Here’s a common scenario on social media for artists: You’re starting to grow a steady online following, but your audience isn’t commenting, liking or sharing your first few posts. So is it time to throw in the towel on social media and focus on other marketing strategies? The answer is no: you’ll just want to develop a solid, easy-to-follow social media strategy to grow engagement online. In fact, with a little effort every day, positive online engagement can convert followers into customers, clients and collaborators, as well as admirers who will share your work online and offline (hello, no-cost advertising!).
First things first: What exactly is engagement? To put it simply, social media engagement is measured by shares, comments, likes, mentions and other interactions associated with your social media presence. Yes, this can be helped by increasing your follower count — but if you’ve already amassed a solid foundation of clients and fans on social media already, then it’s time to use strategic methods to increase interactions with your audience to expand your reach and draw the attention of others.
It remains true that social media engagement creates a more intimate conversation between the artist and audience, which can in turn lead to more sales, increase your exposure to future clients and leave you more positive reviews from followers who feel intimately acquainted with your work. Engagement also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your unique personality and make your case for why your work stands above the rest.
In short, it’s more difficult to drive conversations and sales on social media for artists without an engaged audience that knows, likes and trusts your work. Here are the robust industry tips and tricks to immediately kickstart engagement on your social media channels.
Wear your heart on your sleeve
While it may seem obvious to artists, one of the quickest ways to boost your online engagement and overall appeal is presenting audiences with an aesthetically pleasing and strikingly bold social media profile. Per digital marketing website Wishpond, the average Facebook post gets 120% less engagement than posts with at least one image. For visual-focused social media platforms like Pinterest or Instagram, you’ll want to make your images stand out even more by posting unique, eye-catching visuals that fit seamlessly on any social media feed. Be sure that your image-based posts aren’t weirdly cropped and that the sharpest, clearest version of the image is uploaded. Your social media platform will be a representation of the quality you produce, so make sure that each post reflects your quality production and attention to detail.
One way to use posts themselves to boost user engagement is to share your creation process with work-in-progress updates. Whether the post is a photo of the art itself or a glimpse into your studio space, used tools or something else altogether, users will be more inclined to open up on your profile if you open up to them first. This includes sharing personal, behind-the-scenes glimpses that lower the barrier between the artist and the audience. Are you running into any roadblocks or personal obstacles? Are you trying out a new technique? Have you been inspired by anything new lately? Personalize your captions to create a dialogue with your audience, and they’ll feel more inspired to chat right back with you.
Other ways to add a more personal touch to optimize your social media profile: create a mini-series on Instagram Stories or Reels to showcase the lead-up to your next big showcase; discuss a relevant art world topic that you’re passionate about or simply highlight your latest piece of work and tell the story behind it. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all have a Live feature as well, where you can talk to your audience and answer questions in real-time. Encourage your audience to ask questions (i.e. an “ask me anything” segment) and open up about your process. If you’re not willing to wear your heart on your sleeve just yet, warm up by spotlighting recent commissioned work, profiling career milestones or sharing insight on your tips and tricks: do you have a unique technique, methodological approach or creative process? Share your expertise with your interested community.
Ultimately, you’ll want to listen to what works with your followers and find a way to give them more of what they respond best to.
Social media for artists hashtag how-to
So you have a bold, crisp image that will draw the eye of a user and a personalized caption to go along with it. Now what?
Before you hit the “post” button, you’ll want to think of at least a few hashtags to add to your caption. Up to 30 hashtags can be used on sites like Instagram to help expand your reach to potential new followers who are looking for similar content to yours: these new followers could be new clients seeking a particular style or art admirers looking for inspiration. Hashtag followers could also be fellow artists looking for collaborators, mentors or networking opportunities.
The number of hashtags you’ll want to use may differ depending on the platform you’re using. Data for Twitter, for instance, shows that engagement drops significantly after more than two hashtags are used, according to Social Media Today. For Instagram, 11 seems to be the optimal hashtag number, and for Facebook, that number stays at just one hashtag. But how do you find the right hashtag to use?
The most obvious option are evergreen hashtags, which can be used year-round and are focused on your particular medium, style or niche. Trending hashtags, like #photooftheday, can help you find the latest hashtags that are gaining lots of traction for the posts as well as the artists behind them. This is a great way to increase your exposure to millions of people scrolling through a particularly popular hashtag. Another option are seasonal hashtags like #Halloween #spring #Christmas that are specific to a certain time of the year, but the results page for these are also populated by millions of posts that are non-art related and therefore your post can easily get lost in the seasonal shuffle.
To take the guesswork out of hashtags, tools like Hashtags for Likes and Hashtagify.me allow users to see what’s most relevant in a particular niche. If you’re looking for an approach that’s a bit more out of the box, start your own hashtag trend unique to your brand and encourage others to create relevant posts with it.
Timing is key
Let’s recap: you have a stunning image or engaging video to post on social media. The caption is personal and drives conversation. You have chosen a mix of evergreen and trending hashtags that are relevant and unique to your work. You are finally ready to post — but the question is when.
If you post on social media at the wrong time, i.e. when users are busy at work or sleeping, you can lose out on a lot of precious engagement, experts say. Instead, schedule posts for the right time when your followers are active (this can depend on time zone, demographic and other factors). While there is no definitive best time to post and you should collect some data to see when your audience is the most active, tools like HubSpot can take some of the guesswork out of posting times, and you can schedule posts on sites like Later.com.
Typically, you’ll want to post during afternoon productivity lapses (generally an hour or so after lunchtime until around 4 p.m.) when social media users are taking breaks or multi-tasking at work, according to the American Marketing Association. Other good times generally include weekday mornings for Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and early afternoons between 9 a.m. and noon (albeit with less success) on weekends.
Forbes says that Fridays are by far the worst time to engage on social media, especially in the afternoon when users are running home from work to prepare for the weekend’s plans. To maximize your reach before the weekend, try posting between 1 and 3 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.
Whenever you decide to post, be sure your posting times are consistent as new fans will be expecting updates: Consistency gives fans a reason to keep following your social media profile for more of what they like. This can be done easily by scheduling posts on a routine basis so your audience can expect when to see additional content. Don’t forget to carve out a few hours per day to answer direct messages, comments and replies to your posts, either. Remember: social media is a constant conversation, and in order for folks to engage with you, you have to continue the banter, too.
Do you have a favorite way to grow your following online? What are your tips to engage your audience on social media for artists? Sound off in the comments below.
I’m a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve covered areas from breaking news to investigations to culture for publications like NBC New York, Patch, and Law360, among others. As a former manager at Patch, I led the New Jersey local news team of veteran journalists covering crime, politics, education, and features.