Q: I have recently started selling prints and original artwork through an online store. I have a personal Instagram account, but I’m wondering whether I should have another one for my business, and how could I best use it in a business context?

A: Congratulations on starting a business! It’s an exciting time to run a business as an artists, and I think your instinct about leveraging Instagram is absolutely right, it’s a brilliant medium for exactly the type of business you have. First of all, whether you’ll open a separate account for your business depends on two things, the way you are using your personal Instagram account at the moment, and your branding decisions for your business. If you mainly use Instagram to post personal images of say, your children, pets or food, it would be better to have a separate account, which would be more about your work and curated to fit better with the brand of your store. If your business is 100% personified to you, and you already share your artwork on Instagram and have built a following, then I would continue to build on that and just curate a little bit more tightly in the future. Right, now we’ve established how, let’s talk about what you can do with your Instagram.

1. Interact with your audience
Instagram is a great way to have a conversation with your audience. They can get a glimpse into who you are as a person, and your motivations behind your work, which will make them feel more connected. You can also draw inspiration from your fan base, it can be exciting to see how diverse your audience can be, and what sort of thoughts your work produces.

2. Share work-in-progress
This is the easiest and most obvious way for an artist to create Instagram content that will be wildly exciting to your followers. The nature of a creative business is that you will always have works on the go, and sometimes it feels like nothing is ever getting finished, but sharing this in-between stage will whet your audiences appetite, and giving sneak peeks into future work will also motivate you to finish stuff, as you have so publicly committed to it.

3. Curate your brand
As a visual medium, Instagram is a great place to demonstrate your visual identity and really showcase your brand. Make it a habit to pay attention to how your feed looks as a whole. Is your gallery consistent or does something stand out in a distracting way (and if it does, it’s ok to delete photos here and there, it’s your feed after all!).  A new follower stumbling onto your feed needs to know instantly whether your visual style and energy is something they love or hate.

4. Create #hashtag campaigns or collections
Hashtags are keywords that group topics together, and the usage for them is literally limitless. You can create mini collections or series of your work by creating hashtags that group work together, which will make it more exciting for your followers to anticipate new additions to their favourite collections. It will also help new followers discover older work when they click through to a hashtag collection from a new image that catches their eye. Don’t worry if you didn’t start doing this initially, you can always go back and create hashtag collections at any point in time. You can also think up hashtag campaigns or contest, where your followers might win a free piece of work based on hashtagging their entries, from which you’ll choose a winner. It’s a great way to spread the word and reach new followers.

5. Appreciate and comment on others work

Instagram is full of inspiring artists, who can be a source of inspiration, but also other service providers related to what you do, who could be potential contacts and future collaborators. So get social, follow others, comment on their images, start conversations. The best kind of networking and connections happen when you get honestly excited about something someone else is doing, and are gracious enough to tell them so!

Marianne Taylor is the creator of Beloved Magazine and founder of Her Lovely Heart