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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.