How Any Artist
Create and Maintain
A Successful Online Profile
Whether you've been on social media for a while or are just starting out, occasionally stepping back and thinking things through is always a good idea. Assuming your presence is public and your goal is to get the word out about your art, consider the big questions first. Why specifically are you on social media? What are your reasons? What is your purpose in spreading the word? Most importantly, what's in it for us-- your audience-- and why should we care?
Before we get going, a huge distinction has to be made between public and private. This article is about public social networking profiles, not private lives or personal matters. Private lives are for private pages, not public ones. The focus here is on artists who are on social media specifically to get the word out about their art to the public. You have to approach this task pretty much like you would approach any other job, as a duty to introduce, talk about and make an argument for your art, to show that you're dedicated and committed to being an artist, and to demonstrate that your art deserves to be included in the overall conversation.
Social media for you or any artist is all about sharing significant aspects of your artistic life with anyone anywhere who comes across your art whether on purpose or by accident, wants to know more, and might potentially be interested in deepening their connections with you and your work. So in that context, you have to think about how you intend to engage these people. What do you want to communicate? What type of interactions or ongoing dialogue will you be hoping for? How does your art fit into the bigger picture? What contributions do you believe that sharing your art and artistic outlook on life will make? The better you're able to understand, identify, think through and express your intentions, the more effective your overall presentation will be.
Once you have some sense of what direction you want to take (assuming you're not doing this already), focus on establishing a narrative, a storyline or a consistent continuum of happenings and events within your artistic life and career. You not only want people to visit your page and check out what you're up to, but also decide to friend or follow you if you engage them in some way and like what they see, and then take the most important step of all which is to keep coming back. Why? Because they see value in making you and your art a part of their lives. So first and foremost, decide what your main narrative will be and keep it consistent. There is nothing more confusing or difficult to follow than social networking pages and posts that have no unifying thread or direction, where there is little or no relationship between one post and the next.
If people have trouble understanding where you're coming from or what you're doing and why you're doing it, they'll go off and follow someone who they can understand. This doesn't mean you can never change your content or you'll be forced to repeat the same kinds of posts for all eternity. You can change the direction or content of your postings, page or even your fundamental outlook on life at anytime. Just make clear to your followers, as well as anyone else who may happen to land on your page or pages, why you're making these changes and what the significance and reasoning is behind making them. The most engaging social networking pages not only show consistency, but also ongoing exploration, introspection, thoughtfulness and personal evolution and within that consistency.
And now for the bullet points:
* Update regularly in order to show that your art life is active and ongoing. One of the most important parts of good social networking is to post what you're up to at least once per week. Infrequent or irregular posts don't generally reflect well on your artistic life, and worse yet, don't offer much in the way of encouragement for people to keep coming back and see what's new.
* In combination with regular posting, actively monitor your pages and respond to any posts, requests, references or messages from friends or followers at least several times per week, preferably more. People who reach out to you are the most important people of all. They're the ones who care so respond within a reasonable time period from when they make contact. Being difficult to reach or having only minimal or infrequent engagement with your fan base is never good.
* Keep everything organized, especially your images. Gallery or image pages should be arranged by category, style, subject matter, or whatever criteria you abide by when creating your art. Provide brief introductions to your various galleries, pages or types of art and make navigating from type to type or gallery to gallery as quick and easy as possible with a minimum of confusion. That way, people can get a visual sense of what your work is about without spending inordinate amounts of time. Remember-- in the online world, FAST IS GOOD. Way too many artists dump all their images onto single pages without any organization or explanations whatsoever and end up confusing, or worse yet, losing potential fans.
* Link to your website from social networking whenever possible. Use social networking to drive traffic to your website. Your website is where you're the one in total control of your art and in charge of the agenda, as opposed to social networking pages where people have all kinds of reasons, distractions, incentives, temptations and opportunities to leave and go somewhere else. There's no better place to make a compelling case for your art than on your website. Social networking pages alone are not enough.
* Think about your fans whenever you post. Why should they be interested? What's in it for them to see what you're up to, where you are or what you're doing at any particular moment? By making sure there's something in it for your fans to read what you post, you not only keep the ones you already have, but attract new ones.
* Show that you're actively producing art. One of the greatest advantages of social networking for artists is the ability to show the world that they're productive, serious and dedicated to creating new work. People who are attracted to or interested in your art, especially as potential buyers or collectors, tend to follow you for a while, monitor the situation, make sure you're in this for the long haul, and then once they're convinced, get serious about contacting you or inquiring about your work. Serious decisions like this are usually made over periods of time, rarely immediately.
* When you post new art, always include an explanation, introduction or description that not only involves viewers and encourages "likes", but better yet, invites "comments" and most importantly, "shares" or "tagging". The more participation you get on your posts, the greater the numbers of people who find out about your art through their friends or fans. And the more people who find out about your art through others who they know, the more friends, fans and followers you end up getting.
* When you post new art, say something engaging about it-- what it signifies, what it's story is, how you came up with the idea, what it stands for, what you stand for, what's the purpose, the point, what you're attempting to communicate, what was happening in your life at the moment, what inspired it. Make it more than just another piece of art. Make it something people want to talk about. What do you think gallery owners do when people ask about the art on their walls? Exactly that. The story almost always makes the art so much better.
* If there are interesting, unique or unusual aspects to your art or how you make it, talk about them or show them, either in still images or short videos. If your studio or surroundings are interesting or unusual in some way, show images from time to time. Talk about or post images of things that inspire you or influence your art. In other words, build out the backstory. Related information like this increases and broadens out people's understanding of who you are as an artist along with their appreciation and connection to your work.
* Show images of your art hanging on walls or otherwise on display in various circumstances. Many artists limit their images to cropped examples of their work. Even though they might include dimensions, most people have no idea how that translates into real life, in other words, what the art might look like on display in their homes or offices. So help them get there by showing what your work looks like in various settings and interiors, by providing perspectives so people have some sense of your art's size, impact and effect on the immediate surroundings. Doing this brings people one small step closer to imagining how your art would add to their lives.
* Post prices from time to time, but not constantly. You want people to be aware your art is available for sale, and about how much it generally costs. Don't continually talk money though; that's a turn-off and when overdone, can actually make it harder for people to appreciate your art. As long as your fans are aware it's for sale and about how much it costs, they'll get in touch when interested.
* Avoid posting new art with little or no accompanying text other than that you made some new art. Repeatedly showing your latest art just to show that you made something doesn't really do much for viewers. They want more in the way of narrative; they want to be involved, so involve them. Show too much art with little or no context bores people. The same goes for showing the same art over and over again. Remember to keep it fresh.
* Show your art hanging or on display at shows, festivals, fairs, fundraisers or similar events. This is one more way of demonstrating that you're actively getting your work out in front of the public, and more importantly, that public places think it's good enough to show. Showing your work at bricks-and-mortar locations is always good.
* Keep your friends and followers up-to-date about upcoming exhibitions or events you're participating in or where you're showing your art. Whenever possible, include images.
* When possible, show sold art with its new owners, or on display at its new locations.
* Take the randomness out of your posts. Avoid making too many different types of posts on unrelated topics. Consistency is one of the most important aspects of successful social networking. If visitors can't make sense of how one post relates to the next, why you post what you do, or what the overall point or essence of the page is, they likely won't return.
* Keep the focus of your posts on your art. Too many posts on unrelated topics or subjects that, for whatever reason, happen to interest you at any given moment are generally counterproductive to your cause. If you can't relate it in some way to your art or life as an artist, think twice before posting it.
* Post in such a way that no matter when people first visit your pages, they can get a sense of who you are, where they are, what you're up to, and what the storyline's all about. You want everyone to be able to either pick up on or tap into the story line even if they miss a few episodes.
* If you must make personal posts about life events or happenings, do your best to figure out whether they're really matters your fan base will want to hear about, and especially whether they're in any way relevant to your art or career as an artist. If they are, then go for it. Making that art connection is always important; it keeps your followers in the game.
* Many social networking sites offer affordable opportunities to advertise. If you buy advertising, make sure you have something newsworthy to advertise, like an upcoming show, new work for sale, a special offer, are starting a newsletter, etc. If you have no reason to advertise other than to call attention to yourself, your website or your page, save your money for later when you have a reason for people to visit these places or take some other kind of action that will benefit them in some way.
* Lastly, get involved with others; follow people whose art, pages or feeds you respect. Don't make it only about you and ignore everyone else. You can learn a great deal from following artists and others who have interesting pages or are good at what they do, including successfully mastering the nuances of social networking. Participate not in self-serving ways but to be part of the conversation, to interact and share your impressions with others. When you get involved in discussions or threads on the pages of others (to repeat, not in self-serving ways), people learn about who you are and where you stand based on your comments, observations and perspectives. If they like what you have to say, they might just hop on over to your page to see what you're all about. And it's onward and upward from there....
Would you like to establish an online profile or improve the one you already have? I advise artists on how to buff up their online presences all the time. If you're interested in making an appointment or have any questions, call 415.931.7875 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(art by Russell Crotty)
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