How to create engagement and sell art on Instagram

March 10, 2022

In order for the artist to really engage with people who appreciate art online, there is more to it than just putting your images and a description. Engagement is a fundamental requirement if the objective is to create sales.

Engagement begins by being reciprocal although of course if you end up with tens of thousands of followers then by its nature it becomes less so. Through organic, genuine participation your following will grow and the opportunities will surface, be it art sales, connecting with publishers, collectors or getting your work exhibited. In this chapter, we’ll highlight some strategic methods for creating engagement on Instagram.


Engagement 101, communicate! It may sound obvious but genuine communication is a proven path for organic growth. When browsing your feed leave supporting comments on posts you genuinely have an appreciation for. When you discover a new account, think about going further than simply following them and leave a comment on a post explaining why, such as; “I just came across your account and absolutely love your use of colour, really inspirational! I’m also an illustrator working with bold colours and would love to hear your thoughts on what I’m doing.”

Commenting in a constructive manner, asking questions and emphasising your interest in their practice will encourage interaction, which in turn will lead to real connections with users who also appreciate your work. Remember, this is a two-way thing, so if you get a comment, be sure to reply back, even if it’s a simple “thank you”. Acknowledgement goes a long way to building an organic following which in turn creates lasting engagement with your own content.

Top tips for communicating:

Never spam. This is something we heard in every interview we conducted. Approach comments like you would a casual email to a friend, if you wouldn’t want to receive it, it’s likely they’ll feel the same. This should come naturally, so if you are struggling for things to say, perhaps it’s a sign not to comment at all and just like the post.

Use words. Emojis certainly have their place when it comes to social media, however, they are easy to ignore and can’t be used express real opinion, so be sure to write what you think and use emojis to punctuate or emphasise.

Direct Message. Send direct messages to people whose work
you truly admire. This more personal communication can start conversations which could in turn, lead to a lasting connection from which many possibilities can arise; inspiration, collaboration, mutual appreciation and friendship. Connecting without a personal agenda is the best way forward here, and then allowing any mutually beneficial outcomes to arise naturally from the connection over time.

Types of Instagram post

When it comes to posting on Instagram there is no formula for success, as what works for some may not work for others. Whatever your style, the key here is to ensure your posts encourage an element of interaction with your followers.

Image feed. With your image feed, the emphasis should always be on producing quality content which conveys, at a glance, what you are about and what kind of art you are making. Think of your feed as a gallery or portfolio, both of which are grounded in careful curation.

Stories. The stories feature allows you to post more informal content with a life span of 24 hours, meaning it does not conflict with your ‘portfolio style’ feed. Stories create an opportunity to add more personality so think of them as a diary to the feed’s portfolio.

IGTV/Reels. These video formats have a fixed place on your instagram feed and allow you to create engaging video content. With Instagram Reels being a maximum length of 60 seconds and IGTV can be up to 60 minutes. Keep reels light and entertaining and use IGTV videos as a place to have longer discussion’s or showcase new work.

Live video. An extension of Instagram’s stories, the live video feature gives your audience the ability to publically interact or ask questions with the post through comments or emojis. Great if you are at a private view or hosting an artist talk.

10 Instagram post ideas

(1) Have an important meeting with a gallery: post a video explaining what the meeting is about, your hopes or expectations.

(2) Want to experiment artistically: use stories to crowdsource inspiration or subject ideas from your community.

(3) Attending an exhibition by an artist you love: create video content, either on reels or IGTV, of your experiences and opinions surrounding the exhibition.

(4) On location for a photoshoot: use stories to share behind the scenes content throughout the day.

(5) Visiting a fellow artist: post a video interview or studio tour and let your community ask questions.

(6) Creating a new artwork: show your progress from start to finish using the image carousel feature.

(7) Hosting an artist talk: use live video to widen your attendance and include the questions asked as part of the Q&A.

(8) Working on an unannounced project or collaboration: build momentum with a teaser or save the date content.

(9) Editing a new book or project: post some excerpts or parts of early edits and ask your community for feedback.

(10) Taking inspiration from something new: use stories as a visual daily diary by sharing your morning inspirations.

Consistency can also help to get engagement meaning don’t drop off the map for a month then return with a burst of posts. To help you with this we suggest you use a scheduling app such as Later which allows you to line up posts in advance.


Perhaps one of the reasons why Instagram and social media have become such brilliant tools for building loyal followings is the ability to share what you love and what you are doing with your community.

Reposting. Reposting content that interests you helps reinforce your tastes, but it also creates a sense that you are generous in your approach to using social media and are not simply there to promote yourself. The goal here is to have this reciprocated so that you too can benefit from other people’s networks, so the more you are seen to be active in doing this the more likely it is to happen in return.

Shout outs. If you have purchased a new book or artwork by an artist you love, post about it! Posts like these where you are directly complimenting another user are often shared or reposted by that user,
which in turn will establish a connection and perhaps encourage their audience to check your account out.

Credit where it’s due. The key with sharing, be it a direct repost or through your own creative content is to credit other users. Instagram has built in features for this such as @ the name of artist or tagging other users.


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