What I cover in this article
- Do artists need to be on social media?
- How often should you post (quality vs quantity)?
- Which social media platforms are best for artists?
- Which social media platform/s should you use?
- Identifying your goals
- What should you post?
- How to reach your audience
- Metrics and Hashtags
- Copyright – Your Rights
Do Artists Need to Be on Social Media?
The simple answer is yes if you want to draw more attention to your work.
When it comes to social media presence, artists tend to fall into one of two camps. The first is the artist who wants to focus mainly on their work and their life offline. The second is the artist who is running a business. Whichever one you are, social media can be a very effective instrument in your toolbox for getting eyes on your work and growing your connections.
Social Media for artists, when used well, is really a conversation with your audience. It’s a way to connect with people who enjoy you and your work. This conversation can help you build a following, reach new people, and even serve as an evolving portfolio for galleries or organizations potentially interested in your art.
Rest assured you don’t have to be a social media influencer to have an effective presence, and you don’t have to choose between being immersed in your artistic process versus making a few posts a week.
How often should you post (quality vs quantity)?
Generally speaking, the quality of your posts is more important than how often you post, with the possible exception of TikTok. Engaging content that reflects you authentically is going to resonate better with your audience than a high number of posts.
Amassing a loyal following of a few hundred people, is preferable to a fickle following of thousands. The key is to interact with people through your posts as this engagement on your part will encourage your followers to come back. Whenever you can, go one step further than liking a positive comment and reply with a short comment in response.
Which Social Media Platforms Are Best for Artists?
There are three major platforms for you to consider. These three are also the top-performers in today’s social media landscape, and you may already have an account with at least one:
Each has its advantages and majority demographics. Let’s start with Facebook. It’s been around the longest of the three, and arguably has the most features with the most ways to list information on your account page. It also has an increasingly older audience. So, if your target audience is people in their mid 30s and up, because those are the people who respond to your artwork and buy it, Facebook is a good place to start. Facebook also features built-in tools for publishing and cross-posting with Instagram, which means you don’t need a third-party social media organizer. For this reason, Facebook is arguably the most adaptable and feature-rich platform of the three.
Instagram sits nicely in the middle of what has come before and where social media is headed. Instagram has a well-earned reputation as being the platform for people with a curated visual message, which makes it perfect for sharing your artwork. If you choose to use Instagram you are in great company; art galleries often use this platform to look for new talent and to communicate information about their current artists. If you like a simple interface, Instagram’s smaller toolset is frankly part of its charm. It is more streamlined than Facebook and more to the point.
Instagram also makes it possible for you to create a polished look online, because it so image-focused. It is this platform where you will find more professionals, mostly between 18 and about 50 years old, who show up to connect with other professionals and hobbyists who have visual stories to tell.
The last platform to consider is TikTok. It is an all short-form video social media platform that, until recently, was populated almost exclusively by people in their teens and 20s. The primary age range now is teens through people in their 40s, with the higher concentration still leaning toward the younger spectrum. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, many content creators on TikTok agree that it is a place to be yourself. On the whole, posted content that is less polished is welcomed and normal. Trends tend to start on TikTok, and then trickle down to Instagram and ultimately Facebook. On the downside, TikTok is the most demanding social media platform to be on. To stay visible to your audience, you have to add content several days a week, if not daily, to keep showing up in people’s feeds.
Which Social Media Platform Should I Use?
The first rule of thumb I ask artists, regardless of the project, is: What’s going to be sustainable for you? Sustainability means setting yourself up for success, and that looks different for all artists. A successful social media plan is not one-size-fits-all, and depends a lot on what you would like to accomplish. For some, making and selling artwork is a full-time job, but for others, it’s a personal passion or part-time occupation.
I suggest that you tailor your social media plans to fit your life. Happily, you don’t have to be on all platforms, but pro tip – it is a good idea to create an account in each one that interests you so that you can claim the same username across them all. With your username secured you will have the option of using another platform at a later date without worrying that someone else got your name.
Part of figuring out what is sustainable for you is to identify what you want to get out of your social media presence as an artist. Let that guide the kind of content you post, and how often. Social media strategy is a big topic, but I will touch on a few essentials in this article to get you started.
Identifying Your Goals:
- Who am I courting? Who do I want to connect with?
a) Am I doing this as a kind of online portfolio for galleries, businesses, and serious buyers?
b) Do I just want to share what I’m passionate about, and connect with the people who get it?
c) Do I want to reach out directly to a customer base (or growing customer base) of individual buyers?
d) Who else would I like to connect with? Other artists? Potential mentors? Fans?
- Do I want to grow a large audience or am I happy with a small, loyal following?
- Is this my full-time business or personal passion and maybe part-time business?
If you are looking to sell your work through your social media presence you can set up an online shop directly on Instagram. Facebook is not a popular platform for direct online sales, and this feature isn’t possible (yet) on TikTok. Direct social media sales are also still less common than driving traffic to an online store, such as your website, or multi-seller websites like Etsy.
Each of these platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have ways of listing external links to places you want your audience to visit. Linktree is a very popular app for listing external links in a bio for Instagram and TikTok. There are several options out there, such as ContactInBio, Shorby, or Bio.fm. These third-party linking apps are widely available, and while I do not endorse any specifically, there is a lot of information out there about them to help you choose. Keep in mind that the free version of these kinds of apps will work for a lot of people.
What Kind of Content Do I Post?
I love this question because I am just as much a lover of art and part of the audience, as I am a creative consultant. And one of the most popular kinds of posts is process and behind-the-scenes, because they show the human behind the paint brush, camera lens, pencil, pottery wheel, and so on.
Here are some examples:
- Before-and-after images or videos
- Time-lapse videos
- Sources for your inspiration: activities, moments, funny stories, experiences, anything that inspired a piece of art and then show that artwork at the end.
- “Failed” experiments/ Happy accidents
- Simple vignettes of your daily life as an artist
- Your artist workspace
- Show openings and events where your artwork is featured
All of these are just places to start when creating content that anyone who is into your artwork will be curious about. Don’t doubt people’s curiosity. Your followers will generally want to celebrate your victories with you, big and small. They will want to get a sense of the person behind the artwork.
As wonderful as it is to share our joys and be comforted when we fall short, remember to also practice a safe professional boundary.
How do I Reach my Audience?
This is a common question, and the answer meets at the confluence of a few pieces:
- The algorithm:
a) Each platform has its own secret sauce. People are generally shown more of what they interact with. The stronger the interaction, the better.
- Frequency of posts:
a) Facebook and Instagram are more forgiving and can be appeased with about 3 posts per week. Tiktok, on the other hand, usually only shows your content to more people if you are posting close to daily.
- Go to where the people are:
a) Which platform is your audience most likely to be on?
b) Use the matching hashtags for the right audiences when on Instagram or TikTok. (There are even free hashtag generator apps.)
- Timing of posts:
a) Post during times of day when your audience is most likely to be on social media. And if you’re not sure, try three different times; early, midday, and evening. Repeat as necessary until you find the general window when you get the most interaction.
Measure Your Metrics and Adapt
Facebook and Instagram have built-in analytics tools that are accessible to professional pages and accounts. You can set up a professional page on Facebook, and a professional account on Instagram, whether you are a business, non-profit, or aspiring business. TikTok has analytics tools available for anyone who posts content.
Use these metrics tools to identify which content gained the most reach (how many people saw it), interaction (comments), and engagement (likes). Over time, you can fine tune your future posts based on real data.
Use Hashtags Strategically
Facebook is the only platform of the three that is not built to use hashtags effectively. Focus your hashtag strategies on Instagram and TikTok. You can test which hashtags are more popular by searching them in each platform and seeing the number of results that come up.
How many hashtags you use is up to you. Some people will use a dozen, others maybe a handful. It’s more important to focus on what’s relevant to you, your audience, and what fits your content. They are best used to either capture your niche audience or cast a wide net.
What About the Risk of My Work Being Stolen if I Post it Online?
This can be a tough one. As many ways as developers have come up with tools to prevent people from taking your online images, there are still ways to get around it. In my opinion, if you follow some basic best practices, the chances of your artwork being copied and published or sold is much lower.
A Few Tips to Avoid Copyright Infringement (*I’m not a lawyer*)
The best tip I comfortably share with artists about preventing theft of their online images is Never put a high-resolution image online. Unless you have a very specific reason for doing so, and a limited, trusted audience who will have access to it, it’s not a good practice for a variety of reasons. Social Media has built-in restrictions on the size of a file, but you can take it a step further and control the digital dimensions.
Make it large enough for people to enjoy, but not so big that it is print quality. If your images are optimized for web, 72 dpi, and the longest edge is around 800 pixels, you have added an easy layer of protection. This very much goes for websites, too.
You can use watermarks and visible marks on top of the image. Personally, as an art lover and designer, I’m not a big fan of visible marks. You can also subtly attribute your work to yourself in these public forums by saying you made it. “I painted this scene in April while thinking about …” Something like that can work.
You also don’t have to post everything you make. If you feel especially sensitive about the security of a particular piece, you don’t have to post it.
There are services that can add an invisible watermark into your images, but I have not used them yet.
At the end of the day, anyone can do a screenshot. There are apps and plugins that let people download images off a webpage. Remember, artists are posting their work all the time. Protect yourself, but don’t let it stop you from shining on social media.
Social Media is for Connecting and for Advertising
This is your platform to talk to your target audience. Let them know about events or shows where your work will be. Let them know if you’re having a sale. More importantly, let them know your work is for sale and how they can find it and buy it. It’s OK to remind them repeatedly; “link in bio for purchasing my work” at the end of your post caption, or in your video. Social posts are fleeting, and even though you’ve seen every time you’ve mentioned your artwork is for sale, there are still some people out there who didn’t.
Finally, have a little fun while sharing your artistic passion with people. Your artwork, no doubt, brings you joy and fulfillment, and it will find the right people for whom it does the same.