An Introduction to Facebook Advertising for Artists

In my recent posts on social media art marketing, I’ve been discussing the value social media can provide to artists and galleries. Most of the focus has been on the viral nature of social media, and the ability it gives you to share your art through your social network for free.

I’ve shared some stories of success, both from our gallery and from artists I contacted for this series. We haven’t yet discussed, however, the power of paid advertising through social media.

As powerful as free publicity through social media is, leveraging the the marketing tools available on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms can allow you to reach an entirely new audience.

In today’s post, I want to briefly explore some of those possibilities. My post today is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to social media advertising. There are entire books written on the subject and entire businesses built around helping you understand how to use social advertising tools. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface in a short blog post. My hope is that I can raise your awareness of some of the advertising opportunities and tools that are available and encourage you to explore the possibilities in more depth for yourself.

Because Facebook is the largest social platform, and because it’s the platform I have the most experience advertising on, I’m going to focus on Facebook advertising, but much of what I’m writing would apply to other platforms and their advertising tools.

The Duality of our Feeling about Facebook

Users seem to have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Facebook allows us to stay in contact with our friends and families in a simple, engaging way. They also know a tremendous amount about us.

This can be scary, and as a Facebook user, I can understand why many users worry about the information Facebook is gathering every time you like a post or share an article.

As an advertiser, however, I see the user information Facebook gathers as incredibly valuable to me. The rich, dense information that Facebook gathers, allows me to reach the best potential buyers at an incredibly reasonable price.

Because Facebook customizes its content for each individual user, I can select exactly how many people I want to target and budget exactly how much I want to spend.

This is very different than magazine or broadcast advertising. With traditional advertising, you have to pay to display your ad to a magazine’s entire audience every time you advertise, even if it’s only a small portion of the magazine’s audience that is likely to respond.

With Facebook, I can dial in my advertising to hit only the users I want to hit, and I can continually refine my advertising in real time to further optimize my ads.

As an advertiser, this has been revolutionary. I still do print and direct-mail marketing for the gallery, but I can foresee a day when most of my advertising budget goes to Facebook.

Now, lest you think that Facebook’s sole purpose is to put ads in front of users, to their harm, I would argue that this highly customizeable targeting actually benefits Facebook users as well. Over time, users should see only advertising for products and services that will be of interest to them. This should also mean that they will see fewer and fewer ads, since the only ads businesses will want to pay for are those that are likely to result in sales. I see it as a win-win.

The Tools

So what tools does Facebook offer that are useful to me as an art advertiser?

Before I can answer that question, I have to let you know that the tools that I’ll be talking about are only available to you if you have business page, in addition to your personal Facebook profile.

We discussed the benefits of business profiles in this article, and I shared that most of the artists who are doing well on Facebook are focusing their efforts on their personal profile activity.

For advertising, however, you have to set up a business page. As a number of readers pointed out though, you don’t have to choose between having a personal profile and a business page, you can have both. Setting up a business profile is easy and free, so there’s no reason not to set one up so that you can access and experiment with Facebook advertising tools.

Once you have a business profile, you will have access to Facebook’s Ads Manager. The Ads Manager will give you the ability to create ads and access all of Facebook’s targeting tools.

You shouldn’t have to spend too much time thinking about what you are going to be including in your ads – it’s likely to be your latest art – so we won’t spend a lot of time talking about content or imagery. You should basically create ads that share your art and a narrative about that art, in the ways that we’ve discussed in the last several blog posts.

It’s the targeting where things get interesting. With your personal posts, you are targeting your friends and followers. Once you have a Facebook advertising account set up, you can target just about anyone in the world.

Facebook calls the groups of users that you are going to target “audiences”, and they provide a number of different ways for you to select and target your audiences.

Interests

One of Facebook’s best targeting tools is interest profiles. Every time you like a page on Facebook, you give me, as an advertiser, the ability to target an ad to you. So, for example, if you like the page for the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art page on Facebook, I can target an ad at you. If you like my gallery page, I can target you. If you like my competitors’ gallery pages, I can target you.

These “interests” can tell me a lot about you, and I know that if you like certain things, you are more likely to be my potential audience.

Read more about targeting by interest here: Likes and Interests

Demographics

Interests become even more powerful when they are matched up with demographics. Facebook knows how old users are, where they live, marital status, and much. much more demographic information.

Facebook can also estimate users’ income level. As an advertiser, you can pair the demographic information with users’ interests to get to an even more specific audience, or you can use demographics alone.

We’ve successfully used demographics, for example, to advertise art to high income earners within a 20 mile radius of our gallery. You could do the same to share your art with people who live close to your studio.

Read more : Detailed Targeting

 

Website Visitors

Another useful tool Facebook provides is what they call a “tracking pixel”. It’s a little snippet of code that you add to your website that ties your visitors to their Facebook profile.

You can then create Facebook ads to show them your art in their newsfeed. We know that it often takes repeated exposure to an image to generate the kind of interest that will lead to a sale. Facebook gives us the ability to generate that repeated exposure.

Read more: Custom Audiences from your Website

Lookalike Audience

Facebook also gives you the ability to form a target audience of people that their algorithms think will have similar interests to your current followers or website visitors.

You can build these “Lookalike Audiences” from your page followers, the visitors to your site if you are using Facebook’s tracking pixel, or by uploading your mailing list.

The caveat is that you need to have a fairly large sample audience in order to tap into this tool. If you don’t have a large following yet, or if your mailing list is small, you won’t be able to use this tool until your audience grows.

Read more: Custom Audiences from your Customer List

Budget

Facebook allows you to either set a total budget for an ad, or an amount you would like to spend daily. You can also an exact duration for the ad. In this way, you are in complete control of how much you will spend on your ad.

We’ve experimented with a variety of budgets. I’ve set budgets as small as $5 total for an add, and as high as $1000. In my experience, spending a lot of money on a single Facebook ad isn’t nearly as effective as spending a little money on a lot of ads.

This was a difficult lesson to learn, and it runs counter to how I expected Facebook advertising to work. We had several small ads that did well, so I thought that all I would need to do to get them to do even better would be to increase the budget.

To make a long story short, it doesn’t seem to work that way. At least for our audience, we find we do better with smaller budgets spread out over longer periods of time.

If you are interested in experimenting with Facebook advertising, I would recommend you give yourself a budget of $5-10 per day over the course of a couple of months. As you try different ads and targeting, you should be able to craft some successful campaigns and see results.

The Power of Facebook Ads

As I stated above, I’m not dedicating all of my advertising budget to Facebook. We’re still learning what works and what doesn’t, but it’s clear that Facebook is going to be a critical and growing part of our advertising and sales strategy in the future.

The beauty of Facebook advertising is that it will work just as well for you as an individual artist as it does for me with a gallery.

You can simply scale your ads to fit your budget and needs. In many ways, Facebook is democratizing the advertising world.

If you haven’t considered devoting some time and resources to Facebook advertising, I would encourage you to at least look into it to decide if Facebook can help you sell more of your art.

As I mentioned in a previous article, the Facebook Ad Help Center, is a great place to begin learning more.

Have You Advertised on Facebook?

Have you spent money on Facebook advertising and boosted posts? What have the results been? What questions do you have about social media advertising? Share your experiences and questions in the comments below.

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 the Art Business Academy. 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.

14 Comments

  1. I am curious to read the comments from this article. I’ve never seen results from my FB ads. Dedicated, consistent natural and personal engagement and interactions with fans over a long period of time is what has given the best results.

  2. Thanks Jason, I have tried FB advertising for my greeting cards, but without success in finding new buyers. I have now set up a FB business page (Michelle Marcotte Artist) and hope the improved ability to target the ads will help.

  3. Thanks Jason! I do have a business page and have advertised on Facebook. I will look at targeting the right audience and that may help with sales. I have sold my scarves on Facebook but not paintings. Thanks as always for another great article!

  4. Hi Jason, thanks for the information. I’ve tried Facebook and Pinterest advertisements. There has been engagement from both and several new subscribers to my list from the Facebook ad, costing me about $15 per subscriber. To be frank, I’m not on top of my analytics. Feel a bit like a cork bobbing around in an ocean. I’m planning to set up a schedule to work more consistently this year and get the support I need. Wishing you and yours the very best, Roxanne

  5. Have run a Facebook business page for a number of years, added a second one for non-figurative work a year ago. Ads help to increase attendance at exhibitions, juried show openings [when we were able to hold such events] as well as to increase exposure and ‘likes’. When I upload work to online galleries, I sometimes do a Facebook ad / boost for one piece at online gallery A and another Facebook ad / boost for another piece at online gallery B on the other page. And a Pinterest ad / boost for another piece at online gallery C…… each will be approx same amount [$50-100] and run for a month or two. Pinterest generates far more clicks through to online gallery and the FB ads hit the same people repeatedly, generating more ‘likes’ but far fewer click-throughs to online galleries.

  6. What a great article! So many things to think about. At least for me, those things include, at the root, what I need to accomplish in terms of social media contact with the world. Reflecting on the article helped clarify that. The clearer I got about that, the more interested I became in the tools Jason described and what they might do for me.

  7. I’ve used FB Ads quite often. My thoughts are…in the 2 years of using it, I’ve received maybe 4 sales. I find it frustrating in the area of sales, but I have recieved quite a few followers via my ads.

  8. I paid $50 a day for one week to boost a post about my Mandala art to people who had mandalas as an interest, spoke English, and lived in Canada, USA and the UK. I got tons of interaction from people in Bangladesh and Indonesia, almost all the comments on the posts were written in Arabic, and the comments sectioned turned into a racist shitstorm…. Clearly, Facecrooks sent my post to bots and/or clickfarms. I’ll never pay Facebook again. I deleted my business page, it felt like a joke. The only people who saw posts from it, were a few friends who also saw those posts on my personal page anyway….

    1. Adam – it sounds to me like something was wrong in both the targeting and the budget for the campaign. We’ve had great results getting to the right people when we carefully target on FB, and we rarely budget more than $5 per day for any given ad. I can understand your frustration, and it does sound like the results were very disappointing, but if you are intent on doing some of your own online marketing, you’re missing a big opportunity to reach the widest audience by avoiding FaceBook.

      1. I chose the exact parameters I mentioned, people who were interested in Mandalas, had English as their preferred language, and lived in the USA, Canada and the UK. I ended up with about 730 “likes” on my post, which worked out to paying almost 50 cents per like. Very few clicks to my website, very few new page likes, and the comments – while there were almost 100 – they were mostly people writing in Arabic, and then replies to those people…. I woke up to a bunch of racist crap on my post instead of people talking about my art. Since then, I don’t avoid Facebook, I do avoid giving them my money though. Most of my sales do come from people I connected with on Facebook. But, they come from my personal page, where I know the interaction is genuine.

  9. I would think that if one was consistent and tracked results you would get a very targeted return on your investment.

    I have art that is about the city of Houston – mostly scenic. I also have a home art gallery that centrally located in the city. My target is people who love Houston but I’m sure I could narrow that audience down with some other demographic specifications.

  10. I have advertised on Fb for a few years now. I do get likes, clicks through to my website, and page likes. I have tried varying/ modifying my audience. I have gotten a lot of fans from Asia and the Middle East which were not in my audience selections, that is frustrating. I had inquiries but no art sales that I know came from Fb ads. I do keep my budget low, and I look to get known by art lovers through repetition. I sometimes advertise my free downloadable monthly art calendar as goodwill and that links to my site. I have had ad results getting workshop students and gallery attendance by using the map to pinpoint areas within an hour’s drive as well as age, income and interest.

  11. I’ve been on FB for a couple years now. Somehow I’ve ended up with two Facebook pages. One is my so-called personal page and the second is my so-called Artwork, or business page. I dont even know if one of them is technically a “business” page. I get overwhelmed when i’m faced with lots of choices about social media and so i end up not doing anything. I found instagram to be a much simpler way of showing my artwork and i’ve got followers on both FB and instagram but have made almost no sales on either. Lately i’ve been exploring having a website with a custom domain etc. Here again, there’s so many choices to make about who to go with and what options they give to design your own site or to have someone do it for you that I just tend to give up and think about buying a motorcycle instead of working on my social media footprint.

  12. Our local artists’ group has had a Facebook presence for many years, and I have run a number of small, carefully targeted, Facebook campaigns for our shows and events. The results have been minimal. Several members last year felt that we needed to make a larger “splash” and spent a considerable amount of money over several months on Facebook ads for our largest annual event. Again, despite the carefully considered reach and larger number of ads, the results were still minimal. We still have our best results from direct mail (postcards and fliers) and, interestingly, posters.
    Instagram seems to produce some results as well but only with continuous posting.
    People considering spending on Facebook ads should also remember that many of the more savvy Facebook users apply ad-blocking to minimize the ads, and your ads will be blocked as well.

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