How to Grow Your Instagram 2021

Talent is Only Half Of The Story...

You can grow your Instagram even if you aren’t the best at digital art… 

Posting beautiful art is just one of the components of a successful Instagram account. But if your art isn’t quite there yet, there are still lots of other things you can do to grow on Instagram. All you need to know is what works on Instagram and what makes people notice you and your posts. And I’m here to tell you that… 

Warning! This post is not for artists that don’t want to be told what to paint. That’s a luxury only the most talented can afford. We, regular people, will have to do what Instagrammers are interested in if we want to grow our communities. You have been warned. 🙂

1. Think Like a Creator Not As a User

When you’re posting content on Instagram and making an effort to grow your account you aren’t a user anymore, you’re a creator. Think like one. It’s a different mindset that is very easy to get used to once you start doing it. 

Next time when you scroll down on the Explore page don’t just consume the content, purposefully look for ideas. Take notice of posts that get a lot of likes, and try to do your version of it.

Here are some of the posts that generated unusually high engagement for me this past year:

Step-by-step posts of individual features like this
✦ Process videos like this
 Fanart like this
Reels like this
Start experimenting with these types of posts and as soon as you figure out that something works do more of that. 

2. Use The Right Hashtags For The Size of Your Account

There’s an age-old debate whether to use the allowed 30 hashtags or not. Honestly, I don’t know. I used 30 hashtags and 10 hashtags before too, and both seemed fine. I stopped obsessing over how many hashtags I use, I focus on their size/popularity instead. Here are a couple of pointers to improve your # game:

1. Don’t use hashtags with 1m+ posts. The goal is to have your post to be visible for a longer time. If you use hashtags that are too big for your account your posts will get swamped in a matter of seconds. 

Example: If your account has 10k followers, stick to the hashtags that have around 10-40k, and use just 1 or 2 with 100k or more posts. As your account grows you can upgrade your #s

2. Make your life easier by having hashtag sets for every type of post (video, art steps, fan art, etc). A hashtag set should consist of well researched digital art related hashtags + post specific hashtags 

Let me know if you would be interested in a full hashtag guide for artists in 2021.

3. Find Your Voice

I can’t stress enough how important it is to write a copy under your posts. I know, Instagram is a visual platform, but you get a chance to show your personality in your captions. Take advantage of that. And while not everyone will ready your captions, the people who do will connect with you a lot more. 

Ask questions, write anecdotes, and for the love of God don’t apologize for your bad English. You’ll get better at it. Here are some free tools that can help you with that: Grammarly, Hemingway Editor. 

4. Ask Questions

Speaking of asking questions in your captions. Keep in mind that people don’t like answering long deep questions, so your best bet is to ask a ‘this or that’ or a ‘what’s your favorite x’ type of question. 

Tip: Start your caption by asking the question and write a story that relates to it after that. More people will notice and answer your question if it’s the first thing in your caption. And the algorithm favors posts with more engagement. 

5. Post close-ups

People on Instagram won’t find out how awesome you are if they don’t notice your post. That is why how your post looks in grid view is very important on Instagram. 

You want people to notice YOUR post instead of the one next to it when they’re scrolling down on their explore page. One of the things that helps is posting close-ups.

Tip: If you have a full-body or half-body painting, post a closeup as a first slide, and the full version as a second slide. When scrolling down on Instagram, people tend to notice zoomed-in images much more.

Which one would you notice first in the grid?

6. Paint With Bright Colors

Another thing that will help you stand out is painting with bright colors. Use a pop of bright color and high contrast in your paintings as much as you can. People will notice the bright colors when scrolling down on Instagram, and these posts get more engagement every time.

Which one would grab your attention?

7. Posting Time Matters

I’ve been posting to Instagram between 5-6 PM GMT for the past 3-4 years, and I found people that are generally awake around that time. Any posting time should work if you stick with it long enough, just be consistent. 

If you’re just starting and want to figure out an optimal posting time here’s my tip: 

Try to think about when can you catch most of your target audience awake. Here’s a time zone converter I use, add your time zone to figure out when should you publish your next posts to get more eyes on your content.


Want Quick Wins? Paint These...

✦ Beautiful girls, and pretty guys, cute pets. I know people, this is the world we live in… 😂 

✦ Fanart. This one gets more engagement because it draws in a wider audience if you use hashtags specific to that fandom.

✦ “Pretty” colors. Now what’s pretty is very subjective, but in my experience pinks, purples, blues, yellows get noticed much more.

✦ Challenges like Inktober, Mermay, Draw This in Your Style. When a challenge is active the hashtags have a LOT of views and engagement

And there you have it, folks. You can use these tricks to grow your Instagram account even if you can only draw stick figures. BUT they have more impact if you improve your art skills too. Beautiful paintings will always have an easier time drawing in new people. 

If you’re in the mood to watch improve your skills right away take a look at this blog post with my absolute favorite tutorials. 

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