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
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.
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?
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….
Image courtesy of len-k-a
Drew is a writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist creative community. You can also find him online at OutmatchFitness.com where he writes about fitness, nutrition, and his continuing battle with father time.