Is Instagram a boon or bane for artists?

This article is part of the Internet Marking for Artists series that you can follow at

This article is inspired by this video from Holly Exley where she talked about downsides of using Instagram for marketing as an artist.

I can relate to many points she mentioned. Instagram is addictive and a time sink. You have to keep posting work to keep up, to stay relevant. The art you create becomes a commodity just like the art from other artists, and can be flicked away easily by the viewer in seconds. And it's just not worth the effort to be posting on Instagram.

My biggest problem with Instagram

There's a lot of potential on Instagram since there is a lot of users. You can tell by the large number of followers some successful artists have on Instagram. It took those artists a long time to gain followers that's for sure.

Nowadays, you can even make a living as a social media artists and earn money through multiple income sources online using social media as a funnel to stuff you want to sell. You don't even need to take commissioned work if you're successful enough on social media.

My biggest problem with Instagram is the moment you stop posting, you won't get any more exposure going forward, and then you'll be out of people's mind. That applies to Facebook, Youtube and even blogging of course. But with blogging and Youtube, all your content is archived, searchable by Google, and will continue to help you in the future. That's assuming you have already created a wealth of useful content.

When you do a search on Google, how often do you see an Instagram or Facebook post appear in the search results?

If you spend time and effort marketing on IG (and FB), you don't want your effort to go to waste the moment you stop uploading content.

All the work I've created on my blog and Youtube channel will still be around for people to search for easily through Google. I have regular web traffic from people looking at past articles and reviews I've written over the decade. I get 3,500 visitors daily on my blog but I certainly don't create content daily on my blog. And I get video views when my videos appear on YT's related videos sidebar all the time, regardless of whether I've posted new videos.

All the content I've create will continue to help me into the future because they are all archived and searchable. Even if I don't post for a few days, or weeks, all the content will still get me web traffic, although the number of views will drop overtime, but not like a complete stop with IG or FB. So on IG and FB, you have to keep posting to stay relevant, to be in front of people.

What's my strategy with Instagram

Most of my Instagram content are actually re-packaged content that I've created for my patrons, the blog and Youtube channel.

For example, I would create a sketching tutorial for Youtube or patrons, then upload the sketches and timelapse square format video on Instagram. It does not take much effort to share photos or create a timelapse video out of the main tutorial. Instagram content is ephemeral so I don't want to spend more than 10 minutes making Instagram-exclusive content. Whenever I think of live-streaming on Instagram or making Instagram stories, I will wonder if it's possible to do it with Youtube instead so that the content can be archived and searchable.

When I create content, article or art, I want that content to help me in the future. Sure I do share art on Instagram just for the sake of sharing art, but most of the time I will think of how the content can help me.

It's all the little details that will add up to help you. Things like making sure you have keywords and hashtags that are searchable.

Instagram is addictive

You have to know what you want out of Instagram. You can scroll through the posts endlessly and before you know it, you've wasted a lot of time.

I use Instagram as a marketing tool and as a way to see what my friends are up to. As a marketing tool, I don't spend too much time other than uploading my art and responding to comments. I also limit myself to not scrolling too much.

I don't even have time to respond to messages from my Instagram inbox. I refer all people to contact me via my blog's contact form.

Commoditising of art

Instagram thrives on user created content. Unfortunately due to the sheer amount of art created and shared, art on Instagram is becoming a commodity. People just look, click like, and move on to the next post all within seconds.

Some pieces of work will have more engagement and lead to more comments. Most won't.

With blogging and Youtube, you can create really engaging content. E.g. Articles and videos talking in depth about certain topics. You can't do that with Instagram. Different platforms for different purposes. But with blogging and Youtube, you can engage people more, get people to understand you and your work more, rather than just click like and scroll on. It's difficult to build a deeper connection with people through Instagram which is not build for that purpose.

The effort you spend creating on Instagram may not be worth it

It is difficult to gain a following on Instagram without posting daily.

It certainly up to the creator to work hard to market their art. But remember the moment you stop posting, all your past work will not matter, you'll just not get noticed anymore. So do you think it's worth it to put in so much effort on marketing on Instagram?

If you're just sharing art just to share, no problem. But when you have expectations and look for results, this is the reality you have to understand.

Here's another point of view from Julia Bausenhardt

So what now?

I'll still be using Instagram. But I don't have expectation my Instagram page generating income for me, or creating huge exposure. I just use Instagram to share art to let people know what I'm up to that's all.



"Back then" we had Tumblr. It

"Back then" we had Tumblr. It was basically the same as Instagram. But we had more than just square pictures and also each account had its own page with a search and history where you could easily jump to a specific month of a year and see an overview of the months post with thumbnails, from which one can go directly to the posts. All without an account or app.

Yes, tumblrs popularity was based on porn, but so is basically Instagram too. I only got locals from my usk walks, international usk or other artists that I like in my follow list, but still Instagram shows me soft porn front and centre when I open the search: adolescent beraly clad girls dancing. The same goes for when I look in the posts of the hashtag from my city or region, mostly girls fighting for attention by bending the no porn rules of Facebook as much as possible. The rest is full of "look what overly expensive thing I bought" posts. Finding other sketchers is hard.

Also I find the stream annoying from the app home page: it beraly shows me my followed local artists and instead fills it with advertising every 3 posts or some international posts from people I didn't follow, that just post under #sketching with what is definitely not sketching.

The only reason I am on Instagram is because it is basically a requirement to take part in urban sketching. Often u can find meetups only on Facebook or Instagram and while it isn't specified in the rules where you have to post them, based on the officials behaviour, it must be done on Instagram.

So it isn't really a choice for most. The "usk consortium" or however it is called is leading with their decision and as they promote Instagram for it, it won't change. You should have a better connection to them than us small folk, perhaps you could be so kind and talk about your concerns about the platform with them and bring others bigger artists to do the same. I would be grateful for it, because it is the "annoying" part at the end for me and I did catch me already stopping to post after sketch walks, because "someone else did it for me with the group pic". And it seems that only a third to barely the half of those I met on the walks (mostly the core group) seems to post their sketches from the walk or even have an Instagram account. Which also often makes me question why should I?

I can't really reference it,

I can't really reference it, because I can't freely link it. The link that can be created only works for people with account and sometimes it still tries you to force you into using the app to view it.

There is no difference between Facebook or Instagram. Many people here don't have an account on it.

Personally I think I have to probably go with posting Sketchbook pages on a blog like Liz Steel does.

I think Instagram is great

I think Instagram is great for discovering artists I like. It's extremely quick, has clean interface and and just one quick glance at their Instagram page tells me immediately if I like their style or not.

I just wish it wasn't owned by Facebook now.

Googling is great for finding answers to complex questions but not so much for discovering visual stuff I like. So many times I find a piece of art I like only to conclude it was just an exception when I visit artist's blog. Or their blog is swamped with ads, or too complex to navigate, etc. It takes a lot of time and effort with very little payback.

There is also the question of language barrier. If I am googling, it's in English. I can't discover artists speaking other languages. Recently I discovered a Korean artist on Instagram whose style I adore. After a while I decided I like her work so much that I visited her blog to see progress pics even though I can't understand anything.

I even use automatic translator on her blog now when I'm interested in more details.

Because I like her work amount of effort I am willing to spend on her work increased. But it had to start as low-effort activity because there are so many artists and only a small percentage are going to be relevant to my tastes.

Without social media I would have never found her. Google doesn't return results in Korean to me since I don't speak it.

I like to visit Teoh's and

I like to visit Teoh's and other fellow artists' blogs and websites. I have no social media accounts and I don"t bother to check other artists' social media accounts either.
And that because their blogs and their websites are the places that show better and with a more complete manner their artworks, their way of thinking, their thoughts, their tutorials and reviews without any restrictions on what they want to say, how many pictures they will post, how long will be their tutorials.
Not to mention that it is easier to contact them through their websites, either on the comments or personally on their emails and discuss about art, ask for advice, exchange experiences etc.

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