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.

Starving to Successful

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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

21 Comments

  1. I’m doing Instagram (from a computer), and Facebook has been on my to-do list. I have a Facebook account, but have not figured out how to use it yet. I should be able to cross post from Instagram to Facebook, but nothing happens when I click the Facebook link. … or maybe it is happening and I don’t know how to access my pages correctly. Thanks for an inspiring article … I will dig in and educate myself.

    1. Jody,
      You may have already figured this out, but I was having the same problem you were sharing from Instagram to my Facebook business page. I learned that if I have all the “share to” switches flipped on when I am posting the original content on Instagram, it doesn’t share to ANY of my other pages. If I first post only to Instagram, then go back and “share” the post (option under dots in top right corner of post), everything shares perfectly! Hope this helps. 🙂

  2. I have done Facebook ads when I put my annual calendar out for sale and when I pave a particularly interesting image posted. I have garnered more “likes” on my Facebook page, increasing my audience, but no additional sales that I can point to that came from the ads..

  3. Hi Just have to say again, LOVE YOUR BLOG! Straight on… I have also found that it is wiser to have a $5- 50 Budget stretched out over a period of 4 days. And Just want to say start exploring groups joining groups become a member take part and post. Look at the group’s interests to get to an even more specific audience. I have been working that angle, and I also have to say… post from Instagram to Facebook and Twitter, kill 3 birds with one stone! or use “Social Media Management Tools” or Instagram, Instagram is great I ran an add a few weeks back and I was so happy with the results it got a lot of love! Well, let’s do it, become artistic socialites! Good luck all!:-)

    1. I agree post from Instagram to Facebook but how do I get Facebook to post to my business page vs my personal page from instagram?

  4. My experience with Facebook ads left me unimpressed. Likes from local “income targeted” ads came in largely from a lower income demographic than I requested (young people just starting out at low-wage jobs—I checked profiles.) There are plenty of high earners, but rather than direct me to a more accurate search, FB took my money and fed me poor leads that clearly were off the set parameters. The ad campaign also seemed to produce a greatly dimishing return over time. I found the targeting process while setting up the ads extraordinarily and unnecessarily clunky and glitchy. It took way too much time. The director of a gallery that represents me has had similar results. Facebook ads may work well for others, but I am putting my dollars and effort elsewhere.

    1. I had a similar experience with Facebook income targeting. All the “likes” and interactions were from people waaay outside the income demographic specified – much lower. I wonder if geography has something to do with this? Perhaps high income is easier for the algorithm to predict in some regions – and a mess in others?

      Facebook seems to do a little better with “net worth” , though you’ll still pay for a lot of clicks outside the demographic.

      However, I recently acquired two good new collectors who I believe came through Facebook ads. I used very specific Industry and job function targeting along with education level and specific high education/high earner interests. I think this gave me a better way to target high earners who would also be interest in the subjects of my Art.

      If you have enough data to know what sorts of people tend to buy your work, you can also try to target professions and education levels as more reliable indicators of income and net worth than whatever Facebook’s AI is doing.

    2. Ditto, GB.
      I advertised several times with FB with no return whatsoever. I gained followers for an interim, “likes and loves,” but no sales.The artists I’m aware of who turned their advertising into sales were at lower price levels. I’ve gotten a couple bewildered pm, why are you selling fine art on FB? Good question.
      I haven’t found a platform of preference yet to replace FB although I joined Reddit recently. Satisfactory thus far, and I’m still learning how to use it. I’m told I’m doing social media totally wrong in not trying to exploit it. Maybe I am, but my goal is passing on some knowledge, developing the next generation of art patrons, and reaching people who love art. My sales come through other venues.
      And last, we can’t ignore the privacy issues with FB. Artists are caught in the middle. We need exposure but neither do we want our personal information shared with any and everybody. THEY are getting the benefit of our advertising dollar … and that is what I dislike about this platform. I’m leaving as soon as I figure out my next step.

  5. I’m glad to see this level of targeting for dollars spent. I became frustrated with Google Adwords – as at least 75% of my ad money was being used up by foreign telecoms (China, France, England, Germany, etc.) – who pinged my website almost daily to ensure I was legit. I look forward to exploring the FB platform.

  6. Hi Jason
    Just wanted to let you know that the links in this blog won’t open in safari because of too many redirects! Facebook has helped garner qualifying leads that although I can’t say a specific ad created the sale because I get more generic answers like I saw you on the web or internet not through a given platform. The older demographic we target are less Davy to terminology than a younger audience is would be my guess. The tools are amazing but it does take real time and thought to making good use of them. Still very much in the heavy end of the learning curve for its most effective and economic use in our ad budgeting. Yes smaller budgets spread out seems to be better for us as well. Let’s keep exploring these ideas through your blog posts in different ways and angles so we all get a better idea of how it can work for our artist or gallery goals of selling more art!

    1. The learning curve is what has me stymied. It’s so complicated and clunky and while I sit at the computer trying to figure out how to target my demographic (I pretty much know exactly who they are!) a very, very long list of other necessary things sits, undone. FB, like far too many tech companies, can’t figure out just how crummy a user experience they create . . .

  7. I’ve used the boost several times but have yet to see any results, but thanks for the information. I can also say the same for Instagram but the jury is still out on both. Again, many thanks.

  8. Just like Ebay, Facebook is much more targeted to getting new advertisers/merchants/sellers than to getting clients/customers/buyers. There’s always more people who have stuff to sell than there are buyers.

  9. Jason, I tried the Facebook Business Page but it was difficult from the very beginning. I’m not sure I’m going to even try to keep it going. As I was attempting to set it up, it was directing me to list friends to send it to. Suddenly I was getting responses from those friends who liked the page even though I wasn’t anywhere near completing the page. I like a certain amount of control before launching to ensure the Page is ready and never experienced that. It has pretty much gone downhill from there. Maureen

  10. I’m happy to say that what I’ve invested on FB ads over the past two years has greatly paid off. For example, I ran an ad this past weekend, only spending $30, and it resulted in over $1,000 in commissions. (I’m a portrait artist..people, pets, equine). FB targeted advertising has been the key to my success and I’m so grateful for friends and family encouraging me to go the FB route!

  11. One thing I have heard people who advertise on Facebook complain about is that they can not spend their whole budget because there is limited space and then the ad space goes to the highest bidder. I have been on all the platforms posting for free and it has not done much for me. I am considering paying for some ads on Facebook and some other platforms. But, now it seems that that arena is getting flooded too as everyone is on the web these days. I am really at a loss. I work primarily as a commission artist but need to fill the gags between projects with selling originals/prints and it all seems so hard to get noticed in a virtual sea of artist

  12. When I checked out a link to create a custom audience, it said:”
    To use Custom Audiences, you must be: an advertiser,” Am I an advertiser if I boost a post on my business page? I tried asking HELP on FB but none of the topics offered fit my question.

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