11. Use a Scheduling Program to make your description look neat and tidy
Now, if you’re directly posting to Instagram, it will be difficult to add a new line. Instagram, squishes all the content in your description and this makes it very difficult to read.
I use SmarterQueue to schedule all my comics and art.
Basically, this means that more people see your posts and fall in love with you.
Marketing is very important if you want to gain a good following and earn an income from that following. And, I will be making a detailed post later on how to market yourself as an artist.
I know I’ve written a lot, but trust me… there is a lot you can learn from posting every day on Instagram. It’s not easy to implement all of these in just a minute.
That’s totally okay.
Take your time. And build your brand.
Start implementing these tips. And I promise you, you will see a change in 2 months of doing this.
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Did you find any tips extremely useful? Or do you have a tip to add to this long list? Then leave a comment below!
If you are looking to hone your creativity and make money with your art skills, I highly suggest you check out my Creative Guide for Creatives.