The artists in my network hub asked me to give them some tips in using facebook and other social media for promoting our art. I thought I would try to collect both my experience (I am just learning about this journey of becoming a professional artist) and a glimpse of the excellent advice of websites and groups like “the Abundant Artist“, Create and Inspire, specially Cory Huff’s “The abundant artist” that is the one I most consult because it is down to earth and practical.
Social media can be a minefield, because there is so much outside and it is changing all the time. For instance, Facebook is a “top-dog” platform with almost 1 billion members, perfect for advertising and a very enticing “time-waster” (I know that so well as I spend a lot of “5 min only” procrastinating in Facebook… of course, it is always more than 5 minutes while I check, like or follow the 100 daily posts of my 320 ‘friends’). And there is also Twitter, and Instagram; Pinterest and Ello (the new kid in the block that promises a fee advertising social media!).
Forbes magazine website estimates that social media will become a necessity, so it is not an option for artists, whether “I like it or not”… if we want to become professional and sell our art, then we have to engage with what is going on. But before getting into the particularities of the numerous platforms for social media, it is important to remember that for artists “you are the brand” and your art is “your product“, thus any social interaction needs to get that message clear. So social media is not only internet-mediated interactions, but any social interaction, from the neighborhood, to the bus queue, or business or artist networks, or the apparently innocent daily interactions: your choir group, your church, your friends. I am not suggesting that you are all the time at “selling” – that is too rough!-, but what I would like to remind is that we carry our identity everywhere we go. So I started by making some questions (for my self and my group of fellow artists):
“What do I want to say?”…
Describe in few words what is interesting about my art and myself. If somebody ask you in a party (specially in Britain) the usual “What do you do?” what would you say? What would you like people to remember of you. Here, as well as in any other social media platform, you need to be quick, you need to be memorable, you need to be basic.
This is one of the first tips for social media, to keep it simple, something that people understand. I remember at the beginning of my artistic career defining my art in such a flamboyant terms: “psychodelic expressionism”, “graphic impressionism” (please don’t laugh…well not so loud!), etc, only to find that nobody (not even myself) will remember. Still now I am struggling to find what defines my art. Just recently I thought that what I do is not exactly botanical illustration, rather is botanical design, but I definitively think that “botanical” is a tag that can be attached to some of my work. This does not mean that you are limiting yourself only to that type of art, but you need to “invite” people to learn more about you, and having clear directions on what you do is the simplest way.
The second question, is
“who are you wanting to talk to?”
It is impossible to try to talk to “everybody”… because not everybody would be interested in your work. Indeed, some people “like it or may not like it” and I remember exhibiting in some local fairs without so much success. My art was not saying anything to those audiences. So part of coming out of the closet as an artist has been to find those who like my art: they are like diamonds, and thus, it is important to get to know them better. A good tip for that is to think about the people who have bought your art: what type of people are they, gender, age, socio-economic background, education, hobbies, etc. You have to be systematic in that regard, as it will help you to know your collector. And you have to talk their language, be where they hang around (and this include social media) and make your presence there.
And the third question is:
“with the limited time that we all do [not] have, where do you think is best invest resources and energy? “
This made me think about my dear bro Eduardo, who at the beginning of his now very successful career as an antique dealer and curator, repeated the buzzword: “find new markets, find new markets, find new markets”… and sometimes we think we can do so many things! but the reality is that time & resources are precious and we need to prioritize. Of course, if we want to be serious about our art we need to invest (at least) 50% of our time in marketing and management! So, once again, you need to focus on the platform that will help you most to show who you are to the people that matter to you? This is not an “exclusivity” condition, in fact, most of social media is connected and whatever you post in pinterest can be shared in twitter, facebook or your blog.
As artists we have a great advantage of working with images, which based on Forbes prediction will be the most successful type of networks. Of course, do not expect that this will happen overnight, it is a matter of work, perseverance and seduction. This all require time for you to learn what is happening out there, and as a plant, you need to spend time under the soil developing the solid seeds of what you want to tell the world.
So what will be my advice for those starting to think on social media? Respond at least to the two first questions, and spend time playing with the different platforms, to find where do you feel more at ease. Everything is very user friendly and as I said to my students, it is easy to open a blog or a Facebook account, the challenge is to keep it going, with interesting posts, with timely announcements and as a way to build up your image and brand.
More expert advice and training can be found in the mentioned websites and for inspiration read this blog about Natasha Wescoat and how she managed to sell US$50000 in Facebook.
Hope this helps us all!