Dear Facebook, what’s the point?!

It all seemed so simple in the beginning…

These days it seems as if everyone is telling you that you need to find a way to “engage” your fans in social media (whatever that means) if you are to have any hope of surviving as an artist/writer/musician in the 21st century.

So you sign up for Twitter and Facebook and start talking about your latest project or what you had for lunch that day because you don’t know what else to say to all of these people that you’ve never met before.  Suddenly feeling like the friendless fool, you desperately try to find whatever Facebook friends and Twitter followers you can by blindly following back every social media expert and “branding” guru who tracks you down with their insidious little spam machines.  Meanwhile all of the people you are actually hoping to attract, like other artists and future paying customers (gasp!), somehow continue to elude you.

Social media can be like teen sex.  Everyone wants to do it.  Nobody really knows how.  And when it’s finally done, we’re surprised that it’s not better. ~Avinash Kaushik

But then it’s still not enough…

Then just when you start to feel more comfortable sending out tweets and status updates, you’re told that it’s no longer enough.  You also need to be on Tumblr, DeviantArt, Posterous, and Flickr if you’re going to have any hope of building your online reputation as an artist.  So before long you have six different social media accounts that you now need to manage and update regularly, and what started out as a fun way to connect with other artists, has suddenly become a part-time job.

Not only that, but then you have annoying people like myself telling you that you still have more work to do.  You also need to have a website as your “virtual home” where you can control and pull all of these other social media profiles together in one place.  Oh, and while you’re at it, why don’t you go ahead and create a witty and informative blog to keep all of your readers (yes, both of them) up to date on what is happening in your professional life.

So now you not only having to constantly update your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Posterous, and Tumblr accounts, but you also have to design and update this #$%@! website/blog, which according to your traffic stats only about 19 people are visiting anyway.

So here’s the big question (finally)….

Is any of this social media gooblygook really doing anything to build your creative business or is all of this simply sucking up more of your time that you could be spending, you know, actually creating something?

I generally hate to throw around corporate buzzwords, but have you ever stopped to think about what your ROI (return on investment) might be for all the time you are currently spending “networking” on these social media sites?  And even if you could, how would you go about measuring something like that?

I was wondering about this stuff myself, so recently on our own humble little Facebook page (I know ironic, right?) I asked what you’ve been getting out of using Facebook and Twitter, and whether or not it was really worth all of the time and effort involved?

Here’s what some of you had to say….

Rachel Troutman I haven’t had any luck with Facebook really but I’m probably not using it right but I really like Twitter and it’s been beneficial for me to meet other artists and feel like I’m part of a creative community.

Kat Monaghan I use Facebook & Flickr as webpages/gallery. Twitter seems better to make new connections, meet new people/artists, check trends/events

Peter Hobden So far Facebook has been more of a sounding board and networking with other artists kind of thing. I can’t attribute any sales to Facebook. Though I did once sell same small paintings to a Twitter contact.

Catherine Vibert I did sell a painting via Facebook and I’ve sold a few prints and cards here. It hasn’t been substantial however. I’ve sold nothing via twitter, but I’ve very much enjoyed the contacts I’ve made there. A nice community. The best part about the Facebook artist page is that it is a very easy way to display work and get instant feedback.

Gillian McMurray I have met some lovely people via Facebook and exposed my work to more folk but it hasn’t done my sales any good and I do waste a lot of time on it when I should be working. I haven’t taken to Twitter at all though. My life just isn’t exciting enough to give people a blow by blow account of my working practices or what I’m thinking – LOL.

Brett Winn Art Like any marketing tool, especially new, it takes time to find that niche. I’ve had success on facebook, however I would not put all my eggs in this one basket. For me, it’s a good tool to direct potential customers to my sales sites and to meet artists, be inspired and stay motivated. Skinny Artist thanks for posting this article and starting this conversation. Posts like this are another reason for artists to use visit Facebook.

Tracey Fletcher King I think Facebook is all about a sense of community, and being able to connect even when you are in your studio. I have had really supportive friendships grow out of fb contacts and that is a rare and precious thing in its own right.

Tracy Wall Just another way to diversify; spread the word, baby!

 

www.trevorjonesart.com I think using any social media tool effectively is about finding balance and, most importantly, about using it to add to one’s credibility as an artist. Although I use them to help drive traffic to my website, I don’t use any of them to sell my work directly and additionally, I think that they can very easily have a negative impact on one’s professional image.

The artist has to ask, “Who is my market and can FB (or any other social media tool) be used in anyway to positively affect this market?” Although I don’t see social media as a tool for selling it can, if used effectively, help inform the decision making process of a potential buyer as well as help previous buyers keep up on what I’m doing… and, importantly, to help them spread the word to their friends.

Nevertheless, as mentioned above a couple times, FB or any social media tool for that matter can dangerously take up too much of one’s time. This not only becomes a detriment to ones progression and development of artistic ideas and skills, it can easily begin to affect one’s professional image. If a previous buyer of my work sees nothing but loads of irrelevant dross on my page or in my tweets what are they going to think about me as a professional artist? Are they going to think that buying my work was an (emotional or economic) investment or was it a waste of their time?

Also, how are gallery owners who tune into my online chat going to view me, my artwork and my “brand”? If I use social media tools effectively, smart gallery owners will see the benefits of this ie. it makes their job easier by expanding their market of potential buyers and thereby getting more people through their doors or onto their website when my work is on display. But if I’m using it in a way that detracts from my professional image then a gallery owner will very likely want nothing to do with me. It’s the same as businesses investigating potential employees through social media networks to find out what kind of person they are. So many people have so much online access to so much of our lives now that we have to be very careful how we portray ourselves through social media channels.

If an artist is using social media as a crutch, in that it’s really only a support network of “like-minded” artists patting each other on the back and saying how great they all are, it’s obviously not a healthy thing. At the same time, as artists, we put our hearts and souls out into the big, scary world every day, and we do need encouragement from others to help us through the tough times. Social media provides this. We, as artists, just have to be fully aware of what we’re using social media for and how effectively we’re using it…

And for what it’s worth, here was my own two-cents on the subject….

I really believe that the next big thing in social media is going to be the “consolidators” where all of your different social media profiles will automatically show up on one page.

Right now you have Facebook here, Twitter there, Flickr, DeviantArt, Tumblr, etc.. and if you don’t want one group to necessarily interact the other group, they won’t for the most part (i.e. your “customer” sales website and your personal I’ve-got-issues Tumblr site) but the day is coming when all of these different sites that are attached to you, will be sniffed out by Google and tied together into your personal online dossier.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for your customers and fans to see that you are an actual human being and not simply some creative deity, but as Trevor says, you will have to watch what you say online anywhere or it could certainly affect your professional image down the road….

 

So what do you think?

  • How many different social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, etc…) are you actively involved in?
  • How many hours do you spend updating these sites (including your own website) in an average day?
  • What benefits have you received from using sites like Twitter and Facebook both personally and professionally?

 

Image courtesy of len-k-a

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Sometimes I think we spend far more time than necessary reading to try to figure out how the social media outlets can help us accomplish our goals and to get our name out there to be recognized than the real tangible benefits it is purported to hold. Personally, I have been fortunate to get sales through contacts on Facebook while I am working to get other avenues up to do it more efficiently and widely. I had an initial gut reaction to keep my personal page separate from my professional page, a decision well-made. Twitter is a horse of a different color and I have a harder time with it. It’s called TMI-too much information that prove to be bites with very little chew.

    • Drew says

      Thanks for stopping by Dru and sharing your thoughts with us! I completely agree that it is extremely hard to measure the value of sites like Facebook and Twitter from a sales/business perspective. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that these sites are still relatively new in the overall scheme of things, or if it’s that these social sites are designed for social interactions rather than business transactions.

      Personally, I find the community aspect of these sites far more useful than anything else. I’m not really expecting one of my “friends” or “followers” to offer me that big publishing contract, I’m just hoping that they will continue to support me along the way.

      I would be curious to hear what other avenues you are looking into? By the way, I really like the clean design and layout of your website, you’ve done a really nice job with it.

  2. says

    For me, like many artists working alone and in an area where there is not a “community of artists” as such, FB & Twitter are similiar to the studios at college, bit of info, bit of a laugh, exchange of opinions and of course meeting new folk. You can dip in and out at leisure and many exchanges inspire works too. There is always someone to provide an answer to a query and help out. Some people I have met thro social media, I have also met in person and some have led onto shows and opportunities. I have built some friendships that are leading onto exciting new projects…(more information will follow on that.) I can meet and discuss different aspects of various cultures. Like all new things, the phase will pass onto something else, what that will be, who knows, but it will not stay the same.

    • Drew says

      You’re absolutely right Lynn, it is nice to have that social outlet in a profession that is often solitary by nature. I think that even if you do live in a place that has a strong creative community, many of us don’t have the time to physically meet-up on a regular basis, so being able to “dip in and out at leisure” online is a really nice option to have.

      I also agree with you that as these social sites like Twitter and Facebook continue to grow and mature, they will inevitably change into something else. I have a feeling that If the big corporations get their way, it will only be a matter of time before they create so much commercial clutter and noise on these sites from “sponsored” tweets and updates that many independent artists like ourselves will eventually move on to something new. Who knows what exactly that will be, but with any luck we’ll be able to find out together :)

  3. says

    The need for a website is unquestionable. I joined both twitter and Facebook entirely to drive traffic to my site. As for the plethora of social media, you have to also learn to think for yourself, and use what appeals to you,

    It’s been a steep learning curve, both learning about my voice and who to connect with. Sometimes I still screw up horrendously. It’s also a fine line between being yourself and boring everyone to tears with spam about your work for sale.

    You need a foundation to justify putting yourself forward as an artist – a strong body of work, and having something valid to say about the work, with the voice of someone who knows what they are talking about – sharing your painting process, your inspiration, use of materials, artist’s philosophy, etc.

    Maybe the bottom line is – is the artist’s work worth the effort? So many seem to think they should be promoting their work online, because someone somewhere has said it is good. Was that person’s opinion valid? Just because your neighbour or boyfriend (neither of which are established artists, nor gallery owners) like your work, does not mean it will stand up in public.

    I see so many artists that have not found their ‘voice’ yet they have a full website in situ – I’d say their time would be better invested in continuing their creative path, working, working,working until they have a strong established body of work.

    • Drew says

      It’s always great to hear from your Erin :)

      I agree with you that there is a learning curve to using sites like Twitter and Facebook that a lot of people don’t realize. I don’t know how many Twitter folks I’ve seen where every one of their tweets is essentially a sales pitch to their Etsy shop. Sometimes I want to respond and ask them why they they think I should care about their work when I don’t know anything about them as a person?

      Sure great art will always find a following eventually, but I would have to say the vast majority of us are still working to perfect our craft and haven’t yet reached “master artist” status. So you’re right that you have to ask yourself “Is the artist’s work worth the effort?” however you also have to ask yourself “Is this artist worth the time and effort of connecting with?” This is why when people ask me how they can get more Twitter followers, I always tell them that they should be spending the majority of their time connecting with and supporting other artists rather than trying to shill their own work tweet after tweet. Not that there’s anything wrong with telling your followers about your latest painting or blog post, but for every “look-at-me” type of post or tweet, there should probably be ten to twenty “look-at-them” posts.

  4. Iain McMenemy says

    Social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and the multitude of others are simply one small part of ‘social media’. It is a bit like a rock band, just because you are banging on the drums, it doesn’t mean that you are producing music. Add in the keyboard, guitarist, vocalist etc, and then spend the time writing some songs – then you have a band. It is the same with social media.
    It is a new form of marketing so you therefore need a marketing strategy that combines research, opportunities, weaknesses and evaluation – just as you would for offline marketing. Not having one and blindly tweeting or posting photos is the most common mistake people make with social media.
    So to answer your key point – if you are simply ‘doing social media’ because others have said you should, and you aren’t following any predetermined strategy, then yes, you are probably wasting a lot of your valuable time.
    However, not all time has been wasted – I found this link through TrevorJonesArt and I only learned of his work through Twitter – that’s two good connections for me and a new potential customer for you both!

    • Drew says

      First of all, thank you Iain for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us! I really like your analogy here about “just because you are banging on the drums, it doesn’t mean that you are producing music.”

      I think that it really is important to take some time and think about what exactly you are trying to accomplish with Twitter, Facebook, and the like. Is it to drive traffic to your website? Is it to allow your current and future customers to get to know the person behind the work? Is it to connect with other artists? I think you’re right that far too often we are signing up for these accounts without having any idea what we are really trying to accomplish…

  5. says

    Social Media channels are really just spin doctors’ wet dream. We are led to believe that we need all kinds of ways to interact with our audience, connect with like minded professionals and target our buying public. The reality is somewhat different however. Sure, the platforms and ethos of Twitter and FB are morally sound and the concepts are now indoctrinated in our society, yet we can all too easily use these as the sole way of relying on the promise of success.

    Like other comments on this superb post, using social networking as a crutch will lead nowhere. Let it be a useful tool to engage feedback and have some fun with but never let it be the cornerstone of your marketing strategy – for that you need a good solid portfolio, an easy, clean and well thought out website that engages the viewer and a basic knowledge of how Google works. It really does work. It is not difficult.

    The other thing you need is the desire to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week because it can take that kind of effort if you are serious about what you do…..

    What social networking does for me is allow me to engage for sure, and see some great inspiration but it also serves a practical purpose too – each Tweet and link will get me link juice from Google. Slowly and surely your tweeting and FB updates can be rewarded. Much of this is in it’s infancy but it’s important for building your presence in organic search results – the Holy Grail for artists who don’t go to galleries or who are trying to find ways of generating traffic to their sites.

    Social Media is very important these days but only so far as using it to enhance the work you already do. Relying on it to suddenly spark up a million-dollar income is as ridiculous as giving the Sistine Chapel a coat of white emulsion…

    • Drew says

      I think you’re right that most of us for whatever reason think that signing up for Twitter or Facebook is going to be the Holy Grail of our creative marketing campaign and all we’ll have to do is sit back and watch the fame roll in.

      Unfortunately, it’s not long before we discover that’s not the way things really work. Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr don’t magically change your personality — they simply allow you to share your personality with a wider audience. In the end, of course, it there’s nothing magic about it. Like anything else worth doing, it’s mostly a lot of hard work and it’s something that may end up taking years of doing in order to see the larger payoff (kind of like creating your art). If you’re expecting quick results from any of this, chances are you’re going to be sadly disappointed.

      I do think that ever since Google et al started indexing Tweets and FB status updates, the long-term effect of being involved in these types of social media is still not widely understood. For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept of “link juice”, the idea here is that every link that comes back to your website from somewhere else on the web, Google sees as a “vote of confidence” that your website is worthwhile. In other words, the more links you get coming in, the higher Google is willing to place you in their search results. Now exactly how much link juice Google will give you (or someone else) for linking to your website from FB or Twitter is still unknown, but it’s just one more reason that it might be worth getting involved with sites like Facebook and Twitter.

      Thanks again for stopping by Swarez. It’s always a pleasure :)

  6. says

    I live in a relatively small and isolated city in Northern Ontario, so, for me SM is a great way to show my work to a wider audience. It is interesting to meet other artists and art pros from around the world. I’ve invested quite a bit of time in growing a fan base/following and influence, mostly on facebook and twitter. so far, it hasn’t led to many direct sales, but, I think it iss a good foundation to build upon for the future. Also, its hard to measure the website SEO benefits of having a strong SM pressence.

    • Drew says

      First of all, let me say that you have some incredible work on your site Jason. You are truly a master at your craft.. Secondly, I think you nailed it when you said that it’s all about building a foundation to build upon in the future. I’ve said time and time again on this site, that getting involved in social media is not simply about getting more paying customers (although that’s nice too). It’s also about connecting with other artists, getting new perspective, and crawling out of our little protective ego shell while putting ourselves out there.

      I think this ability to bring all types of artists together has been one of the biggest benefits of using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As you said, it’s nice to be part of a larger creative community when you live in a relatively small and isolated location and I can tell you that it’s still nice even if you don’t. I’m amazed everyday how many extraordinary artists from around the world I have had the pleasure of meeting through Twitter, Facebook, and of course this humble little website.

      And believe it or not, this whole social media thing is just getting started. . .

  7. says

    there is already so much on this subject (here and elsewhere) so i will keep it short and simple:

    1) if you are using twitter as a tool (I can only speak for twitter, I don’t have facebook and never did and don’t see myself going that route, and don’t have anything else, consistent quality management of one tool over mediocre management of many) then, like any other tool, your engagement must evolve. it can’t be static. most people seldom re-evaluate what and how they are using any tool.

    2)as someone who writes, yes, it helps readership, but with that i have learned that those into reading seriously don’t need convincing and others you can’t convince. i am not thinking of it using it as a tool to promote my published manuscript. those who read one’s work will be interested, always. i don’t promote what i write now but post it once. i write. period. that is what i do.

    3) most artists on here are just chatting, not even promoting, so i can’t even imagine where they find time for creating. and i know chatting helps—inspiration etc. but to what avail? is the end product a photo on your blog for post hits and retweets? where are you going? that being said it is obvious who is serious and who is not. and THAT being said, most don’t realize that living in high school art cliques is not going to help you with sales nor is it going to help you evolve as an artist.

    4) it’s a reflection of how one functions off the grid. : )

    thanks for bringing everyone’s attention to this important subject.

    cheers,

    ~a.

    • Drew says

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you Annie and as a writer I completely understand the impossibility of keeping anything short and simple ;)

      You’re exactly right that Twitter and all these other types of social media sites are tools, and like any other type of tool, it can be incredibly helpful but only if it’s used correctly. It’s when you start trying to use a tool in a way that it was never intended, that you end up running into trouble. I think artists who try to use sites like Twitter and Facebook to sell their work are disappointed when they discover that people aren’t there to listen to their thinly-veiled sales pitch. What they do discover is that people who talk only about themselves, eventually talk only to themselves.

      I think your point about how your level of engagement must constantly evolve is very interesting and it’s oddly something that you don’t see mentioned a lot. I think you’re right that the majority of people eventually find their comfort level in these spaces and then begin to go on autopilot. However, one of the purposes of social media is to push beyond your current sphere of high school art cliques and find a way to expand beyond that. After all, it’s hard to evolve and acquire new perspectives when you are constantly hearing the same voices every single day.

      Thanks again!

  8. says

    I am a performing and visual artist on an extended tour throughout the US. Facebook has been a vital link in making my tour possible. My recent success in raising over $6,000 through a Kickstarter campaign would not have been possible without my Facebook page. It’s workin’ for me.

    • Drew says

      Thanks for stopping by Thomas and sharing your thoughts with us. Congratulations on your latest tour and fundraising efforts.

  9. says

    Hi Drew.

    Thank you for your thought-provoking post. In answer to your questions, the main social media sites I use are Twitter and Facebook. I also try to blog as much as possible on my website through WordPress.

    Although I have accounts on Flickr, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc. they are merely ‘place cards’ of sorts. An average of an hour a day is spent tweeting, updating and posting stuff, although there are days where it seems I spread myself too thin and the entire day is spent in front of the computer.

    To me Twitter and Facebook are places to share…be it artwork, knowledge, etc., as well as to connect with others. I follow a diverse crowd, not just artists of a specific genre. And although some are mutually supportive and some are self-serving, the benefit is that there is something to be learned from each and every one. As Brett indicated, social media is simply another basket within which to place some eggs…now whether or not any of those eggs `hatch’ remains to be seen. :-)

    P.S. Wanted to also comment on Trevor’s reference to “professional image” and your reference to the inevitable convergence of information that occurs on the internet…..but felt I would be going too far off the topic at hand. Perhaps some other time???

    ~ S L Donaldson

    • Drew says

      It’s always a pleasure to see you here SL :) I couldn’t help but notice however how similar you and Jason’s avatar is above (although you do have the cool green snaky hair thing going on) Are you and Jason in avatar cahoots or is our randomly generated avatar maker simply running out of original ideas?

      I have to say that I admire your self-discipline if you can manage to keep your posting/updating/tweeting to an hour a day. I don’t know how many afternoons I’ve frittered away after just planning on spending a few minutes in the Twitterverse.

      I also agree with you and think that it’s a great idea to follow a diverse crowd from both inside and outside of your chosen genre. Like Annie was talking about above, I think far too often we end up pigeonholing ourselves into our particular genre and miss out on all of the extraordinary creative talent that is lurking about out there. This is one of the reasons I always try to make this particular site as inclusive as possible because I think that at its essence, a creative spirit is a creative spirit no matter how that creativity is ultimately expressed.

      Feel free to come back and share your thoughts with us anytime!

  10. says

    Overall, I feel that social media is working by enhancing our credibility and promoting artists work. We have dropped most of our traditional art marketing (trade shows, brochures and mail-outs) in favour of social media—so far this seems to be a good decision. We have new artists coming to our printmaking studio every week and our online presence is growing (slowly but steady). I think that patience is the key—Google, Amazon and eBay were not born over night. My advice, be selective about your networks and set yourself a budget for time.
    Great site, I look forward to future posts.
    K.

  11. says

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images
    aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

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