by guest blogger Chris Davies
With the online art market growing by 20% each year, it’s no surprise many creatives find selling art online so lucrative. And with sites such as Artfinder, Artsy, Etsy and even Shopify steadily replacing galleries as the go-to space to buy original work, the internet shopping revolution seems unstoppable.
But what about promoting your work via social media? Can this really help boost your sales…or are you just wasting your time chasing all those ‘Likes’, ‘Retweets’ and ‘Repins’? Sometimes, it seems there’s an endless amount of ‘gurus’ telling artists how to sell their work on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and it seems like an opportunity too good to miss out on.
However, all too often, the reality for artists can be somewhat different. Sure, you may be picking up lots of new followers and fans, but are any of them actually buying – or even thinking about buying – the pieces you’ve spent hours working on? It can be frustrating and perplexing at the same time. In fact, this quote from web analytics specialist, Avinash Kaushik, pretty much sums it up:
“We’ve found our website to be more successful than social media, but we’re still giving it a go,” explains Richard Warner, a sculptor based in Welshpool, UK. Together with fellow artist, Victoria Govan, he’s produced work for a wide range of clients and picked up awards at prestigious events such as the Chelsea Flower Show in London.
For him, social media is more about keeping potential customers interested in your working process rather than directly marketing to them. He says: “There are many variables, obviously, but I think social media is mainly about getting your work in front of people so it can fire their imagination and make them want to invest in your work. The difficult part is providing something of genuine value for people to engage with – otherwise, it’s all just contrived sales chatter!”
So, how can you as an artist walk the fine line between keeping your customers engaged and coming across as too ‘salesy’? How can you find time in your already busy schedule for social media? And, more importantly, how can you do it right? Here are some tips you may find useful:
1. Consider Your Audience First
With any social media channel, it’s worth taking some time out to consider your audience first. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc. all attract different audiences, so you’ll need to consider this when posting content. Hootsuite and Buffer are both great tools for doing this. You can schedule when you want your posts to appear, and on which social media channel. You don’t need to worry about finding the best time to post content – either of these handy tools will work out the best time for you based on your audience activity. You can also post content from any sites which you find interesting. This way, your audience will get a better idea of what inspires you to make art.
Another great resource is Overgraph – a user-friendly way of reaching your audience at the right time and responding to any messages. It also converts all that perplexing user data into a handy easy-to-read report which you can use to your advantage. All these tools have free plans which give you a lot to work with, but you can also upgrade to a paid plan to unlock even more features if you need to. The first rule when posting content? Don’t post the same updates across all your channels and try and tailor each update to appeal to your audience.
2. Choose Good Quality Images and Re-size Them to Suit
As an artist, you’ll already know the importance of using high quality images to publicize your work. However, it’s also worth considering how these will look when they appear in the timelines of your followers on different social media channels. For example, what looks great on Facebook might not look so good elsewhere, so be sure to crop each image to the right dimensions for each channel. This handy cheat sheet from Peta Pixel should give you everything you need to know. Don’t have Photoshop? No problem – there’s a wide range of easy-to-use alternatives out there, as this blog post from Buffer shows.
3. To Hashtag or Not to Hashtag?
Love them or loathe them, there’s no doubt hashtags can help get your work seen online. However, it’s worth exercising some caution here, because using too many can actually harm engagement with your audience.
For me, it’s a little like going into a store to make a purchase. Do you buy from the pushy salesperson who bombards you as soon as you walk through the door? Or, are you more likely to part with your money if they have a more subtle, yet helpful, approach? It’s the same with hashtags. Generally speaking, try and keep these to around two per post and make sure the words are actually worth using a hashtag. If you’re unsure of which hashtags are most (or least) effective, the free 30-day trial version of Ritetag should set you on the right path.
As sculptor Richard Warner says: “All promotion’s intrinsically cynical and manipulative, so it’s important not to alienate people by insulting their intelligence!” I think he’s got a very good point. The above infographic from Nonprofit Marketing Guide is also a great reference point.
4. Why Pinterest is More Than Just Another Social Media Network
Rather than look at Pinterest as yet another social network, treat it as what it really is – an intuitive visual search engine that can also become a great showcase for your work. Why? Because rather than someone trawling through Google searching for images, they can often get to the stuff they really want a whole lot more quickly on Pinterest. It’s not that one visual search engine is better than the other, it’s just that they’re different – as this post from Buzzfeed hilariously shows.
Getting started with Pinterest is easy. You can post pics of your own work and anything else that inspires you. Just be sure to select the appropriate category for the boards you create and use relevant hashtags in your Pin descriptions to help people find you. This post on Oh So Pinterest has plenty of useful info to get you started.
Currently, it’s not possible to schedule Pins using Hootsuite or Buffer, but all is not lost if you want to experiment with Pinning at different times. Viralwoot gives you a whole range of options, from scheduling to detailed analytics.
And Pinterest isn’t just about static images, either. Did you know you can also Pin videos from YouTube? Just share your clips using the share function and away you go. If you like to make videos of your work in progress, this can be a great way to stand out from the crowd. While we’re on the subject of video, you can also share a link from YouTube in your Twitter feed and it should automatically show as a preview (rather than just a link) in the timeline of your followers.
5. Use Social Media to Drive Traffic to Your Blog
Perhaps the most effective use of social media is to stop thinking about selling art online via these channels altogether. Instead, use it to drive traffic to your website or blog by letting your audience get to know you as a real person rather than just as a brand.
Lix Hewitt, a graphic designer and photographer from London, says: “I like social media as a companion tool for marketing. Etsy has been good for selling my design services, but my blog is my main thing. Obviously, I have to get the blog out there, and social media helps do this.”
So, next time you update your blog, why not post a link to it on social media? Using a tracking link tool such as Bitly will help you see just how many people have visited your site as a result of doing this.
Could You Get Your Big Break Via Social Media?
As its name suggests, social media is about people and how they interact with each other. By using these channels to meet other artists, share ideas and give people an insight into your creative process, you’ll be promoting who you are and what you do to millions of prospective customers. This may not seem like marketing in the traditional sense, and you may not see any results instantly. However, your reputation will grow over time and, as we all know, you just never know where your big break will come from.
My favorite recent example of this is Scott Weston, a digital agency employee from Stourbridge, UK. Having always loved doodling, he came up with the simple idea of sketching the often hilarious or bizarre things people tweet about on a daily basis.
After setting up his Twitter account as @DrawnYourTweet and searching this popular social media channel for terms such as ‘tomato’, Scott purposefully chose users who didn’t have thousands of followers and created a doodle based on anything they’d tweeted that he found particularly interesting or amusing. He then tweeted them with their finished doodle.
Before too long, he steadily began to build a fan base. However, it wasn’t until he decided to take a break from tradition and draw a tweet from New Statesman journalist Helen Lewis, that things suddenly got really interesting. She retweeted it to her 40,000 followers and word spread rapidly. In the space of one cold Sunday in February, his follower numbers went from 100 to 8,000.
Since then, Scott has drawn the tweets of celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Carrie Fisher and will.i.am. He’s now got more than 30K followers, went to New York to draw live on The Today Show, and one of his doodles, based on a tweet by TV presenter, Phillip Schofield, is now on display at Twitter HQ in California.
Not bad for a spot of doodling on social media, eh?
What are your experiences of selling art online? Has social media helped you do this? I’d love to hear from more artists on this subject, so get in touch below and let’s keep the conversation going!
Guest blogger, Chris Davies, is a member of the team at Pencil Kings – a Vancouver-based online art tutorials and community resource that aims to make learning accessible and affordable to all. With a background in fine art and journalism, Chris likes to combine his passion for all things visual with writing about topics he hopes others will find useful and interesting. You can follow him on Twitter @Christoff3000.