Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have the potential to help visual artists sell more of their work and reach a much larger buyer audience.
The trend seems to be that more art is being bought online.
According to Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2021, collectors' activity in buying online will continue to increase.
84% of art buyers believe the digital shift in the art market will become permanent
Online art sales grew from 4.8% in 2019 to 64% in 2020. This number increased to 72% in the first half of 2021 with a projected online sales for 2021 of $13.5 billion.
The online art market has become an entrance into the art world for new art buyers, many of whom have never ventured into a gallery or auction house.
While all of the mentioned social media channel can help artists reach a larger buyer audience, Instagram remains the most influenctial.
The Hiscox 2019 report stated that 65% of art buyers choose Instagram as their preferred way of following artists and art-world developments.
It's challenging to know how many artists post on Instagram regularly. But we can get a general sense of the immensity of visual artists' use on Instagram with a few hashtag searches today, 2 June 2022.
The real question is how can visual artists target active buyers and how can collectors find you on Instagram?
Just for fun, pretend you're looking for art that you create on Instagram. How would you find your art? That's the challenge any buyer will face when hunting for art on Instagram.
I think the common misconception is that buyers use hashtags to find art. When we think this through, this method doesn't seem to hold any water. For example, which hashtags do you use when posting your art? OK, now search through each one. How much hunting do you need to do to find posts of your art? It shouldn't take you very long to realize that the chances that you'll be found through a hashtag search aren't very good.
How would an art collector find your work?
A savvy Instagram collector will start by following museums, galleries, and art professionals' accounts who are considered to be the influencers in the field.
Internationally acclaimed galleries use Instagram to announce future exhibitions and major projects helping their followers stay current on the art scene. And, a number of art professionals have built a massive Instagram following that collectors value to learn more about what's happening in the art world.
Once the collector is following a number of museums, galleries, and art professionals they will be on the hunt for new artists. Serious buyers and collectors on Instagram check the consistency and productivity of artists as a matter of practice.
This is the perfect segue into how to leverage the Instagram algorithms to be found by real buyers and grow a following of buyers, not the useless accounts following most artists on Instagram.
It's All About Videos
Instagram has made it very clear what an artist must do to be 'discovered' by art buyers.
First, artists must produce art that buyers want. Notice I did not say it has to be good, "beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder." Or, put another way, what is valuable is determined by what a large enough buying audience considers valuable. So long as what you are creating and sharing on a regular basis is considered valuable by a large enough audience, you will gradually reach your buyers organically based on how other Instagram users respond to your work with Likes and comments.
In order to grow your audience organically, artists must post work regularly. However, Instagram notified the world a few years ago that they want to be known more as a video source than a photo source. That's why they introduced Stories, then Reels, and IGTV.
The most effective way to gain potential buyers as followers is to regularly post Reels. According to most IG experts, a Reel should be informative and entertaining. For example, videos that show an artist's process in creating their work can be very effective. Reels can also tell more of the story behind your art. It's a good practice to post 2 - 3 reels per week.
When you post Reels regularly, and IG users are watching your videos, you will be 'pushed' into more and more user feeds that show an interest in the type of content you produce.
Stories are most effective for keeping engaged with your current followers. Stories can be a little more personal, in other words, they don't always have to be about your art. They can be a beautiful hike you've taken. While they can be more personal, even your followers will probably get bored with a steady stream of selfies.
Whats the best path?
From what I've observed, some artists build a strong buyer audience primarily by posting their work. However, artists who are successful in selling on Instagram are often quite clever. While targeting Buyers using a number of techniques can also be effective, it tends to be very time-consuming.
I tend to think that a visual artist is best off focusing on making art that their target audience considers valuable and rely on selling art in virtual galleries that are successful in attracting buyers.
We are planning to launch the Global Artists Atelier virtual gallery to promote member artists' work. As the Atelier community grows, we envision that more members will promote the Atelier Gallery to their following. Imagine the multiplier effect of 2,000 to 3,000 artists all promoting their art on the Atelier virtual gallery.
This is putting the axiom of 'rising tides float all boats' into practical application.