Marketing for Artists: Zero Budget Social Media Hacks
Social media is an exceptionally powerful marketing tool for artists. It gives you a way to share your art with the world, to connect with and be inspired by other creatives, and to get your art in front of a massive audience of potential buyers or curators.
“I’ve discovered so many new artists who inspire me every day just from their social media posts,”
— illustrator and Marvel comic artist Jen Bartel
Never before have humans been so connected. Remember that social platforms are still a way for people to engage with people not for people to promote their agenda. The most successful marketers and influencers cite authenticity as one of the most important aspects of social media success.
Social media’s not going anywhere. And it’s NOT too late to start.
There’s a mysterious assumption that it’s somehow “too late” to build a social media following on a popular platform. That’s not true. Every day, there are thousands of new artists getting thousands of new followers, likes, and upvotes through organic discovery.
Yes, it takes time to build a following. But it’s not impossible. As they say, “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today.” Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back!
“Our best selling exhibitions have without fail been those where the artist has a decent social media following, posts regularly, and engages in an authentic way with their followers. The exhibitions that have sold the least have been those where the artist isn’t on social media, or is but didn’t use it to promote their show. This has become important enough that I now take an artist’s social media presence into consideration when deciding whose work I will show — something I didn’t do when I first started the gallery.”
There are two core pillars to growing on social. Sharing your own original content, and resharing the content of other creatives.
To attract and gather a following, you can’t selfishly promote your own art the entire time. The whole point of social media is to build connections with other people. You need to strike a careful balance between sharing your work and sharing the work of others.
- Photos of your finished art
- Closeups of your finished art
- Works In Progress (WIPs)
- Videos of your artworks
- Video or photo walkthrough of your studio
- Photos of your exhibitions (bonus points if you’re with a fan!)
- How-to’s or tutorials
- Artworks by your favorite artists
- Art-related blog posts
- News that affects the art industry
- Local exhibitions you’re interested in
Getting in early on a social media platform or app
If you get in early on a new social media platform or art-related app, it’s much easier to build and grow a following. For example, early users on our app D Emptyspace (curate virtual galleries of your art in 3D) have a much higher chance of being interviewed, highlighted in our newsletter, and even curated directly in the app’s featured artist section.
By joining an app when they have fewer users, you can get more exposure from the start, quickly gaining traction and rising to the top of popularity charts. Plus your desired username or handle will probably still be available.
The Most Popular Social Media Platforms
You can find a bunch of social media platforms online. There are no rules with how many platforms you should be active on. However, some have time-saving overlaps where you can share the same content over multiple networks (Twitter and Facebook connect particularly well). If you need help deciding which platform to focus on first, check out this guide.
Here’s a quick overview of the most popular platforms.
By far the most popular platform. To use Facebook effectively, you’ll need to create a “Brand Page”. A brand page is very different from your usual Facebook profile. Features like audience demographics will help you get a better understanding of your fanbase. Check out this comprehensive guide on Brand Pages and learn how to use them.
Twitter is a great way to connect with other artists and curators. Most users on twitter engage with others as a way of forming professional connections, so there’s a high likelihood you can build a good network
The key to success in twitter is to engage authentically with others. It’s appropriate to share personal struggles related to work, and some even garner traction by posting radical viewpoints.
Here’s my ‘no time wasted on Twitter’ game plan to get the attention of curators:
- Build a list of 10 curators, dealers or and collectors you think would be interested in your art.
- Put the list onto a spreadsheet (here’s a template you can download and use) and identify which curators are active on twitter (active is posting around 2 or 3 times a month at a minimum).
- Go through the twitter profiles twice a week (using the spreadsheet) and like, comment, and retweet relevant posts.
- Respond to any engagements you get back.
- In a few weeks, email the curators with the subject line “We’ve been chatting on twitter” and request to chat about a project together.
Instagram is pretty intuitive for most artists. In a nutshell, you post your art, like and follow the art of others, and leave the occasional comment. The trick is in the hashtags (this symbol: #). By using hashtags effectively, you can attract new followers who’ve never been exposed to your art.
Here’s a list of hashtags categorized by art style. Next time you post on Instagram, include hashtags in your description along with a brief explanation or context of the photo.
Think of Pinterest like your personal scrapbook. You can build boards, share ‘pins’ with others, and get quite an impressive amount of engagement. An estimated 90% of the users on Pinterest are female — something to keep in mind when deciding what to post.
Being active on social media vs having a digital portfolio
Not having a website won’t hurt your chances of being successful on social. A website is where you showcase your portfolio of work and introduce yourself in detail as a professional artist. It isn’t necessarily how you build a following online (although in some cases it helps).
If you’re meeting with curators, having an online portfolio (such as a website) will add to your respectability as an artist. Having a large social media following will imply your exhibition has a high likelihood of becoming a commercial success.
Beware of: getting stuck in the technicalities of building a site, wasting your time, and growing frustrated. An easier option is to build a portfolio on sites like DeviantArt or Tumblr (click here to see a full list).
A note on being popular…
Likes, shares, follows, upvotes, hearts, or any other form of social media isn’t an indication of your talent or success. Social media is a tool you can use to better your career and deepen your connection to the artistic community. Be aware that overusing it can be addictive and damaging to your quality of life.
We suggest you block out time for social media marketing as part of your ‘job’ as an artist rather than constantly checking to see how many likes you got on your latest post.
“Never play to the gallery. Never work for other people in what you do. Always remember that the reason you initially started working was there was something inside yourself that, if you could manifest it, you felt you would understand more about yourself. I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations.”
— David Bowie
Are you struggling with social media?
Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you with some personalized marketing advice!
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