Do artist need social media?

Lost in the “jungle” of social media? Overwhelmed by the options of joining Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, Tumblr…. How can artist decide whether or not social media for our own progress, taking into account that each of these mediums require time and energy, already scarce in our daily lives? Today I will blog about social media, based on my own (limited) experience and drawing upon the informative workshop of Fit for the Future: Digital strategies organised by the Royal Opera House Bridge in their reach-out program Culture Change, I blogged about this before.

In the workshop, “happy skeptic”  Cliff Manning formulated the question: “Why to bother with social media” as there is always a sort of “hype” about joining these many alternatives, promising instant results, incredible sales and endless excitement. But these expectations are soon challenged, and the bubble bursts in disappointment. However, the point is that social media does not need to be a “hype” or a “should” but something that it is a ‘normal’, and that we need to perceive some added value of engaging with them. In sum, in order to work, social media needs to part of our daily lives and activities, rather than a burden… so why should engage or not social media?


To start resolving this question, Cliff shared some staggering figures about the use of social media.There are 1.28 billion of Facebook users, 223 million of active users of Twitter (78% engaging through mobile phones); 200 million people using Instagram; and most of the users of Pinterest are women!  So, there is a wealth of possibilities here, of making contacts, of doing things in a different way (i.e. by interacting directly with audiences, self-publishing, etc.). Beyond having the possibility of “putting yourself out”, Cliff stressed the fact that social media allows us as artists to LISTEN to what is going on, being connected with trends, with potential collaborations, conversations, etc. Indeed, he answers the question of Why bother? with the four C’s:  Connections, Conversations and Collaborations, and if this not enough, then you have “Cats”!

Personally, I’ve been experimenting with different social media and this is my assessment.

Platform Pros & Cons What’s good for artists? Potential What do I do?
Facebook It is popular and it is useful for advertising.It is more for friends and family, but, if you have a facebook page is a good way to connect with people that know you. Some artists sell extremely well in facebook.It is a way to keep reminding people that you are alive and working! Some say that it is in decline, that it is only for certain type of age, but it is still one of the more engaging addictive platforms. I have a Facebook page that allows me to share what I do, it works as a more active website.
Instagram It is more visual than textual. It is growing a lot, and it is very good for young people. It is limited to photographs, but this can be good for artists. Vogue said that Instagram is the largest online gallery in the world. Gallerists and collectors visit this platform. If you do instagram it is good to give more about yourself. This is a good platform to engage with people and also to create a quirky identity. See how here I am using instagram to share my iCuts and create a bit of a quirky identity around cuttings, quirky lettering and collages.
Blog (WordPress) It can be a blog or a website. TAA recommends it for websites. It is good if you have things to say, in regular basis, but for certain group. For me the blog is a way of reflecting about my own process and it allows me to document what I am doing and this normally goes to catalogues or to newsletters. It is a very versatile platform, but you need to think who you are writing for, because it demands time. I write every week about different topics (my own process, exhibitions, ideas), I feel that this blog is good for other artists wanting to “become” or learn. I love it because it has reconnected me with my writing.
Twitter A good way to engage with what is happening around the world. You can have relationships with people directly. 78% use it in the mobile. Direct, quick, and short *149 characters make you go to the point! Connecting with other artists, increase your “visibility” and your presence in the cyberspace. Much better than facebook in terms of publicity because it is an open platform. A very good way to connect with people, institutions and link with your own work and other’s people’s work. I am just experimenting with Twitter, in the sense of opening an account and see what is around.


Another important technology is the possibility of managing lists of people interested in your work. For that I use Mailchimp: This is what can be called administering your social capital! Who are your social capital? collectors, fellow artists, providers, people interested in your work, etc. I have two main lists, one for my collectors and other for people who are interested in my work in a more general way. These are people who have accepted to receive my newsletter previously (i.e. by signing a guest book or sending me an email). It works very easily, you need to create a list of people, even if you have one already in Excel, that’s great, with names, surnames and emails. Mailchimp helps you to create beautiful newsletters, addressing people by their name (i.e. Dear Charles), and sending the mails to everybody at certain schedule time.  The process is very easy, it is quirky to see the chimp saying “high five” and it is very reliable, well explained platform.

One of the most useful aspects of the workshop was to start thinking how to use social media for our purposes, and not the other way around. Basically, social media is good to “reach” people, but after that artists need to “engage”, in other words, to build relationships, gain trust and establish meaningful links with people. That may take longer than the process of simply “reaching out”.  Cliff shared this “framework” from Jim Richardson and Jasper Wise (Creative Commons) to think how can we plan strategically how to engage with social media.

It starts by realizing our ASSETS, considering what are our main assets, it can be products, services, time, space, skills, knowledge or networks. Then it ask about how to REACH certain audiences (here we need to be very specific), and we can also think of what type of “information”, “technology” and “processes” are required.  Beyond reaching, it would be interesting to really ENGAGE with audiences, by establishing relationships, asking for favours, opinions, contributions.  Around it, we need also to think about what are our OBJECTIVES, our VISION and TRENDS that may influence our actions, activities. The graphic can illustrate that better:


So what to do?

Well, I understand this is a lot of information to consider, but I would suggest start with the media that you are more comfortable with. For instance, if you are already using Facebook, why not to try to do a “facebook” page?  If you like to write notes, why not to start a blog? With twitter, you can create your identity, and start following people you like, slowly and playfully. In general, try to do things that you find fun to do, and then experiment. Also, when you feel a bit more confident, it will be good to start thinking on strategic terms. Most importantly, you need to think what you want to say, build relationships and trust,  and to make social media part of your normal life!



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