An Honest Look at Social Media for Artists

HeadshotGuest blogger Jeff Mueller has used social media extensively to further his career as an artist. He shares his strategies, frustrations and results.

 

 

For artists, social media is a different animal compared to how it functions for regular online businesses. Countless people are using social media, and they are utilizing steadfast “Gary Vaynerchuk type” techniques. Vaynerchuk has made his living teaching large companies how to take advantage of social media.

Attempting to sell artwork through social media can be a bit more challenging because what we do, as artists, is so personal. With that being said, online artwork sales have become a large and lucrative business. There are many sites offering platforms for artists to sell their artwork in the form of prints or novelty items. The traditional way of selling original artwork on the internet has been a difficult venture for me. Believe me, I have tried.

Five years ago, I opened a Twitter account to promote my art and draw attention to my website and blog. Then, I branched out into Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Using these platforms has taught me to evolve my social media strategy.

 

Jeff Mueller at the computer

“Tradigital” artist Jeff Mueller at the computer

 

Marketing ourselves via social media is largely a numbers game. The goal is to find and develop genuine relationships with people who are motivated to help us. We are members of a “personal” profession.

I’ve learned there is a certain percentage of social media followers who will always love what I do. They are a wonderful form of encouragement. I can read through their comments and give myself a pat on the back or surge of motivation. These are not the followers who will lead to more sales, and that is fine.

We still want these passive observers, but our main goal is to have more active participants in our careers. Like choosing friends in real life, we are choosing which relationships to develop online.

 

Jeff Mueller's Twitter Page

Jeff Mueller’s Twitter Page

 

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers on social media, but whether we have 500 followers or 50,000 followers, it is imperative that there are people in that number who will be active participants. Social media has made it easier for everyone to live life as a passive participant. They never really get involved, but appear to with the follow, like, favorite, or retweet buttons they press on their screens.

Why can’t we get to know and form relationships with people who could potentially be important to our careers? This is how I have learned, with a few missteps, to use social media in a professional way by building relationships with people who are willing to actively participate.

I’ve developed a community of followers interested in my work, and I am interested in theirs. It has been hard, but also extremely rewarding and fun. I never spam to follow or friend any of the people in the online community I built.

Randomly following people is a waste of time for an artist. I have always wanted people to come to me and enjoy my artwork. I post quality content, and those who are interested in my work will follow me. I approach social media this way to actually engage with others.

 

Artist Jeff Mueller's Facebook Page

Artist Jeff Mueller’s Facebook Page

 

When someone likes a post and follows me, I take the time to follow them back, chat with them and thank them for their interest in my work. I’m working to develop professional and mutually beneficial relationships. I met Ingrid Geronimo through social media, who has traveled great distances to attend two of my shows. This is proof that we are able to translate social media connections to real friendships.

We can develop friendships and a myriad of communications with these people, if done correctly. Organization is imperative. On Twitter, using lists and “favoriting” tweets keeps me organized. On Facebook, I keep track of people by sharing their information, and this puts it on my timeline. I use my personal Facebook account to communicate with people, but I also make pages. Through these pages, I connect with people interested in what I’m doing, such as a specific piece of artwork, event, or exhibition. Making pages allows me to filter my main page content to a specific audience. I also schedule posts throughout the day. It is a real time saver; especially trying to advance my art career while working another 9-5 job.

I am on See.me daily and have a portfolio on their site. I have been a part of their group shows in New York, and will be in their show in Paris. All this is made possible by connections via social media.

 

Jeff Mueller with a piece of his artwork

Jeff Mueller poses with a piece of his artwork

 

Make no mistake, if we choose to use social media, it is work. We have to be diligent and check our feeds daily and respond to people to create friendships. I met Carolyn from Artsy Shark this way, through Twitter. She has been a true friend and has attempted to help me in any way she can. In return, I help her by sharing her content across social media. She has featured my art on her website. Through her, I have made connections with many people who have been helpful in developing my career. We have to remember that each and every communication can be a new friend or new business relationship, or both!

As in every line of work, many times it’s not how talented we are, but who we know. If we are trying to show in a gallery, it is easier to break in if we know artists with connections to that gallery. As a “Tradigital” artist, it’s been hard for me to find the right gallery. I hope that through social media I can find other artists with advice, or connections to a gallery looking to show what I have to offer.

We are living in exciting times. I’m using social media as a networking device, but don’t necessarily use it as a direct market for my artwork. I have sites at Jeff Mueller and Computer Art Market so I can point interested people I meet online to purchase my art. It is not the market I am working to break into, but I am always ready to sell online.

I believe we are on the edge of a period where technology and art will be combined in a creative way, and make its mark on the world. I plan to be there for it!

What’s your experience in using social media to sell your work? What challenges have you faced?

 

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Comments

  1. this is good advice for me personally as I am about to launch my kickstarter campaign.

  2. Great to hear another creative “verbalize” what I’ve been thinking and saying to myself the past view years. Jeff’s strategy makes so much sense. Thanks for putting it out there !!

    Marty

    • Marty, today I posted this article on a discussion group, and it got a lot of nods. Plus a comment that anyone who says social media is easy is probably selling something.

      It’s a lot of hard work, and often you aren’t sure whether you will get results. You just need a cumulative effort to connect with those “real” people out there who get what you do and will be a part of your network.

    • I thought it was important Marty to lead artists down the right roads when it comes to the fine art and social media partnership. I’m glad I could back up what you already knew!????

  3. Well explained, practical advice. Yepper … lots of work … that seems to be hard for lots of photographer / artists to understand and implement … but it sounds to me like you’ve got it nailed!!! Way to go!!!

  4. Thank you! Very informative and clear. Just like anything worth doing,It is indeed a lot of work and I have made some pretty great connections using social media.

    • My Pleasure Will:
      Im glad you have made great connections to like I have. what is your favorite SM network let me know and i will connect with you there. That is if we are not connected already.

  5. Hi Jeff
    Thanks for this post. I help promote numerous artists via social media and two physical galleries. Since it’s hard to measure real take up – eg sale of work etc. I worry that when casual likers see an image in their feed, the ‘consumption/acquisition/transaction’ happens then, and the connection ends, rather than the digitized image being a springboard to a gallery visit or studio sale. Having said that I like the metrics (if they can be trusted), the immediacy and editability once published. All in all I wouldn’t be without it. What do you think about conversion of liker to buyer?

    • Hi Kate
      Quite honestly i am hoping that the like to buyer will come with time. I am trying so many different projects to encourage the likes to participate with the project, therefore becoming a part of it and hopefully converting the likes into purchases, but it has not transferred into sales as of yet. I have two main obstacles to overcome. My artwork is a combination of traditional painting combined with digital painting. Educating buyers into the digital modern era and earning there trust is a high mountain to climb. Buyers are not sure how this is going to all play out! I also put 100-300 hours into a painting to obtain the realism I am looking for and when your digital, to print onto canvas, I’m looking at a $200-$500 investment in materials before i even start a painting. I am all in with no plans of going anywhere so although my pricing may seem high I am sticking to my guns and not giving it a way for less than minimum wage rates.

  6. Thanks Carolyn and Jeff,
    Very useful information! I am very involved with using social media to sell my at and have found Instagram to be a growing platform and getting connected. It is a lot of work to get it set up and the obstacle I hear from other artists (not me) is that they are afraid of it and not very techy. I get a little frustrated with that because these people are capable of it – they just get intimidated. It’s easy to learn it but you have to be on it all the time. Also artists are afraid their art will be stolen which means you stay a step ahead. The world is a different place…learn everyday and read other artists blogs to see what they do and listen to podcasts.
    Good luck!

    • Jan,

      I find it interesting that you are focusing on Instagram. I think choosing one method (versus trying to be on a lot of social media platforms) may be key to getting traction. I post artist features and business articles on many – LinkedIn, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. and it is a job – one where you must be consistent to the point of being relentless. Many times people like your post, and then they are gone. They need to see you over and over, and they need to see quality. This takes a high level of motivation. Sounds like you have that with your Instagram account.

      • I am definitely getting traction with Instagram but I also spend time on Pinterest and Facebook – a little on Twitter but the bare minimum. I know how important SEO is so I stay as much on social media as possible because anytime my work is seen or followed or re-posted it’s another person who sees it. I also take advantage of every opportunity to be featured on someone elses IG account.
        I “like” and comments for at least a hour a day and post three or four times a day. My traffic has increased + more people asking for custom work.

        • Jan
          how are you getting featured on some one else account also i get a lot of likes on instagram but not a lot of comments do you converse with everyone who likes your art? if so how do you go about it?

    • Jan
      Great to hear from you! I have been on instagram also. I am doing a year long study of a water tower. I’m in day 113 right now and have gotten a small following but i hope to really gain momentum after the year is over and i post 52 pieces of artwork photography, digital paintings, tradigital paintings, plein air paintings. over the next six months. so far i have way more success on Facebook with my 52 shades of blue facebook page and group. No sales or commissions yet though, but interest has been peaked. I don’t get frustrated with artists who have trouble with technology, i get a little bit frustrated by the artist who has been so successful and doesn’t feel the need to have to do social media. those are the artists who could so benefit everyone if they would come online and bless us with their talent. I think it would legitimize social media and art.Social media is everything a piece of art is. Its just another tool given to us and as artist we always find the most creative ways to use it

  7. Stephanie Lara says:

    Through the modern age development of social media networking has arisen new ventures and pathways for artists and creative practisers to share their world on an internationally collected platform, such as Instagram and Facebook. However, this has come with a series of obstacles that perhaps goes against the integrity of what it is to be a unique artist. The concept that one has to “market” themselves highlights the influence/pressures social trends and advertising strategies place on artists which can unfortunately see them conform their style or form of expression if they don’t receive the likes/follows they think they deserve or would like. What do you think?

  8. Jeff, I must admit, this is one of the best and honest articles I have ever come across! It is a great help for artists and one can surely take many lessons from your good words! Social media is a great weapon that can be used to claim success for artists! It promotes art creations excessively!
    Thanks again for your wonderful blog!

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