Social media lures us in with the promise of free marketing to interested buyers. As helpful as it can be, it can also be a burden if it interferes with your creativity. Even though social media can make marketing easier for some artists, it is absolutely not a requirement to becoming a successful artist.
The Social Media Promise
The mythology of social media would have you believe that in order to be a successful artist, you must first develop a very large social media account. Time and again, we hear stories of relatively unknown artists who rise to fame through social media. These success stories are actually misleading.
First, you shouldn’t make the assumption that lots of followers equals lots of art sales. In fact, lots of followers are actually quite useless unless they are interested in purchasing art, and the artist has learned how to funnel those people to where it is that they can complete the purchase.
The Social Media Burden
Anyone who has opened a social media account, whether it be Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, is already familiar with the fact that it is easy to lose a good portion of your creative time to scrolling and chatting. Before you know it, you’ve spent hours surfing around with nothing to show for it. It’s no accident. Social media sites use human psychology to keep us on their platforms as long as possible. It’s how they make their money.
The truth is social media platforms are actually leveraging you. They lure you in with the promise of an audience. In exchange for that audience, you create engaging content for them. And you create that content for free. They use your content to keep people on the platform longer.
Some artists are naturally in tune with using social media as a marketing tool. If that’s you, that’s great. Don’t stop what you’re doing.
But, some of you may have already come to the conclusion that using these platforms can be a complete waste of time. And if you have a minimal amount of time available for your creative practice, using it to create content and scroll through Facebook or Instagram can be soul sucking.
The three things you MUST do to sell your art online
Selling Your Art Online Only Requires Three Things:
1. You must create artwork that people want to buy (a product),
2. You must have some sort of an online presence where you offer your products for sale and take payments (a platform); and
3. You must find people interested in your art and let them know where they can find it (marketing).
Social media is most useful in addressing the third item in this list: Marketing.
Even though having an active social media account has become an Industry wide expectation, it is not a requirement to becoming a successful artist. Remember, though, social media is just one way to communicate with people interested in your artwork. There are many alternatives, some of which may be more aligned with your art business goals.
Alternatives To Social Media
It is important to consider the role that social media plays in your art practice. As noted above, the main reason artists use social media is marketing. Social media is a pretty easy way to communicate with people who are interested in purchasing the work that you have made available for sale (step three.)
If you are averse to using social media, there are many alternatives:
- Newsletter Email list. Studies show that newsletters are actually more effective than social media when it comes to selling art. The open rate on a newsletter list is much higher than views you get on social media. Not only that, people who agree to sign up for your newsletter tend to be more likely to purchase your artwork and the people who follow your art account.
- Advertising. When social media came on the scene, most businesses jumped on board because it allowed them to have free access to potential buyers. But that access wasn’t actually free. You pay with your time and attention. Although advertising may seem like an old fashion way to get your art in front of buyers, it remains effective. Advertising in places where your art buyers are likely to see it is still a highly effective marketing tactic.
- Traditional Media. Writing for and participating in traditional media is an effective marketing tactic. Appearing as a featured artist in a news or magazine article can bring attention to your artwork. Also, don’t discount participating in book publishing.
- Participating in regional and gallery shows and events is another way to bring attention to your online catalog.
- Listing a portion of your works for sale in an online marketplace can also be a way to reach new buyers. People searching the marketplace often research the artist before buying and will find your main website via google where they can find additional offerings.
As wonderful as social media can be, it can also be a burden if it is interfering with you creating your art. If you find yourself incompatible with social media, keep in mind that many artists have had lucrative and successful careers long before social media came on the scene. Even though social media can make marketing easier for some artists, it is in no way a requirement for becoming a successful artist.