Social media tips
The hints and tips below are based on an article for my monthly column in Artists and Illustrators Magazine and were written to help the participating artists in Buckinghamshire Open Studios. They are drawn from my own experience and opinions and are intended only as suggestions. They are not for publication or distribution.
Social media is often seen as time wasting, confusing or intimidating. Its effect on the Open Studios visitor numbers has been questioned and I’ve heard a lot of sighs, groans and ironic laughter when I suggest that it is a tool well worth using. If all I wanted from it was to promote my Open Studios event once a year I would be groaning along too, but I think that is to miss the purpose and value of this form of networking/marketing.
To me social media is an important tool for building my audience and networking with my peers. I use my Facebook page as a year round virtual open studio where people can see me at work and teaching, learn some useful tips, view work by me, work by my students and generally follow the gentle soap opera of studio life.
In time I have built a supportive community of followers and I have gained new students, visitors and even direct sales as a result. Incidentally Facebook gives a breakdown of my visitor demographic and the people following me range from teenagers to octogenarians, but the bulk are between forty and sixty. That’s the same age as my most lucrative visitors at Open Studios.
For me, social media is not about immediate results so much as raising my profile and reaching a wide audience, including my peer group. Like Open Studios, it takes time to build an audience and garner a following. But if you put in the effort, then using social media for advertising for your events becomes effective because you have grown an interested audience and do remember this is merely one benefit among several.
I use Facebook because it’s familiar to me. Stick with what you know because you are more likely to post regularly if it’s simple and familiar. I hate learning new computer stuff: I resent spending the time, I know very little about it and care even less. If I can use social media, anyone can…
If you are new to social media, ask your target audience what they use. Open Studios might be a good time for this. Then grit your teeth and take an on-line tutorial or get a friend to help. Kids aren’t so helpful here as they are probably several generations further ahead with social networking platforms than us, our peers and audience (unless of course you are a kid, in which case this factsheet is just sad old news).
From the first you must make a distinction between any of your personal social media and social media as an artist. I run a public page as Laura Boswell Printmaker which is entirely different from my personal Facebook page (which I hardly ever use). Your artist profile is how your audience, clients, employers, gallery owners etc will see you so it is vital to control what goes up. This includes briefing your family who may not be inclined to be as respectful as you might wish otherwise!
It sounds obvious, but you need to treat your social media audience as professionally as you would your visitors to Open Studios. A friendly, positive and informative approach is best. Never ever use it for angry ranting, posting while tipsy or to reveal any photo you wouldn’t be happy to hand to your best clients. I will cheerfully post about printing mistakes in the studio, but would never post about any conflict with a client or gallery etc. I would also be careful to be extremely accurate when posting regarding problems with products or services: bear in mind everyone (and anyone) can see a public page.
To build a useful community of followers, it is important to be generous. I share hints and tips along with helpful finds, anything from new inks and papers to handy gadgets for wrapping work. The more you give, the more you get back and the better your reputation. No need to reveal every secret, just share what you can.
People will respond on Facebook with likes and shares. You want to be shared as much as possible because it expands your audience. The more generous and interesting your posts the more shares and your following will snowball over time if you get things right.
My page is full of pictures. People respond best to picture led postings on my page so I seldom post without them. I often post sequences detailing a technique or a developing print, sometimes over a few days which is a great way to hook an audience and get them to invest in your work. I sometimes post old work and chat about that as well: people like to see where you have come from as well as where you are going.
Facebook will allow you to post photos at whatever resolution you desire, but I keep my photos in posts to low resolution as these are less likely to be useable if downloaded and copied. Your copyright is unchanged by posting on Facebook and remains with you, just as it does on your web site. However, posting images to any social media generally allows the site to use your images so make sure you check the T&C’s.
Get over your hate of being photographed. People want to see you and watch you work. It’s just part of the job and nobody is expecting a magazine shoot. I sometimes post film of myself working and these films are hugely popular even though I think I look like I need a minder.
I use the page as a barometer for new work and ideas. I will also ask if I want help or advice and it is wonderfully useful to have a worldwide network itching to give their opinions on a problem.
I often show student work as people like to judge what results they might produce with my guidance. Students are proud to be on the page, venues like people to see their facilities and I like people to see my classes. Do check with people first and get permission before you post pictures of others or any work that isn’t yours.
Finally, enjoy it. There are really great people out there from the Arctic Circle to Angel, Islington who will enjoy your work, lend you their support and, who knows, maybe buy a thing or two…
Laura Boswell 2015