Instagram for Galleries: Your questions answered

It’s no surprise that a platform as visual and timely as Instagram plays such a prominent role in the art world. But with a constant flow of activity, platform updates, and new features, managing your gallery’s Instagram presence comes with challenges. Mark Rosen, Artsy’s Associate Director of Marketing, Social Media, and his team sat down to answer your most burning questions about Instagram.

What is the Instagram “algorithm” and how can I make it work for me?

When you upload a post to Instagram or Facebook, it gets surfaced to a sampling of your following. How it performs with that sample determines whether or not it will continue to get served, ultimately determining total engagement. In other words, if users don’t immediately engage with your post, the post will not be pushed to a bigger audience.

Increasing immediate engagement is the key to making the algorithm work for you. First, you should determine what has and has not worked for you in the past. Your goal should be to replicate success. On Instagram, visibility is cumulative—the more good decisions you make, the more success you will find, so investigate why your past posts were successful. Were they timely? What made their imagery so captivating?

After you’ve determined the factors that seem to lead to increased engagement with your posts, focus on replicating that success on a consistent basis. Avoid poor performance at all costs—consistent high engagement leads to greater visibility, and the reverse is true for low engagement.

How can I connect with my target audience on Instagram?

The beauty and the challenge of Instagram is that it is open to everyone. You cannot choose which audience will see a specific post. The best way to get in front of your target audience is to create content with them specifically in mind. Think about their interests, what they want to see, and how you can translate that into content. A good way to make sure you’re on the right track is to ask yourself, “Does this feel appropriate for X audience?” each time you create a post.

How can I grow my following?

The two most important things to keep in mind when growing your following are the quality and consistency of your content. Producing quality content is the best way to grow your following. Once you have established the type of posts and stories that your audience engages with, focus on replicating that to increase visibility.

Looking at your top-performing content from the past is the best place to start. Consider using tools like Instagram Analytics for Business Accounts and Iconosquare to track your posts. Identify what kind of content yields the best results, and think about how you can reproduce that success in a sustainable way.

It can also be extremely valuable to collaborate with other accounts in ways that result in them tagging you. Every bit of visibility helps.

I don’t have any upcoming programming. What should I post about?

Think about general inspiration. You don’t need a call to action in every post. Artist quotes and birthdays, today in history, and relevant artist news add variety to your feed and can help you keep a consistent posting schedule between shows and events. These posts can even be planned out and scheduled ahead of time using tools like Planoly.

Best gallery Instagram accounts

Can you describe Artsy’s process for creating an Instagram post?

In any type of post for Artsy’s Instagram, the image is everything. We as a team have to feel confident that the image will make our audience want to stop and engage with it. Visuals that elicit an emotional response are best.

We like to include a person when possible, or make sure that our images have a focal point that will help situate the work and convey a story. Our focus is on creating a sense of space that will make the viewer feel like they are in the room. We don’t just show scale—we aim to transport the viewer.

The processing of an image is crucial, as well. Use apps like Snapseed, Priime, and TouchRetouch to give images a processed look that is appropriate for you. These apps require learning by doing, but it’s often helpful to find an example of a beautifully processed image and try to replicate its look while tinkering with these apps.

Our advice for you is to be strategic about the quality of the image and aim for a minimum resolution of 1,500 pixels wide to give you more than enough pixels, should you need to crop. The higher the resolution, the better—never post a pixelated image. Try to make sure you take up as much physical space as possible in your followers’ feed. This means creating images with a 4:5 aspect ratio.

When it comes to writing a caption, keep it short, sweet, intentional, and novel. Avoid blocks of text, and if you are directing to more information, direct your followers to a link in your bio.

What makes a good Instagram Story post?

Consistency is even more crucial when it comes to Instagram stories. Develop a unique perspective, as people need to know what they’ll get when they follow you—this will keep your target audience coming back to you for more. Consider the unique perspective you have to offer. Again, lean into your strengths and interests. Stories are an opportunity to share a unique and consistent perspective. What is it that you have to say?

When it comes to producing the content, too many options can be overwhelming, so set some creative constraints and keep it simple. Using the same filter, sticking to one font and text color in every post, and even limiting the number and types of gifs you add will make the production process easier for you and your team. Better yet, consider creating templates for the type of content your gallery posts most often. Artsy gallery partners have access to exclusive Story templates to promote their shows, online presence, and individual artworks.

How should I be using tags?

Be purposeful about your hashtags and try to strike a balance between a critical mass of related posts and specificity. For example, #painting has over 75 million other posts to compete with, while the title of an individual work probably doesn’t have a following. The name of an artist or a series is usually a happy medium. Ideally, you should aim for a maximum of five hashtags per post.

Geotags can be especially helpful for events such as fairs, because they enable users to view all content tied to that particular event, making them more likely to discover your feed.

Don’t forget to include handle tags in stories, as well. When you tag an account, they will receive a direct message letting them know you’ve mentioned them in your Story, prompting them to share your Story to their account.

Pro tip: Artsy gallery partners that use their exclusive Story templates and tag Artsy in their posts increase the chances of being shared to the Artsy Instagram account.

How much time should I devote to running my Instagram account?

Instagram is its own world, and it’s hard to know if your efforts are driving results “off-platform.” More time does not necessarily translate into better results. Our advice is to find a way to enjoy making content, so whether you’re creating content on the fly or taking an hour or so a week to plan out your posts, it will become an enjoyable part of your routine. Play with your interests and skill sets. Whether you’re a storyteller, an industry insider, or a passionate photographer, let that guide your content strategy.

Ideally, you will be planning ahead as much as possible when it comes to posts and posting stories on the go. Make sure you also spend time showing love—engaging with other accounts that feel relevant to you. Remember, don’t clutter your feed by following accounts you don’t plan on engaging with. Consider every follow as a commitment, and don’t spread yourself too thin. Whether it’s peers, artists, influencers, institutions, or collectors, you should be following the accounts who produce content that you’ll want to engage with regularly.

Image credit: Mark Rosen for Artsy, Lehmann Maupin’s booth at Frieze New York, 2018.

Build your social media strategy with Artsy.

Managing an engaging and compelling Instagram account for your gallery can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to. Whether your gallery already has an established social media strategy or you’re just getting started, Artsy is here to help support your efforts.