Facebook and Social Networking for Artists
Social networking websites, Facebook in particular, can be great ways to spread the word about your art. As with any communication model, though, you have to know how to use it in order to get where you want to go. Facebook is no panacea and just because you sign on doesn't automatically mean your art world profile is destined for success. The following list of do's, don'ts, recommendations and suggestions is designed to help you accomplish your art-related goals with maximal benefits to you and minimum irritation to others...
* Treat other people as you would in real life. Just because you can't see them and they can't see you is no reason to conduct yourself in a manner other than how you would conduct yourself if you were speaking to them in person.
* Update regularly. Very few people will return to a page that's updated once a month or less. If they return at all, guess how often they'll return? About as often as you update... if that.
* Decide why you're on Facebook and focus on that. What do you want people to know about you and your art? Why are you here? What are your goals and expectations? The better you understand and maintain focus on your motivations and intentions, the better others will understand them as well.
* Decide how public or private you want to be. If you are on Facebook for public reasons, especially to advance the cause of your art, then make your profile and postings as public as you feel comfortable doing. The more private you make yourself and the less accessible you are, the more difficulty people will have trying to communicate with you. Plus if everything's private, then you give the impression that you don't want to communicate anyway.
* For easy cross-posting and cross-referencing, make sure that your username is identical on all social networking sites that you use. And the best name to use is the one you sign your art with.
* Be consistent in the content of your postings. Unified posts on similar topics or with similar purposes make it easier for people to understand who you are and where you're coming from.
* Make it interesting. Develop a story line or a theme or a plotline or a position or an opinion or whatever; make people want to return repeatedly to your page for the next exciting episode. Facebook is kind of like a blog in real time-- and an interactive one at that. The possibilities to actively involve others in your drama are limitless.
* Give people a good reason to visit (and revisit) your page. Offer something; tangible or intangible makes no difference... as long as it's something. For example, talk candidly about your art or your day-to-day life as an artist-- your challenges, triumphs, inspirations, perspectives, and more. Make it more than simply about you. Make it something that others can be part of, learn from, gain insight from, relate to, share or participate in, comment on, or respond to.
* If you want people to see your art, give them a good reason. A good reason is more than "look at my art." A good reason includes the viewer and at least intimates some benefit for them. Post about your time in the studio, sourcing ideas, the progress of particular works, your process, your goals, the purpose of your art, your broader mission as an artist, and so on.
* If you want particular gallery owners, dealers or anyone else in the art community to look at your art or your website, or you want to know whether they can help you in any way or even give you a show, make sure IN ADVANCE that they're involved in some way with art that's similar to yours, and represent or assist artists whose credentials or career experiences are comparable to yours. Because you're an artist and they're a gallery is NOT an adequate reason to make contact.
* Participate in other people's postings, especially those who you'd like to know better. The best way to show people you care is to contribute or respond to their postings. Being generous and taking the time to focus on others is appreciated as much on Facebook as it is anywhere else.
* Get to know people gradually-- just like in real life. Friendships evolve over time. Respond to their posts, "like" their posts, "like" their art and maybe-- very occasionally at first-- send them a short supportive or complimentary email.
* If you're looking for feedback or input about your art, offer feedback or input on the work of other artists or art people who you respect or appreciate-- assuming their posts invite those kinds of responses.
* Use chat functions sparingly, especially with people you hardly know or don't know at all. If you must, then have a really good reason for starting a conversation, and ask first whether the other person is busy or whether they have a moment to speak with you... before getting into your agenda. Initiating a Facebook chat is no different than walking up to someone at an art opening or anywhere else and starting a conversation.
* Think about who you want to friend and why. If someone you want to friend doesn't know you, briefly explain why you are friending them. This is especially important if most or all of your personal information is private and the person you're friending doesn't know who you are.
* Review a potential friend's publicly available information on Facebook AND elsewhere before friending them. That way, you'll be better able to explain yourself in case they ask who you are. Better yet, explain yourself in advance. Nothing complicated is necessary here; a well-worded sentence or two will do just fine.
* If someone requests your friendship, review their available information on Facebook AND elsewhere before friending them. If you're not sure why they are friending you, ask. Make sure that you have at least some form of connection or commonality with everyone who asks to be your friend-- especially with respect to your art. The purpose of Facebook is not to pile up friends for no reason other than to have piles of friends. All that does is distract you from your efforts. The purpose of Facebook is to initiate and hopefully establish mutually beneficial relationships.
* When you post images of your art to your page, choose examples with thumbnails that resolve clearly and entice people to want to click over to the full-sized images. Images of your art may look great in full size, but if you can't get people to click over to view them, then what good are they?
* Caption all images of your art. This is essential-- especially for people who are viewing it for the first time. Provide enough background information or explanatory about it so that people who are not that familiar with you or your art will have a better understanding of your work and a sense of who you are as an artist. One to three sentences will be adequate in most cases.
* If you don't do it in real life, don't do it on Facebook. As impersonal as Facebook might seem sometimes, your actions effect real people with real feelings.
* Whatever you do, DON'T ASK PEOPLE FOR MONEY-- especially people you don't even know!
* Don't post only about yourself. Boring. Bring others into the conversation. There's much much more to life than you, plus the fact that people prefer to visit pages where they can dialogue with others, get informed, share information, learn interesting things, be exposed to different ways of living and thinking, and so on.
* There's no need to call your page "X Artist" or "X Fine Art" or "Art by X." That's being redundant. What's important is to format your page in a way that makes it instantly obvious to anyone who visits that they're on the page of an artist.
* Don't tag someone unless what you're tagging is a photo of that person (or a photo they took), or a post or link or thread that they're likely to be interested in. For example, do not tag self-promotions, show announcements or images of your art with the names of people you want to see it. That's super irritating, plus now they'll have to waste time untagging it (and maybe unfriending you as well). Tag images of your art with people's names when it's portraits of them-- and that's it.
* If most or all of your information is private, don't friend strangers without first introducing yourself or explaining who you are or the nature of your request. If people have no idea who you are and can't find out anything from your page, then what reason do they have to friend you?
* Don't spam or send mass emails or messages. If you're sending an announcement or invitation or request to more than one person, make sure the reason you're sending it has something to do with them. "Look at me" or "Look at my art" are not good reasons. If you're having an event, make an event page and invite friends that way. And absolutely don't use apps to spam friends on your behalf.
* If you make an event page, do not post repeatedly on it. Posting over and over again is really irritating for all of us who either can't come or have no interest. Even we who are coming are likely to get tired of post after post after post. Those of us who can no longer endure your barrage are forced to remove your page from our calendars. We know you're having an event; thank you for inviting us. Now that we've been invited, remind us maybe once or twice between now and whenever it's happening. That's more than enough... and best of all, it keeps us on your good side.
* Don't add people to a group you're either starting or already belong to unless you ask their permission first. If they don't want to be in the group, they're forced to go to the group's page and leave.
* Don't ask people you don't know for free stuff-- merchandise, favors, advice, services or whatever. Either have a good reason for asking them (one that they can understand and appreciate), cultivate a relationship with them first, ask whether they mind if you make a request, etc.
* Don't use "Facebook Questions" to ask your friends questions en masse. This is too impersonal a way to start a conversation-- especially if you're asking for feedback about your art or for other types of personal opinions. If you have a question for someone, ask it more personally-- like in an email, or if you know them, in a chat. Or if you do use "Facebook Questions," first explain why you're asking your question... and then ask it.
* Don't post video after video of your favorite music or other non-art related topics unless they directly apply to either you as an artist or to the type of art that you make. Are you in this for art or are you in this for music or whatever? Make up your mind. Plus, supposing someone likes your art, but hates your music? Now you're screwed.
* Don't post on someone's wall unless that post has something to do with that person, that person's interests, something to do with a particular post on their page, or something you know they or their friends will be interested in seeing. If it's all about you and has nothing to do with them, save it for later when you know them better and they'll understand what you're up to.
* Don't post your response to a discussion thread separately on the wall of the person whose thread it is. Post it in the thread. Posting outside the thread just makes you look like you're more interested in calling attention to yourself than you are in contributing to the thread. Plus, those participating in the thread will not see your post.
* Don't use other people's discussion threads to promote yourself or your art-- unless those threads closely relate in some way to your art, or your comment or promotion relates in a direct and significant way to the post.
* Don't post unflattering photos, unrelated links or photos, or inappropriate links and comments on other people's pages.
* Don't initiate chats with people you don't know-- especially if your only reason is for them to look at your art, come to your show, go to your website, answer questions, or respond to other requests. If you want to chat with someone you don't know, email them first and ask whether it's OK.
* Don't send app or game requests to friends who don't use those or other apps or games. Visit their pages first to see whether they use any now, and assess how likely they might be to accept an invitation to use the ones that you use. If acceptance looks unlikely, don't make the request.
* Don't clog your page with games and apps. People who might be interested in your art but aren't interested in apps or games are unlikely to waste time plowing through oceans of irrelevancies. Plus an overload of games and apps makes you look like your diddling your life away rather than focusing on your profession as an artist.
* Don't email people to ask what they think of your art or your website or whatever. Post these requests on your page and ask your questions there. That way, you give everyone the option of responding without pressuring them. Forcing people to look at or respond to your art is uncomfortable for them and counterproductive for you.
* Never mislead or misrepresent your intentions. For example, don't email someone a link to what looks like an article about social justice or the environment when it's really a request for them to look at a piece of your art that relates to those topics.
* Don't ask friends to do things for you unless they're actually your friends-- like in real life-- or you can explain the nature of your request in terms they can relate to and understand. Better yet, position your requests so that there's something in it for whomever you're asking.
* If you email someone to ask them for a favor and they email you back to decline, then send them an email thanking them for at least considering your request. Simply not responding because you didn't get what you wanted is really rude-- and makes you look really self-centered.
* Don't be a taker. Facebook is not a vehicle for you to try to sponge up as much free information, advice, favors, feedback and other perks for yourself and your art as possible. If you want to get somewhere, give first; ask later. The more you give, the more you get back in return. People are far more likely to respond positively to your requests once you've made yourself available to them in some sort of constructive capacity first.
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