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Social media for artists

Best invention ever? Monumental time suck? Depending on how it’s used, social media can be the answer to both these questions. Artists who manage to turn off the kitty videos and quit cyber-stalking former significant others will find a world of effective ways to market their art via social media. Urban Art Network talked to a couple of local artists about how social media has enhanced their careers.

The good and bad 

Local artist Robin Phillips Occhipinti has worked in marketing for more than 13 years, as well as prolifically creating her brand of spiritually-based, multimedia art. She generously shared her social media knowledge with UAN and provided much of the information in this article.

Social media has enabled Occhipinti to reach a much wider audience nationally and internationally. It’s opened doors to getting her work in shows, being featured in a magazine and finding out about calls for artists.

The flip side is content overload. “You can easily get lost in the crowd,” she says. It’s also time-consuming, requiring the need for frequent posting and commenting to maintain your presence. She recommends devoting no more than one hour per day, or, better yet, three to four times a week, to social media. You could hire an assistant or get an intern, or use a time-saving app like Hootsuite to manage multiple social media channels at once and schedule future posts.

Portland artist and art teacher Joanne Licardo likes the feedback from Facebook friends, but sometimes doubts their sincerity. “It helps me gain more confidence when I post something I just finished painting and suddenly there are 100 likes and several comments,” she says. “The only thing is I don’t know how real it is sometimes, because people pretty much only say good things, which of course I love seeing, but how real is it?”

Getting your message out

One of the quandaries of social media is wanting people to get your message, but not over-get your message. For events, you need multiple posts. Post about your art show two to four weeks out, one week before, two days before, and the day of the show. Vary these posts, using different images so people don’t get bored. 

Repeat postings about events is especially important if you’re relying on social media only, rather than emailing personal invitations. Licardo says she sometimes misses shows since she doesn’t see every single social media post.

Occhipinti points out that the same people might follow you across different social media platforms. “It’s good to post unique things in each place during the same time period,” she says. “Give people more to discover if they follow you in more than one place.”

Find your own voice and try to post something of interest to others. “Give people a reason not to ignore you,” says Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Everything you post should be useful, simple and delightful.” A tall order, yes. But something to strive for.

Meet the Platforms

Each platform has its strengths. The following are Occhipinti’s views on what the major social medial platforms have to offer an artist. If you’re worried about copyright for your images, watermark them before posting. 


Twitter

Use it to promote events, link to blogs and articles you write, and post pics on pieces you’re selling in your online shop. Use hashtags and short urls (tinyurl.com) if needed. If anything you’re writing has to do with a trending keyword, add that hashtag. In general, use two to three hashtags, but don’t overdo them.


Facebook

Use this versatile platform for promoting events, blog posts, articles, shop sales and new art work. Occhipinti urges artists to have an art business page as well as a personal page. “I try to comment using the business page more often,” she says. 

Facebook now limits business page exposure and charges businesses for promoting posts. A few strategies Occhipinti suggests to work around this:

  • Participate in consistent social networking with others.
  • "Share" your business posts on your personal page.
  • Ask your fans/friends to go to your page and under “like” click "get notifications." Then they will see the posts in your feed.

Licardo uses Facebook for promoting her shows, classes and workshops, and for buying and selling art. “I find it very useful,” she says, “not only to get myself seen, but to discover a lot of other amazing artists. I derive a lot of inspiration from the other artists posting their art.”


Instagram 

Occhipinti suggests posting pictures of your artwork, studio, home, garden, friends, and things that inspire you.


Pinterest

Post all the pictures you like here – your own and other people’s. Pinterest is a good format for posting all the work in a group show. Occhipinti recommends the Pinterest business guide, available for free download.


Engagement is key

Everybody has their own pet peeve about social media. Some people get sick of reading what others ate for lunch, looking at a million pictures of baby, or seeing someone’s grimy toes propped up in front of a tropical vista. But almost everybody can agree on hating social media’s egotistical over-promoters. Engagement is about sharing, not hitting readers over the head with your amazing accomplishments.

So how do we engage? Promote other people’s work. Encourage them as they develop their artistic voices. 

“I try to keep increasing my time on comments/likes/shares/mentions more and more,” says Occhipinti. She always tags the organizer if she’s in a group show to promote them, too. She also tags behind-the-scenes collaborators, such as art supply stores, printers and art consultants. “This is probably the most effective use of social media to eventually build your own audience. If we all support each other, then beautiful things can happen.”

See Robin Phillips Occhipinti’s work at www.robinphillipsstudio.com
Learn about Joanne Licardo’s work at http://www.joannelicardo.com/
Study Sree Sreenivasan’s social media tips at http://www.sree.net/

--by Teresa Bergen, www.teresabergen.com