Getting your art online and available is a big accomplishment. Congratulations if you’ve come this far! And now that you have, it’s time to start thinking about how to get your art found by collectors (and designers, curators, and other art buyers.)
Marketing your art for sale online involves much more than building an online shop. You must understand how collectors come to find your art online so that you can position yourself and your art directly in their path. Afterall, how can you develop a relationship and sell art if they don’t even know you exist?
There are four basic ways that collectors will find your art online: Search Engines, Social Media, Leveraging Other Audiences, and Advertising.
When a collector is searching for art, they will often turn to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. They enter what they are searching for, and these search engines serve up a list of relevant links to websites and storefronts.
Most collectors will follow the links on the first page of search results. They rarely move on to the second page of search results unless they just can’t find what they’re looking for.
Getting your artwork to the top of the search engine results requires working on your SEO (search engine optimization.) SEO helps to increase your Domain Authority, which is kind of like a credit score for your website – the higher your score, the more traffic search engines will send your way.
SEO is a bit of an art form in itself because search engines are continually updating their criteria as well as comparing your internet presence with your competitors. SEO isn’t done in a weekend, it’s something that is built up and maintained over time.
Pros of Search Engines
Search Engine Optimization is Free. Once you have established your domain authority, you will continue to get organic traffic at no cost to you. For this reason alone, it is worthwhile to incorporate search engine optimization techniques as you build your online shop.
Cons of Search Engines
Search Engine Optimization is a long game. It takes 4 – 9 months to rank a new item on Google search. Moreover, it is highly competitive and difficult to rank onto the first page of search results. Even when you do, you are always at risk of losing your ranking to competitors because people are posting new articles and items all the time.
Social Media is a common way for collectors to learn about your art online. There are a plethora of platforms to choose from. The most well-known ones include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.
When you open a social media account for your art, you are essentially creating your own channel. You generate and post content that is relevant to your art to attract an audience of interested people, which includes potential collectors.
Pros of Social Media
Social Media is an excellent way to build an audience for free. As an artist, your social media account gives you unprecedented access to a pool of potential collectors. This access is ideal for relationship building and making the connections you need to present your art to buyers.
Cons of Social Media
Social Media is a long game. It takes a great deal of time and focused effort to get your art noticed and build an audience. Even if you have a decent audience, it can take many contacts with potential collectors to turn that effort into a sale. This is why some artists chose to forego social media altogether.
An often unmentioned side effect of social media is that it can be detrimental to the creative process. Social media companies have leveraged psychological triggers to keep their users on their respective platforms.
As an artist, you have to stay vigilant to protect yourself. It is all too easy to lose hours of valuable creative time scrolling through accounts that have no marketing value to your art business. Even worse, it is possible to get caught up in comparing your art and your audience size, which can be terrible for your creative confidence. This is why it is very important to manage your social media and have a game plan as to how you will use it to your own benefit.
Leverage Other Audiences
Leveraging other audiences is an underutilized yet powerful way to help art buyers discover your art online. You may already be using this method without even realizing it. But once you become aware of it, you can be more intentional about developing it as part of your marketing plan.
Audience Leveraging comes in many forms. Some examples are media coverage, online links from other websites, art shows, and marketplaces, influencer marketing, and social media collaborations.
In each of these cases, you are benefiting from an audience that someone else has built. Let’s look at a few examples:
- If an article is published about your art in the magazine “Art In America,” you will benefit from their large audience 180,000 readers in 124 countries that include collectors, dealers, historians, artists, museum directors, curators, connoisseurs, and enthusiasts. A certain percentage of this readership will look you up on social media and your website and be interested in purchasing or commissioning your work.
- If you publish your art for sale in an online gallery such as Saatchi, your art will be suggested alongside similar artwork. This means if a potential buyer is looking at a similar piece from a competitor, your art will be suggested as an alternative.
- If you collaborate with another artist on social media, you both benefit from the other’s audience. There are many ways to collaborate such as talking with each other about being an artist live, or posting each other’s art on your respective profiles with a link. When you share your audience, both of your accounts will grow.
- If you participate in a large show with other artists, their followers will discover your work when they check out the show. Again, you are benefiting from the audience size of the show and other artists.
Pros of Audience Leveraging
Leveraging audiences comes with many benefits:
First and foremost, it lends credibility to you as an artist when your artwork has been mentioned or featured by outlets with a larger audience. Even the search engines will boost your domain authority when you receive these types of links. But most importantly, potential collectors are most influenced by positive mentions and collaborations.
Except in the case of hiring an influencer to discuss your art with their audience, leveraging other people’s audiences is free.
Methods for leveraging other audiences are only limited by your creativity. The opportunities are plentiful and often under-recognized by other artists.
Cons of Audience Leveraging
Leveraging the largest audiences can be difficult until you build some credibility. Therefore, in the beginning, you will have to focus on smaller audiences until you get the hang of it.
Audience leveraging can be useless if you are not focusing on audiences that can benefit your art career. You must be acutely aware of your art niche and how that fits with the audience you are trying to leverage. For example, there is no point in leveraging an audience that is focused on landscape art if you are selling contemporary abstracts. Sure, they love art, but your art will seem out of place to this particular audience.
Often overlooked, advertising can be an efficient way to get your art in front of collectors. Online advertising programs exist on search engines, social media platforms, and marketplaces. The premise is simple, you pay a fee to get your posts and items to the top of the search results. This way, when buyers are searching, you’re first to be found.
Offline advertising opportunities also exist through print publications, and programs for events such as art faires.
Pros of Advertising
Advertising can be an excellent way to bring awareness of your art to collectors that are new to your artwork. You set up the ad, and your shop items show up before your competitors, giving you a competitve edge.
Advertising can also be a shortcut to building an audience on social media, or even better, your email list. Once you have built these audiences, you can focus on relationship building through these methods without continuing to pay.
Cons of Advertising
Advertising can be expensive. It can also be illusive. You must have a strong understanding of your offer and your target market if you want your advertising campaigns to be successful. It is easy to spend a lot of money on advertising, only to figure out later that your ads were not even being viewed by interested people.
While advertising can be a shortcut to building an audience organically, it can also be a flop. Especially if you are still defining your style and niche. It is better to focus on organic (free) results first. As you have success with organic results, you can then leverage this success with paid advertising.
Final Take Away
Art buyers such as collectors, designers, and art consultants initially find your artwork online through four main channels: search engines, social media, other audiences and advertising. Each of these channels has pros and cons and will take some time and effort to develop.