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

32 Comments

  1. Social media tips I’ve used that work:

    Match your demographic to the demographic of your social media platform(s).

    You tube is especially nice if you share information or teach. Regular posting is important – at least twice a month.

    All social media platforms should drive business to your website.

    Collect email addresses on your website.
    Use the emails you’ve collected to keep customers up to date on your activity preferably post minimally twice a month.

    Your postings should be a giving to your customers, not an asking. (A photo of your work, your process, any information they’ll enjoy.)

    It takes time to build clientele, a year – maybe 3 years, twice a month. Don’t give up to soon.

    1. Michele, I think your comments are the most helpful here. They are in line with what I’ve read about online marketing. I use my website for e-commerce, and all my social media activity is geared towards building my brand and driving business to my website. Posting info about exhibitions, awards, press, etc. on Facebook lets people know that I’m a serious professional.

      I’m just getting more active on Instagram, and I find it connects me with a much wider audience, outside my social network. Also, hashtags are really important, because they lead people to your Instagram image through searches.

      I promote the work of fellow artists quite a bit, especially if I’m in a group show with them. This builds goodwill and also provides my FB friends and Instagram followers with valuable content, and they appreciate seeing great work that they would otherwise not have access to. In this way, I curate my content.

      Jason, great summary of social media and great forum, thanks for providing this. P.S. I think LinkedIn is great for suits, pointless for creatives.

  2. I post and interact often on Facebook. Instagram is more like a “portfolio”–an easy place to send people to see samples of my art. I tweet the links to my blog posts. Each platform serves a different audience and should be used in slightly different ways. I don’t sell much through social media, but every now and then there is a hook, and I get a customer either for a piece already made or for a commission.

    One sentence above said it all–use the social media you are already using. The bottom line is that you have to be an engaged user in order for the algorithms to play in your favor.

  3. I’m doing four things: 1. Publishing images of new paintings to the blog portion of my web site. 2. Publishing selected images of new paintings monthly to my op-in email list. 3. Publishing short videos in the form of a small batch of still images to YouTube. 4. I’ve been publishing a music podcast since 2004 and I’ve started regularly mentioning my visual artwork there.

    I’m relatively new to promoting my visual art, but I’ve made a decision to not become dependent on the “walled gardens” of services like Facebook, Twitter, et al. I’m not interested in the “pay to play” aspects of Facebook. I’d rather broadcast messages and new paintings to my opt-in core and whoever happens upon my art along the way.

  4. The only social media I try to keep up with is FaceBook. I find it’s most useful in two situations: first, when I’m working on a series and my followers can see and look forward to the next day’s posting of the new painting (for my series work, I’d be posting on my Daily PaintWorks site and using the Facebook button to post over to FB, usually both my own fine arts dedicated page and my home page), and second, when I’m participating in a plein air event and can post the paintings I did that day to generate interest in the event and in my work. I’m registered in most of the other media mentioned, but it’s just too much to try to keep up with more than one.

  5. Thanks, Jason, as always very informative.
    I started on FB, Instagram, Pinterest & Google, but I just can’t keep up & get any art done. So I’ve been focusing on Instagram & then share to FB. I’ve been very disappointed with FB business as they keep changing their algorithms; I can’t keep up & now do very little on it… for the effort I put in the results aren’t there. I’m very tired of it. My coach has helped me recently with tips to work on the SEO of my website. I’m going to focus on that over the summer, next 3 months & see what happens. R. 🙂

  6. I have been actively using Facebook the longest with Borge a personal page and a business page solely used to show pictures of my artwork little else. I have somewhere over 1000 friends on bothe pages. I started using Twitter only about 2 years ago solely posting images of my artwork. I have over 10,000 followers there. The bottom line is Zero sales on Twitter unless there is payment for likes and shares…… so Zero Sales. All of my twitter followers are strangers no friends or acquaintances. Facebook on the other hand are all friends and acquaintances and I have gleaned a couple of sales from old high school friends but that has dried up in the last couple years and the sales were never enough to support a career small amounts for prints usually and very sporadic. Most of my paintings are priced between $5000 and $10000 and I don’t think anyone will make that big of a purchase risk through the internet if I had a $100 to $500 price range I might have a better response in sales. I continue to post new paintings to both platforms for feedback mainly to see which paintings get the most reaction other than that I done see much use in either platform. It is free except for the time involved I posting and responding and I refuse to spend any money on the Facebook add boost. I think it can work for some artist if your price range is low enough but it hasn’t really produced results for me

  7. This isn’t social media per se but might be good to write about as well and that is eBay art. I’ve done a little research and like most things in trying to market one’s work, some succeed and others don’t. Prices are sometimes to low to make it worth while as well.

  8. My personal choice would be instagram though I also have had fair response from my facebook artwork page.. I have yet to sell one piece of artwork solely through social media. It certainly is the way forward for awareness but I do wonder if the www is awash with art, excellent and lame…
    I love the face to face contact and the immediate interest from art events more than anything else. There has to be some relationial connection for me to know my work has been special enough for someone to love it enough to wish to purchase it.

  9. Great information and comparisons–thank you!

    I’ve sold art on ebay. I stopped after I sold off prints I’ve had hanging around taking up space. It’s not really social media, but it’s where I’ve sold the most art other than Fine Art America.

    I use my facebook page and business cards to link and direct people to my FAA page, which has about 75 images on it. Everything else is either word of mouth or direct sales by myself at various shows, boutiques and other pop-up events.

    I also find group fb pages and (with permission) post images and a little story or comment that public/demographic might like, again directing them via a link to the FAA page that displays that piece. I have probably sold some this way. One main image I keep doing this with has increased in sales from FAA.

  10. I’m active on Facebook, Instagram, and a little less so on LinkedIn. Facebook has been a successful venue for me for both sales and connecting with my audience. That means people I know or have at least met who follow my business page. I also use it to promote events and exhibits I’m involved in. It works quite well for that. For sure, Instagram skews a lot younger, and most followers there are strangers. I really don’t expect sales there, but it’s convenient to use and does help broaden the audience. I post a little less often to LinkedIn, and do so mainly to stay in touch with acquaintances from the business world I was once part of. It can’t hurt, and I’ve gotten some FB follows that way.

    I don’t think I saw you mention blogs as social media, but I think it qualifies if you allow for comments (which I get very few of). What I like about my blog is that it motivates me to create content that can also be posted with a link on social media. I also include blog links in my monthly newsletters.

    Social media empowers the artist! Not that my audience is huge, but I dare say hardly anyone would even know about my work, much less have bought, if it weren’t for Facebook!

  11. Instagram has become my favorite. Not that I have sold anything, I don’t really try, but a great place to share images of my work and work in progress. It is quite popular with artists. The focus of the posts I see is typically about the image itself and not some joke or social statement. Much less advertising and clutter than Facebook. Using hashtags makes it easy to connect with large groups of people with similar interests. I get likes on posts frequently from unknown artists/admirers from all over the world. Fun and exciting! On Facebook it seems to be the same dozen or so family and friends who react. Follow me on Instagram! sonnylipps.com

  12. I should clarify that my FB account is not set up to take transactions. The buyer does contact me through FB though, and the transaction is made offline, usually after a studio visit. I think art is very much a relational thing, and I like that posting on social media motivates some to visit my studio.

  13. I post on both Facebook and Instagram fairly regularly. Facebook seems to reach mostly my far-flung family members and friends. Instagram seems quite popular with artists. I follow a number of my art heroes and I really love seeing their latest works, works in progress, shows their in, etc. and I’m thrilled to bits that some of them follow me back. I haven’t met these other artists in person, but with many of them I’ve developed a good back-and-forth dialogue and they almost seem like friends. I love that aspect of Instagram. I have followers from all over the world, which I think is great. I haven’t had any sales from social media and I don’t really expect any. For me the social aspect of social media is what I enjoy and, of course, all the incredible art I get to see daily.

  14. I use Facebook and run a business page, boost / promote periodically and link the boost to Pinterest or an online galleryt [like Saatchi, ArtPal, Fine Art America, Curioos, Society6]. My jury is still out on how effective it is. I set up an Instagram page but until I can upload directly from desktop, it is unused. If I am working on dual 30″ monitors, why would I shrink [or look at] my artwork to my 3″ phone to upload or view it? LinkedIn does nothing [except attract insurance and investment agents trying to make a sale]. Twitter is so full of toxic junk that I refuse to look at it. Pinterest is a recent positive surprise…. wide exposure that I link to online galleries.

    1. Paul, You can upload images from desktop if you use Safari or Chrome as yor browser. Most browsers have a way of letting you change the “User Agent” — the thing that tells a website what kind of device you’re on. So, even when you’re on a laptop or desktop, you can trick a website like Instagram into showing you the mobile site.
      Here’s how to upload photos to Instagram from a desktop browser.

      Safari
      On Safari, it’s easy. Go to Safari > Preferences > Advanced. Check the box at the very bottom that says, “Show Develop menu in menu bar.”

      Now open a private browsing window. Head to Develop > User Agent > Safari — iOS 10 — iPhone. Go to Instagram.com, sign in and click the camera button at the bottom of the screen to upload a photo from your desktop.

      Chrome
      In Chrome, go to Instagram.com and sign in. Now right-click the page > Inspect > click the Tablet icon (top-left). The page should switch to mobile view, where you’ll find a camera button at the bottom of the screen, which lets you upload a photo from your desktop.

      1. Jo Ann –

        I share Paul’s sentiments about IG’s refusal to deliberately allow uploads via desktop machines.

        I’m using Windows 7, installed Safari and followed your directions. All I succeeded in doing is creating an IG account. I don’t see a camera icon anywhere, except the IG logo.

        In view of my failure to enable uploading, I take it you are talking about a MAC desktop, not Windows?

        I also followed the directions of a friend for Firefox, and no joy with that, either.

        If you or anyone else has found a way to upload to IG via Window using Firefox (preferred), Safari, or Chrome, please PM me on Farcebook at:

        https://www.facebook.com/james.ritchie.7505

        Thank you!!

  15. I use FB to post new paintings, gallery shows and art shows. In the post I always include a link directly to my ecommerce website or to the gallery if appropriate. I am a watercolorist so my price point is typically $100-$500 and the sizes are moderate to small. I have sold twenty plus paintings this way to FB friends and family. I have also sold another five paintings via FB/website to friends of friends and just total strangers that found their way to my website via FB. The FB span machine does work sometimes. Just make sure you have the painting photo tagged correctly so all may see it and not just FB friends. I use FB as a marketing device to drive interested buyers to my ecommerce website. I find it best to have a single point of sale online. I also use PINTEREST, but always include title, my name, that the painting is available for sale and link the post to my website. I have also had collectors purchase a painting in a gallery and then go to my website and purchase additional pieces. I place a label with my name, name of painting, size, price AND my website on the back of each painting I place in a gallery. That generates sales as well. The advice I would share with others is (1) have a single branded point of sale online, (2) use various social media to drive people to it and (3) ensure the website is professional, up-to-date, and secure. This model allows you to easily use any social media and maintain a single inventory online that is secure and branded.

    1. Great reply, and fitting for the question. Social media is best used for marketing, not direct sales. Posting regular, quality content and interacting by “liking” great content from peers in your niche is a great way to drive traffic to your site.

      A personal domain name for your site (and single point of purchase) looks much more professional, which fuels sales. Once customers are there, make it easy for them to signup for a special offer or subscribe to your blog (yes, you should have a blog) updates by entering their email addresses. Visitors typically won’t make a purchase on their first visit to your site, but social media marketing can be responsible for the great majority of your email marketing list.

      Email marketing is also a much more effective means of building rapport with a customer and landing a direct sale with a personalized ‘birthday gift” campaign or similar idea rather than a post on a person’s Facebook timeline, as well. Experian has data for a particular effort like this that shows a very significant increase in sales as a result of a gift offered to the customer at the beginning of the month they were born, which they can redeem at any time that month. Combined with reminder emails, this boosted sales markedly!

      It does take work, but in beginning the brand-building process myself right now, I am finding it also offers a new and unlimited way of being creative. I can make incredible things using code that i type into a text editor on my computer or mobile device. Soon, using VR technology, I’ll be able to create infinite world’s and other universes that people can explore from a headset in their homes!

      It’s unfathomable what the future holds, really! At present, though, social media is the way to market your art. i have seen data that also show paying for some sort of Ad Booster on your preferred social media account is proven to increase your sales, as well.

      Good SEO, or search engine optimization, is another key component with website sales conversion nowadays. Most hosts provide some sort of free SEO service, which will make sure your site can be found by major search engines and give you tips on how to move your site up in the rankings. Most modern engines use an algorithm based on a multitude of input variables, including but not limited to length of site publication, site update frequency, keyword/tag frequency, number of pages linked within the site, number of external pages that link to the site, the site’s use (or disuse) of ads, and the site’s host.. Processors can view an enormous amount of entries in a vast database, obtain a number for all of these factors for each entry, and calculate a “relativity index percentage” (RIP) by plugging those numbers into this mathematical equation, or algorithm. Links to the sites are then shown in a certain order based on that RPI. Better RPI = better SEO, = more conversions.

      One last factor involved in all of this, as someone already mentioned, is time. it takes time to build a good brand. Customer loyalty is crucial. It’s essential to provide incentive for them to return to your site for another look. Return visits are responsible for a great majority of online sales, typically. Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to see your first sales. With the right amount of research and methodic implementation, social media can be the catalyst needed to kickstart your kickstart!

  16. I’ve sold using both Instagram/FB with just PayPal while I’m getting my website set up….. but Instagram is by FAR my favorite!!!😳 Fb doesn’t even come close. For the effort I get more interaction there…and everything about Instagram is setup up to quickly beable to see what someone is about and beable to contact them quickly. I’m @lisahendersonart on Instagram if anyone wants to stop and say hi 🙋🏻💙.

  17. I have been selling one or more pieces from each exhibition in my gallery through advertising on my Facebook business page since 2016. I use the “boost” facility to reach a wider audience and that has proved very successful. I also link with other creatives on Linked-In and have used it to publish a few short articles with images of work for sale in my shows. I try to learn something new each time I do a show and working with Social Media advertising has been well worth the time invested.

  18. Those who have sold in one platform or another, I’d love to see your time investment verses your return. Assign a dollar value to your hourly labor and how that translates in monetary reward. I have a suspicion you’re working for less than minimum wage.
    I use FB as a teaching tool and don’t expect anything to come from that except to bless my students and followers.
    Beyond that, I dislike the time demand of social media … I have yet to see any substitute for the personal interaction that develops a patron and buyer.
    The Internet/WiFi/Smart phones are a marvelous things! They are portals into relationships. But I never considered them anything more than that. Superficial interaction must be brought to the personal level … “liking, loving, sharing” doesn’t turn a casual observer into a buyer; people like ice cream with equal passion. There must be an interim step to turn superficial interaction into a buyer on a consistent frequency. That is a quantum leap and when someone figures that out I’ll be on board … but not until then.

  19. I am active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest – sharing my artwork to all platforms – and have been for years. I’ve had zero sales as a result. Even when people have asked about available prints of a piece they like, and I give them a direct link to either my Vida, Fine Art America or Society6, I’ve only gotten about 3 print/scarf sales that way. It’s frustrating.

  20. Rather than other social media, Facebook has some nice features to promote as well as sale paintings. First, the “Boost” feature of fan page helps to reach out exactly to those people who like art, since the Boost feature work based on the profile information of people stored in the database of Facebook. It also helps us to get real like.

    Second; recently, Facebook started “Marketplace” feature based on your location. It’s completely free and you can post as much as you like and you will be amazed to receive a lot of queries from buyers. I just start using it and receiving inquiries. The fact is I noticed, common people, ask you more about the artistic products such as T-Shirt design, notebook, mobile cover than the original painting. But it is my experience about Indian marketplace, however, I received already five queries for my paintings.

    There are some other groups on Facebook, who is actually working to promote your paintings as a home decor items, but the best part is the Boost and Marketplace feature.

  21. I use Instagram for my art work. It takes awhile to build relationships with followers, but it can be done. Use hashtags so people will find you. You can then follow back, comment, DM with people. Also, don’t just follow other artists. Follow people you think may be interested in your work. I’m a still life painter and in addition to artists and museums, I follow designers, decorators, florists, and wedding/event planners.

    I do have some images on Pinterest, but I really went off of that site a few years ago when they started spamming my feed with nonsense. Not on Twitter and very rarely on FB.

    I’m @nycpainter on Instagram if anyone would like to stop by and take a look.

  22. Using social media to sell art is like throwing 100 paintings into the wind and hoping one of those paintings will land on an art collector’s doorstep. (That’s often how I feel!)
    Everyone making art, whether a new beginner or seasoned professional wants to get more notice. The competition is fierce out there. I would suggest that the artists who have established themselves with known galleries are the ones getting the most notice and interaction on social media. If you want 10,000 likes, it helps to be known already. (unless you buy those likes). Or perhaps if you paint realistic pictures of baby kittens you will get lots of notice. I am being a little “tongue in cheek” here but there is some truth.
    I agree with several mentions here that facebook is boring and instagram is much more interactive, able to reach people from everywhere. it is a fun platform to use, but will it generate sales? I’ve been working away at instagram, researching hashtags to reach the best people, and have a grand total of 446 followers, sometimes with 3 to 8 comments on a good post. I’ve sold two 12 x 12 paintings in two years.
    Social media is good for directing people to a professional looking website with sales capability or to your gallery if you have one.
    I’m in the process of going through my sales from the last two years to find out exactly where they were generated. Website, shows, exhibitions, word of mouth, online platform such as Daily Paintworks or ebay, etc. Concrete evidence is always the best. In the meantime, enjoy instagram!

  23. Facebook is where the majority of art people I need to network with are, so that’s where I am, too! If not for that, I don’t think I’d be on social media at all.

  24. I really enjoy Instagram. I find a lot of social media draining but instagram is motivating….in that I can keep it focused just on art.

    I’ve been sharing my art on it for a few years. Last year, I had several people at my open studio tell me they like following me instagram. They were admirers not buyers. I started to think of it as a way to just get the word out for events and create art fans.

    This past year, I had 2 sales from buyers who contacted me directly through the message feature on instagram. So…I’m rethinking what Instagram can be.

    I share everything I post on instagram to my FB business page. I use paid Post boosts but I have seen a decrease in engagement in the last year or so. I’ve had very poor results with paid FB ads.

    My gut tells me people still check out FB but don’t engage on it the way they did in the past. I also think a significant portion of users have moved over to using Instagram.

    In the coming year, I want to experiment more with google ads that will link directly to my website. So far I haven’t had any luck with it…but things are always changing!

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