This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
Finally, social media you can have fun with!
One of the biggest gripes about the business side of art is how much time it can suck up. Unless we already have more business and success with our art than we can handle (DARN those people!!!), the main goal of business is to grow our audience.
Back in the day, that meant doing shows (lots of shows!), buying advertising, exhibiting, getting into galleries, and mailing postcards. It was time-consuming, and expensive.
A website is an excellent way to present your work, share your resume and artist statement, announce news and events, and even sell your work. But simply sticking up a website and waiting for sales is like putting up a billboard alongside one highway. Someone might come across it, but it’s a pretty random process.
How do we get people to look at our website? Today, we have many tools available to help us get the word out. Many of us are finding social media is a great, inexpensive way to get our work in front of more people, near and far.
The joy of social media is, it’s a heckuva lot easier to get images of our work out into the world, and in front of potential collectors. The downside is, you and 100 million other people. Also, learning to use social media effectively takes time, commitment, and patience. And the last thing we want to hear is that there’s yet another platform we have to learn and utilize to do that.
Bear with me, because I have one word for you today…..
For visual artists of all kinds, anything you can “take a picture of”, Instagram is extremely effective. Because it’s all about pictures and images, even short videos. (I posted one recently showing a one minute tour of my studio.) You can point people to your website where people can buy the work you shared, too.
Yes, it’s yet another venue to master. But once you get the hang of it, you don’t really have to “master” it. If you already have a smartphone, and you take pics and send them to friends and family, or post them on Facebook, you are halfway ¾ of the way there. Plus, I have a special surprise for you near the end!
This is not a step-by-step tutorial, just a gentle introduction for you to get a sense of what’s involved. I haven’t mastered the complete menu and all the bells and whistles. I only know how to post a pic, a comment, and tag it.
First, download the Instagram app. (You can access IG on a computer, but you can only upload and post images from your phone.)
Pick a name for yourself, and set up your profile, sort of like Twitter. I use my own name (luann_udell), but many artists use nicknames, shortened versions, etc. I believe that can make it harder to figure out who you are, but if you set up your profile to include your real name and a photo of you, people will figure it out. (I now add my IG account on anything that includes my phone #, website, email, etc.)
Once you set up your account, there is an add symbol at the bottom of your screen which is a plus sign: + Then you can choose to take a picture in IG, OR simply use an image/photo that’s already in your photo gallery. (The only shape available is a square. This was the hardest part for me to get used to, but now I don’t even notice.) There are options for making the picture slightly bigger or smaller, and editing tools to use different filters for different effects. Don’t get too carried away with these! Keep your image as realistic as possible.
Once your photo is ready to post, you can add a comment or two or three: What it is, what medium you’re using, what the challenge is, where it can be seen, what your upcoming event is, etc. Anything you’d want the viewer to know.
You can also add a location, but you don’t have to.
Last but not least, there is the tagging. Tags were a mystery to me, but I’m getting it now!
I often post tags in the initial posting. There are reasons to do this, and not to do this. More on that in a bit.
“Tags” are made with a hashtag: # And followed immediately (no spaces!) with word or words that describe what it is, with an idea of who would be interested. #oilpaint #landscape #sonomacoast #pleinair etc.
I thought tags were supposed to “narrow down” the search so that people looking for exactly that thing would be able to find that. For example, my first tagging efforts looked like #ancienthorseartifact. Turns out that’s too specific, and not effective.
Now I know I need to start with “broad” tags, AND narrow tags. So for a small horse necklace, I might tag like this: #horse #horsejewelry #horsenecklace #whitehorse #whitejewelry #polymerclay #tribal #ancientartifact #horsesofinstagram (it’s a thing) #handmade #oneofakindjewelry #womanartist #sonomacountyarttrails (an event I’m in) #northbayart (describes the area north of San Francisco) #winecountryart #SofaSantaRosaartsdistrict #creativesonoma (an org that promotes the arts in….yup, Sonoma County!) #leagueofnhcraftsmen (because I’ve kept my membership) #lascaux #caveart
If you have an Etsy shop (or something similar) you may be familiar with creating search terms that would intrigue a large number of viewers. This is the same principle, except…you can use as many tags as you like! They’re free! Some people even use tags that nobody would use, for humor, and I love them, too: #mycrabbycatisbuggingme or #professorbobo (my daughter’s cat.)
So tags can “go wide” or they can “go narrow”, and using a combination of both is good!
The good news is, one post a day is all you need for an effective presence.
Now for the best part of all, because I know, I KNOW you are sitting there moaning, “But I don’t have time to master another social media platform, nooooooo, I’m already on Facebook and Twitter and I just can’t do another thing!!”
Instagram can actually make your social media marketing a little easier, because….
You can set your account to automatically repost your Instagram posts to Facebook and Twitter!
That’s why I said putting your hashtags in your original post can be a little awkward. If your IG post then posts to Facebook, your hashtags show up there, too.
I’m told by professionals that having those IG tags visible on FB is unprofessional. Me? I kinda like it! Sometimes the tags carry information I wouldn’t otherwise know. For example, #openstudio alerts me that the artist is having one. #pastel informs me about their medium. But that’s just me.
So to avoid looking “naïve” on Facebook, upload your photo, add your comments, and post. THEN comment on your own post with your hashtags. That way, only your original post shows up on Facebook: "Here is another sample of my New neutrals series, all ready for Sonoma County Art Trails." (With your image). Your additional comments (#polymerclay #handmade, etc.) will NOT repost to Facebook.
Short story: Take a picture of your work, or your studio, or you at your easel or pottery wheel. Add it to Instagram. Say a little about it. Add some descriptive words, aka “hashtags”. Choose to share it on Facebook and Twitter and even Tumblr. Post!
You are done for the day. Your post will be seen by your audience (if they decide to “follow” you). What’s really incredible is when someone on the other side of the planet finds you, and loves your work!
Like all marketing efforts, it takes time to build. But it will!
Thank you to artist Jamie Luoto of Healdsburg, CA, and social media consultant Kerry Rego of Santa Rosa, CA for sharing their knowledge and expertise. Check out Jamie’s work on IG under her handle missbojambo, and Kerry’s IG account at kregobiz.
For detailed instructions, check online for tutorials, find someone who can walk you through the tricky parts, or sign up for a class. It really won’t take you very long to get started, not much longer to get the hang of it, and then it’s just fun!
And reposting to one or two other social media sites will save you some time on your marketing efforts….
So you can get back to your studio, and make more art to share!
P.S. Readers who already use Instagram, share any thoughts, tips, and suggestions—we’re all ears! #rabbitears #eagerlearners #tellmemore
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