Marketing aims to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.

— Peter Drucker

Effective art marketing strategies weave authenticity into every interaction, cultivating connections that allow your creative vision to shine through. After writing and publishing Art Marketing News since 2005, I’ve seen how the internet has helped me and my artist followers develop global brands and connect with international audiences. However, the speed of changes in the digital world makes it difficult for some creatives to market their work online, leaving them feeling disillusioned and powerless.  

The Volatility of Social Media Marketing 

My “Conversation Sparkers for Artists” student Giovanni, an Italian photojournalist and fine art photographer, recently raised thoughtful questions about social media’s potential as an artist marketing platform. He noted that Instagram’s algorithms determine who sees an artist’s work.  

Giovanni and many other artists, like Stephen Shore, a prominent fine art photographer, have or are considering abandoning Instagram and other traditional social media due to this lack of control over their narratives and audiences. Instead, they consider art collector- and enthusiast-focused online forums and platforms.  

These niche spaces may offer more significant opportunities for substantive visibility and connection with an audience predisposed to engaging with and purchasing artwork. 

Reassessing the Role of Galleries 

Giovanni also highlighted fair questions about art galleries’ involvement in artists’ careers. Galleries have long been a respected and established way to exhibit and sell art, but there is a growing belief that specific galleries prioritize profit over artist promotion. The best ones, and there are many, find a balance that serves them and their artists well.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy

 

 

Some artists consider galleries financial risks rather than partners. Many outstanding, profitable gallery opportunities are always accessible; thus, I advise that each one needs a particular appraisal. Giovanni wants to develop his artistic brand and career path, where he controls his professional opportunities rather than galleries.  

Many artists believe this self-driven method might help them reach and grow niche audiences. Giovanni asked my opinion on his remarks. I trust that my response is helpful and valuable. 

My Advice: Do Both!

I love and champion the idea of growing a niche audience for artists. It’s alchemy for them. Tapping into and developing targeted audiences through social media is quick and affordable. The same goes for galleries, art publishers, licensors, and other third-party distribution channels.

Find and focus on the resources that will work best for you and mine them to build your tribe—your core audience. Many fine artists can make a comfortable living from a small group of loyal buyers and patrons. Use your tools to build your list and prioritize making intentional connections. You know or can figure out who can help you. Then, be intentional about reaching, influencing, and connecting with them.

The Importance of Adaptation 

Social media usually returns what you give. Increases in well-thought-out intentions and activity with genuine interest can lead the app to generate more targeted, desirable buyer interactions.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy

 

 

Change is constant; we have no choice but to react. But you can choose how you react. If you notice app changes and respond correctly, you’ll stay in sync and achieve your goals—out-of-sync, and your results suffer. Evolution always requires adaptation or extinction.

Increased video content on social media has changed Facebook and Instagram user behavior patterns. In reaction, the app’s algorithms prioritized video material to match user interest and increase stickiness.   

And so you can see that demand for video from platforms and users is rising due to its appeal and ease of consumption. That is only one of the numerous modifications platforms make based on analyzing thousands of individual data points measured by the actions of billions of users. How you react to such changes, especially in prominent examples such as video usage, will affect your marketing results.

Advertising Works

Remember that social media platforms thrive on advertising, which means they are invested in your success as their advertiser. If you want the most control and profitable outcomes, learn to use the ad platforms as expertly as possible and as necessary.

Regarding pricing and targeting, social media advertising is the most effective and affordable method ever created for small businesses to reach and influence an audience—provided they commit to learning and are patient with testing to get their desired results. 

Handling Changes Gracefully 

Apps are “sticky” because they don’t want you to leave, so Stephen Shore complains about losing time, but doesn’t that prove it’s working? Shore found it as easy for creators as users to overuse the app. There is irony in his quitting because the app works too well, creating a contradiction. It echoes Yogi Berra’s saying, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”  

I’m sure there’s more to Shore’s rationale for bailing on Instagram, but I believe it’s a mistake.

Complacency or resistance can hurt your outcomes with any evolving digital marketing platform or instrument, now more than ever. Accepting inevitable change is a hard pill to swallow sometimes. It’s not unlike the premise of the perennial self-help bestseller, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

If you want a better outcome from social media marketing, you can and must react differently to your disappointment with the inevitable changes that occur on social media.

Relying Too Much on Any One Platform   

Artists can still develop profitable social media tribes. However, depending on organic promotion alone and expecting constant results is a big mistake for aspiring artists.  

Despite my lack of interactive participation in organic social media marketing on Facebook and Instagram, my advertisements work well. I prefer paying to play (a more pleasant method of tapping social media opportunities) to feeling obligated to interact with my viewers constantly.  

Unless your chosen platform is damaged and useless, I suggest you learn to adapt to keep your momentum if your results diminish. Starting anew is complex and can hurt a business. There are no safe bets, so staying with the devil you know is often the best option. Maintain what you have while researching new distribution avenues. Why burn your bridges?  

The Challenges of Galleries 

Online and physical gallery relationships are complicated and often fail to exceed well-executed social media marketing success. If the correct connections exist, galleries can be creative and professionally rewarding. However, they can also waste time and money or be nightmares. It’s a mixed bag and careful optimism is advised.

Like most other distribution channels, galleries rarely provide visual artists with a complete marketing solution. You will still need to spread your marketing around.

Whether it’s social media or galleries, you’re still farming on someone else’s soil. That means you don’t own your contacts. And you can lose everything without recourse. You can’t export your social media list because you don’t own the contact information for Instagram followers. However, I understand that sometimes problematic decisions are needed to improve the future, even at the expense of losing a large audience.

A Lesson from Taking Control of My Career 

I was making bank by selling expensive art marketing courses at one point. However, since I couldn’t forecast results, I stopped guaranteeing them and then went further and stopped selling them because they didn’t fulfill my expectations of student results.

That decision cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue that was still there for the taking. Selling my courses was scalable and profitable if I were only willing to use persistent, persuasive marketing techniques to keep the wheels turning by selling to marginal prospects.

Ultimately, I wasn’t inclined to do marketing that way or be that guy. Life’s too short. By making this difficult decision to change, I was living a quote I made for artists years ago. 

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  

Because I was reluctant to lose that revenue and potential earnings, I tried to keep going for a while. But eventually, I saw the light and hit pause. As a result, I became less affluent but much happier. 

My decision to leave my profitable marketing machine to find life and business satisfaction was personal. I assume most artists choose similarly. That is, they trade less marketing for fewer sales because their goals for their art business are not world dominance. We think we want the results of a well-oiled marketing machine, but we are often unwilling or unable to make sacrifices and perform the necessary tasks to build them and keep them running efficiently.

Giovanni, leaving Instagram and social media may be your best decision now. It’s worth noting that such decisions, marketing plans, and business models that meet your goals are neither good nor bad. It’s all about what works for you as a human and an artist, which means the opinion of others should not influence your choices.

Finding Your “Happy Zone

You can figure out what you want and can realistically achieve, then make your best plan to make it happen. That’s how you get to your “Happy Zone,” which is as unique as your fingerprint.   

It takes self-awareness to recognize that zone and realize when you’re in it. Success requires a candid assessment of yourself and what you want from your efforts to create your art. Such knowledge and personal insight are a gift to yourself and your well-being. Use them to fuel your pragmatic ambitions and make realistic plans for your life and business.  

Exploring Local and Warm Marketing 

I’m agnostic and support using whatever channels help you market your work. However, if you ask, I will propose local and warm marketing techniques since they offer sales opportunities without the internet or traditional marketing and advertising, which I love, as you’ll see below. Typically, your most accessible sales happen close to home to people you or people they know.

Local and warm marketing methods are nearly always worthwhile but underdeveloped. They can even work without a website, but I nevertheless encourage one. 

The Value of Email Lists 

I prefer email marketing as the primary vehicle for driving sales over social media and galleries because it has fewer downsides. Affordableness and, most crucially, ownership are the primary benefits of email marketing for artists. You own your subscriber contact information exclusively and, as such, have complete control over your list and messages. 

Email marketing helps you design and market your art without relying on third-party distribution channels, although they are excellent supporting systems. Artists may manage their careers by communicating with a highly focused audience controlled for their benefit through a growing, engaged email list. 

Introducing the Artist Advocate Project   

Giovanni, I’m glad you’re enrolled in the “Conversation Sparkers for Artists” course. You’re working with concepts and suggestions to improve your communication skills.   

In line with your concerns, I have three more similarly sized and intentioned email courses in the works as part of my Artist Advocate Project—a growing collection of affordable tools and courses for artists. I created them to fill a void in highly effective, elemental marketing techniques and plans I see artists failing to use.  

The Artist Advocate Project 

To help cultivate these essential marketing skills and mindsets, I have launched the Artist Advocate Project, an affordable collection of courses covering fundamental techniques. The courses have logic and flow that operate on a continuum. Learn and apply one set of skills and insights for the next course. 

You may notice I’m developing the courses out of sequence because, like many of you, I’m an artist who doesn’t always color in the lines. Ideas and concepts don’t come in linear form for me.

The courses linked below have been published and are ready for you to get started. Announcements about the others are coming soon.

  1. How to Know What You Want: Using deep introspection to clarify your artistic goals and what you can realistically achieve. 
  2. The Wisdom of Making Intentional Connections: Identifying and intentionally connecting with specific individuals likely to support your work, whether as buyers, champions, or career influencers. 
  3. Conversation Sparkers for Artists: Learning to articulate in your natural way of speaking as you engage in dialogue allows you to masterfully and deftly pivot conversations toward topics that favorably promote your artistic intentions.   
  4. Art Marketing Planner:  Using insights from the previous courses, you can now confidently learn how to develop an organized system of marketing art on your terms. 

The skills artists acquire in the courses apply to novice and experienced marketers and extend into every aspect of an artist’s life. Knowing what you want to say, how you will say it, and to whom and why will powerfully and positively impact all your interactions. That’s a potent tool set I want to give to artists.

Conclusion: Embracing Growth and Change 

Giovanni, thank you for your profound views and worries concerning artists’ evolving social media and art marketing issues. Your perspectives are valuable, and I appreciate this exchange. 

Artistic success is difficult, but being adaptable, curious, and committed to your idea is essential. Use the tools and platforms you like, and learn to use them well. Diversify your techniques, build genuine relationships with your audience, and keep discovering what makes you happy as an artist. 

Remember, the art world is vast in styles, techniques, and opportunities, which makes your solution unique. Explore, learn, and be open to new ideas. Despite the meandering path less traveled, keeping your enthusiasm and a growth mentality will lead to a rewarding and sustained creative career. 

I wish you the best in your life and business as a fine artist.  

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Tags

art marketing strategies, artist advocate project, email marketing for artists, local marketing


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