Social Media for Visual Artists

By Rebecca Coleman

Colin Moore - Twitter Tweeting Monster, 2010 Pencil, acrylic, ink on paper 19 x 15 inches

The internet, and social media, specifically, has affected how we market our work tremendously. The greatest affect it has had is that it has allowed us, as artists, to take back the power. We no longer have to wait for a gallery to accept our work to show, a newspaper to write a story and feature us, or someone to review our work. With social media, the power to display our work and solicit comments and reviews about our work is easily obtainable.

It starts with a good website. Your website is the centre of your social-media universe. All roads should lead back to it. You should make it easy for people who visit your website to also access your presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr, and vice-versa: if they find you on Twitter, they should be able to trace back to your website for deeper information.

Blog: Everyone loves to see what goes on behind the scenes. What is your process like? What inspired that particular painting, sculpture, or photo? Your audience would love to know. A blog is a great place to do just that. Alternately, if you are a photographer, you could start a photo blog, where, each day, you post a photo. Are you struggling with some aspect of your work? Share it with your audience.

Facebook: More than 200 million people, worldwide, are on Facebook. If you are not, why not? That’s a big market you are missing out on. Start a Facebook fan page dedicated to your work. Post examples of your work, import your blog, share interesting links. Ask people for reviews and feedback, or create “events” that allow you to invite your friends and clients to openings. Facebook is a wonderful way to connect with people who like your work, and to build a community around them.

Twitter: Twitter is arguable the hottest thing on the internet right now. Twitter is micro blogging: what that means is, your ‘post’ or ‘Tweet’ is limited to 140 characters. Of all the social networks, Twitter is probably the easiest to learn, but the hardest to actually understand and manage.

YouTube: One Billion people view a YouTube video every day. So, again, if you don’t have a presence on YouTube, you may be neglecting a large chunk of potential audience. Technology makes it easier and easier to create YouTube videos–all you really need is a computer with a webcam, and some kind of editing software. A video camera is also a good tool to have, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. You can create videos that chronicle how you create your work, you can use it to create a slideshow of your work, set to music or voiceover, you can get someone to interview you about your work and your passions. How about getting some of your fans to talk about what they like about your work on video? Once your video is shot and edited, and uploaded to YouTube, It’s incredibly easy to use the built-in code to share it through email, your blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Flickr: Flickr is a social network dedicated to photo sharing. Not just for photographers, you can also share images of your artwork.

As with all social networks, it’s important to establish a presence and then to interact with others in each of your networks. Don’t try to directly sell–that’s not what this is about. It’s about creating community and and you need to become a part of that community and be accepted by the others in it. Once you are a member of the community, marketing opportunities will present themselves. You will also likely meet people who will be interested in collaborating with you, and sharing their work and ideas with you.

Many people feel really overwhelmed when they are getting started in social networking. There are all these new programs and interfaces to learn, not to mention the etiquette. And finding the time can also be a challenge. So, create a plan. Start with one SM platform–say a blog or Facebook, and get going on that one. Feel like you’ve conquered it, like you’re really comfortable with it before you take on the next one. It is also extremely useful to sit down with a calendar and plan out your blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates. This will help you to be organized, on task, and to treat your social media marketing as if it were any other task you need to take care of to run your business.

But don’t forget to have fun! The key word in social media is social, and it’s really important to balance the business with the personal in what you are sharing with the world. No one wants to read business stuff all the time–it gets boring! Besides, people will never buy into “you” if they don’t know who “you” are.

Rebecca Coleman is an arts publicist, blogger, and author of The Guide to Getting Started with Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations (which is available for purchase as an e-book on her website, or at Biz Books)


Rebecca and Kris Krug will be leading the workshop Social Media for Visual Artists on April 13th.

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