One of the most frequent comments I receive from people at craft shows, art events, exhibitions, and in general day to day encounters is how visible my work is online. This got me thinking about the power of social media in the creative industries, and how important my social media strategy is in developing my small business. This post is a simple guide to why you should be using social media, and what I recommend as a new artist.
Firstly, why use social media at all?
Free marketing for start-ups
As a small business, and in my first year of self-employment, finding ways to promote myself for free was an absolute must. Yes, any decent business plan will include a marketing budget, but no mine has not been a big one. I have worked very hard to exploit every free avenue of shameless self-promotion, and social media is by far the winner! I will go into the benefits of social media below, but the first step is to realise the potential of reaching large audiences without having to spend a penny. You really don’t have anything to lose.
Visual representation of you and your work
As a creative entrepreneur, social media is an excellent way to show the world your work in a visual way. Photographs and videos are a great way to demonstrate art whether it be the process of making, the latest event you are attending, the latest shop you are stocking, or the most recent masterpiece you have created. Visual content is extremely important because it grabs people’s attention. As a case in point, posts on facebook that include a photograph produce an average of 87% interaction rate compared to an average of 4% for other types of posts (text only, links, and photo albums to name a few). The point of posting at all is to get attention, get people interested and engaged with your work. It is only when people know you are there, that they will invest in you and your business.
This is an important one, especially for those of you who ship your work world-wide. The majority of my clients are in the USA, and like us Brits, Americans are very active on social media. I mean, how else am I going to connect with people so far away who I have never met, but who I potentially have so much in common with? The world is a big place made smaller and more accessible by the internet-so use it!
Your story, a personal touch
One of my favourite things about social media is that it allows me to set myself aside from large corporations and big businesses. It allows me to speak honestly about my work. From what inspires me, to my works in progress, and what I might be finding difficult at the time. Remember, you are a person not a machine! People like to engage on a personal level. Although it is not cool to bombard your business pages with selfies and pictures of the children and pets, it is OK to give personal insights into your creative venture….more on that later.
Engagement with potential customers
Creating a customer base from your social media accounts is known as “monetising”. Monetising your social media is of course one of the key points to any business-related social media strategy, but it is one that can take time to get right. You need to make sure that your social media strategy attracts the correct target market. Although this seems like basic common sense, I have found that it does take time to work out what your target market is for the general artist. For example, I quickly learnt that my range of personalised pyrography gifts were really popular amongst women typically aged between 30-40. It took me a long time to realise that they were not my target audience for my wildlife art, which is typically men between the ages of 50-65. And I was really surprised when nearly all my wedding related gifts this year where purchased by men. Of course there are always exceptions, and trends tend to come and go, so it is important to always keep an eye on who is buying what and when. Social media is brilliant for this, because not only does it allow you to cater your posts to gain the attention of certain clientele, but it also provides you with continual market research. Facebook for example, gives you engagement statistics for each post (who is clicking what).
Networking with other creatives
Networking with other people in the creative industries is really important because it opens up a world of opportunities. From collaborative projects to general tips and advice, your creative peers will be your most honest critiques and your devoted fans. There is nothing more humbling than to be invited to partake in a group project, and having honest feedback on how you could improve your art business. I didn’t study art at university and I don’t know many artists personally because I am so new to the scene, so social media has been a great way for me meet people and share ideas. In fact, all the places where I have shown work, and even where I continue now as a resident artist, came about from people finding me on social media.
Inspiring and encouraging people to engage with the arts
Another one of my favourite things about social media is the potential to inspire. I work alone in my studio, and yet so many people I haven’t even met have watched my video’s and followed the progress of my artwork as I make it. Opening my instagram inbox to find people have sent me pictures of their pyrography projects is an amazing feeling. What’s the point in having a passion if you don’t share it? I honestly never feel alone in my work, even if I am on my own for eight hours at a time!
Which social media do I recommend?
To avoid going off on tangents of all the do’s and don’ts, and pro’s and con’s of each site, I have made this next section quite open ended. My intent is to give you an overview of what I recommend and why you should consider starting with these platforms. In the coming weeks, I will be releasing another blog post detailing my top tips for social media…so do check back in for that (details at bottom of this post).
I’ve started off with Facebook because in this day and age, it tends to be the social media platform people are most familiar with. For this reason, along with the fact you most probably already have “Facebook friends”, it is a good starting point to grow your following with user-friendly navigation. You will probably find that for the first month or so most of your orders will come from friends and friends of friends until the word spreads to people you don’t know. Sharing on Facebook is a great way to encourage this.
Some features that are worth a mention:
- “Shop Now”: It has a nice clear button that you can set up to take you to your online shop (whether that’s notonthehighstreet, etsy, or your own website with integrated shop).
- It’s integrated messenger inbox allows you to receive notifications when someone contacts you, and it lets people know on average how long you take to reply.
- You can “pin” posts to the top to keep your most relevant info most visible. I have a short video promoting my commission work. This works very well as I’ve found that most of my commission work comes in via facebook now.
One thing that can be frustrating is the difficulty for small businesses like mine to get noticed on Facebook since Facebook started prompting pages to pay to promote posts. This means you have to do a lot of extra sharing and networking to get your posts seen whereas post views used to correlate with peak times of Facebook use. I still tend to post at the same time each day for consistency though this unfortunately doesn’t affect viewer traffic since Facebook algorithms are no longer based on time. I have paid for Facebook posts before but saw no notable increase in sales or website hits, I would simply stick to Facebook as a free marketing tool.
I recommend updating facebook no more than three times a day.
You can find me on facebook here.
Twitter is not my favourite social tool to use. It has a strict character limitation which is good because it forces you to keep it snappy, but it doesn’t give much room for more personal or thoughtful posts. On the plus side, it really does’t take long to update.
The main reason I keep my account very active is because it has proved key in gaining attention in the art industry. I have been offered magazine advertising, shop contracts, and craft market stalls/art event stalls, all via my work being found on Twitter. For this reason alone I recommend setting up a Twitter account straight away.
I recommend posting once or twice a day.
You can find me on Twitter here.
For those who are unfamiliar, Instagram is a picture sharing site that is run from your smart phone. You can write as much about your photo as you like, and hashtag (#) up to 30 keywords. These key words are then searched by people from all over the world, and you will appear in their search engine under your chosen key-words. Instagram is now one of the world’s largest social media sites with over 500 million monthly active user accounts. The potential for growing your business via instagram is therefore huge!
Instagram is my favourite social media platform! My entire business started from sharing my first pyrography attempt on Instagram (with only 30 friends as followers). Within one month I had over 400 followers and orders coming in. I went self-employed during this time as it became clear there was interest in what I was making. I am still working on improving my account and have only recently began planning my brand to boost my followers and sales, but I’ve learnt a lot already and really recommend it as top priority for an artist’s social media strategy because of it’s visual emphasis.
There is a knack to getting the most out of instagram, and I will go into hashtags and general instagram-ness in great detail in my next social media related blog post; so do sign up to read it (details at the end of this post).
I recommend posting once a day, take time to get the best quality shots and most appropriate hashtags, instagram is all about quality posts not quantity.
You can find me on instagram here.
Blogging is another one of my favourite social media platforms. Although it has been debated as to whether it is social media or not, I tend to agree with Wikipedia which says:
“Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.”
My blog (along with all aspects of my website) has always been intended to be a means of discussion, which is why I enable comments and feedback on all my posts and products. I want people to interact with me! I want to meet new people, share ideas, and discuss the art world openly. I’m therefore including blogging in my list of recommended social media platforms because I think blogging is fundamental to give a whole rounded view of your work and the way in which you run your business. When I buy handmade products I enjoy knowing about the creator/s and their inspirations. Sure, I can follow them on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but if I want to know more about their work and what drives them- I visit their blog. And jeez, if you didn’t even slightly agree with me, you wouldn’t have read this far down the page (just sayin’).
The other reason I highly recommend blogging is because it enables you to freely make sense of where you’re at with your artwork, your business, and the progress you have made to date. By writing down your thoughts about your work, you begin to create a longitudinal account of your artistic journey. It is so important as an artist to look back at your first works, and in writing a blog you can really see how far you’ve come and all you’ve achieved. Particularly important for those days when you need a pick me up (see my blog post about ALL the job roles of an artist here). Need clarity? Write a blog. Ah, that’s better.
Others to consider
Tumblr is a blogging site that I have been recommended by several artists who use it to great success. I however, have not really gelled with it because I find myself copying and pasting my blog posts from my website, and I like having my blog and my website in one place. I have heard really great things about this platform, but I think it depends on how you find it personally. I’m not overly fond of the layout and it doesn’t really suit the mellow colours of my brand. Worth considering though, especially if you have a vibrant product that would benefit from colourful promotion.
I do use pinterest but it’s the site I put least emphasis on for my business. That being said, it is so so so important to have your website content pinnable, so other people can add your art to their pinterest boards. This is something I like a lot. With regards to my own pinterest account- I mainly use it to create boards for inspiration (admittedly mostly for personal use-clothes, jewelry, and interior design), and to catalogue my favourite works. I do think it is a very valuable tool, and when used frequently to showcase all the things that inspire you and represent you and your ideas, it can really benefit any small creative business. Personally, I just tend to get distracted and carried away looking at things completely irrelevant to my work and business goals. But if you ever want to buy me a present, you can get ideas from my pinterest-so there is that.
For present idea’s you can see my pinterest here (worth a try!)
So in summary, social media is free, versatile, engaging, and totally worth the time invested to make your small creative business grow. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts, now I would love to hear yours:
What social media do you use, and what do you find most effective? Feel free to leave your views and opinions in the comments below, it would be really nice to see what other thoughts are out there!
Jes’ tips for social media: what to do and what to avoid when using instagram and facebook to promote your art.
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