Any artist struggling to gain visibility in a crowded market has at some point probably experienced a variation of the question, “Who has an extra five hours a day to plan out a social media presence and constantly engage across social platforms?” The need for having a dedicated presence has impacted artists on social media at some point as they’ve sought new ways to build an audience and seek out new forms of engaging with an existing client base. The good news is that social media platforms exist as a relaxing and informal environment for cultivating a wider audience for one’s artistic practice. More good news? By making time for simply being present with your audience as artists on social media, one can gain new advocates for one’s practice, cultivate a loyal following, and find new allies and collaborators. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are all valuable tools toward achieving greater visibility, and the way in which content is produced across these platforms can yield simple yet powerful results.
As artists on social media, a little investment in your online presence can go a long way, as long as you’re focused on building a single comprehensive message across all platforms. Branding strategist Nicole Williams of Classy Branding advocates for a uniform presence across social media platform:
“Keeping a consistent voice across all of your platforms is extremely important… [for example], if you are using a witty light-hearted tone on your blog or website, you want that to come across as well on your Instagram and Facebook. If your message is not consistent across all platforms, you run the risk of confusing your audience,” she says.
Similarly, Entrepreneur magazine’s informative survey of social media’s impact on audiences shows that new “clients” -potential collectors, curators, and critics – who can recognize your brand, link it with quality content, and see you as an expert in your field will be more likely to engage with your posts. Artists on social media can gain new followers that become aware of who you are and what you create, and that only increases the likelihood of being recommended for new exhibitions, and inclusion in collections naturally grows, as well.
Likewise, most experts don’t espouse a quantity mentality with regard to posting, but rather a focus on quality engagement. There is an art to the world of social media, and in order to stand out from the pack, it’s crucial to create a recognizable voice and to rely on providing content that your audience is seeking from artists on social media – which is not necessarily the same as whatever you feel like posting. This, and other simple reference points, are included below in a rundown of the social media staple diet. Artists on social media should think of this as the food pyramid-style guide to posting on your social media channels.
The Social Media Pyramid Base: Quality Content and Consistency
Without a doubt, the central focus of artists on social media’s presence lies in establishing a sense of quality and consistency. If an artist working in new media is posting to Facebook and Instagram, do these posts include the artist’s work and stay relevant to specific topics? If so, does it also include posts of art openings and events relating to the artist’s field of work? Do a new media artists on social media post videos across different social media channels, or only images? (Hint: the types of posts made should be relevant to one’s medium.) Is the artist expanding on the current conversation, meeting up with other like-minded artists, curators or connectors? If so, they should be sharing these moments at least occasionally with their social media audience. Followers who are already engaged with an artist’s work will be excited to see them as a thought leader, and those new to the artist on social media’s feed will be intrigued to see what gets posted next. Those who remain true to showing their followers what they want and expect in line with artists on social media’s practice are rewarded with a loyal, enduring audience.
Social Media Pyramid Center #1: It’s All in the Timing
When does the average person scroll through their Facebook feed the most? Does Twitter see a spike in user engagement at a particular point in the day? Thanks to this handy Fast Company article on social media users’ daily habits, there is credible insight into the best times to post across social media platforms. The skinny for artists on social media? Avoid posting big announcements on weekends on platforms, as people are frequently out and about and not paying as close attention to their social media feeds. Afternoon productivity lapses (generally an hour or so after lunchtime until just before closing time) yield good windows for users to engage with their social platforms while switching tasks at work or taking a much-needed mental break. Fridays are by far the worst time to attempt to engage on social media, especially in the afternoon when the ambitious among us are running to catch flights for family reunions and out-of-town weddings for friends. Artists on social media should be savvy about when they post to be rewarded with a higher number of likes, re-posts and comments.
Social Media Pyramid Center #2: Who’s Engaging?
By taking a look at the institutions and organizations influencing one’s practice, and the artists who have already made an impact within a specific art world niche, it can become apparent who is catering to the right audience. The key in creating a healthy environment for others to engage with artists on social media is to track the influencers in a field, and follow and engage with them. Through informal and supportive comments and likes, artists on social media can develop a more visible presence. The odds of someone influential commenting or posting on an artist social media channels are higher when they are already being engaged. So what’s with the wait? The fastest way to create visibility for a personal brand or an artistic practice is to create avenues of engagement, and by participating in a discussion on a thought leader’s Facebook page or re-posting an Instagram image relevant to one’s interests, other like-minded users will be prompted to respond.
Pyramid Upper #1: Followers and Follow-Backs
Audience engagement and growth in follower count go hand-in-hand. As Williams from Classy Branding notes, when engaging with new followers, a surefire strategy for an artist on social media is to “…make sure that you are following people in your niche whose content you genuinely find appealing. When you locate a post or an account that you like, you want to take note about what actually intrigued you about it.” Williams elaborates, “Once you have followed them, you can start interacting regularly and even tagging them. That is a sure fire way to increase your following and engagement.” By producing unique content in line with the style and quality encountered in other artist influencers’ feeds, the likelihood increases that someone will follow-back once they gain new followers. And while likes and comments are silver, unique followers are pure gold.
Pyramid Upper #2: Hashtags for Days
Ah, hashtags: where would we be without them? Countless memes have been sparked by the right (succinct) hashtag, ensuring that the fun is shared by the many users who engage in sharing the #message. On Twitter, hashtags are crucial to engage on a particular subject matter with a wide audience who often share contrasting views of a subject or event; while on Instagram followers seeking a particular topic to engage with will hunt down images by a hashtag. The hashtag is an important, and careful, reference point, and key in considering how artists on social media use hashtags in social media posts is identifying the desired result. Do you want a broader audience? If so, choose vague hashtags that show the most usage (number count). Are you looking to engage a niche community? If so, make sure the terminology is correct for the type of artwork being created (interdisciplinary art for example, versus “mixed art” or some other variation). Also be careful in employing too many hashtags: do they all relate specifically to the post? Hashtags are key to making posts discoverable, but only as long as the content being sourced is relevant to users seeking that information.
Social Media Pyramid Top: Join the Conversation, & Have Fun!
Finally: join the conversation! Is there a major art festival, fair, or event happening? When attending industry events, artists on social media should always be sure they document the experience with the appropriate hashtags, and using the handles of any institutions or entities hosting or involved (the more contacts tagged, the better!) Is it a major influencer or industry leader’s birthday, or a major exhibition opening? By participating in a hive-mind mentality and making sure that relevant coverage is given to specific, time-sensitive events and “happenings,” artists on social media can indicate they are tuned into the rhythm of the art world and increase their visibility.
Which artists on social media do you follow? Let us know in the comments!