selling art on instagram

Selling art on Instagram?

Are you familiar with how the algorithm works? Or how to use hashtags?

Are you applying basic marketing principles (such as AIDA) to the way you post?

Instagram marketing isn’t complicated once you understand the way the platform works and how to put together a strategy that works for you.

Ready to grow your art business?

Read on.

Who is on social?

Well, just about everyone. Around 18 million Aussies (71%) are active social media users according to social agency, We Are Social.

How much time do we spend on it?

A lot. Recent stats claim when we’re online, 1 in every 3 of those minutes is on social media.

Which means if your business doesn’t have a presence on social then you’re missing out on easy access to buyers.

In the art world, where are people spending the most time?


The 2019 Hiscox Report revealed 65% of people prefer Instagram over other social channels, for art related purposes.

And it’s easy to see why given the visual focus.

In terms of actually purchasing art, almost 50% of art buyers had bought art online in the last 12 months.

Pretty convincing stats?

To put it simply, it’s never been more important to have an Instagram presence and invest some time in building a following.

How can you succeed as an artist on Instagram?

Firstly, understand there are no quick fixes with social.

There is no one quick thing that will generate a huge following overnight. It takes time and energy. Knowing this will at least help to set the right expectations from the outset.

On that note, here’s a list of five pointers to help you out:

1. Understand the algorithm

If you want your content to be seen by people, then it’s important to understand how the algorithm works.


Because the algorithm is what decides which posts people see in their feed.

Stats vary, but it’s been said that you see as little as 10% of the posts from people you follow. For example, if you have 1,000 followers, only 100 are going to see your content on average.

Not sure it is that dire. But in reality, it likely won’t be far off this for you, at least in the beginning.

For us, it varies a lot depending on the content, but often our posts only reach about a third of the total followers we have. Sometimes it’s a lot more though.

The Instagram algorithm is a little black box.

Mainly because it’s based on machine learning, which means it’s constantly evolving. In other words, the way it ranks your posts is forever changing.

Isn’t that fun!

The good news is, Instagram does give some hints as to what the algorithm focuses on. And the crux of it doesn’t change…it’s basically all about engagement.

There are three main factors at play in getting content ranked. These are relationship, interest and timeliness.

Essentially, Instagram wants to see meaningful engagements and interactions between accounts and see it regularly.

To spell it out, this means exchanging DMs, tagging in posts, commenting, liking and sharing content on a regular basis.

There’s a great article on hootsuite (which is a reliable source of information for all things social), if you want to learn more about the algorithm and how it all works.

2. Post regularly

Posting regularly is key to getting your content prioritised in the feed.

Timeliness is a key ranking factor in the algorithm. It’s also hard to create engagement if you’re not putting content out there regularly.

How often is ‘regularly’?

That’s really for you to figure out, but it has to be manageable. Also, be willing to test and learn and iterate.

Posting every day is probably too much to begin with. Maybe start with a few times a week and see how well received your posts are.

If people start to unfollow you, it can be a hint they don’t want to hear from you that often (or they may not like the content). In any case, ease off the frequency a little and see what happens.

The key here is also consistency. Posting three times a week for a few weeks then nothing for a month is going to make it hard to build momentum.

Pick a frequency that works for you, think about how much you have to say (that is worthy of sharing) and start there.

But remember…

People are following you because they like you and/or your work.

So, the odd foodie pic or travel shot or nice quote might be well received. But it’s likely your followers won’t want to see what you’re eating or places you visit on a weekly basis.

The bulk of what you share should be your work, developing your brand and getting your story out there.

3. Engagement

This is arguably THE most important thing to keep in mind. Social media platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram, are focused on connection and community.

It’s now much more fruitful to have a smaller, highly engaged following as opposed to thousands of followers who rarely interact with you or your content.

Quality over quantity.

Remember, the algorithm is geared toward promoting content that is interesting, timely and from a meaningful connection.

How does Instagram know something will be of interest to you?

Because you have interacted with similar content previously and it’s from an account you engage with regularly.

How do you show interaction?

That’s those engagement tools – liking, commenting, sending a message, tagging someone, sharing with a friend and so on. You get the drift.

And so, every post you put out there should aim to start a conversation with people.

For example, rather than simply posting a pic of your latest artwork with the price tag and details, you could talk about the inspiration behind it and pose a question or topic to debate. Or you could ask people for inspiration for a name for that artwork.

It doesn’t always have to be about you either.

Talk about exhibits or galleries or other art related topics that interest you and your followers, then pose questions or start a conversation that way.

Engagement is also a two-way street.

You need to participate in conversations as well and not just throw posts of your own up. Spend time reading others’ posts, take the time to write meaningful comments, tag people etc.

You will get out what you put in.

4. Interest first, sales later

Going back to the basics of marketing. Who’s heard of AIDA?

Awareness > Interest > Desire > Action.

When starting out, it’s rarely enough to post an image of an artwork with the price tag and sale details and expect people to take action.

First you create awareness and capture interest.  Desire and action will then follow.

How does this translate to an artist on Instagram?

In the beginning, as you build your following, you might like to start a little broader. Start by talking about you and your story, why you create the art you do. Create interest.

Social is about connection yes, but how do we as humans connect?

Through stories.

Our brains are actually hard-wired to pay attention to stories and we naturally retain this information better than any product or marketing related information.

As an example, you could start by sharing some of your work, but instead of talking specifics about sizing and prices straight away, focus on creating interest first.

Talk about your inspiration or the story behind that artwork and something you learned in the process of creation.

Then you could move onto showing a sneak peak, ask for audience feedback on names or voting on preference of two pieces.

After that sequence of interest and engaging posts, then suggest people DM you if they are interested to know more, such as pricing (action).

You may find potential buyers naturally reach out to you before you ask because you are creating that interest and intrigue first.

The other benefit to this strategy (DM for pricing) is you take the conversation with those interested buyers into a more personal medium.

It’s also another engagement indicator for Instagram. Plus, there is also the opportunity to get their email address at this point and nurture them further through the buying process.

Going back to creating interest, other examples of interest related content could be process videos, behind-the-scenes stuff, before and after shots etc.

There is literally a tonne you could post about, when you get the creative juices flowing. So have a think and put together a little strategy. It can be as simple as a go-to list of ideas to post about which will help keep you on track.

This is also where it will pay for you to understand your target audience. Who you want to talk to, or who would be most interested in your art. That way you can create and share content that is tailored to them specifically.

5. Hashtags

Hashtags are REALLY important. #reallyimportant #seriously

If only 10% or even a third of your posts are seen by your followers, then you need to be reaching more people.

One way to do this is with proper use of hashtags. This is not just about reaching people with content, it’s also about attracting more followers.

What are hashtags? Everyone has seen them, but how are they used?

They are essentially keywords that enable your post to be discovered.

And so, when thinking about what hashtags to use, think about your target audience (who will buy your art) and what they are searching for.

One consideration before you start adding hashtags…be specific.

#contemporaryart is popular but has 38 million posts. Whereas,  #contemporaryartist has 3.6 million posts. And lastly,  #contemporaryartsydney has 230 posts. Big differences there.

You don’t want to go too broad as there is too much competition and your post will likely never appear anywhere near the top.

On the other hand, being too specific may mean not enough people search for those hashtags and so little traffic from these.

You’re aiming to find that sweet spot in the middle.

Start by researching some hashtags that relate to you and your work and check out the numbers. Then you can make a list of popular tags you might want to use for your posts and can easily refer to when creating a new post.

How many can I use?

Instagram lets you use up to 30. But experiment with different numbers and see what works for you.

As with many things, success comes from testing and learning. But most importantly, action.

So, start posting and experimenting and see what happens.

Helpful links:

How do I start selling my art?
Art reproduction – everything artists need to know.