It’s no secret that social media is a powerful tool these days for marketing everything from beverages to pickup trucks. Just about every major brand out there has a dedicated Instagram account and a team of people expertly manipulating the nuances of this still rising star in social media to get the most in return for their efforts. The art world has definitely latched on to Instagram as an often lucrative source of buyer connections, but achieving success as an artist on Instagram isn’t as simple as snapping a photo of your work and tossing it up for all to see. There are quite a lot of proven techniques to help you gain an organic social media following. When you are just starting out on Instagram, it is important to be aware of these and to use them to grow you audience.

One of the most basic ways to grow your list of followers on Instagram is to utilize other forms of social media already in place. Have a decent Facebook following or an active Twitter account? Let them all know you’re making the move to Instagram and invite them to join you. Encourage friends to share your account with their friends and followers, too and always be sure to reciprocate in kind. A share for a share is one of the best ways to build strong social media relationships among your fellow artists.

Because Instagram is a photo-based platform, it is in many ways the ideal situation for artists. This visual social media app can be the best way to showcase your work if you do it carefully. Simply taking a photo on the fly of a piece of work and tossing it up on Instagram will not gain you much in the way of success on Instagram. Your presence in this community must be defined by quality work. That means not only should you only showcase your best pieces of art, you should do so in a manner that highlights them rather than inadvertently detracts. Instagram offers much in the way of photo altering filters and settings but artists should be wary of using anything that could significantly alter the way a work comes across visually. Especially if you are hoping to sell your work through Instagram, you need to work hard to present the most authentic representation you possibly can.

As on many forms of social media, on Instagram it is all about the hashtags. Knowing how to use hashtags can be tricky at first and takes a little bit of research and practice. Even some trial and error. Start by investigating your community. Who are the followers you want to start noticing your work? What hashtags are they using and responding to? Who are the people on Instagram doing similar things and what are the hashtags that seem to garner the biggest response? Once you begin to build a list of hashtags, keep a record for future use.

Speaking of others on Instagram doing similar things, follow them. Not only that, engage with them. Seek out the people who are influencers in your social media community and begin actively engaging with them via their accounts. Like their photos, make comments, regram (the Instagram term for share) their work. Eventually you will be noticed. One of the fastest ways to gain followers is for someone in a position of influence on social media to share your posts.

Don’t just engage with the heavy hitters, explore your entire community. Follow other artists whose work complements your own and become an active member of the Instagram community. Social media won’t work if you exist in a vacuum, so be sure you are putting yourself out there in the virtual world.

Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t expect that by the end of your first week you will have a few hundred new followers. Often these things take time, but with persistence you can absolutely grow a community on Instagram.

Make sure once your account is up and running that you tend to it every day. Try to post something at least once a day, ideally more, and do not let your account become dormant. Social media is a very fast paced world. If you fall behind you will find yourself quickly back at square one. It is important to curate your Instagram account every single day. Consider this part of your marketing toolkit.

While it is true that Instagram has been responsible for some high profile art sales (a Basquait painting sold for nearly $20 million through the app and celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio have famously purchased art there) building a modest community and expanding from there is a very concrete way to use social media marketing to your advantage. It takes time and patience and the willingness to commit to daily upkeep, but if you do your research and keep your expectations in check, Instagram can be a major boon for any artist hoping to harness the power of social media.