Social Media for Artists | Does It Pay?

Making social media for artists work for you.

Social media is just a marketing tool for artists.

Success is strictly about what you do with the tool rather than which tool you use. Nearly any social media program can deliver results when used properly. It is analogous to giving the same basic paints, brushes, and canvas to two artists. You know you will get you drastically different results. Not just in imagery, but in quality, too. As the saying goes, “Your mileage may vary.”

Everyone agrees, mastering and understanding how to use social media is tricky.

The problem for most artists and small businesses they do not know how to make social media pay off. Understandably, many see social media as confusing and challenging. It only gets worse when you factor in that the platforms keep changing the rules and everything else about using them.

Social media developers are still scrambling.

When one observes the constant evolution of social media programs, you can see the developers themselves also are searching for the right tool set mix, actions and manipulation to make their programs more successful. If they are struggling to improve their products, it makes the odds the average user can dial in a successful and effective operation somewhat iffy.

I don’t want to make this overview sound too pessimistic, or to prompt you to rush out and drop your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn accounts. I do want to encourage you to start evaluating what you are getting from working in social media. You have to measure your results. You just cannot otherwise know whether you are wasting your time or not.

How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks — learn to find and follow them here.

The best social media program is the one you are using − the one that works!

Artists regularly question which platform is the best for them. The answer is there is no single best for everyone. Because Facebook is the biggest, it comes the closest. However, its size and deep personal connections with its users can also create problems when you mix business with it. I think you can choose anyone of the major social media platforms and make it work for you.

Because Facebook is the place where so many of us share our personal lives, it is intriguing and compelling to use it. For that very reason, it can also be a gigantic time suck if you lack the discipline to limit your time there. On the other hand, because we all have so many contacts there, it makes marketing on Facebook most attractive.

Personally, I have tried numerous times to learn if paying to promote a Facebook post would work for pushing traffic to this blog. So far, it has not been worthwhile. When I have paid to promote a post to push the post so all my nearly 2,800 friends see it, I have chosen a post I believe offered extra value with useful information. What I have found is traffic to my blog does not get a measurable boost from posts I promote when the offer is a link to read a new post, even those with what I know offer enticing, substantial information.

You have to break through the clutter and distractions.

People are busy. They are distracted and are constantly multi-tasking. Providing tantalizing headlines to a blog post with valuable information is not enough to get their attention and prompt them to click through to get the information. For me, and I bet many others, the results do not make it worth paying to promote a post.

I wager most of you have had the same results as me if you have paid to promote a post. If you have promoted a post on Facebook or Twitter, would you kindly take a moment to comment here with your results? It would be very happy news to see some of you have had success with promoted posts, but also worthwhile to indicate if your results are negative.

How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks — learn to find and follow them here.

Promoted posts without a kick ass offer fall short.

It is proven in my case just having a promoted post with a weekly blog post as the enticement to click through is not enough. Further, my research shows those having success with promoted posts and paid Facebook advertising are using stronger bait. They are giving something away that most qualified prospects would pay to own.

What I often see working are offers for e-courses, free memberships for a specified period of time, free consulting, free software, or something else that has value and is powerful. To restate, what works is offering something free that your friends and followers would purchase readily. For artists, some suggestions are to offer notecards, free shipping within the U.S., digital download screensavers, substantial one-time discounts, and more. Put your most creative thinking cap on to come up with something you can offer.

I know some authors give their $24.99 retail book away for $.99 plus shipping. They see it as taping $5 bills (their wholesale cost) to the book and don’t mind because they know the effort brings them back qualified traffic. They understand they only need to convert a small number of the traffic to customers to make marketing this way a profitable venture for them.

Clicks start the process, success comes with effective follow-through.

Getting the traffic, which is someone clicking on an ad or a following to promoted post is just the first step. You need to have a plan with what happens next. That is, what actions or results do you want to occur? Here some typical expected outcomes:

  • Get likes for a business page?
  • Add names to your email list?
  • Sell your art direct from your Facebook page or store?
  • Sell your art to your email subscribers?
  • Get people to join a group or association?

Generally, trying to convert a click directly to a sale does not work. Your goal should probably be something else. (If you are able to make sales on the first click, you are in rare company.)

How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks — learn to find and follow them here.

While the above list includes common actions you might want from your advertising, you may have other reasons or similar, but customized ideas, for your social media marketing plans. Only you can know what that is.

You need a great landing page and compelling call to action.

It becomes apparent then that if you are spending time and money on social media, you need to know why you are doing it – meaning you have set sensible goals for what you want to achieve by using tactics related to social media for artists. You must have effective ways to measure the results you are getting.

You should have a designated landing page designed that is prepared just for visitors who click on your promoted post or advertising. It should explain the value of why your visitor came to the site. For instance, you might have a multi-part e-course on subjects you are comfortable teaching. These might be:

  • How to hang and care for art.
  • How and where to buy art.
  • An artalogue of art trips you have taken.
  • How to take an art vacation.
  • Mixing art and entertaining.
  • Best ways to enjoy visiting museums.

I think if you choose a subject as those suggested above, the clincher could be worked in by collaborating with a provider. A local picture framer might provide an art care sample kit with dust brushes, glass cleaner cloths and so forth. Galleries offering your art could provide free shipping, or a one-time discount. A travel company might provide a discount for a tour package based on your recommendations for taking an art vacation.

You get the idea here, find ways to create an offer too good to pass on by working with partners who would also want to access to the same prospective customers. You might decide to work together to share in the costs of purchasing advertising and promoted posts.

You have more to offer than the art you make. Believe it!

You can also choose to go it on your own without a marketing partner. The least expensive thing to distribute is information. You possess more useful information than you may realize. By in-depth researching and brainstorming, I believe most artists can come up with something valuable, but affordable they can use to make Facebook promoted posts and advertising pays off.

The potential here for ways you can unlock your specialized knowledge is vast. If you have the knowledge but are not comfortable preparing it, a virtual assistant, or ghostwriter can help you put something together.

Although recently announced it is merging with, you can still create a 20-page perfect bound four-color portfolio for about $5.00. Along with advertising and shipping charges, (Remember, you can offer something free, plus shipping.), your initial customer acquisition cost might run $7 or $8 per new subscriber.

Keep your marketing and prospect acquisition costs in perspective.

But, so what? By comparison, you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to prepare for, advertise and show at an art fair. When you look at how many new potential customers you come home with, your new prospect acquisition cost is likely to be the same or higher. You just need to keep what you are doing in perspective.

You may have to experiment with different offers until you find something that gets you the best return on your promotional and advertising dollars. If you can get email subscribers at an initial cost of $8 per name, that is probably profitable for you in the long run. Moreover, if you continue to refine your marketing, you assuredly can reduce the price to $5 or less, per name.

Done right. Social media advertising pays.

Let us say over the course of time you collect an additional 500 email subscribers. We will assume an average acquisition cost of $6.50 per name (Way less if you come up with a digital offering). We also will assume you have a regular ongoing blog, e-newsletter and Facebook page marketing to keep these subscribers interested in your work. If you are able to sell a typical 3% of your 500 new subscribers, you will make 15 sales.

If your 500 new subscribers cost you on the high end your cost is $3250 (500 x 6.5 =3250) to acquire them. Suppose you sell 3% of them (low end of average sales conversion for this type of marketing) a piece of art, the math to figure out at what point doing this becomes a profitable deal is easy.

For instance, if your net wholesale profit per piece is $400 (If so, you should be working hard to raise this substantially), you will be making money on your 9th sale. What’s really cool here is you are profitable and you have added 500 new prospects to keep offering new works from your studio. I am using conservative numbers here. There are all kinds of tweaks and scenarios where your profit from this kind of marketing is much greater.

Of course, the cost of your work and your profit margin will vary. Unless you are giving your work away at a loss, it seems almost impossible to make this a losing proposition. Moreover, there are strong odds that you will sell more than one piece of art to your buyers. Additionally, some will be stimulated enough to want to help you by referring you to other buyers, or influential people who can further your career. Add in the long tail effect of a growing collector base and your overall amortized cost of marketing this way drops substantially.

Developing a customer and gallery base is mission critical.

Essentially, what we are talking about here is finding and developing collectors with digital marketing, aka social media. There are a number of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest marketing gurus offering courses on how to accomplish what I have described above. Some of them are quite impressive and worth the hundreds of dollars they charge for their information.

The whole point of social media, networking, and other activities for artists revolves around a single concept. That is, discover and develop a growing base of collectors. If you make doing just that an integrated, regular part of your marketing activities, you cannot fail. To reiterate, make getting collectors job one and acting on it steadily and YOU CANNOT FAIL.

Use low-cost local, warm market networking to grow sales and fund online marketing.

The premise of my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Career book is built around developing collectors. It gives details and insights on how to start with your local warm market and network your way up to local and national exposure. It is much more about lower cost activities than what is mentioned above. In fact, I am confident you can use the tips and techniques in my book to help you grow your art sales to then use those profits to fund your social media marketing.

Goals, strategy, execution, and coordination are keys to your success.

I believe you need to use a variety of synchronized, coordinated marketing plans to get the maximum return for the time and money you invest in working at developing collectors, and galleries, too. You will find my book offers plenty of useful information on:

  • Set realistic goals based on your personal situation and available resources.
  • How to network to get the most from your growing base of collectors and contacts.
  • Make use of the online marketing tools best suited for your art career.
  • Put a coordinated strategic plan together that focuses all your marketing on your best prospects for success… and a whole lot more.

In the book, you will find I have pulled the most effective and efficient marketing strategies and plans together used by many of the top selling artists in the art business. To this, I have added my own considerable 30 years of marketing knowledge and experience.


How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks — learn to find and follow them here.


Facebook, Guerrilla Marketing for Artists, Marketing Tools, Social Media, Use Social Media

You may also like

  • I sell mainly through internet (>90%), most of that comes from Facebook where I have my personal account and a page. I am doing it now for 6 years so I noticed the changes in Facebook policies, I have also had paid ads which I would say didn’t really work, so my growth (number or friends and likes on my page) was mostly organic, but it took countless hours every day. I love art so I distribute a lot of art on my accounts, including twitter and pinterest (where I have 3.8k followers in over a year). I distribute my own art either as pictures or as links to my etsy store and people follow me and distribute further or I get a lot of likes and friends from a few very active art groups. What I noticed and then it was very well emphasised on your book (Guerrilla marketing) is that what works best on FB is creating a much more personal relationship then with other means. People love to see professionally made digital photos of paintings, but also love snapshots from the studio (as people rarely have a chance to see artist studios) and paintings with me, the artist and sometimes little details from my personal life (I think here it helps that I have a very cute 2.5 years old boy). They love to have a more close, a more personal relationship with the artist, as you mentioned. Sometimes it takes a few years, sometimes a few weeks, but people who watch me for a time and love my paintings, at one moment or another, say: ok, I want this painting, or these. The closest people from FB are also now on my monthly newsletter, which has the advantage, unlike Facebook where a picture is lost on the wall after a few days, that it remains in the inbox, and I see a lot of people reopening the emails times and times again.

    I also noticed something else: people following me, also love to see me participating in art events, shows, exhibitions as the sales seem to go up every time I post things about events where I am participating. It is an interesting effect, since most “resounding” art shows are very expensive (Bruxelles, Cannes, New York, Monaco this year) and usually the direct sales at the shows do not cover the expenses. But, every time an event like this happens I seem to get a lot more indirect sales, from the internet, as well as commissions from the people that follow me.

    So this would be how I do my work with social media, which really allowed me to have direct sales and people following me and buying from me. I also need to say that most of my customers are in the US (even Phoenix area) also have at least 4 of my paintings. I also work with some galleries, but nothing really good has happened there so far. I am looking to find a good gallery to help me with sales, but is seems that finding a good gallery is a trial and error, incredibly time consuming effort. Painters I love most needed a good 10 years before they found some very good galleries that now sell all of their work. I am working on that too 🙂

  • Thanks for this post, Barney. I run hot and cold with social media, but do receive evidence of people finding me and enrolling for my workshops. A magazine editor recently found my work on Pinterest and is doing a feature on my work in the fall.

  • Thanks Barney. A great overview and good questions to ponder. Follow-through and consistency seem be the key to online marketing. I wonder if you could write just about those two topics….? Is it in the artist’s nature to not be good at follow-through and consistency or does this haunt all of human kind? 🙂

    • These things trappings and failings are not unique to artists. It is made more difficult by the solitary nature of most art creation. Getting an accountability partner is a great way to have a check and balance on your career with things where one admittedly is weak, such as follow through and consistency.

  • Barney, what WP theme are you using for your blog? This is easy to read, etc. Thanks

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Subscribe & Get Instant Access to
    "How to Find Yourself in the Art Business."  

    Search This Site