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How to Grow Your Instagram Account - Part I
About the Instagram Algorithm
A lot of artists are disappointed with some of the recent changes at Instagram. The algorithm has evolved, as they always do, and some artists are having trouble seeing the engagement that they used to.
However, all is not lost, today we’re starting a new series to help you understand how to be successful on Instagram and how to work with their algorithm instead of against it. The things you learn in this series are valuable, however, if you pair them with what we covered in the Studio Sale series and the Circles of Art Marketing series you will 10X your results. If you are a paid Sovereign Artist Club member you can review our past article series on our Sovereign Artist Resources page.
In today’s article we’re going to talk about the algorithm and preview what we plan to share over the course of the series.
This series will be for paying members only and it alone will be worth more than an entire year of Sovereign Artist Club membership fees. However, we’re making today’s article available to all members, including free, because we’d love your feedback about Instagram in the comments and we want you to see what’s coming to consider joining if you’d like to learn more.
If you haven’t joined yet, please consider doing so at the following link.
OK, let’s go!
We were able to grow our BoldBrush Instagram from 19,000 followers all the way up to approximately 70,000 followers over the course of just a few months. We’re going to explain how we did that.
One major key to growing your Instagram account is learning to work with the Instagram algorithm. The Instagram algorithm is not evil. It’s not your enemy. You just have to learn how to use it to your advantage.
In this section, you'll also be learning how to set up your Instagram account for success from the beginning
In this article series we’re going to cover the following:
1. The Instagram Algorithm
2. Who you should follow
3. What you should consume
4. What you should post
5. What you should post - advanced tactics
7. Your Brand on Instagram
8. Deleting posts
You are not just in the business of art, you're in the business of selling your art. With that in mind, you have to understand that Instagram is basically a store window for your art. What do store windows have inside of them? They have displays of products, colors and information that properly represent the store’s brand.
Learn to think like a brand. From a brand perspective, you have to realize that it's your job to woo collectors and buyers into joining your audience and, ultimately, buying your work. So if you want to grow on Instagram, you need to focus on brand recognition.
Think of what your vision might be for your work or for your “store window.”
For example, you might pass a Prada or Gucci or Louis Vuitton and they have a very obvious brand. They have a very obvious energy and vision to their brand.
What is your energy and vision? You have to consider what does your name mean to your followers and collectors? With that in mind, let’s talk about the algorithm.
Success on Instagram means giving the algorithm what it wants. And, when you first sign up, what the algorithm wants is for you to follow people.
The reason following people is the first thing the algorithm wants, is that it wants you to “tell” it who you are, what you do, and what content it should show you.
So, the first thing you're going to want to do is follow other artists.
I can already hear you objecting to this. Let me guess what you’re thinking: Other artists don’t buy artwork I want to connect with collectors.
That is incorrect, other artists do buy artwork and can be beneficial to your career in a myriad of other ways. But, at the moment, we’re just training Instagram to understand who you are and what your account is all about.
For example, if you were a butcher and selling meat, you should not make it a habit to follow vegan chefs. That would train Instagram to place your account in the “wrong neighborhood.” You wouldn’t be able to sell your meat to vegans, so you need to stay within the boundaries of what makes sense for your brand to follow.
Here is something else that may be counterintuitive: when you set up your Instagram for the purposes of marketing your art, do not follow your friends and family (except for any that actually are artists or who post primarily about art). It’s possible that not following them complicates things for you because your family might get wounded emotionally if you don't follow them back. But you are a business and, as I said, unless their pages are similar to your brand or they also have businesses that are in the art realm, don’t do it. If you plan to use Instagram for personal reasons, set up another account, separate from your art, and use that second account to connect with friends and family.
So, in short, when you first join, if another account “looks like you”, follow it, that is your number one rule in answering the question “who do I follow?”
Next, you should follow art brands, meaning art product brands. Look for brands that are relevant to art, are growing, and have good engagement. A good rule of thumb to determine engagement is the “2% rule.” This means, do they get “Likes” on their posts that total approximately 2% or more of their number of followers. If a brand has 10,000 followers, the 2% rule would indicate that they should be getting around 200 Likes on their posts. That would indicate strong engagement.
And finally, ask yourself, is Instagram recommending this brand’s page? Is it popping up in other places? Is it on the feed? Is it on the Explore page? If not, then maybe it's not such a great page to follow.
This brings us to another great question. How many people should I even follow?
In the case that you just started your Instagram and you're only beginning to follow specifically for your art business page, 300 to 400 accounts would be a really good number to start with. And the reason why it's good to follow a few hundred is because this gives Instagram a really nice well-rounded idea of the niche or the brand that your work encompasses. In other words, it tells Instagram what neighborhood you want to play in.
What if you already have an Instagram account? And what if you’re already following more than that? And what if you know a lot of the people you follow are off topic for your art account? In that case, if you don’t want to start over, you’re going to need to unfollow some people.
If you need to unfollow people, do not simply go to the following part of your page and just start unfollowing person after person. If you do that, Instagram may think that you're a bot and might not react well to that. Instead, go on to your feed and when you see posts that are off-topic, don’t pique your interest, or they don’t draw you in, then that’s probably not someone you want to follow. So just unfollow non-interesting and non-relevant accounts bit by bit. This will be much more organic and not upset the Instagram algorithm.
OK, now let’s consider who, specifically, you should follow.
That’s our topic for next week’s article, which will be locked at available in full for paid members only.
If you are a paid member, and just can’t wait to get started, click the button below to watch our video How to Grow Your Instagram which covers, in video format, everything we’re going to cover over the next several weeks.
See ya next week!
PS - Remember, we’ve opened comments today to both free and paid members, so please, we’d love to hear your thoughts about the latest changes at Instagram!