First, I want to say that Internet is really saturated with social media, and that social media is designed to suck you in and waste your time. Even with limited use, you will end up looking at something you did not come there to see.
Things are changing
My favorite, Instagram, is really trying to become something else, it is losing identity and future is uncertain.
You should not rely on Instagram (or any social media) for your business as you have absolutely no control over their policies and destiny. Just a recent example with war in Ukraine: many if not most social media companies have been banned or they left their users in Russian Federation and if you were an artist in Russia that was relying on social media to generate income you would be in a great problem. This is a really bad and unlikely situation, but it happened to them and for them it is 100% real. These companies come and go, you cannot rely on their longevity, and what is actually the biggest danger of all as it happens quite often: they change their algorithms.
Since a couple of months ago I noticed a great dip in the number “likes” I received, and entire concept of the platform changed. You could not search easily with hashtags, but you were served content they wanted you to see, you lost a great deal of control of what will be shown to you. This has reached crazy levels recently. What I can see is that Instagram is trying to compete with Tik Tok and started completely ruining the experience for the users who do not want to have another Tik Tok.
If you want to improve your chances on Instagram you should be making videos, or reels, as those are currently the most algorithm friendly options.
There certainly is some benefit in using the social media as it gives you a day to day contact with audience and creates sort of an informal environment that you may or may not embrace. It is ultimately up to you to define the purpose of your social media interactions.
It would be wise to make some decisions and plan on what your goal and strategy will be, just to give you some guidelines in your marketing efforts. I personally use only Instagram for my own purposes, and mostly to communicate with fellow artists. I have not embraced the business side of it completely, using it just here and there for the more serious purposes. I will probably change that in future and focus on making it one of my marketing tools, or I may just completely let it go, I am not sure at the moment. Currently, I have been managing, as a side gig, social media accounts for the Central Okanagan Chapter of Federation of Canadian Artists, combined with my own accounts.
Whatever you decide, do not worry about the likes and follows, you need to change your expectations of the platform, it is not what it used to be. If you want to make it on Instagram you will have to invest money, set a budget and have a goal, preferably something with a monetary dimension since if you are investing money you are looking to make some as well. I would start selling art on Instagram and that would justify the cost of advertising. It makes no sense to advertise to just get the likes. I heard some great success stories from people who invested in advertising to sell their art and prints. Basically, it is very similar to the TV as you have to pay to be seen and we lost most of the control of what we will be seeing on the platform.
(to be continued)