Discussion: What do you Feel is the Best Social Media Platform for Marketing Your Art?

Over the last several weeks, I’ve begun a discussion with artists about marketing art through social media. In today’s post, I would like to ask for your input and thoughts on the best social media platform for marketing and selling your art.

The social media landscape is always changing, but it does seem like we’ve reached a point where a few major providers are dominating the market. Each has it’s own niche, and each seems to offer certain advantages and suffer from certain pitfalls.

The Platforms

Facebook

Facebook is the dominant player in the market. With over 1.86 Billion active monthly users as of March 2017, Facebook dominates not only the social media space, but also the internet. Think about it, nearly a quarter of the planet’s population is active on Facebook every month, and many users are on Facebook multiple times throughout the day. If your potential buyers are on social media, it’s likely they’re on Facebook.

Advantages

Facebook offers a number of advantages. The first is it’s massive scale. Because it has so many users and is generating so much revenue, Facebook is able to develop new features at a rate other platforms struggle to match. Facebook’s advertising system is relatively inexpensive and, once you get through the learning curve, easy to use.

It’s also likely that you are an active Facebook user yourself, which means that it doesn’t take a lot to transition from being a casual user to marketing your artwork through Facebook.

Disadvantages

Because Facebook is so popular and widely used, there is a tremendous amount of noise in users’ newsfeeds. You often have to compete with other advertisers, your client’s friends, and all of the major news outlets to catch a potential buyer’s attention.

For those who are using a business profile page to market their work (more on that in an upcoming post), you can’t reach many potential buyers without paying for advertising.

Facebook is also suffering a bit of a mid-life crisis. The social network is now almost 15 years old, and many users suffer from Facebook fatigue. The amount of daily time users are spending on the platform is decreasing, and a lot of people are loudly declaring that they aren’t going to use Facebook any more. I’m not suggesting that Facebook is on the decline, just that there are those who are tired of it.

YouTube

When thinking of social media, YouTube isn’t typically the first brand that jumps to mind. In fact, many people don’t even think of YouTube as being a social platform. I would argue, however, that YouTube checks all of the boxes of what it means to be social. YouTube’s content is largely generated by it’s users. Users can get followers. Viewers can comment and start discussions about the videos that they see. If that’s not social media, I’m not sure what is.

Advantages

YouTube also has a massive number of active monthly users – somewhere around 1 billion. I’ve had reports from artists that video is a great way to engage users by showing the work in progress and telling stories. YouTube is a great platform for sharing videos in a focused way, and you can easily embed YouTube videos on your own website or on other social media.

Disadvantages

Unfortunately, YouTube is a bit of a cultural wasteland, and I don’t hear of many artists discovering new clients or making sales to unknown buyers through YouTube.

YouTube also has a comment problem. The YouTube community seems to encourage negative, nasty comments. You can disallow comments, but you then lose the social aspect of sharing your videos.

Instagram

Instagram is owned by Facebook, and you can integrate your Instagram posts into your Facebook network, but Instagram has a life of its own. Instagram was the second most-mentioned platform when I recently asked artists about where they were selling art through social media.

Advantages

While Instagram also allows you to create a network of followers, it also encourages users to discover new contributors, and, by tagging posts, artists can reach out to potential buyers who might otherwise never see their art.

Disadvantages

Instagram skews toward younger users, a demographic that doesn’t match up to slightly older art-buying demographics.

 

Twitter

For some time, Twitter was considered a top-contender in the social media space. Over the last few years, however, it seems to have settled into a niche primarily used for the distribution of news, celebrity gossip, and presidential rambling [no comment].

Advantages

Over the last several years Twitter has made it easier to share images. Because Twitter is a smaller network, it’s active users tend to be more engaged, and I hear reports from artists who have used Twitter that they have been able to develop a very loyal following.

 

Pinterest

Pinterest would seem to be custom-made for sharing artwork. Built completely around the concept of sharing images, and designed to allow users to pull together images they like so that they can then share them with their friends and with the world at large, I remember being very excited about Pinterest when I learned about it.

Unfortunately, Pinterest was a bit late to the social media game, and has never taken off in the same way that Facebook or Twitter did.

 

Linkedin

All about connections, Linkedin is notorious for filling people’s inboxes with invites from their contact list. Linkedin has also become a niche service that seems primarily to provide professionals with job opportunities.

Snapchat

Millennial and youth-centric, Snapchat provides ephemeral messaging. I didn’t hear from any artists who are selling art on Snapchat, but if you are, please leave a comment below!

 

Google+

Google tried to compete with Facebook. It didn’t work, but parts of their platform are still around, including their very successful video meeting platform, Hangouts, and their communities.

 

The Others

It would be almost impossible to keep up with all of the social media sites that have come and gone over the last few years. Tumblr, MySpace, Flickr, Digg, Reddit, and on and on. While some of the other platforms are much, much smaller, each platform still has millions and millions of users. There seem to be countless avenues for sharing and selling your art.

What Social Media is Working for You?

Have you had success selling your art on the platforms listed above? On other platforms? Are you active on more than one social media platform? Where have you sold your art? What other benefits have you seen from sharing your art through social media? What advice would you give to artists who don’t know where to begin with social media?

Share your experience, success and the challenges you have faced as you’ve looked for the right social media platform to share your art. Leave your thoughts in the comments bellow.

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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

15 Comments

  1. I have Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts, am active on all three, although a little less so on LI. Facebook has been my best venue for actually selling artwork. One collector has purchased 4-5 pieces, all of which she first saw on FB. My FB followers tend to be people I know, whereas Instagram followers tend to be friends I haven’t met yet, and yes, it skews younger. However, several people who live in my area have attended my studio events, which speaks to it being effective. LinkedIn is another source I have tapped into for building a reputation. I couldn’t ignore the 500+ contacts I had there from my years in business, so I have taken to posting there two to three times per week. It’s a way to keep in touch with people related to my graphic design/marketing career, and I’ve been pleased that my work has captured the attention of a few of those folks. I also use email marketing and a little direct mail, but for the most part, social media exposes people to my work who would never have known that I create art, much less the kind of work I do. I follow the principles that I used for my clients in my past career: persistence and dedication to your marketing message. Instant results are unrealistic, and building a reputation takes time.

  2. I put my work wherever it can be put. I’ve been banned from FB, Flickr, LI. Tumblr went to hell, so don’t bother with them. Many other online venues banned me. If I had a smartphone I try IG, but they would ban me too no doubt. YouTube banned me, but got back on. Just can’t put anything much on there or they will throw me out.

    I do use IG to make videos and still photos of for social documentary work. I’m working on one today…’Look at #metoo’

  3. I’ve been studying this for an upcoming Salon talk up in Seattle. Pew Research just completed an exhaustive study on the demographics of each major social media platform. 85% of Instagram users are 35 years old and under. So selling fine art to that group is almost non-existent but great for cultivating future art buyers. Price points are also low here – which is why I can’t sell a $2000 painting on it but my ingenious daughter-in-law is doing a great business with her $12 product.

    Facebook has a more middle-age population that fits art buyers but their ad platform and new regulations make it super hard to advertise art. Now to get a posting that smells like an “ad” to show on your feed you need to have people not only making comments to you the artist but conversations need to happen between your commentators for your post to get seen by many. Plus I’ve read that with the new regs and changes, most posts are seen by only 20% of your friends.

    I’ve seen IG and FB more as buzz creators – where people see I’m busy creating, exhibiting and selling art – so they see me as a “successful” artist – even though it’s not at the make a living stage yet. It gets my neighborhood carpooling across the state to see an exhibit of my work. So for those reasons I’ll keep using it an posting.

    One dichotomy I’ve found that I’m still working through was brought up at the recent Oil Painters of America National Conference this past week. At the panel discussion of major gallery owners, successful artists and the Editor of a major art magazine – they all agreed that artists should only post their best works – not every work – and should NEVER post stage photos. That limits what social media begs for – which is regular interaction with your followers – showing them what you are working on (ie. “stories” with video or multiple photos) or showing them your studio and recent pieces you’ve finished.

    I think things will sort out eventually – but until social medial platforms help artists find their target market more effectively – it’s more of a PR resource for me. Others may have other experiences.

  4. Interesting to see your impression of the YouTube community; I NEVER read YouTube comments because it seems to be a magnet for nasty behavior and rudeness!

    LinkedIn used to have a great art business group where I found a terrific web designer and learned of other good suppliers. The group dissolved due to a deterioration into many beginners pushing “look at my art and help me!” or unscrupulous types pushing their art instead of the stated purpose of professional artists exchanging ideas. Still, LinkedIn seems to have a more elevated level of discourse and seems to lend validity and credibility without requiring too much bleeding of personal (and irrelevant) info. No sales as a result of my sporadic participation. (“Sporadic” could be the problem.)

    Pinterest feels like a waste of time and has never brought sales for me. Again, sporadic participation might be the problem. They got too full of ads, so it isn’t fun to use any more. Too much stuff to wade through!

    Instagram is now full of ads, so it is a bit harder to use than it used to be. It has brought people to local art shows and events. Sometimes those folks might even buy something.

    Email newsletters (using MailChimp) also bring people to local art shows and events.

    My blog remains my favorite way of connecting with people, usually people I already know, although I have met new customers who have become friends in real life.

  5. We (husband and wife partnership) have sold some items (not that many yet to be fair) through Instagram. Maybe this is because the work is quite expensive and Facebook perhaps is better for less expensive items (not sure about that really). One of Bill’s videos had 20,000 views on Instagram – which has ended up in several sales.
    Facebook hasn’t as yet produced any sales, as far as we know. We have also sold one item via Pinterest (the client actually enquired about another sculpture, which was too expensive for them.) Interestingly that piece was not something we posted ourselves (we don’t have a Pinterest page at all), it was posted on someones else’s feed.
    Thanks for the podcast on Facebook by the way Jason – very interesting.

    Quite a few of the sales, and a lot of the enquiries which social media has generated – have been from abroad (we are in the UK) – the US, Australia, Canada to name a few. So they are good, cheap platforms for expanding your markets worldwide! We had looked into exhibiting at Fairs in the US for example, and the cost of shipping, accommodation, hassle factor, meant we never actually got around to it – but social media has done this for us, with little effort. So, we think it is definitely worth a go.

  6. Just a tired old man’s 2 cents worth….

    Unfortunately I have had zero success trying to sell my work, or attract clients to visit my bricks & mortar gallery through social media efforts. I have spent thousands of dollars on ads, etc and I am of the opinion that all social media is simply entertainment now. For example i have about 400 followers on Instagram and I would estimate 90% of them are artists. I am not looking for friends, or likes, I’m looking for sales.

    It seems that there is so much noise in social media as someone posted that any efforts I put forth are more like a snowflake in a snow storm.

    I have had good success with emails to my existing clients, but other than that, zippo.

    Now for some background, I am now working on retiring after having run my gallery for almost 20 years. I have sold over 10,000 pieces which now reside in at least 27 countries. In that same period, I haven’t sold a single piece via social media.

    Previously, I averaged 1 sale for every 15 people that entered my gallery. Now during my retirement sale, I average 1 sale for every 4 people. Even still, promoting my retirement sale via social media has not produced any results I’m afraid. I should also point out that my average sale these days is about $600, so that definitely has an impact on trying to generate sales online and I truly believe people still need to see the work and the gallery in order to build the trust that is needed to make an informed decision to purchase.

    Generally, I believe that the lower your price point, the better chance you have of selling, but how many $30 pieces do you need so sell to support yourself?

  7. Video is a good way to build your brand in the long-term. There’s a lot of artists on YouTube who regularly record themselves creating their work and are able to acquire a decent audience. Some do the Bob Ross thing. Others market it as ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). Many offer tips and suggestions, or use it as a way to promote classes. Others try to find unique angles or ways to “go viral” to acquire an audience.

    Does it lead to sales? Well, one would think so if you have a lot of followers and viewers. But who knows? They could just be milking the YouTube ad revenue, additional ad partnerships, paid product placements, and Patreon donations. One might get to the point where they’re doing better as a YouTube personality than “artist selling paintings”. And how would we know? If you’re making videos such as “Buying My Art Supplies Blindfolded” then you’re probably doing better as a YouTube personality.

    Even if you simply aim a video camera at your workspace, never edit anything, and just upload each finished product, it’s a lot of work. It’s an extra thing. It’s time when you could be painting something else. Or researching and submitting to additional galleries.

    And now everybody can be a “personality”, or wants to be. Some artists don’t want to show how their sausage is being made, much less dealing with anonymous trolls in the comments section. It’s a lot to consider.

    If you want to get started with making videos, set something up with your smartphone or an old video camera and record a few. Don’t publish them. Once you have 4 or 5 recorded, go back and look at what you’ve got. If you think you’re boring or cringe-worthy, try another angle. Maybe make a few edits or speed up the video. Keep it short. In the beginning, nobody will want to watch you painting for 2 hours, but they might be interested in a 3 minute video.

  8. I’ve shut down my Facebook business page and my Linked In account for the time being. I found the constant “upgrades” to FB business to be exhausting–I have a more than sufficient quantity of tasks in any given day, and to keep having to relearn a platform is unacceptable at present. Linked In makes no sense to me anymore–since they changed their platform to look more like Facebook, I haven’t been able to understand the feed. Plus, it focuses mostly on mid- and upper-management business and employment ops, rather than providing an expanded base that includes all possible tiers of entrepreneurship. I’ll give them a few months or so sabbatical, while I catch up on other, more immediate aspects of generating business.

    I have begun using Instagram, however. It has occurred to me that I may have to be content with getting my work seen, as opposed to going for the sale. It’s also a good way to build a community of colleagues, as we follow each other and keep our collective momentum going.

    Still have a personal Facebook page, and I post completed works, pieces that have been accepted into shows, and/or have received awards. This seems an effective strategy. Example: One of my long-time friends, who re-connected via Facebook, recently commissioned a painting from me. I completed it last week, delivered to his house on Saturday, in time for Mothers’ Day, and both he and his wife are thrilled with it. He posted several pictures of it in situ, so HIS FB friends are now seeing that. I also composed a short video of 16 stills that show the progression of the painting, posted it on FB, on YouTube and put a link on one of my website pages. AND, a painting completed nearly 11 years ago that was not accepted into juried shows until last year–it’s an in-between image that doesn’t fit into typical categories–just won First in Oils at a members’ show for a local art society. Its image was used in two county newspapers, including online; you BET I posted those links on Facebook. Because of that, a different longtime friend-colleague visited my website and contacted me to ask if I still had a certain series and whether I’d be interested in displaying specific pieces from it for two months at a local interior design showroom. We’re still organizing, and it’s looking to be a traditional gallery consignment arrangement.

    So, there’s considerable movement and momentum, both supported and generated by social media. It seems a matter of figuring out which platform feels most organic, and developing from there.

  9. Experience through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pintrest. and the rest are good platforms for getting yourself known, but I find that people who really looking to buy art , go to Ebay where search is fast and have many great art available, they range from novice artist, to very seasoned artist to vintage art, but yes you run the risk of fakes, that’s where you have to do your research,

  10. Like some of the other commentators before me, I have done quite a bit of trial and error on social media. I find LinkedIn only useful to find people and to be found, not for advertising art. In my opinion, people rarely scroll down much on LinkedIn, i.e. they only see what happens to be on their opening screen when they go in to look at new contact requests or look for a particular person. As for Pinterest, I agree that it is a nice way of sharing ideas but does not sell art. I have a decent number of followers on Facebook and I mainly use posts to advertise art events I am hosting or participating in, as well as alerts to new posts and updates on my website. In my experience, not much traffic is coming to my website and blog unless I put notices on other social media, in particular Facebook. Instagram is my latest addition and I like the fact that the community is active and my works get quite a few likes. Whether that will translate into sales remains to be seen but eyeballs is always good. The problem I have is that I don’t create new works rapidly enough. Thus, unless I post older works that are not “recognizable” for my current style and/or works in progress, I don’t have enough material to keep the Instagram community engaged.

    1. I’m a bit slow too, but have found it’s all right to re-post the same paintings, because different people will see them, or someone interested will notice it again.

  11. I just spent a week as a volunteer assistant at the Palm Springs Photography Festival and in the portfolio reviews that they gave me I was told that Instagram is THE place to be for photographers. And you can monetize it once you get over 10k followers by placing links directly in the post. So… for photographers – IG is the place to be.

  12. I primarily post on instagram and facebook (business page). Instagram is much more active regarding interacting with fellow artists, prospective buyers, and interested onlookers. I find that no matter what platform is used, a bricks and mortar presence at galleries and/or art shows is an important part of the equation. Any sales I have made through instagram started as a connection made at an art show. There is an “older” crowd coming to instagram through these events. I would say that I have made about six sales through instagram, mostly commissions. I have had one commission through facebook, which was a 36×48. I live in Canada and the buyer in Australia.
    It is all quite random, but what it comes down to is a good combination of getting “out there” in the real world and posting (sometimes begrudgingly) on social media. To be honest, I dislike posting on social media. I prefer to be painting. But I feel its a necessity to try to cover all bases whether we like it or not.

  13. Has anyone tried starting their own public group on Facebook, just for marketing your own art? It could be named Art by _____________ (your name). I’m wondering if that would help at all.

  14. LinkedIn is great for getting solicitations from insurance agents and realtors 2000 miles away – every few days. The same ones reacting to my work there are the same ones reacting on FB.
    FB business page is ok but spending $$ for boosts is great to increase likes & followers but little more. I wonder how many of my followers are just duplicating my work & selling at art fairs. And FB refuses much of my uncropped work for ads or suspends me for showing too much skin….
    IG is fairly new to me but appears to be more active & responsive to new work posted, increasing followers.
    Not convinced yet that likes, followers and clicks translate to sales.

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