Facebook and Social Media for Artists

As the Internet continues to evolve and play an increasingly significant role in our lives, social media platforms like Facebook have become among the most effective ways to get the word out about your art. As with any communication model though, you have to know how to use it in order to reach the people you want to reach and get to where you want to go. Facebook is no panacea and just because you have a page 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 maximum benefits to you and minimum inconvenience or 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? How do you intend to get your message across? 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. On the flip side, the more disjointed, confusing and unrelated your posts are, the fewer people will follow or friend you.

* 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 learning about you, trying to communicate with you, getting to know you and most importantly, seeing what you have to offer in terms of art. The more you make private, the more you give the impression that you're not really that interested in communicating with people outside of your circle. Point of information-- if you're willing to at least give everyone a chance, total strangers can often go on to become some of your best friends or biggest fans.

* For easy cross-posting and cross-referencing, make sure your name and username are identical on all social media platforms that you use. And the best name to use is the one you sign your art with, the one people know you by. If you use aliases, usernames or pseudonyms that are not general knowledge, you make yourself harder (and sometimes even impossible) to find.

* Be consistent in the content of your postings. Unified posts on similar topics or with similar purposes make it easier for people to follow what you're up to, and understand who you are, what you're like, what your artistic perspective is and where you're coming from.

* Make your posts interesting. Focus on narratives or story lines or themes or plot lines or questions or opinions or whatever aspects of your art life are the most significant or meaningful to you (and hopefully others as well). Update regularly-- at least several times per week-- and make people want to return to your page again and again for every new and exciting episode. Facebook is kind of like a realtime blog-- and an interactive one at that. The possibilities to actively involve others with your art and artistic life are limitless.

* Give people a good reason to visit (and revisit) your page. Offer something-- tangible or intangible, it 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, reflect on, gain insight from, relate to, share related experiences about or participate in, comment on, or respond to. Posts that encourage or invite dialogue are also the most likely to be noticed and shared by others.

* If you want people to see or comment on examples of your art, give them a good reason. A good reason has to be more than "look at my art" or "my latest art" or "my art in process" or "what do you think about my art?" A good reason includes the viewer, at least intimates some benefit for them, and most importantly, gives them opportunities to respond or participate in your thread. 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. The more people who can identify in some way with what you're doing or what you're going through, the more involved they're willing to get.

* No matter what you're posting about, present it in ways that encourage others to share their thoughts, feelings or experiences-- to comment, or better yet "share" rather than simply click the "like" button and move on to the next person's posts. When people comment on or "share" your posts, those comments appear in their friends' activity logs (for comments) or on their pages (for shares). In other words, people who don't know you will be exposed to your posts, and if they find them interesting, might check out your page. And if they like what they see, they might "friend" or contact you in some way. This is the Facebook "ripple effect" of expanding your circles of friends and contacts, and people's awareness of your art.

* If you want to contact or "friend" particular gallery owners, dealers or anyone else in the art community who you admire or respect-- to make them aware of your art or your website or to find out whether they can help you in any way or even give you a show-- make sure IN ADVANCE that they're involved 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 enough of a reason to make contact. And if or when you do make contact, give the relationship a chance to develop before making requests by liking or commenting on their posts. That way, they'll at least be aware of you if you do decide to contact them. You never want to give the impression right from the get-go that the only reason you're contacting or communicating with someone is to make personal requests or ask for favors.

* Participate in other people's posts or discussion threads, especially if they interest you or you'd like to know the poster better. The best way to show people you care is to comment or respond to their postings or get involved in their discussion threads. Being generous and taking the time to share your thoughts with others 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 people's posts, "like" their posts, "like" their art, "share" their posts, and maybe-- very occasionally at first-- send them a short supportive or complimentary personal message.

* If you're looking for feedback or input about your art, offer comments 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 feel like you must get personal, have a really good reason for starting a conversation, and message first to find out whether the other person is busy or whether they have a moment to speak with you... before getting into your agenda. Initiating a Facebook or other online 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 you want to friend someone who 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. Better yet, make as much of your page public as you feel comfortable doing. That way, people who don't know you can get a good sense of who you are and decide whether to friend, contact or engage with you personally.

* Review 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 you have at least something in common with everyone who asks to be your friend-- especially with respect to your art. You don't necessarily have to know them, but you do want to feel some sort of connection on some level. 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 whatever efforts you're making on behalf of your art. The purpose of Facebook is to initiate and hopefully establish mutually beneficial relationships.

* When you post images of your art to your page, organize them into albums of related works. That way, people can easily what kinds of art you make and go to the album or albums that interest them the most. One giant album with all of your art is NOT the way to go (too confusing, overwhelming, disjointed, labor-intensive, etc).

* When you post an image of your art, say something about it. Briefly introduce it. This is essential especially for people who don't know you or are seeing the work for the first time. Provide enough background information or explanatory for people who like how it looks to get a basic idea of what it represents and who you are as an artist. Descriptions or comments always deepen people's experiences of your art, and encourage them to comment back rather than simply click the "Like" button and move on. One to three sentences is more than adequate in most cases.

* If you have a website (which hopefully you do), occasionally use Facebook and other social media platforms to drive traffic to specific images, pages or galleries on your site. When you do this, always make sure you have something new for people to see. Driving traffic to a stagnant website that looks exactly the same every time people visit is not a good strategy.



* 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 in real ways.

* 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 new things, be exposed to different ways of living and thinking, and so on.

* There's no need to call your page "Bill Smith Artist" or "Mary Jones Fine Art" or "Art by John." That's being redundant. What's important is to use your real name, the one you sign your art with, and 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 in an image unless it's an actual image or text directly relating to that person (or a photo they took or post they made). That's super irritating, plus now they'll have to waste time untagging it (and maybe unfriending you as well). Tag an image of your art with someone's name if the art is a portrait of them-- and that's about it.

* Dont' tag someone in a post, link, comment or thread unless there is a specific reference to them or reason they should know about it. For example, do not tag self-promotions, show announcements or images of your art with the names of people you want to see it. See reasons above for why you shouldn't do this. If you want someone to know about your art or what you're up to, send them a private message instead-- but at all times, make sure you have a really good reason for doing so. If it's some version of, "Hi I'm an artist... look at my art," you'd be better off not messaging at all.

* 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 you are friending have no idea who you are and can't find out anything from your page, then what reason do they have to accept your request? If you're an artist, make as much (and preferably all) of your information public as possible. If one of reasons you're on Facebook is to expand your fan base, then make it easy for people to see your art and get to know who you are.

* Don't spam or send mass emails or messages to groups of people you don't know just because you want them to see your art. If you do send 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" or "Look at my upcoming art show" are not good reasons. If you're having an event, make an event page and invite friends that way. And NEVER use apps, marketing software or other devices to spam friends on your behalf.

* If you make an event page, do not post or message people 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 will be 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 or page you're either starting or already belong to unless you ask their permission first. Invite them instead. If they don't want to be in the group, they're forced to go to the group's page and leave, or worse yet, block anyone from adding you to the page in the future.

* Don't ask people you don't know to look at your art, go to your website, comment about your art or give you feedback unless you introduce yourself first, ask their permission, and provide some sort of explanation as to why you are contacting them. If there's no upside for them to respond other than to spend their valuable time looking at your art and then commenting on it, you're better off not messaging them in the first place.

* Don't ask people you don't know for free stuff-- merchandise, favors, advice, services, shows, to contact other people on your behalf, 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, talk about what's in it for them, etc.

* Don't use apps or marketing devices to message your friends 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 personal message, or if you know them, in a chat. Or first explain why you're asking your question... and then ask.

* Go easy on putting up post after post of your favorite music, food, your pets, third-party quizzes, politics, or other non-art related topics unless they directly apply to either you as an artist or to the type of art you make. Are you in this for art or are you in this for music and the kitty cat? Make up your mind. Plus, supposing someone likes your art, but hates your music or is allergic to dogs? Now you're screwed.

* Don't post on someone else's wall unless that post has something to do with that person, that person's interests, 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 or their friends, either message them personally, or save it for later when you know them better and will 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 link your Instagram feed directly to your Facebook page. They're two completely different platforms. Instead, share your Instagram posts selectively and invite your Facebook friends to follow you on Instagram. If they want to follow you, they'll follow you.

* Don't initiate chats with people you don't know-- especially if your only reason is for them to look at your art, talk about yourself, come to your show, go to your website, answer your questions, or make 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 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, apps or other non-art related information. People who might be interested in your art but aren't interested in the other stuff are unlikely to waste time plowing through oceans of irrelevancies. Plus an overload of games, apps or similar diversions makes you look like your diddling your life away rather than focusing on your art.

* Don't message 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 these kinds of messages is uncomfortable for them and counterproductive for you.

* Never mislead or misrepresent your intentions. For example, don't message someone a link to what looks like an article about social justice or the environment when it's really little more than a request for them to look at your art.

* Don't ask "friends" to do things for you unless they're really your friends-- like in real life. Only ask when you can explain the nature of your request in terms they can relate to, understand and appreciate. Better yet, position your requests so that there's also 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, 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 even more self-centered than you looked with you emailed them in the first place.

* 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 without giving anything back to others. If your purpose is to advance your agenda, 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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(art by Jun Kaneko)

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