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Step Toward Social Media Success

One of the most rewarding things about creating art is bringing forth what’s inside of us in order to share it with others. Approaching social media as an extension of your art and your connection to those who appreciate it can be incredibly rewarding, both to the viewer and yourself.

Instagram, a social media platform that has seen a lot of growth over the last several years, appears to be designed specifically for us as artists - a highly visual platform that puts images at the forefront while including room for the content to support those pictures.

It can serve as a collection of images representing an ongoing portfolio of your work, process, and life as an artist. It can also be a great source of inspiration, and of connection, offering the chance to meet and maintain relationships with other artists and supporters of art.

Whether you’re just starting with Instagram, have an account though rarely use it, or post frequently but want to ensure it’s working for you, here are some ideas for making your feed its own work of art.

Step 1: Inspiration & Motivation: Find Your Why

With all of the things we’re told we need to do in terms of sharing our art, social media can easily begin to feel like a should do rather than a want to. Make it a welcome addition by determining a strong why.

Why do you want to be on Instagram, or any social media for that matter? Do you see a potential benefit for your art practice or business by expanding your creative community? If the answer is yes, think about the areas that feel most meaningful to you in that regard.

Are you interested in connecting with other artists, engaging directly with potential clients, or having your works in the sights of galleries and interior designers? Or perhaps you simply enjoy the inspiration that comes with seeing what others are creating?

When you find your why, you can use it to inform how you use Instagram, how often, what kind of images you post, and the parts of your practice and life you choose to share.

Step 2: Consider Your Subject & Materials

Once your why is in place, you’re ready to make a plan. This will guide how you will use the platform and help you stay on track. Create a list of the type of images you may wish to share that relate to your art practice. Having this list to refer to is helpful when deciding what to post. Some examples include:

  • finished work
  • works in process
  • details and interesting angle
  • the materials you use
  • trips to the art store
  • your studio or workspace
  • you creating the work
  • you at art events of other artist
  • the results and process of daily art challenges (like February’s #OpusDailyPractice Challenge)
  • contests to win a piece of your work
  • events that you’ll be displaying your artwork at
  • galleries and businesses you work with
  • your art hanging framed in a client’s home
  • pages from your sketchbook

When selecting the types of images you’ll share and what you’ll write to accompany them, keep your why in mind. While your posts are a reflection of you as an artist, your Instagram is not a public diary: it is a place for engagement with the people you identified in Step 1. Consider what may be of value to your audience and allow your words to express who you are, and what you post in relation to them. Remember, the first word in social media is "social".

Step 3: Create a Series to Exhibit

Now that you have your why and your audience in mind, it’s time to put Steps 1 and 2 together and begin sharing! This is where your aesthetic and artistic voice can really shine. One way to begin is to sketch out what your first dozen posts might be, then arrange them in a pleasing order.

As an example, let’s say your why is to engage with other artists that may live near you. Your posts might be:

  1. Introductory post: an image of you creating your work.
  2. An image an artwork that represents what you’re currently making
  3. Another image of your artwork
  4. A picture of your work space
  5. A detail shot of one of your pieces
  6. A post about your favourite art material or tool
  7. Another image of your artwork
  8. A short video in which you show how you do part of your process
  9. A close up of your hand as you create a piece
  10. A peek inside your sketchbook
  11. An image taken at an art event (gallery opening or art class)
  12. Another image of your work
  13. Your work framed and displayed in your home
  14. A Boomerang video of you interacting with your artwork

Next, photograph your vision. While you can certainly take images on the go (as the “insta” in Instagram suggests), you can also batch the process and take several images at once, saving them for the days you plan to post.

When taking your photos and processing them, either via Instagram’s editing tools or with a free app like Adobe Lightroom or Pixlr, consider how they’ll all look together, ensuring they look like they came from the same person with a clear aesthetic. Would someone visiting your page know from those posts what they might expect going forward and be inspired to follow you? If you've ever wondered why one post has a ton of engagement, and another far less, it may be that the former fits more with what followers signed up thinking they would see, and the latter deviates from that.

Step 4: Invite People to the Show

It’s time to start posting and get social! Beyond the people you know in real life that you may wish to follow and who may follow you in return, your posts serve as a way to grow your creative community in relation to your why.

If you’re new to Instagram, start by posting your introductory post, plus a few more posts so others can better decide if they’d benefit from following your posts. At the end of each post (or as a comment on the post), use hashtags that relate to the image you've posted. Other users on Instagram use these to search for topics of interest to them, so making hashtags relevant to the image you've posted is a great way for people outside your current friend and professional group to find your work, connecting you to a wider audience or community.

As an example, say you're an artist living in Kelowna and you've posted an image of one of your works in acrylic, a painting of the William R Bennett bridge over Okanagan Lake that was created using GOLDEN and Opus Essential Acrylic colours. Relative hashtags might include:
#acrylicpainting #bridge #lake #willimarbennetbridge #okanaganlake #okanagan #kelowna #goldenartistscolors #opusessential #opusessentialacrylics #bcartist #kelownaartist #inspiredbynature #

Next, start finding and following Instagram users that you find interesting and that relate to your why – searching hashtags that interest you and seeing who artists whose work you enjoy are following are great places to start. When you see a post that resonates with you, like it. If there is something really great about it, leave a short comment to express your appreciation, to share why the post caught your eye, or to leave kind and positive feedback on what they've shared. And if you see a profile where you like several of the person's posts, start following them so you can more easily stay up to date on what they're posting.

As your Instagram community grows, so will the engagement on the things you post. However, don’t get hung up on your number of followers or the number of likes a post receives. While an account that is looking to sell something (a product, or a lifestyle that may garner them sponsorship) definitely benefits from having a lot of people engaging with their account, some incredibly successful artists have only a few hundred followers. It’s a case of the quality of the followers in relation to your why versus a huge volume that may take you away from why you’re on social media to begin with.

Bonus Material: Meet the Artist & See the Studies with Stories!

Instagram Stories are a fun way to expand the ways you can engage with your creative community, offering others a chance to see even more of who you are as an artist.

Stories are a place where you can give little shout outs to things you’re doing, post images and short videos that complement your posts. They’re also a great place to share things that don't warrant a permanent post, images that aren't as beautiful as you’d like them to be or don’t fit the look you've been cultivating for your feed, but that fit your why, and would still be fun for your followers to see and for you to share. Post images from a trip to your local art gallery, ask a question using the polls feature, post a silly boomerang of you and a friend creating art together - the options are limitless!.

However, while sharing everything about your day may seem like a fun thing to do, a social media profile that provides a narrower scope is often most enjoyable for those who view your posts - and for you in the long term, too, as it helps ensure social media isn't taking time from other things you might like to be doing. If you do decide to make your art practice the primary focus of your Instagram profile, you may wish to create a separate, private account for your personal posts.

That said, it can be great to include things about your life, provided they tell the larger story of your art and why you're sharing it on social media, giving the people who enjoy it a fuller understanding of where it’s coming from. Keeping your Instagram Stories focused on your art means the people who are following because the like what you are creating get to learn more about it and increases the chances you'll connect with those followers.

Stories are ephemeral content, disappearing after 24 hours. You can also turn on the archiving feature so Stories are accessible to you well beyond that. This allows you to share Story Highlights on your profile page, and even keep adding to them over time, a really fun feature if you want to create an album of your process, a series of your work put together all in one place, or an ongoing archive of your inspirations in a place where others can benefit from it, too. Learn more about Stories at instagram.com.

Step 5: Keep Creating and Connecting!

Social media can be a wonderful place to express yourself and come together with other artists. It can also easily become a place of distraction, where scrolling through what others are posting takes the place of time you could be creating. Remember, the most important thing is making your art. Social media can be rewarding and fun, but it’s best left to just a small part of your day. Your practice should come first!

Try applying the 80/20 rule: 80% of your art practice devoted to creating your work and 20% spent on engaging with your creative community through social media, as well as through offline activities such as exhibition openings, art nights, and coffee dates.

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While these tips are written with Instagram in mind, this same mindset can be adapted and applied to other platforms like Facebook and Pinterest. It’s a good idea to sign up for accounts at all the major social media platforms, if only to ensure that your name is reserved for you. However, you don’t have to regularly use ALL the social media platforms - keeping them all active and updated can quickly become a full-time job that takes you away from making your art and other important offline activities. Simply pick one or two platforms that feel right to you and put your energy there; all the others can simply have a post or information in your profile that lets visitors know the best place to find you online is at your website or most used social media platform.

Ready to get started? A fun way to have something to post on social media daily, practice your art regularly, and meet your fellow artists online is with the #OpusDailyPractice Challenge! This annual, 28-day challenge takes place every February with the next session beginning February 1, 2018! Click here to learn more, sign up for daily creative prompts, and get ready to connect with your creative community via social media in 2018!