The question visual artists have to ask themselves is are they getting a return on the investment of time from their social media involvement.
There is undeniable demonstrable value in social media for artists and other entrepreneurs.
Social media is not some flash in the pan phenomenon that soon will be replaced by the next "Big Thing." It is a pervasive transformative form of communication that continues to take larger share of time and interest for participants.
Social media is far more than the ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn mentions. It includes blogging, publishing. networking, commenting, photo sharing, and more.
Is Social Media An Asset to You?
The question visual artists have to ask themselves is are they getting a return on the investment of time from their social media involvement. While I do not have any hard facts or research to answer this question, I believe the answer is a mixed bag of results. That is, there obviously are some artists who are making great use of social media, and there are many more who are struggling to figure out if it is working and what to do if it is not.
Last year, I wrote a post titled Can Visual Artists Succeed Without Using Twitter and Facebook? The answer for those who don't care to read the post is, YES! That said, it is obvious there are some artists making great use for career advancement using social media.
Working smarter is far more effective than working harder
Working hard to become really good at a few things is going to pay off better than working hard at a bunch of things and not doing any particularly well. What makes the difference in social media success for artists equates to what separates successful artists whose career's follow a steadily improving trajectory from those who are flat-lined or failing. The ones on top have found a formula that works and they work at refining and honing the formula to continue to get better results from it. They typically are not afraid to try new things and are just as quick to move away from those which do not pan out for them.
If you study the art career's of successful visual artists you will find similar traits. As an aside, for those seeking to improve their own art business model, there is hardly a better way to help plot a strategy than to reverse engineer what took the best to the top. Just as you would study to learn how to make your art better from the best in the field, you can do the same with your career.
You learn the most effective and creative techniques from the best — do the same with your art business
When you study the career's of succesful artists, you find they have learned to build a following by consistently working at those things that give them the best results. Of course, it includes being a source of art people want to buy. But, it also includes finding the most effective way of communicating with their best prospects for new and repeat business.
If you are not getting the results you want from social media, then you need to examine what you are doing. It is not that social media programs don't work, or that some artists are luckier than others. Honestly assess your activities to learn what is going on with your social media marketing efforts. If you are participating in social media for any other reasons than to improve your career, then you have to consider it a pleasant pasttime rather than a business activity. There is nothing wrong with that, but don't complain if the time spent is not helping you sell more art.
Who are you following? Who is following you?
If you don't know the answer to the above questions, you are leaning more to a pastime than a marketing model for your social media activity. Anecdotally, it looks to me on Facebook and LinkedIn that many artists have built up large groups of other artists as friends and followers.
While there is safety in numbers and certainly great affirmation possibilities that come from such associations, helping to build a group of potential collectors is far down list of the good to come from being involved with a bunch of other artists. The bottom line is if you are going to spend time in social media, use most of your time in it to work on enhancing your career.
Here are a few art marketing / social media suggestions
Consciously, actively choose who you are following. I personally review every profile of Twitter and Facebook followers and only choose to follow back those who I think can either help my art business, increase my knowledge of useful technology tools or are just compelling in their personality and message.
Look for groups and people where you might find potential collectors. Being in a bunch of groups with other artists may help you gain career or business insights, but not collectors. Limit the amount of time you spend posting to family, friends and old high school chums. When you do, find creative ways to remind them your art is for sale.
Get a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck that will allow you to write a bunch posts that are set to publish at different times. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media. Don't sit there with it on all day long. It will suck your time and deplete your energy.
If you have an important project, ratchet your activity down to buy yourself more time. I have a couple of big things I am working on now. As a result, my activity is greatly reduced on Facebook and Twitter. I've seen others such as Clint Watson, owner of the websites for artists business, FASO artist websites, take several weeks off so he could devote 100% of his time to getting major upgrade coded and ready for his customers.
Bigger is not better
Don't try to work too many social media venues at one time. You can easily get worn out trying to keep up with too many ways to get your name out there. I don't do much active following these days as nearly all follower/friends growth come from requests. When I was building a following, I was very selective about those I chose to follow or friend. Social media is not a contest to see who has the most followers or friends. It is a tool to help you grow awareness for your work and for you. It should be viewed as a means to market your business.
Email marketing is not dead
Make sure you do everything you can to get the email address of every potential collector you encounter. All social media is a stream, some running faster than others, but all are constantly moving. Email marketing potentially offers you the best return on your investment in time, expense and effort. Make sure you are doing everything you can to gather email addresses.