Over the last several posts, we’ve been discussing the ins and outs of marketing through social media. While there are a number of RedDot readers who are successfully selling art through social media, I get the sense that many artists are frustrated with a lack of results from social marketing efforts.
I can understand this frustration. Creating an effective social media strategy takes a lot of work, and discipline is required to see the marketing through. At Xanadu Gallery, we’ve been concentrating most of our marketing efforts on Facebook and Instagram, and we’ve put hundreds and hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars into our social marketing efforts. At this point, the resulting sales don’t nearly cover the investment.
However, I see real potential in social media advertising, and I feel that it would be imprudent to ignore the opportunities. We are still in the early days of social media marketing, and I feel that we have a lot to learn about using social media marketing to best effect.
As we’ve begun to swim in the social media waters, there have been a number of things we’ve learned about the process of selling art through social media that I want to share today. In researching how artists are marketing through social media, I’ve also heard some great ideas from RedDot readers. Here are 5 strategies that will help you improve your social media marketing efforts.
#1. Be Consistent
I have heard from a number of readers that social media marketing efforts proved to be a waste of time. When I pursued the issue further and asked what these artists had done to try to market their work over social media, I heard again and again answers like “I tried to post a couple of paintings and nothing happened.”
If you hoped that social media would be a magical sales tool requiring but little effort to generate sales, you have most likely been disappointed. Social media marketing is no different than any other marketing in that it requires sustained, persistent effort to build success.
Marketing is a numbers game. Results are measured in percentage points. You need to expose your work to a wide number of potential buyers repeatedly to have those percentages begin to lead to sales.
I would suggest that you need to be consistently working to build a following and persistently sharing your work with your followers. When developing a strategy for social media, you should be thinking about what you’ll be doing over the course of months and years, not just days.
RedDot reader Terry Chacon from California says, “I have had a huge success in selling my art on FB for many years. It has made people aware of what I offer world wide.”
When I asked her to what she attributes her success, she said,
“I tell artist that you must share daily to keep the interest up. I check my FB page morning and night and more if I have time. I also find that you have to be responsive to your friends/Collector’s posting as well. If you only post and never become responsive to your followers they will eventually fade away.”
Daily posts have worked well for Terry. I would argue that you might not need to post quite that frequently but that it’s more important to be consistent in the regularity of your posts. Start out by committing to post at least once or twice a week, and then increase the frequency of your posts if you feel you have the time and interest in posting more frequently.
Terry’s comment on the importance of being responsive also leads to the next strategy,
#2. Get Personal (Just Not Too Personal!)
A number of artists have shared that personal interaction is incredibly valuable in building sales on social media. Your potential clients don’t want to feel that you are a marketing robot. Making a connection has always been important in art sales – it’s why art shows and galleries exist. It’s equally important when marketing your art through social media.
Social media gives you the opportunity to share your art and your life with followers. It can also give you the opportunity to get to know people in a way you wouldn’t otherwise as they share their experiences and thoughts. This is especially true if you are building relationships with people through a personal profile. You can also respond to people’s comments on your business profile posts (read more about the difference between the two here).
While the focus in your own posts should mostly be on your art, you can also share personal experiences and adventures. These insights into your life will give followers a sense of connection to you.
You should be careful, however, to avoid hot-button topics. If you have potential clients following your profile or page, you should almost always avoid posts about religion, politics, and social issues. Getting into a debate with your followers isn’t going change anyone’s mind, and it’s likely to alienate some of your audience.
I would also suggest you avoid sharing negative experiences and complaints. Keep things positive!
#3. Don’t Spread Yourself too Thin
There are a lot of different social media platforms available. Don’t feel that you are obligated to master them all. Each platform has strengths and weaknesses, but if you spread yourself too thin by trying to master multiple platforms, it will be difficult to have enough time to master any of them. Your consistency will suffer if you are spread too thin.
Instead, find that platform that you feel most excited about, and where you think you will find your best potential audience. Focus your marketing efforts there. I’m not suggesting that you will be stuck forever with that platform. You can add others once you’ve mastered your social media of choice.
#4. Learn How Your Social Platform of Choice Works
Once you’ve decided on a social media platform, dedicate yourself to learning how the platform works and what tools are available to help you in your marketing efforts. Each social media platform has a vested interest in making sure you succeed in using their site. This is particularly true if you are paying to advertise on the platform (more on that in an upcoming post), but there is a lot of information that can help even if you aren’t using boosted posts or paid advertising.
Facebook, for example, offers the Advertiser Help Center. If you are thinking about spending money to advertise on Facebook, you should become very familiar with the center and dive into the various resources they offer. Don’t feel like you have to master everything they have to teach before your start advertising, but it’s a good idea to spend regular time reading this documentation.
#5. Experiment with Different Objectives
It is a mistake to think that immediate sales are the only valid objective for social media marketing. If your only aim is direct sales, you are likely to be disappointed.
Certainly our ultimate goal when marketing for Xanadu Gallery is sales, but when we advertise on Facebook, we look at a number of different metrics to measure success.
The gallery’s marketing objectives have included attracting new potential clients to follow our Facebook page, or, even more valuable, to join our email list. We’ve used social media to invite people to gallery events. We’ve shared information on art collecting.
By varying your objective and then measuring your results, you can get a sense of what kinds of posts and efforts are most effective for you.
What Strategies Have You Successfully Employed in Your Social Media Marketing?
What have you done that you feel has helped make your social media marketing successful? What strategies would you encourage other artists to use to help them find success? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.
Jason—Great post. I have found social media to be very effective in selling my art. I am in no way an expert and I’m not very technically savvy about metrics and algorithms, etc., but I have learned a few things. I have found that thinking of myself, my personality and my creative work as a BRAND is more effective than just thinking of my art as a product. This is the crux for me. My art is an extension of me. Through the years I have worked consistently on social media, mainly FB, but more recently also IG, to establish repore and relationships with my followers. I NEVER post anything negative, political or about specific religion. That said, I often muse personal thoughts, even spiritually oriented sometimes, that cause people to think and know what I am thinking. Being a bit vulnerable and transparent, makes my social media friends feel like they know me and I feel like I know them. I try to steer away from needy personal posts like when my dog dies. I try to keep the emphasis on my business, my brand and my art. People love to live vicariously through you and you have to make yourself interesting and compelling, I think. I don’t mean to sound arrogant. I’m just a schmuck, but over a period of time, my brand has steered buyers to buy art as well. I am very aware of my weaknesses skill wise but you don’t have to be the most accomplished technician to sell art. I also make posts that show the processes. Routine, common prep is fascinating to people who don’t make things.
The other thing I have learned is that in reality, art is a luxury product, and not everyone is a buyer. That is totally ok, but important to recognize. Many people can have great admiration and help promote your art by being a “groupie” without ever being a possible buyer. Social media helps create fans who will help you sell your work to people who can afford or are willing to “buy up”. We all buy isolated things that would normally be beyond our regular means. I offer a 6 month payment plan where I allow those buyers to pay it out and it creates room for people who can budget for a few hundred dollars per month but not for several thousands at once. For me, the steady monthly flow of income works great to span between sales.
Social media can get awfully “braggy”. I have to be careful about that but I think it’s important for people to know your work is selling. Sales create sales. This morning I posted, “SOLD—Many artists hate when a buyer wants to match a painting to their sofa. Not me! When she showed me a photo of her custom made, turquoise velvet sofa, I knew this painting would be perfect! Bring me a picture of your sofa and I’ll help you find the perfect painting!”
I always wonder how effective it is to announce when a painting has sold. I see this from time to time in my Insta feed, but have been hesitant to do it myself. I do like the idea of showing a work in progress on the easel, or a photo of the studio with newly stretched canvases. It’s a nice way to invite folks into my world. Do you use video clips?
In response to Mira Kamada: I think it is a positive thing to mention when something is sold. First it means that you are doing business and that your art is worth buying. Also, everyone loves a winner. I find that most people are happy for you and love hearing positive news. Good news for me is the same for them. Be proud and grateful if you sell. And also share that gratitude and good news with others.
A question for gallery owners: Do you somewhat base an opinion on how many followers an artist has on Instagram? I am trying to increase my followers on Instagram because I feel like galleries think you are not popular unless you have like a thousand followers. Galleries seem to want to know all about your social presence.
Great post! I use IG and FB and I have never sold work on social media. I have to also admit that it has never been my focus. However, I very much enjoy the interaction with other artists on IG.
One thing I know about Instagram, if you are in the photo with your art, you’ll get more attention than your art alone. Don’t put yourself with every painting, but maybe every sixth post. And be sure to use #hashtags! You can use up to 30 per post. I have my hashtags in the notes part of my phone so I can copy and paste them.
Be careful not to use all the same hashtags on multiple posts. Instagram can deem your account spammy and not show your posts to people.
I also use many of the same so I add in at least 10 different ones. I don’t know if that is enough to make the Instagram algorithm happy. Hopefully it is.
Same observation here. At first I wasn’t sure it was me that caused a post to get more response or the cuckoo clock. But it happens often enough that I am sure people to like to see the human behind the artwork.
I have sold quite a bit of work via Facebook, but nothing on Instagram. And with Instagram prioritizing reels now, I have a hard time keeping up with their platform and I get much more engagement on Facebook now. I also work with a gallerist who is incredible with social media, and sells to collectors all over the world! She has sold quite a bit of my work to people who’ve never visited her gallery.
Regarding Instagram, I’m frustrated. I avoided making reels for a while, and then saw engagement with my posts plummet, so started making reels. The first several ones really increased engagement for me, but then IG changed their algorithms again and I would get less engagement from reels than from static posts. I know that a lot of artists have done really well on Instagram, but not me.
Since I make kinetic art — real weight-driven cuckoo clocks using imported German movements– social media is great as people can see them cuckoo and the figures move. I’ve been hesitant to go with a gallery as the clocks can get messed up by people trying to get them to cuckoo. A gallerist who sells online would be perfect for me!
Great article. thank you for sharing the knowledge.
Thanks Jason for this post. marketing on social media has been a real challenge for me. Hearing that it is a numbers game and having some realistic expectations was very useful for me. I see that I have not given it my all in the past. I have been too timid about promoting myself on FB and IG. I wasn’t sure if this would even work and how much money do I want to give to facebook which I have a lot of feelings about and not many good ones at that. On top of that I am not by nature a sharer which it seems one has to be ok with when using FB or IG. The idea of posting something consistently once or twice per week is a real stretch for me. Today I got a message from a follower on IG who wants to buy some of my “arts” as NFTs.What am I supposed to to with that?
So anyway I know I have some personal issues with this social media thing that I have to get ok with and these posts are helping a lot so thanks again Jason for the information.
Good post! I agree with everything on here, but would like to add some advice. I have found that most of my followers and many lovers of art as well, are interested in the process of your work, they love to see how it’s done, so I would advise everyone when posting stuff to social media to post video clips of the process. People who buy art want to see the connection between the art and the artist, the more hand-made and hands-on your art is with you as the artist, the more interesting and desirable your art will be. Most people don’t want to invest in something that is purely mechanically made(they want the hand craftsmanship), most of my collectors and buyers always ask me if the piece is an original(more desirable) or a print and if there are other variations of the exact same piece in existence.
Also, post something that goes viral(art-related), then you will get a large following in a short time and can post whatever you want art-wise and be widely visible now that you have tons of followers.
Does it make sense to set up a shop on Instagram and Facebook to sell your artwork?
I have my website but I don’t do much there with online sales.