Facebook and Social Networking for Artists

Courtesy of ArtBusiness.com

As the Internet continues to evolve and play an ever more central role in our lives, social networking websites, Facebook in particular, are rapidly becoming the single most effective 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 reach the people you want to reach and get to 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 with minimum inconvenience or irritation to others…

DO’S:
* 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.

* 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, then more you give the impression that you’re not really that interested in communicating all that much with people outside of your circle. Point of information– if you’re willing give them a chance, people you don’t know can often go on to become some of your greatest fans.

* For easy cross-posting and cross-referencing, make sure that your name and username are identical on all social networking sites that you use. And the best name to use is the one you sign your art with, the one who people know you by. If you use aliases 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 understand who you are, what you’re like, what your 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. Update regularly– at least several times per week– and make people want to return to your page again and again for every 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 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, gain insight from, relate to, share related experiences about or participate in, comment on, or respond to.

* 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.” 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.

* 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. When people comment on or “share” your posts, those comments appear in their friends’ news feeds. 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” you. 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. You never want to give the impression that the only reason you’re contacting or communicating with someone is to 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. 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 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 feel that you must get personal, 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 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 contact or engage with you personally.
* 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. 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 your efforts. The purpose of Facebook is to initiate and hopefully establish mutually beneficial relationships.

* Whenever 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, PREFERABLY ON YOUR WEBSITE. Images of your art may look great in full size, but if you can’t get people to click over to view them in their full glory, then what good are they?

* Whenever you post an image of your art, say something about it. Briefly introduce it. This is essential especially for people who are seeing it for the first time. Provide enough background information or explanatory so that people who like how it looks, but who may not be familiar with you or your art, will have a better understanding of what it represents and who you are as an artist. Descriptions or comments always deepen people’s experiences of your art. One to three sentences will do it in most cases.

Read the rest of this article for the DONT’S of Facebook & social networking for Artists! http://www.artbusiness.com/facebook-tips-help-protocol-etiquette-and-instructions-for-artists.html.