In the old days, many artists would argue that the best way to find art collectors is by meeting them in person. However, now people are selling work more and more without ever seeing their buyers. In fact, they sell their work without so much as leaving their house. That is the power of the internet.
So, what is happening on the internet to connect artists to collectors, and how can more of us get a taste of the action?
Some artists make the mistake of thinking that having a website is the only key to online sales. However, we at Agora Gallery have always been adamant about using social media to drive traffic to artist websites. In this article, we will look at how you can use social media to sell artwork and find art collectors, starting with how to decide which social media platform is best for you.
What Social Media Sites Are Best For Promoting Art?
When you’re just starting out, it’s important not to spread yourself too thin. Concentrate your energy on the sites that will get you the right audience. There are many social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr., LinkedIn – just to name a few), but you should only focus on 1-2 of these when you’re getting started.
The ABCs of Social Media Sites
When picking which social media platform you’ll be promoting your work on, consider three things: audience (who is using the site?), behavior (does the site allow you to interact easily with your audience?), and content (what kind of things are typically shared on this site?).
Just as every artist has their own style, their works also attract different audiences. Your audience may use Instagram more often, while another artist attracts the sort of people who use Pinterest. First, you’ll need to know your market, then you’ll want to know the main users of the social media platforms. You can learn what kind of audience you have by showing your work in more public spaces and seeing who reacts more strongly to it, or by looking into the audiences for similar artists.
Important: While young adults are still the largest group to use social media, other generations are catching up very quickly. According to Pew Research Center, over 35% of adults 65 and older are using social media, compared with only 2% in 2005.
As an artist, you’re looking for several things when choosing a platform. You want to pick a social media site that allows you to share images easily. You want a platform where it’s easy to communicate with the viewers of your work, and one where you can link back to your personal website.
Whatever social media platform you choose, it should be a place where it is common to share artwork. If you are the first person to start selling art in a new marketplace, you do have the element of originality, but how many collectors will be there to see it? You want to be sure that this is a place where collectors are actively looking to find art.
What else did you consider when picking a platform for your artist page? Let us know in the comments!
Now that you know your ABCs, let’s look at the different social media platforms. Here is a breakdown of the most popular sites in the U.S.:
Possibly the most popular site with 1.44 billion monthly active users, Facebook allows people to share text, photos, videos, and external links. Facebook is a very engaging platform, encouraging comments and reactions to posts. There are also communities on Facebook in which users can collaborate and share specific, moderated content.
A great image-sharing tool, Instagram has recently allowed users to upload photos that break away from the restrictive square-only format. Obviously, due to its visual-intensive nature, Instagram is a wonderful platform to upload your artwork and get immediate feedback from the global Instagram community.
With 305 million monthly active users, Twitter is most often used for text-only updates (though users do occasionally post images, videos, and links). Each post is a maximum of 140 characters. Though the audience is mostly younger and international, Twitter is not very popular for fine artists or collectors.
LinkedIn is far more business-oriented than any other social media sites. Due to its professional nature, you may find some art collectors here, but the content typically shared is about industry news – not artwork. Soliciting your artwork on LinkedIn would likely be frowned upon by serious collectors, though you can use LinkedIn to join communities for artists where you can learn about resources and events in the fine art ‘industry.’
Google attempted to break into the social media world, but it was difficult to do with so many established giants. With an estimated user base of just 5 to 6 million, Google+ is a smaller network, but its users are very loyal to the network. Another good reason to use Google+ is for Google search and SEO of your Artist Website.
Originally more of a personal communication app, Snapchat is a social media app in which you can send pictures to specific recipients. However, those photos are deleted permanently after a few moments. The market is much younger, on average, than most others. While a fun app to share images with, Snapchat is not ideal for selling artwork.
A very versatile platform, Tumblr. allows users to highly customize their pages, to which they can post anything from text to images to short videos. Tumblr. has a strong ‘community’ feel, encouraging a lot of engagement with audiences. However, be aware that this growing platform is still very small, and the audience is much younger than others’.
The audience for Pinterest seems like a perfect place to find collectors, as its users are designers, DIY-enthusiasts, and home decorators. However, Pinterest is not a very “social” social network – there is not much commenting or interaction between users, meaning your fans may never get in touch with you about the artwork they like.
Though there are many social media sites out there, especially location-specific ones like Asian sites Renren and Sina Welbo, these sites are the ones you’ll most need to know about.
Unless you have a strong reason to suspect one of these websites will have particular advantage for you, the two best websites for artists to start promoting their work to collectors are Facebook and Instagram.
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Using Instagram and Facebook to Find Art Collectors
When it comes to showing your artwork online, you can’t expect most of your audience to be interested in buying art. For every thousand or so views you get, only a few will be from serious collectors, and even they may not be in the market for new work at that moment. When using social media to find collectors, the first step is to brace yourself for this cold truth: on the internet, views rarely equal sales.
However, it isn’t all bleak. The upside of internet promotion is that when you get more traffic, more engagement, and more followers, you increase the chances that your work will receive press coverage and will reach collectors. This requires patience and an active online presence, but the rewards are great and art collectors will come!
A 2015 article in Artsy reported that over half of surveyed collectors on Instagram had recently bought artwork from artists they originally discovered on that platform. So, you just have to be active online, build a strong presence, and get your artwork seen by these collectors!
So – how do you get collectors to see your artwork on social media?
1. Simple Promotion
Just by getting your artwork “out there,” you’re increasing your chances of coming across your next art collector. Even if you don’t find collectors, but are just expanding your audience, the word of mouth factor can always lead to new connections, so just by doing a little self-promotion on these sites can be invaluable in finding the next collector.
Essential: Keep your pages updated with regular posts. Sharing artwork images, event news, or other updates brings in new fans (or “followers”) and keeps your current audience engaged. Even if you haven’t created new artwork recently, you can post about upcoming exhibitions, fairs, and shows, “brag” about awards you’ve received, or share updates about artwork sales.
2. Smart hashtagging
On Facebook, hashtags aren’t very popular, but they can be very helpful on Instagram. A hashtag is a unique term with no spaces immediately following the # symbol (like #art or #AgoraGallery). By using relevant and popular hashtags on Instagram, you can make sure your work is reaching people who are interested in that specific term. Use a few per post and you’ll notice the change immediately.
For more on hashtags for artists, check out: How To Use Hashtags To Promote Your Art.
3. Join Communities
While Instagram doesn’t have communities, Facebook has many great groups that you can join to share your work, see the work of others, and make new connections. A little research goes a long way; spend a few minutes researching art collectors and art lovers on Facebook and you will find several public and private groups that you can join.
4. Paid Ads
Facebook has many advertising options for businesses (and when you’re selling your artwork, you are a business) and the possibilities are limitless. You can use Facebook’s ad platform to experiment with different audiences to find the perfect one for you. You can target people by location, sex, age, and even more importantly, by their interests. Your ads won’t always result in sales, especially when you’re first starting out, but luckily most Facebook ad campaigns can be purchased for just a few dollars and the more you learn the better you get. One thing is for sure – your audience will grow, and fast.
5. Build Relationships with Influencers
You can look at the followers of similar artists to yourself on both Instagram and Facebook. Look at who is commenting on their posts. A good way of connecting with these collectors and fans is to ask the artist if they’d share one of your pieces on their page (crediting you and linking back to your page, of course). Offer to post their work on your page, too, to make it a fair exchange. This method is not new; many artists with large audiences have gained hundreds and thousands of fans by having a relationship with influential people on social media.
Do you have a tried-and-true method that you’d like to share? Or, on the flip side, a method that didn’t work for you at all?
Using social media to convert followers to art collectors.
Remember – not everyone who shares images of artwork online is selling the work – in fact, most people are usually sharing other people’s artwork. Whether you mention your prices or simply write “Available for sale,” you’re both claiming authorship of the piece and reminding viewers that they can own it.
Make buying easy
Facebook has a “shop now” button for pages that you can use to link to your website. Whenever you post new art, you should post a link to where they can buy the work with a clear description: “Buy this work here […]”
On Instagram, you cannot include clickable links in individual posts, but as long as you have a link to your website on your profile, you can mention in the description that your works are all available for sale on your personal site.
“Engaging” doesn’t just mean interesting, it also means that people are interacting with it. Ask your fans questions or for an opinion on your latest piece. Encourage them to tag friends in the comments. Then respond to their comments. When your followers feel like they are part of the conversation, they are more likely to feel personally invested in your posts and your life.
Both Facebook and Instagram have direct messaging available, and this is a great way to get one-on-one with your collectors. Many people don’t want to do their business in “public” and the comment section of one of your photo uploads is a very public venue.
After 2-3 comments back and forth, move the conversation to a direct message. This way, you can follow up if the conversation dies, and you can continue the conversation with art updates after a few weeks. Just don’t be too persistent or you’ll annoy them and scare them off.
Keep your page professional
Collectors may originally get ‘hooked’ by one artwork, but you can guarantee that they will browse your whole page before they make any decisions about buying. If the rest of your page is about unrelated images, if there are many unprofessional typos or low-quality images, you might be missing out on a big sale. Keep all of your posts clean and attractive, and the same goes for your website.
Agora Gallery has invested lots of time and resources in helping artists learn how to promote themselves on Social Media. If you have any specific questions about this or about any question regarding art promotion, let us know in the comments or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
Looking to develop your artistic career and build a presence in New York City and worldwide? Book an online career development consultation meeting today.
Do you follow any amazing artists on Instagram or Facebook? Share their accounts with us in the comments!