Create Attractive Content
You are an artist, which means you probably know the basics about what makes something look attractive. Negative space, balance, contrast, lighting, and all that. It’s not enough to create your art. You have to photograph your art with the same attention to detail and create a viewing experience.
Instagram is an incredibly visual experience. You have to make your photos look good on their own. It’s easy to lose perspective when you are in the studio and take a crappy photo without realizing it. My following was stagnant for months when I first started my account, and I know part of the reason was my unattractive photos. Sure, my art looked cool in person, but if you can’t translate that to a photo, you’ll have a hard time attracting new followers.
Stay Relevant- Post 2 to 3 Times Every Day
You’re following isn’t going to grow consistently if you aren’t posting consistently. It’s a lot of work, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to post 2 to 3 times a day. Even on your “days off”.
I usually gain between 75-125 new followers a day (before the new algorithm, I gained 150-200 a day). If my schedule is thrown off and I miss a day of posting or only post one time a day for a couple of days, I see an immediate drop in new followers. I used to get away with taking little breaks, but not anymore.
Instagram is a fast paced social media platform. If your post doesn’t get enough engagement for the algorithm to boost it, it’s likely going to fizzle out and become a distant memory within a few hours thanks to the new algorithm.
Use the right Hashtags and alternate use
You can use 30 hashtags per post and I suggest using almost all of them. I use about 25 tags per post and I spend a good amount of time researching the right tags for my account size and art style. If you are using huge generic tags (#love) and you only have 300 followers, your posts are going to get swallowed up and will likely go unseen.
With the new algorithm, there is a growing fear about being shadow banned by doing spammy things with your account. One fear is that using the same tags over and over again can get you banned. I don’t know if it’s true, but just in case I have a couple of saved lists of tags that I alternate the use of on my posts.
Use your stories
Stories are gaining popularity and they are a great way to connect with your current followers and expand your reach to a new following as stories show up in your explore feed.
Stories are great for posting the content that isn’t polished enough to be on your profile, for giving shout outs to other artists you love, letting people know about sales or new inventory in your store, behind the scenes looks at your studio, insights into your personal life, etc..
Make sure your account is attractive and branded
I’m sorry to say it, but it doesn’t matter how skilled you are as an artist. If your profile doesn’t look attractive and inviting, your following is less likely to grow.
When you post, always keep your overall profile in mind. The first 9 to 18 photos of your profile should look connected and cohesive. You should have a variety of photo compositions with negative space to keep your profile from looking chaotic and overwhelming.
Every time I go to make a new post, I look at my 9 most recent posts and take note of the colors and photo compositions and make sure that I choose a new post that will fit into this collection.
Write engaging captions and respond to comments.
The new algorithm works like Facebook now where posts with high engagement show up higher in your feed and posts with low engagement hide in a corner, never to be looked at again. Stupid popularity contests…
From what I have read, a new post is first shown to smaller portion of your followers, and if it gets their attention in the form of likes and comments over 4 words, then it is moved up in status and shown to more of your following.
This means it is incredibly important to write a caption that people can engage with. I don’t know if the 4 word requirement for comments is for sure true, but the common theory out there is that Instagram wanted to reduce bot comments from inflating the engagement on posts. So, write an engaging caption and make sure to respond to comments with 4 words or more within the first hour of posting.
Post during peak Hours of Activity
Since initial engagement is the key to getting your posts seen by more people, you need to post when your audience is most active. You’ll have to do some trial and error or search other blogs for this info, but I can say what personally works best for me is posting between 10am and 3pm CST. Monday through Thursday seem to be really active days. The weekends are hit or miss, but sometimes the hits are a major hit.
Before the new algorithm, I posted between 9am and 7pm. My posts would get 1500-2000 likes within the first day and multiple comments immediately. Now, it feels like a gamble with each post and I’ve had to be way more strategic, but still some posts only get 800 likes, and some get 3000 if all the stars align and the algorithm works in my favor. It’s annoying.
Consider joining a casual Comment Pod
During my darkest days of thinking my time on Instagram was over, I joined a comment pod. My posts were no longer being engaged with and I had no idea what the heck was happening. Did my art suddenly suck?! I’d post something and all I’d get were crickets.
Naturally, when another artist messaged me and asked if I wanted to join her pod I was desperately enthusiastic. If you haven’t heard of comment pods yet, it’s basically a group of 8 to 15 artists that let each other know when they have posted something new and each artist takes the time to comment and like everyone’s stuff with the hope of boosting engagement. It’s time consuming, it makes you even more addicted to social media, and I honestly don’t know if it works.
Some fear (including me) that you can be shadow banned by doing this, because having the same group of people interact with each other over and over again may look like bot behavior. This is why I say participate casually. After I experienced an even more severe drop in engagement after a couple of weeks of being in the pod, I stepped back. I feared the ban. Since then, I still interact with pod member accounts and they still interact with mine, but the engagement is only on every couple of posts. This way, it’s genuine.