I grew my account on Instagram to 39K followers at its height. Although I did try to grow my account, I did not feel that I had much control over it. I started posting story illustrations but soon discovered that people who followed me wanted to get better at drawing. So I posted tutorials, and that went through the roof.
People liked these posts; they forwarded and bookmarked them. They looked at these posts for a long time. And I followed only tutorial accounts, commented on other tutorials, and only replied to comments on tutorials.
Then large tutorial accounts began stealing my posts and posting them on their feeds. Fortunately, they did credit my account, and this brought in more people from these accounts, people who liked tutorials.
Finally, Instagram figured out that people who like tutorials would like my posts, and it started showing my posts on their Explore page like crazy. At its height, I got more than 1500 new followers in one day.
But it also fluctuated a lot. It would suddenly drop immensely, and I didn't understand why. Engagement would just disappear. And then come back somewhat. Or not.
It got so bad that it would only show my posts to around 10 percent of my followers and almost no one else at all. I started losing followers.
Here's the thing: these 39K “followers” weren't my followers. They were people who went onto Instagram out of boredom, and they were shown my posts simply because Instagram thought they might be interested.
These are users of Instagram. They are Instagram's audience, not mine.
Then came a significant change: they started promoting Reels and their shop. It became an online shopping mall, from one moment to the next.
And I don't know about you, but I feel awkward about hanging my art in a shopping mall.
Instagram went from the edgy-cool kid on the block, a micro-blogging site where you could show off the best parts of your life a bit, to an un-cool shopping mall.
And that is the crucial thing to take away from that: it is their platform and not yours to control. Social media platforms can, and they do, change their platform into anything they like without your consent and in a heartbeat.
I knew this would happen, but I didn't realize it would happen so fast. Instagram is essentially a useless place for me now. I am not going to spend a lot of time on a post, hoping that, maybe, Instagram will grant my post access to the audience out there, which has demonstrated that it is interested in my work!
I have since stopped posting there. People who are interested in the drawing exercises know that they can stay informed through the newsletter. People who didn't sign up probably just wanted to scroll through their feed and have probably already forgotten about me. They are not my audience.
You need your website. And you need to own your audience.
One great new platform that has shown up is Pixpa. In addition to letting you create a website, it is designed for artists. It has technology embedded that prevents, or at least makes it hard, for people to steal your art. It has a blog with useful resources for artists, like a guide on finding art jobs.
It also showcases superb and stunning examples of what an art portfolio can be.
I would add the one caveat that you should own your own domain name so that you can point it to another platform should you want to move away from the platform where you are currently hosting your art gallery. This is important because it gives you freedom, you are not shackled to any platform. This is quite important. If you decide to move away from a platform, and you are forced to use a different domain name, Google will hit you with a penalty because it sees you are posting art that was originally hosted on another domain name. Google doesn't know that that was also your website.
Setting up your own website, but then not owning your own domain name, would be like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Owning your own domain name gives you the freedom to host your art elsewhere. With that caveat, Pixpa looks like a good option if you don't want or are able to code your own website.
You can also post things on social media; your social media account should not be the home for your art. Your end goal should be to lead people to the place you own. Pixpa is a great option, as far as I can see.