Turn the most popular visual platform into a profitable one.
Across the board, Society6 artists have said Instagram is their favorite social platform, and for good reason–it’s been critical to their success. Not just because it’s a great place to commune, but the sales and commissions that come through building a presence on Instagram have made the effort worth it. In this article, we’ll walk through several of the smartest ways to use Instagram so you can start seeing your posts turn into profit.
1. Build a following
Well, duh. And that’s easier said than done, but let’s set the stage real quick.
- The larger your following, the more eyes you have on your work. More eyes = more customers.
- As your fan count grows, you’ll see that getting new fans happens more frequently. The theory is that If a customer sees you have 10k+ followers, that’s the validation they need to click “Follow” before deep diving in your feed–especially if they like any content at the top of your feed.
- The more great content you post, the more your content will be shared and engaged with. The more your content is engaged with, the more it’ll be shown in peoples feeds. The more feeds you’re seen in, the quicker your following will grow.
2. Be authentically you
This is the same as everywhere. Being you is easier to keep up with than an image of you. Your fans will appreciate it because they know they’re getting the real deal. That goes a long way when developing a deeper loyalty to you and your artwork. Your following and engagement should improve and your “voice” will be consistent. And if you’re more interesting in developing an image of yourself or a brand, I’m not suggesting you can’t do that. This just tends to be easier for most.
I love sharing with my followers and they keep telling me how they enjoy accompanying me on this creative journey I’m on. I try to just post what I am doing creatively, but the glimpses into my world also allows you to get to know me better. Seeing me in some images, and what I am doing, helps paint a better picture of who I am–besides seeing my work and how I do it. I am my authentic self on there–the achievements, the obstacles and my passions beyond my professional work. I think that makes my pieces more personal and relatable to everyone. –Bianca Green
3. Switch to a Business Account, but only if…
…you’re serious about leveraging your Instagram Insights (data analytics) to grow your business or run ads for yourself. Why? Quick history: At some point, Facebook realized that businesses were using their Facebook Pages as a lucrative marketing channel–sending traffic from their page to their websites–and everyone back then was seeing all the content you posted chronologically so it worked amazingly for businesses. So, Facebook began to throttle a business’s reach while simultaneously introducing features that would allow you to “boost” your visibility–a kinder way of saying you need to advertise if you still want to reach the same audience you built. Instagram is owned by Facebook. Based on history, many are expecting a similar scenario.
I love the analytics that Instagram provides when you have a business account. I run ads fairly regularly on Instagram, and I’ve found that creating your own audience is very effective. I can run an ad and link directly to my Society6 page, and I always see a quick increase in print sales. I also see a noticeable increase in followers, so it’s very beneficial in a number of ways. –Robin Eisenberg
The reason you want to get to this point is you want to start learning what types of content people are engaging with the most…so that you can post more of it. What performs well varies from one artist to the next and specific to your brand. If you’re posting content that people don’t like, you’ll suffer attrition–or the loss of fans. Not saying you can’t do what you want, rather, it’s better to be aware of what works so you can do more of that. So, with Instagram Insights, you get all sorts of great analytics like impressions, reach, times when your fans are active and then also, the demographics of your customers (age, gender, location). This is amazing as you start to market smarter to your customer base.
PRO TIP: Consider signing up for Iconosquare. They offer a free 14-day trial and let’s you start exploring a lot of really great visual data. It’s great for dipping your toes into analytics before committing to a Business Account.
PRO TIP #2: If you have a Business Account, test running a few ads with your most popular artwork. Spread out $10 across several days rather than all in one day. You should see an increase in engagement and, hopefully, some fans as well.
4. Post regularly to stay “top of mind” for your customers
The more an individual customer sees you or your content, the more frequently they’re going to think of you compared to anywhere else they could spend their money. Which means they’re more likely to purchase.
You know that old saying? “Out of sight, out of mind”? Well, it’s kind of true. Keep the momentum going as much as possible. It’s not always easy…things come up…even if you don’t post product related materials, post something that shows you’re still there. –Lisa Argyropoulos
5. Automatically post to as many platforms as you can
At the press of a button, your Instagram post can simultaneously be posted to your Facebook Page, Twitter, Tumblr and more. It’s too easy not to use your Instagram content as means to build your other social platforms. So make sure you do it!
PRO TIP: If you’re building a following on your Facebook Business Page, make sure you’re posting to that page from Instagram and not to your personal FB page. You want your content publicly discoverable by new fans, not just your friends who already know your work.
6. Tag photos and use relevant hashtags for max exposure
This has two parts
Tagging your photos is a more effective way of getting discovered than adding a handle in the caption. This is because when you tag something that work is discoverable permanently from the accounts you’re tagging. By adding someone’s handle to a caption, at best, they get a notification that you mentioned them, but then quickly slips off their radar as they see a long list of notifications.
We would have missed so many of our customers posting art in the wild if there was no tagging feature. –Frank Moth
Hashtagging your artwork with relevant hashtags makes you more discoverable. “Relevant” hashtags are important. You can tag as broad (#illustration) or specific (#floraltypography) as you want. Hasthags are another great way to permanently appear in a discoverable feed. Use hashtags you think customers would use to find work like yours. PRO TIP: Tags and hashtags are your best for discovering accounts you want to associate yourself or pitch for features!
7. Engage your customers and respond quickly
Cultivating a community around your artwork is really important to growing a loyal customer base. Meaningful comments and engagement shows that you’re as invested in your fans. This is “social” media after all.
Go and find similar accounts to yours OR accounts, that would love your products. Like the pics, make nice comments and get recognized. 🙂 If you are lucky, they will follow you and buy your products! Don’t wait until they find you–go and find your audience! –Monika Strigel
Here’s an example from Kit King, who, in spite of hundreds of thousands of followers, makes a point to converse with her followers.
Your goal with each post should be to reach as many people as you can. Try creating dialogue in your captions and comment feeds. Every time you comment, it shows up on your followers feeds, gives them more of a chance to see the post, but also when others comment it then shows on their feeds, and suddenly you have all the new eyes of their followers seeing your work that may pop over and wind up following. It all boils down to engagement. If you want to maximize your engagement levels, then you yourself need to be engaged with your viewers! –Kit King
And then the other half of engagement is being responsive in a timely manner. This is a tried and true rule of sales born well before the internet. If you want someone to purchase something, point them in the right direction while they’re looking. Otherwise, they’ll go somewhere else. Timely responses are also a reflection of your interest in your own community.
PRO TIP: Check your IG message requests. Depending on your settings, you may have several people who have reached out, but you’d never know because Instagram filters them as a way to control your inbox (and keep the spam away).
8. Add your Society6 link in bio
This is a quick, easy and passive way to start driving traffic to your shop. We recommend setting up your link with a URL shortener like bit.ly or tinyurl.com.
9. Regram pics of your art in the wild
This is called UGC (user generated content) and it’s gold to your fans. You can do this on They want to know what your artwork could look like in their hands and homes and there’s no truer recommendation than a genuinely grateful fan.
10. Use multi-image posting to add products behind your artwork
With Instagram’s multi-image posting, you can now post your artwork with products without breaking your feed!
PRO TIP: Add your handle in the caption–something like this: “Link in bio → @yourhandle”. That way people can click your handle and go straight to the link in you bio. Easy, natural path for customers to shop your work on IG.
11. Keep your feed consistent and thematic
You’ll see the idea of a cohesive IG feed pop up throughout this entire post, so here’s a few pointers from Hanna KL and Tanya Shatseva.
Every image you upload should be connected to four other images and I always make sure that the colors of those images go well together. This will make your whole feed match. I also try not to put a picture where a lot is going on next to another one like it. I just think it looks too messy. A few months ago I uploaded every other image mainly white and every other colorful, which created a great flow. Having a theme is a great way to know that your feed will look good. –Hanna KL
Try to post different kinds of pictures every time–artwork, then detail shot, then work in progress. Avoid repetition! Look at your IG feed as a whole artwork itself. –Tanya Shatseva
12. Timelapses are very popular for artists on Instagram
This is the kind of content that goes viral and it’s getting easier and easier to do this. Fans love a good work in progress (#wip), but they LOVE seeing a piece of artwork come together!
I’ve noticed a time-lapse video of the work being created gets more views and link clicks than anything else. It allows the viewer to be taken on the creative journey with you. They become more attached to the piece being able to see what goes into it, and have a fuller appreciation for the work. By the end of the video they are much more inclined to say “wow! I love that… I want it!”. And then PRESTO! There’s the link for them to purchase a print of it. –Kit King (365k+ followers)
PRO TIP: For shooting timelapses, if creating artwork on your computer, there’s several options, but we love Camtasia. It’s available on Mac or Windows. If you’re recording on your phone, you can use iPhone’s native Timelapse function or give Lapse It or ProCam App a shot.
A GREAT example is this timelapse by Kerby Rosanes which has over 5 million views…
13. Mix up the types of content you post
Post a timelapse, then a piece of artwork, then a promotion, then a customer’s post of your artwork, then a work in progress, then a regram of a fan’s post w/ your artwork. You’re not only mixing it up so your feed doesn’t get stale, you want to test what performs well. You’re often surprised when you push yourself to post something new/different.
If you share wip photos/vids, finished products, and lifestyle shots, you will find followers fast. Only post well taken photos with good lighting. An attractive and well designed instagram page is key. –Jenny Liz Rome
14. If it wasn’t already obvious, show yourself and your process!
This is the point of Instagram. It’s such a wonderfully visual platform with all the clutter of news and opinions cast aside. It emphasizes and rewards high-quality visuals. And guess what? Customers and fellow creatives alike love a good creative process! Plus, sharing your creative process is a GREAT way to mix up your feed from final artwork. You can show creation at all different stages. You can use Stories to show this. You can create timelapses. You can show the creation of a major project mid-way before teasing people to visit a gallery in person.
PRO TIP: Use Stories to share more personal stuff without affecting your feed!
Instagram is arguably the best social platform to show a rolling portfolio of your work. While there is a lot of info above, it all boils down to creating creating great, engaging and shareable content. So, keep creating, build a following and track your success so you know what to do more of. If you’re taking yourself seriously as an artist, your fans will too. As your following grows so should your sales.