5 Strategies for Successfully Marketing Art on Social Media

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.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

28 Comments

  1. A note on your second point of “Getting Personal” – something that has worked for me in using my Facebook business page is to directly message potential clients who have commented on one of my posts, as well as responding to them publicly with a comment.

    Personal messages have been very effective to start real, human connections with people I have never met face to face, and have led to new collectors from thousands of miles away. I believe the personal touch helps to legitimize me to a client. It helps them realize that I am, in fact, a real person. More often than not, they are interested in continuing the conversation.

    1. A second note on this – even though my current business page following is only around 600 due to switching from using a personal account to a business page for my sculpture, this tactic has still led to sales.

  2. In the past 6 years I’ve found that selling on social media takes patience. You have to build up your audience and that starts with friends and family. I have also found that it begins local, you are probably not going to sell to a collector in China from Facebook unless they already know you, but you probably will sell to the people who know you and respect your work, and over time those patrons will multiply. Also social media is always evolving, Facebook was a great place to start but I’ve found LinkedIn to be a new source of contacts. Lastly, I write a lot of press releases, actually a friend of mine does it for me, and although I don’t always get press from them, when I do it not only shows my art but tells my story and gives some credibility to my work.

  3. I attribute my success with selling on Facebook with my constant sharing of my art. Lots of in progress photos and then the finished piece. My sales have come from friends commenting that they want the piece rather than an outright sales pitch. I usually post something about my inspiration of the piece during the process. Most of my sales have been to long-term friends and Facebook friends who do not live close enough to visit my gallery or studio. I try to post a few times a week – daily when I can – and will often solicit titles if I don’t have a specific one in mind. My followers seem to enjoy having a part in the process.

  4. I have had art sales through my social media accounts; Facebook, Instagram, my blog and my website. Although it was slow at first – once I started gaining new followers the momentum picked up. Patience is the key!

    Whenever I finish a painting I post a photograph of it on my website, my blog, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I always post links to my other accounts so that traffic is generated between them. There is also a commercial website called “Buffer” that will automatically post your image on all those sites per the schedule that you set up, but I find it simpler to post myself!

    Most of my art sales have been through Facebook. People see the artwork and then click on the link. This leads them directly to my PayPal buttons or my contact info and then we negotiate or close the sale over the phone or through email.

    I created a paper that lists the steps for posting on each site. Now that I have it all memorized it takes around 1/2 hour to “make my rounds.”

  5. One of the things that has made social media marketing a little easier for me is having a list of different *types* of posts for reference. It makes for an initial springboard of ideas. For example, aside from new work and information about gallery shows or other events, I like to post behind-the-scenes shots, original sketches + the final pieces, or original photographs and how they were incorporated in a work. When I have the time, I might create a video of stills showing the process of how an artwork came to be. My list also includes inspirational quotes (with my art as the background), color palettes sampled from a work, a detail of a work, and sometimes an old collage from the archives. Since my work often focuses on the human-nature relationship and finding our place on the planet, my list includes personal, nature-related items, too, like what’s in the yard that day, macro shots of found treasures (butterflies, feathers, etc. that I might incorporate into my art), and mandalas made from leaves and flowers and whatever else is out there. Finally, I personally love it when other artists post occasional photographs of themselves, whether they are in their studios working or out enjoying life. This has inspired me to slowly become more comfortable with posting pictures of myself from time to time. I even posted a selfie with my dog once.

  6. Being an artist is all about building long term relationships. Using social media is just one more essential way of integrating this aspect of our career into our professional strategies.

  7. Thanks Jason for the list of objectives, and very wise by saying you need to experiment with your objective….. Marketing isn’t only about sales, exposure is just as important. I plan on using FB for that purpose only right now. And I like Elizabeth’s strategy of “types” of posts!

  8. In my opinion social media advertising should be supported with a website, a client list and show appearances. Hard copy advertising over a period of years helped me get some visibility, but as one artist pointed out back in an earlier post, you can get exposure on the cheap by posting your work on Facebook pages that are specific to your genre of art. If you paint classic cars, old-time aircraft or even waterfalls, there is a page on Facebook devoted to that subject. Be careful to check that promoting your art on a page is OK with the page’s host. When posting art work on a specialized Facebook page, ALWAYS post a link to your website or Facebook page under the work! The idea is to be relentless in using all means to point people to your website or page. I also have a link on my website home page to my Facebook page so people can see my newest work. Like everything in the arts, getting exposure is a process, and being patient will eventually produce a successful page. Post something every week, old paintings and new. My FB page has 1500 followers, and they in turn share the work to sometimes hundreds of others.

    1. Many Facebook groups do not allow posting link to the website. I use as a watermark the name of my website, and my watercolor paintings were removed from a few groups because they told I was posting a link to my website. Maybe, I should look for different FB watercolor and acrylic art sharing pages. I found that strange because what harm could that possibly cause?

  9. One thing I’d advise against is using software that “blasts” out the exact same post to your Facebook personal page, your Facebook business page, your Instagram, Twitter, and more. You risk alienating people who follow you on multiple platforms. Further, I’d like to think that people who take the time and trouble to follow me on multiple platforms will see something “new” every time I post.

  10. I assume these sites should also include a price for the work. Should that price be less than you would list for a gallery? I price my work per square inch and divide that in half. I have a few inquires, but they don’t seem to want to pay the price. And, i usually don’t charge shipping and insurance. I will pick up that costs. What are your thoughts?

    1. I find that free shipping gets more attention from US buyers, and incorporate that into the price. Also, I plan to price my work the same in all venues, online and off. That way I only have to remember the one price, and all costs are covered. Once I begin marketing to global collectors, they would bear the additional cost of shipping to their unique destinations, I think.

  11. This is all great stuff.
    I built up a large number of ‘friends’ on Facebook who seemed interested in what I was doing based on my known work as a comic book artist. But when I posted about my own personal work the response was close to zero other than family and close friends. 2000 Transformers comic book fans Is great but it became apparent that they love my Transformers work but not necessarily my personal work. I also got into a couple of ‘debates’ online that became toxic. After that I backed away as it became a bear pit out there. I have a Facebook ‘Page’ and that is more targeted. But social media is like having an exhibition. You can get a ton of people through the virtual door but will they buy? Very few. It seems to me that the best way to use social media is as a means to get them to come to your website. Have as many opportunities on your website for people to sign up to your mailing list and use Mailchimp to regularly offer them exclusive news and insights. And give those that sign up something. Digital portfolios with images and info that is not available anywhere else are fun and cost zero to produce. These people will become your valued clients who are genuinely interested in what you do. For me it has resulted in a number of them that have become patrons. When they are that interested they will powerfully share with others about how amazing you are 🙂
    AW

    1. I have several friends in publishing who periodically leave Facebook due to needless drama. Most recently they head for Instagram as respite, in order to continue their marketing efforts in a safe venue. Based on my experiences as an author assistant, I would agree with you on email marketing. Exclusive content is free to the artist and patron and builds fruitful relationships.

  12. Jason I can’t keep up with you, I am usually 2 or 3 posts behind! Your posts on social media are SO helpful! and those of others are very interesting. I have never had much luck with Facebook, I get lots of likes and comments about my art but no one has even requested information and I got discouraged. I have only kept Facebook because of my art page (Pat Riascos Art) but I am not even posting anything anymore…. I much prefer Instagram, is faster, you don’t need to be “friends” just enjoy the posts and add short comments when deserved. I am doing better on that format.

    1. Hey Patricia, thanks for your notes on Instagram. I’ve been considering adding it to my marketing program, but haven’t stuck my toe in yet. This may be the vote of confidence I needed – another artist actually getting results there.

  13. Thank you Jason for tackling social media marketing, especially Facebook. This artist really appreciates it! I’ve begun posting more often, adding new friends, and responding to other people’s post about their families or whatever. Yesterday, I took my French easel to the beach and posted (on Facebook) a pic of the painting on the easel with the scene I was painting behind it. This is by far my most successful post, getting 26 responses within an hour!!! I’ll definitely be doing more of this type of post.

  14. Yesterday I spent almost the whole afternoon trying to set up, again, my Facebook Business account. I watched Jason’s first and second video again, but like before, I got stuck. The problem for me was that I tried over and over to get the pixel tracking thing going and all that happened was I was routed back to a former page. I finally just gave up, because this is the second try, and I cannot get past the pixel problem. I seem to have a technical or pixel learning disability.–Evalyn

  15. Agreed with all these comments! Thank you for the reminder that social media takes time… sales take time. Social media is sometimes called “social selling.” We influence each other socially to purchase . We buy from whom we are familiar with. And, that takes time too! Relationships take time and sales is about the relationships. And trust –a big part of relationships — is helped by consistency. Thanks for this helpful article.

  16. Great article, thanks for sharing, I am pt. trying to built up my art career so all you wrote here have been very useful to me.

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