Guest 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?