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 Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and 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

23 Comments

  1. Hi JAson, yes, I’ve advertised twice on Facebook. Both times, I showed several current artworks in the ad with a link to my website. I spent $10 on the first ad and $35 on the second ad. I admit that I’m ignorant about targeting and need to do more study.

    I did not sell any art directly from the ad but my website saw increased views, in the hundreds and new likes for my business page. I was pleased with the results.

  2. Yes, I advertise on Facebook using small a budget. I think the last ad I ran was seen by about 800 people. I find that people like video. No sales, however. I understand that though as I had a bad experience myself with shipping around Christmas last year.

  3. Jason, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to set up my Facebook Business Page. I click on “view as a visitor” and it still looks cluttered and right at the top it shows me my trending and suggestions to get more likes. Is there a good tutorial somewhere?

    1. Yes there is, Marilyn. Google. Google “how to design Facebook business page” and you will get lots of good info. All you have to do is read.

      I don’t know that that there is an abundance of info on the look of a business page since there isn’t really flexibility on the layout. Is your cover image cluttered? That is the largest graphic on the page, so it should be stunning and attention-getting.

  4. I have vowed not to spend another penny on FB ads until I find out how to get a human answer from the FB team. Each time the “projected audience” is a range of numbers based on the budget, and each time the ad reaches a number that is lower than the bottom of that range. It may be that my ad isn’t effective, but FB has the power to serve that post to whomever they want, and they are clearly not living up to their numbers promises. It has been disappointing Every. Single. Time.

    1. My experience as well, Maggie. Ads, even unrelated problems with FB are directed by computer algorithms. You can never, ever speak to a FB rep about anything.
      “Likes” and “shares” aren’t sales. Income, location, and age are not narrow enough demographics to identify a collector. “Interests” are far too random. They may include a woman in the analytics who posted a tree painting she did last year at a loopy group wine tasting event. She’s your art collector. Ask yourself this … you post and share all sorts of things; recipes, your nephew’s graduation, and vacation shots. That doesn’t mean you’re a gourmet, considering going back to college, or want to buy a beach house in FL. A computer can’t define and analyze that.
      I do FB as a teaching/reaching tool for those who appreciate the process. For most of us exposure on social media rarely results in sales. I feel my time and money can be better used elsewhere but more so, direct email communication or messaging with people who follow me.
      Jason, you’ve done an incredible job breaking all this down for us and I applaud those who have done well through FB. I tried it, but no.

    2. I absolutely agree with this summation, Maggie. I recently used Facebook ads to target an audience for a workshop. I noticed the huge numbers promised, based on amount spent did not match the actual numbers reached. The interactions, clicks, views, etc, were even less. I am still considering spending again, as I do think I’ve picked up a few new followers, but I am definitely disappointed in the promise vs the return. Of course, they continue to prompt me to spend more and “reach more people,” but I have no incentive to do so, based on the results.

    3. I recently did a fb ad (my first time) and was disappointed in this aspect as well.
      Facebook gave me an estimate of how many people would be seeing my ad, and when the “ad-time” was over, my post did not even reach half the amount that fb said it would!
      (I also had a demographic age range of 20-40 year olds, and most of my audience who did see my ad was 14year olds. :/
      (I’m guessing it’s because of the tag interests I put in?)
      Would only try again if I knew what happened/what went wrong.

  5. Yes, I use the boost /ad tools regularly. I refine the demographics and geographic radius depending on whether I am promoting an exhibition opening or trying to expand the followers of my work. Haven’t decided if the results match the $$ spent yet but it is a lot of promotion and visibility from a laptop in my studio.

  6. Hi Jason, I have been studying this with a variety of free resources online and podcasts. A year ago, I felt I was wasting my time on social media and with my blog. I decided to study how other -non- art businesses use social media to increase sales of products, and when I understood that, create a funnel strategy for social media, blogging and email marketing together. So I have learned a lot about Facebook advertising in the past year. Much of what you covered in the post was familiar to me but it was really helpful to hear your experience as an art sales perspective. When you use targeting on Facebook, how do you avoid accidentally serving your ads to artists? Do you use zip codes, income data, certain likes etc? THANKS IN ADVANCE!

  7. Jason, thank you for helping to deconsttuct the process. I’ve used an ad once, for an artist event. Did not get bodies in the door. I do a lot of shows and I still find email addresses to be most effective for me. It helps build my collect base authentically.
    I may try the ads again to target new interest though .

  8. I’ve found advertising on facebook very effective for building an audience and leading to sales. I don’t spend huge amounts each add but I do it fairly regularly. I currently keep it local as I like to have people visit my studio to pick up pieces or if I’m sending I don’t want the shipping to be too expensive while I’m still establishing myself. I think careful targeting is very important as it’s not much use having huge numbers of followers if those followers aren’t buyers. I find having the add linked to Instagram is useful as building a following through Instagram is a lot faster than facebook – I get a lot of work via Instagram.

  9. Thank you for deconstructing all the ins and outs of using Facebook for promotion! I’ve tried “boosting” for the gallery I’m involved with, with no apparent result, except I liked seeing the large numbers the ad reached. It seems to me the personal shares among current followers works better than a paid ad. But I will try the paid ad technique again. I love your enthusiasm for trying all the platforms out there!!

  10. I know an artist who posts his art with the price on his personal FB page and gets sales. He is an on-line art instructor and I am sure (I haven’t checked) he has a lot of followers.

    Other than that, my results with FB ads have resulted in zip. I do understand that it could be that my ads are not compelling enough, or my art sucks, or that I chose the wrong target audience, but I don’t think it is all my fault. Given my experience, I am not sure if I want to “donate” more money to the FB monster.

  11. I doubt I’ll ever use Fb to advertise my art, but I did a ‘land grab’ on my business page in case I ever change my mind. I recommend that for any artist looking to more fully market their work in the future.

  12. Dearest Jason ~ First, thank you for sharing your insights. Your posts are ALWAYS helpful, as are the comments from the others who read your offerings. Second…I thought I’d share what I do so that others might come up with their own strategies. So here goes:
    I have a blog that I’ve held for nearly TEN years. The blog is called JoyIZZAChoice. As the name implies, the posts are entirely focused upon choosing Joy. I don’t have what you would call an “enormous” following, but I’ve found that so long as I post regularly (at least every other day), the numbers continue to increase. That being said, the blog is something I do for my own Joy…and to encourage others to direct their thoughts to the joyous rather than the dreadful. Each time I write a post, I then share it to my FB business page, along with my personal page. This, in turn, gets those people following me (on either page) to share. As a result, my audience has grown to include not only the U.S., but people/places all around the globe. Very exciting indeed!
    Over the course of the past year, I began posting images of my art work. I usually include a short blurb about the piece and give details such as the medium used and size of the work. When I post to FB (both pages), I also include a price for the piece and notify interested parties to contact me via FB Messenger.
    So far, I have sold five pieces via this method. I have the “collector” arrange payment via PayPal, half up front, the remainder when I am about to ship. All details of the sale are done privately and so far, I’ve had no issue whatsoever. Once the client receives the piece, I ask them to take a photo of it (on their wall) and email it to me. I then write another post on the blog and share as before. This may not seem like a lot, but seeing as how I don’t yet create (art) in vast numbers, I think it’s pretty darned good. AND…I haven’t spent a dime on advertising. Word of mouth is what’s grown my audience and I happen to believe it’s the best kind of advertising. It brings with it a modicum of TRUST. And…the audience continues to grow.
    I hope this helps those artists who are not in a position to budget even $5 a day. You don’t have to spend money to get your art out there. But then, I’m as much devoted to my writing as I am my art works. Either way, the point is: there are ways to get it done without having to spend money you don’t have.

  13. Camille, are you posting your artwork and short blurb and other details on your personal FB page and/or business page? I only have a personal page but use it to post my artwork.

  14. This is great Jason! I had no idea you could target so closely… and use everything you mentioned when advertising on Facebook. I have done this but have only used within 20 miles of Chicago. so thank you!

  15. Very useful information Jason, thanks. Love the comments from all of the artist experiences too. I am looking into doing my first advertising on Facebook/Instagram , so this is very timely information for me.

  16. I ran an ad campaign when first publishing my works online last year. I didn’t have much of a following outside my own network and certainly not anyone capable of paying a fair price for my work. I ran two ad campaigns. One was aimed at getting new followers in high-income demographics; I used a time-lapse video of me making one of my pieces which helped the ad perform much better than expected. (If someone likes/loves/reacts to your posts you can invite them to like your page. This is a huge bonus for ads where it might not always directly drive a follow but after the personal invite they do follow). For $150 over one month mixed with organic growth, I hit 600 followers and 2 sales organically. From that I also received 2 local commissions from people who had not realized I was a painter. One of those commissions paid for the ad. The second adset is still in progress geared towards converting sales on my shopify store. So far I have zero conversions for $50 down but considering all the products are over $200 that is to be expected. One sale will recoup a good chuck of the ad spend. Look forward to playing with Facebook Ads more to see how they can work best for such high-ticket items.

  17. so do you find you sell more when doing a targeted facebook ad campaign? are they going to your facebook page for a purchase; or clicking over to your website? thanks in advance for the reply

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