As I’ve been researching and writing about marketing through social media over the last couple of weeks, it appears that there is a strong sense that Facebook is the best social platform for marketing and generating sales. I’ve conversed with artists who are generating a large portion of their income through Facebook sales (including last week’s podcast with Robert MacGinnis), and many have commented on their experiences, successes and challenges using Facebook to market their work.
A frequent question that has come up is whether artists should share art on Facebook using their personal profile account, or whether it is necessary to set up a Facebook Business Page.
Many of you are aware of the difference between the two, but for those who aren’t, let’s briefly explore both options. Put simply, Facebook created two different kinds of accounts in order to allow businesses to interact with regular users on their platform.
In the early days of Facebook, business owners would set up a personal account and then begin advertising their businesses by posting through that account. There were several problems with this – the first being that users quickly became annoyed when their newsfeeds became clogged with ads from “friends” who were advertising their businesses. The other big problem was that Facebook couldn’t charge businesses when they advertised this way, since it had no way to distinguish between a promotional post and baby pictures.
Thus, the business page was born. Facebook created these accounts to allow business to set up a profile for the business itself. A business page allowed businesses to more accurately display information about their businesses, and it also allowed them to tap into the nascent advertising platform that was being built into Facebook.
Business pages were different than personal profiles in a number of important ways. When setting up a page, businesses could list important details, like their address, hours of operation, and other business details. Pages also made it possible for business owners to provide access to the administration features of the page to employees to help them manage the page.
Unlike personal profiles, where a Facebook user gains access to their friends’ posts when they “friend” each other, users who follow a business will see the business’ posts, but the business won’t see their followers’ posts. In other words, communication between a user and a business on Facebook only goes in one direction.
And this, it would seem, is the major drawback for an artist who would like to market her or his work on Facebook through a business page. Artists I’ve talked to, feel that one of the most important aspects of their ability to market their work on Facebook is their ability to interact with their followers directly. A Facebook friendship with a potential client provides much more opportunity to do so. If you are using your personal profile to share your art, and your potential collectors are creating friendships with you, not only will they see your art and personal posts, but you will see their posts as well.
This kind of access to one another provides major advantages for interaction, though it bears mentioning that some of your potential buyers might not wish you to have such intimate access to them. For those who are willing to accept a friend request, however, that access can be incredibly valuable if you respect the relationship and are careful about what you post and how you interact.
So Which Should You Use?
So, should an artist use their personal profile or a business page to market their artwork? It’s not an easy question to answer.
Because I think of what you do in marketing and selling your work as a business that is wholly seperate from your personal life, and because I want to offer the best professional practices, the easy answer would be that an artist should set up a business page. I suspect that if you could talk directly to Facebook, they would recommend the same.
They would point out that there are disadvantages to using your personal profile to share your art. For example, you may only have a total of 5000 friends on your personal profile. That seems like a large number, but if you become moderately famous for your art, you will be surprised how quickly you reach the 5,000 friend limit.
It’s also important to note that Facebook has a strict prohibition on representing a business through a personal profile. Their terms of service are very clear on this account, and their website states:
It’s against the Facebook Terms to use your personal account to represent something other than yourself (example: your business), and you could permanently lose access to your account if you don’t convert it to a Page. (https://www.facebook.com/help/201994686510247)
So, for example, if I were to try to represent Xanadu Gallery through my personal profile and were to begin trying to sell art to my friends, I could run afoul of their terms of service and have my account shut down completely. I have heard second-hand anecdotes about artist having this happen to them because a “friend” reported them trying to conduct business through their personal page.
It’s also arguable that being able to access Facebook’s excellent advertising tools and thus present your artwork to completely new potential collectors is another factor in favor of using a business page for marketing your art.
Having laid out those arguments, however, my research over the last couple of weeks, and the comments that I’m seeing, lead me to believe that the artists who are seeing the most success on Facebook are doing so by leveraging personal accounts, not business pages. The two-way interaction seems to be the secret sauce for these artists.
Looking back at the warning from Facebook that your account might be shut down for using a personal account to represent something other than yourself, it seems arguable that an artist is a special case. As an artist, your art business is an integral part of yourself. Arguably, unless you’ve set up a corporation or LLC, you aren’t representing something other than yourself.
Those arguments may not fly with Facebook if they decide you are breaking their terms of service, and so there is a level of risk involved in posting your art through your personal profile. If Facebook decides to ban you, it can be very, very difficult to appeal their decision.
With that said, there also seems to be a large advantage to posting through a personal profile. Only you can decide if the benefit outweigh’s the risk.
Be Cautious About Your Posts
If you are sharing your art and building relationships with potential customers through your personal page, some cautions are in order.
First, you have to realize that everything you post is potentially going to show up in your customers’ newsfeeds. This means that you need to be aware that, in addition to your art showing up, your post on your recent meal, or problem you are having with your car, will also show up. This can help make you more real and deepen the relationship with some clients, but it can also be off-putting if you’re not careful.
In his interview last week, Robert MacGinnis wisely warned that it’s important to be careful about what you post.
After I got going the Facebook I made a few rules for myself. They are: 1. Do not talk about politics or religion. 2. Do not use inappropriate language. 3. Do not talk about my troubles, illnesses or any negativity. I had to add one later on, *don’t take off my shirt! On a hot summer day I innocently posted a photograph from the sternum up without a shirt and it caused more of a sensation that I wanted. I knew I was in trouble when I got reprimanded by my daughter.
Do You Share Your Art on Your Personal Profile, or Have You Set Up a Business Page?
How are you sharing your art through Facebook? Have you set up a business page? Why or why not? If you are posting through your personal profile, what advantages do you see? Have you run into any problems with your personal profile? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.