Art Promotion: to Post or Not to Post

tower-of-babble-1296

 Tower of Babble collage, watercolor, 2011

Artist’s Guide to Punk Rock Promotion WPA, Dec 10, 2015

Sarah Massay & Faith Flanagan of Massay-media.com

I decided to attend this event because I had some recent dealings with an art consultant who wanted me to hire her to advise me to better exploit social media. Therefore, I was curious to learn what else there is to know about the topic.

I did not hire the consultant who bills at the rate of $75 an hour. The main reason I did not hire her is that her preliminary advice centered around things I am already doing, and she did not agree to do things that I thought could make a difference, partially because she has little previous contact with the artworld. She claimed to not have a “cookie-cutter” approach to meeting a client’s needs and can work with an artist at their current level and help them meet their goals. This proved to not be true and also ironic.

Since she had no gallery connections, I mistakenly thought that she would want to work with me to get better connected to this world which would be to her benefit.

This article is more than a recap of the evening’s discussion. Rather, it includes my musings about the efficacy and benefits of navigating through social media to build an audience for my artwork, that should, according to claims of many consultants, increase sales of my work and attendance at my shows.

I have made artwork about how tele-communication technology creates more distance between people; proof that I have been contemplating this subject for some time now.

tele-geo-1296                                                           Tele-Geo  collage and digital photo

The event started with everyone introducing themselves. The format was informal, lots of time for attendees’ comments. At first I did not understand why the presenters were allowing for so much audience participation. When they stated that since their approach is Punk Rock, this format appealed to them, it made more sense.

Fourteen people attended, including Jeremy and me. Which begs the question why so few? Do the other WPA members already have a solid social media strategy? Do they not care about this topic?

Sarah and Faith prepared the following questions for us, presented on paper so we could fill in our responses.

Questions:

What are your design/brand elements? For example: a signature colour, logo, verbiage or slogan.

 What sets you apart? What is uniquely you?

What social media are you using?

What is your current social media practice?

What can you do (capacity)?

What actions can you take now to increase your professional communications?

I realized, after a short time, that their suggestions were not new to me and I was wanting something that, as a well practiced user of Facebook and Twitter, would inform me and could take me to the next level. Perhaps this level does not exist.

The BIG question is how to convert Facebook likes and tweets to a larger attendance at an exhibition and to increased sales of your work. And the Other Big Question, is what advice is there for a seasoned practicioner of these networking tools.

I use Facebook to advertise an exhibition by making an event page to invite my contacts, near and far. One of the first times I did this it was confusing and disappointing because nearly 70 people commited to attending the event and only a handful actually showed up. By now, this has become the norm. Fellow Facebookers use this tool as a bookmark, to remind them of something they might attend. It is a type of slack- tavism.

Have we reached a point where the online hype for an exhibition exceeds the actual ex- perience of attending the event and is more significant?

I have a word press site and a Facebook page devoted to my artwork, which allows me to separate personal/social postings from my art practice. Currently, I have 662 Facebook friends and 133 of them follow the art page. Which begs the question, why can’t all my Facebook contacts “like” the page. (My scientist son pointed out to me that only 20% of my contacts “like” my Fine Art page.)

When one creates a page on Facebook to promote their art, the system automatically urges you to get 100 people to follow your page. After that, you have to remember to invite new contacts to “like” your page. It is a numbers game and the purpose is allusive.

I have 170 followers on twitter, while I follow nearly 600 accounts. While I clicked over to Twitter to confirm these stats, I was reminded to tweet an image related to #Paris Agreement. I have been tweeting images of my collages that are about alternative energy to the Paris Climate Conference for the past two weeks. Recently, RadioLab retweeted a link to my collage about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, in commemoration  of the 100th year anniversary of the publication of his famous theory.

If you follow the sage and well intentioned advice of consultants, you will be convinced (as I was when this was new to me) that a few minutes after posting, followers and their followers will flock to your website and then your email inbox will be flooded with requests for the purchase prices of your best work.

Massay suggested that we all friend artists on Facebook and follow them to see which openings they will attend and where they are showing. I agree that it is useful to find galleries this way, that might specialize in your type of artwork. But, I don’t understand the idea of artists always speaking to each other, and more often than should be the case, only speaking to each other at openings, rather than connecting with a deeper pocketed audience.

Her advice is to go to openings, be seen out and about, get to know curators. How many times do we see, on Facebook, that an artist friend is going to an opening? It may be on an evening we are committed to staying in and continuing to work in the studio, when we are confronted with the notion that we may be missing out by not attending. It may be that this friend also isn’t going.

Masay also suggested that we post images and news about our studio practice and process to to keep the conversation fresh, postings that are not related to an invitation to our next show. I wonder how effective this can be and I have done this with very little response. Is  there really interest in what we have to show or say? Once we post something it stays current  for five to ten minutes and then everyone is on to the next fresh status update.

Audience members agreed that some artists overshare their status to the point that we no longer pay attention.

Jeremy Flick commented that he follows other artists to track how they exploit social media. He also told us he sold more art through his Instagram posts, than any other medium.

One attendee told us he contacted all his friends and got his friend’s friend to support his entry in the Washingtonian’s “Best Artist” selection and he won, which reminded me of how the Baker Award was initially organized. I asked this guy if winning this category increased his sales or gallery shows and he skirted the question, so I can only guess that it did not.

So, my take away should be to start an Instagram account, right? How many platforms can I tend at any given moment?

I intended to interview Massay for this blog post, to ask her how she could advise a savvy user of social media, to take them to the next level,which has not yet happened.