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 its 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 over 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.

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 the Art Business Academy. 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.

20 Comments

  1. Hi Jason – I’ve posted regularly to Facebook for years, no sales there. Instagram and Pinterest too, no sales. I tried regular posting on youtube for a while, and of course, no sales. I’ve even taken guru social media for artist courses to improve my social media sales, and you guessed it, I did what they said and, well, no sales. So I ask myself, why pound my head against the door and keep doing something that isn’t working? Well, I think the answer is that it’s not really about sales – it’s more about using social media as a valuable marketing vehicle to remind people that I’m out there. And marketing is difficult to measure. I do have sales through galleries and direct email newsletters.

  2. I use both Facebook and Instagram.

    I keep Instagram as my photography portfolio. I post process videos, my current work, and I actively engage with artists who have similar interests to mind. When I was in Europe for three months in 2018, I met several of these artists, notably in Wales and London, who took me on multiple day photo shoots in their countries. I made new friends and had exciting adventures.

    I have never sold on Instagram, but people who have purchased from me on Facebook follow me on Instagram, and this cross-pollination is an important note.

    I have sold many pieces (okay, several) on Facebook. I use Facebook exclusively for posting my current work. I do not engage in any other kind of activity, and as a result, I have an unusually “clean” feed devoid of politics and memes, etc.

    I show process, locations, and I tell stories about my work. I give my work evocative titles. Sometimes I run little contests for naming a piece. Every once in a while I ask people’s opinions about which of two images is better or other questions. These are always authentic questions, and people love to give their opinions.

    I have a large following on Facebook, and I am very unhappy that Facebook allows my images to be seen by so few. To show work to all my own followers, I would have to pay for advertising.

    I have a very time-deep following on Faceback with literally hundreds of people dating back to the 1980s as friends. Everyone I’ve sold to on Facebook has been drawn from that well. I know exactly the demographic of people who have purchased. I haven’t actively pursued selling on Facebook, and I don’t have a business account. It just happens.

  3. I’m just getting started on the content production side of Social Media.
    I have a long term Facebook account (personal) and have recently started a business page because of a website rebuild.

    I also started an Instagram account but it was and still is a mess. I have connected with many artists world-wide and am working through the hashtag jungle.

    The other long term account is LinkedIn which, as Jason mentioned, has become mainly advertising for companies and products I don’t want or need, and job opportunities that are out of my league or desire. The plus is, whenever I post to my page, I get people checking me out. Some are already contacts, others are new. While I have not sold any work directly, I have had invites to write guest articles. As a retired arts educator, this is a remnant from that career.

    What I have found is, trolls are everywhere and come at you from some pretty untoward places offering “services” and “advice” that is extremely unseemly band unwelcome in some cases. Blocking and erasing is a needed feature which is counterintuitive to the while notion of “social” I would guess.

  4. I used to have both personal and business pages on Facebook, but deleted them over a year ago. I felt that FB was too polluted with garbage that I was either wading through to get to the content I was actually interested in, or in which my account was getting lost/buried. By leaving I have hobbled my business a bit – as there are groups/individuals and other businesses who solely operate on Facebook… so I removed myself from the loop. My business also no longer appears on certain map apps because of my FB departure.

    Although still under the umbrella of FB, I use my Instagram to keep my followers interested in my work. And although I haven’t sold anything through Instagram, I have gotten attendees to my Open Gallery events. It’s just a bit difficult as really you have to pay to play (boost posts) which I cannot afford.

  5. We (I work with my husband) have found most contacts and sales have come from Pinterest followed by instagram. I feel that Instagram works better for lower cost items (say below £300 which limits its effectiveness for us).

    Interestingly we are not active on Pinterest in our own right but others have posted our work on their “pin boards” which then points people to our websites.

    Instagram changed their algorithm a few years ago and we have found it much more difficult to attract followers and likes etc. But not impossible. Many followers on Instagram are other artists or people looking to learn a craft so are not really interested in buying – but you never know, every follower has the potential to become a client.

    Interestingly, Facebook hasn’t really worked for us.

    For us most sales probably still come from our “previous client” list – but with covid lockdowns, social media has been valuable in attracting actual and potential new clients.

  6. With all of the advice on how artists should/can self-promote, I think we are preaching to the choir….other artists and our personal friends. I am being bombarded with requests to sign up for newsletters from fellow artists, too. Instagram seems much more professional with the emphasis on images posted but now the “advice” is that we must include stories and reels. Add all of this together means not much time or brain power is left over for actually making art. Finding real collectors is the hard part. I have been playing with hashtags that may lead to actual art collectors and not just other artists.

  7. My greatest use of social media for art has come through Instagram. I resisted using any social media platforms for many years but finally gave in around mid 2017. A fellow artist urged me to make use of this free advertising channel. I loathe Facebook and very rarely post any of my work there. While I personally haven’t had any negative experiences on Facebook, I have noticed that the overall tone of comments are aggressive and politically charged. Since I don’t use Facebook often, my following and views there are low.

    On the other hand, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences on Instagram. I love the inspiration and support I’ve found from other artists around the globe. It has been great for finding calls for artists and keeping in touch with local galleries. I have made quite a few sales through Instagram, though I do not sell directly on this platform. Sadly, there is a growing number of users who “buy” likes and followers, so it can feel like much of the platform is deceiving.

    I’ve used Pinterest for a few years but have not put forth an exerted effort to grow my page. I have found Pinterest useful for leading people to my Etsy shop, where I sell merchandise that features my artwork (home goods, clothing and accessories).

    I’ve also used TikTok but again, it is not a platform I use often. I have seen younger artists generating a massive following and sales, mostly for more novelty items like epoxy/resin artwork on products and items that would fit better in a “craft” category. I tried Tim Tok because I didn’t want to put “all my eggs in one basket” and leave all my social media content just on Instagram. Although Tik Tok May have started with a younger audience, the same argument could be said for Facebook and Instagram.

    It appears that whichever platform you engage with the most will prove to be the most successful and useful to you. Social media is definitely worth taking advantage of though, as it is free advertising and exposure for your business and artwork.

  8. After years of hard work keeping my Facebook and Instagram accounts active, fresh, and relevent, I am happy to report a recent success story. An art consultant discovered my work on Instagram and has sold several custom prints of my photos in the range of $700 – $1700. I also have reputable gallerists and curators following me on both platforms. So, one success story and perhaps some future possibilities.

  9. It’s all about finding the right audience! Here’s my experience:

    Facebook:
    – I found a closed group on FB that eats up my art… I typically sell major art within an hour of posting (right audience!), but I limit posts to once a week and the posts only show my art in conjunction with a conversation, to avoid being too salesy
    – Posting on personal page results in small item sales (prints, classes, books)
    – Business page doesn’t do much (I refuse to pay for ads)

    Instagram:
    – Great potential, however because I don’t post much and don’t spend enough time working on the right hashtags, I haven’t built up the audience (a few art friends do really well on IG)

    Pinterest:
    – Sells lots of small items like prints because of link to Etsy
    – Unfortunately, a large source of unauthorized use of my work.

    Downside of posting on Social Media – FB and Pinterest make it too easy for people to download / screenshot photos – on any given week, I’ll find my art being (illegally) used to promote/advertise 5-6 events around the world. Only a handful end up signing an art license and paying

    Upside – it’s easy and free (unless you pay for ads)!

    1. Forgot to mention…
      No matter the venue, I think it’s really important to drive folks back to your website and mailing list! My newsletter is what stimulates most sales of my books, classes and other small items that are my bread and butter.

      1. Really good point Beverly. I love your website by the way! I have had many contacts through Facebook and several sales though I do not list my price and I just say message me. On Instagram, I have a lot of artists following me.
        My best sales still come through my website and though I list my prices on it, I do not have a shopping cart. I am so afraid that I will miss seeing a sale. I have better things to do (like paint) than monitor social media and carts. I just finished a commission for 32 paintings for a hotel and they contacted me through my webpage. That brings me back to why I like galleries. I let them do the promo work and that gives me the freedom to paint.

        1. Thank you!
          I don’t monitor either – I agree, way too much time.

          Your website and work are lovely! May I ask if there’s reason you haven’t added a cart to your website? If it’s possible (on your platform) to add price (definitely) and a cart, I highly recommend doing so. Reaching out to ask for a price can feel a bit too committed for some folks especially if they don’t know if the piece is in their price range. Just my 2 bits!

  10. I have a personal page on FB and a business page, on which I occasionally ” boost” posts. Most of my sales come from, oddly, the personal page. As I’ve continue on, I remain surprised by the number of “friends and followers” who become buyers, but nothing so far from the business page. Of course, if the people who “like my profile picture, and want to get to know me and become friends” from my rare public posts were art buyers, I’d be a rich woman. Geez.

    Need to get out and publish newsletters, blogs, etc. and really learn the business side of FB and Instagram. But in the middle of changing work, location, and other stuff…so that lags.

  11. I’m still finding how to find the right audience on fb and ig, perhaps li. I’ve pretty much given up on pinterest. You didn’t mention wordpress, which also has carts you can put on your blog, I believe. The most astonishing thing you wrote was that myspace is still alive, wow I thought it had died about 10 years ago. You learn something every day.

    1. Word Press is not a social media platform. It is blog building software. Very nifty software, Imight add!

  12. I have an Instagram account devoted solely to my art business, and a Facebook page to match. When I post on Instagram, it cross-posts on my Facebook art page. The advantage that I find to Instagram is that it’s far easier to gain new followers; I’m at over 1100 on Instagram, vs. 365 on my Facebook page that I’ve had far longer. That said, I have found it a huge challenge to actually reach potential clients on either platform; on Instagram especially, so many of my follows are other artists – which is not to say that artists don’t buy art, but I think they are probably in general not the demographic that I’m hoping for. I’ve put a lot of effort into researching appropriate hashtags, but I still don’t feel like I’ve found the “magic” formula.

    I create things in a range from higher end fine art to lower end gift items that I sell on Etsy, and I would say that it’s possible that Instagram has netted me a couple of small Etsy orders over the past couple of years, but to my knowledge, I have not sold any fine art pieces through any social media contacts. But I haven’t given up hope!

    I have a Pinterest page, but I haven’t updated it in ages and probably will not bother. While it did and does drive some traffic to my Etsy page, I have found, as someone else noted, more unauthorized use from that platform than the others, and keeping Pinterest current just went over the bandwidth I have to handle social media. So I will probably just stick to IG and FB and keep hoping that they are providing some sort of benefit to me, even if it’s not measurable. There’s so many analytics and insights available to better understand visitor traffic… but that, too, has been more than I can manage. So I just try to post appealing photos and keep on creating!

  13. I have a personal FB page and a separate business FB page for my art. I also have an Instagram account that is for my art business only, and it posts automatically to my FB art page. For my experciance, I have found Instagram to be the best social media program not only for gaining new followers, but to generate opportunities. I’ve been invited to show work in two galleries thanks to my posts on Instagram. And when I am in group shows, either juried or invitational, the venues and I tag each other and that drives even more interest to my work. I have had a few sales inquiries from Instagram, but no actual sales yet from those; my work is in the $2K-$10K range, so that may be why. In that price range people often want to see things in person and my work is often large. I also do not have a cart on my website, as I generally do sales in person. I do occasionally do a promotion on Instagram, which seems to boost my account. I also have begun using stories and reels to some success, as well.

    Facebook just doesn’t seem to generate as much interest or opportunities as Instagram. I’m trying to remember to use Pinterest more. That may be a platform that has some potential. I also post sometimes on Linked-In.

    All in all, Instagram just can’t be beat for connecting with those who are interested in artwork, both as potential customers, or as opportunities to exhibit.

  14. Great topic, Jason!
    Although I am very new to selling art prints online, I have been using several platforms for selling my art “services”. Such as [my personal website], Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo and LinkedIn.
    Since FB started in 2004, I have been a user and feel this is the BEST platform for newbies to start on social media, as well as quickly gain momentum. I can say with confidence that ALL of my art & photography sales came from Facebook followers, word of mouth and posts/advertisements.
    As for the other platforms, my attitude is to be in it for the long haul because it takes a very long, long, LONG time to gain followers! There are no ‘get rich quick’ tactics, or in this case, get a following quickly schemes. It takes several posts daily and engaging with people who follow in order to get the algorithms to kick in… and the same goes for any other platforms that I mentioned.
    However, the amazing thing is that all of these platforms are FREE services that include instant viewers, a personal profile, website info, phone number, storefront…etc. Also, most of them are very simple and fun to use, and well…, great places to share, meet people, socialize and talk about art!

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