Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why every visual artist should have 5,000 friends on Facebook

Why every visual artist should have 5,000 friends on Facebook:

Life today, in many ways, is driven by online social networking. Everyone from garage band musicians to presidential hopefuls realize the power of having a strong social network online-- and power in the online social networking realm is based, though I suppose would could debate this, on numbers. To put it bluntly, if you want to reap the rewards of exposure online you need to take advantage of social networking and that means having ‘friends’-- lots of them.

In my experience it appears that visual artists have been slow to ride the online social networking wagon in that while I see many up-and-coming musicians branding their work online-- with brute numbers to prove it-- it is often rare to find emerging visual artists take hold of the same advantage that online social networking has to offer. I should know-- I’m constantly on the prowl for emerging artists for the myartspace blog interview series.

As Senior Editor of myartspace.com I often notice that ‘known’ visual artists utilize social networking more when compared to emerging artists-- but the beauty of online social networking is that any artist, no matter his or her standing in the art market, can establish a following and all it costs is a little time, patience, and access to the Internet. The end result can lead to exhibits with fellow artists, sold artwork, or simply feedback on artwork. The point being-- the more online ‘friends’ you have the better your opportunities will be. Business entrepreneurs understand this-- and I think it is about time that all artists, at least those seeking recognition, grasp it as well.

Currently the behemoth in online social networking is Facebook-- which is why I suggest that visual artists strive to max out their friends list on that site. I understand that 5,000 friends seems an unreachable feat for some-- but with a little work, and knowledge of how Facebook works, it can pay off as far as exposure for ones art is concerned. In fact, I suggest that emerging artists mesh their Facebook efforts with other sites-- more on that later.

The key step in building your Facebook art empire is to be careful about Facebook policies and procedures. For example, you do not want to try and invite too many friends at once. Every account and situation is different-- but if you send Facebook ‘friend’ invites to hundreds of fellow artists-- or anyone else for that matter-- in one day you will most likely receive a warning or log back on to find that your account has been banned. Thus, you will want to follow the unwritten rule of only inviting between 20 and 30 ‘friends’ per day. Follow that route and you can potentially reach the goal of 5,000 ‘friends’ within a year-- give or take. 5,000 friends that will-- potentially-- see your art links as you post them and images of your artwork as well. Which is far better than the same 20 or 30 online friends viewing your artwork if your goal happens to be one of gaining exposure.

If you are a savvy artists you have most likely kept a contact list of emails-- fellow artists, past buyers, curators you have worked with, and so on-- if so you can invite those individuals without penalty on Facebook simply by accessing your email contact list-- if it is one supported by Facebook-- in order to send the invites. You can also put the emails in manually in order to invite them that way. However, the goal-- in my opinion-- is to have more contacts than the ones you have already made. Facebook is a great place to ‘friend’ non-artists-- who, theoretically, are more apt to be buyers of your artwork. Plus there are sites that have a clear focus on art that you can utilize in your social networking efforts-- sites such as http://www.myartspace.com/.

As mentioned, it is important for artists-- especially emerging artists, to mesh their Facebook efforts with other sites that they are involved with. In my opinion, once you have established your base of contacts on Facebook you will want to make those ‘friends‘ aware of your other pursuits online. For example, if you have a personal website or are involved with an online artist community, such as myartspace, you will want to post links to your website or to your respected profiles on whatever online art communities you are involved with. With little effort-- if you have thousands of Facebook friends-- you can potentially send a chunk of traffic to your personal website or boost your ranking on the communities you are involved with-- not to mention increase blog activity if you got that route.

It is a good move to make for exposure-- especially if you combine that with a Twitter account set to repost what you post on Facebook. Another plus of that Facebook/Twitter activity is that you never know how many of your contacts are also involved with the online art communities you frequent. Thus, you could theoretically boost your friends on sites like myartspace by making connections on Facebook-- especially if you are utilizing Twitter as well. Not to mention that you may lure potential buyers to your ecommerce efforts on myartspace or other sites for that matter just by posting a few links.

One key point that I want to make is that it is probably best not to make your Facebook profile a one-sided platform for self-promotion. I warn against posting duplicate links one after the other-- try to space it out. For example, if you promote your myartspace profile with a link you don’t want to turn around and post the same link twenty times in just a few hours. Give your ‘friends’ time to see what you have posted-- don’t turn them off with repeated links. Be smart about it-- post a link when you upload new images to the site or when you create a new gallery of work. Give people something new to look at.

Also, don’t maintain your Facebook account in a mechanical way. A profile based only on links can be rather boring to follow. In other words, be yourself. Post about your studio practice, the frustrations you have about a new piece that you are working on, life events, or whatever else is going on in your life-- make connections with your connections. Offering that will often spark communication on your Facebook wall-- which may in turn spark communication about your artwork, personal website, or other sites that you are involved with. Be tactful.

I realize that this is a huge topic-- one that I’m fully aware cannot be covered in a single blog post. However, I hope that I’ve made the importance of establishing a large base of online ‘friends’ clear for artists who are seeking exposure and recognition for their artwork. Social networking-- and utilizing various sites in that effort-- is one of the easiest ways for an artist to gain exposure today.

In closing, art exhibits come and go, buzz from selling a work of art can be fleeting-- but a large base of contacts on Facebook to support your other online efforts-- such as a free account on http://www.myartspace.com/-- can have a constant impact on your goal of recognition. This tact does not mean you have “sold out” as an artist-- but it could very well lead to you selling your artwork-- or simply gaining the exposure that you deserve.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


SeBiArt said...

When I saw this I freaked...only a bit though, because I've been particularly stubborn about building up my facebook base. I am still not particularly comfortable with putting my work up on that site precisely because of their sneaky terms regarding copyrights. I'm not AS savvy as I'd like, but I make pretty darn good use of online tools and link them as best I can so my friends on facebook can easily click on to my other sites.

That said - I'm learning how to set up a public page so that I'm a bit more comfortable with promoting works to larger contact pools on FB. I agree - all this work leads to exposure and potential for more shows and sales as I've certainly experienced that, but I hesitate still to believe that total strangers are the ones to increase this - unless you meet them face to face rather than on the 'book'. At the end of the day it's the established online contacts and their friends, and their friends, etc, et al that do it. Just my thoughts now though...I mean what do I know, I'm just another 'emerging' artist tryin to figure it all out. Thanks for this thoughtful post. :)

Balhatain said...

SeBiArt, terms can be tricky at times-- but the truth is that even if you put your work on a site that claims copyright to anything you post their claim would not hold up in court.

Often sites are just trying to protect themselves-- for example, Facebook, like most popular sites, wants to make sure that they do not get sued if-- for example-- an image that you posted is shared by another member on the site or if your profile ends up spot-lighted on the front page.

You'd be surprised about the things people have tried to sue websites like Facebook for. I recall a site that faced a lawsuit because a members profile showed up on Google searches. It did not hold in court.

If a site actually tried to take control of members uploads it would cause one hell of a backlash. Copyright laws are above any terms that you read-- and in most cases the site just chose words poorly.

Balhatain said...

'Real world' networking is a must-- but it never hurts to introduce others to your work. There are a number of successful artists-- ranging from Chet Zar to Damien Hirst-- who have accomplished alot with the Internet. Even anonymous artists like Banksy have reaped the rewards of what online exposure can muster.

There are other benefits to having a wide range of online friends on social networks like Facebook-- even if some of them are tacky. For example, a large friend base makes others assume that a certain degree of credibility has been reached.

Think about the last election in the United States-- how some candidates were viewed with more respect, so to speak, by the reach they had obtained online. I see nothing wrong with an artist tapping into that same trait of human nature-- that being the fact that we humans tend to associate popularity with success. People may not admit it-- but the numbers are often considered in how we view others-- especially online.

andrewrice said...

In the vein of social networking talk, an easy twitter and facebook link to repost this would be nice. . .

Rise Art said...

Andrew, I think there are tools allowing you to post on both at the same time. Mashable.com has great advice on this.
Further, I truly believe that social media tools are not to be ignored!