One artist’s experience of social media

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What does it mean? Why do you think I should use it? I don’t want to put myself ‘out there’ (wherever there is)? No-one would be interested in what I do! I don’t have anything to say! How would it help me? I should be spending the time painting.  I don’t want to spend any more time on the computer than I already do!

Familiar?  I have spoken to a large number of artists who tell me this is how they feel. A little bit scared, a wee bit sceptical, a guilty feeling that they should be using Facebook & Twitter (dosed with  a healthy soupçon of not really being all that interested). Which is entirely understandable. Social media has arrived like a tsunami, coming from nowhere and taking over lives, changing the way in which the generations communicate and do business. Artists do need to take heed of this tidal wave of change and go with it. If we weren’t capable of moving with the times we’d all still be using quills and grinding our own pigment wouldn’t we? Together, we can do it and embrace the’social media’ beast… even enjoy it?

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So, what’s been my experience? I set up a Facebook Page for my newly formed art business back in 2009 and the number of ‘likes’ for it grew very slowly, initially through friends, family and colleagues then gradually spreading out through their friends and colleagues. The growth in my ‘likes’ accelerated when I took part in open studio events and art trails where visitors picked up my business card then looked me up on Facebook to see more of my work or, find out where I was exhibiting next. Founding and running Pop Up Galleries in a local shopping centre in 2012/13 helped grow the number of ‘likees‘ (real word? using it anyway). Gaining representation by a much-loved local gallery has certainly helped expand the numbers further but I also found out the real secret of success for a Facebook Page…..paying for growth! Ah ha, I should have guessed it. More about paying for Facebook advertising in a future blog. It’s not expensive and it really works.

During my ‘Facebook early years’, I found Twitter to be an almost total mystery. I had created a profile and occasionally logged on but I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand what people were posting, to who or why. There were slang terms and the use of symbols that I didn’t understand. It seemed to have an unwritten rulebook and that was #confusing.

I had a brief lesson from a friend and it clicked. The user interface had improved too which helped. I started to get a feel for those who used it well, the fact that it isn’t a selling tool but an information stream and a conversation in some instances. I now have just under a thousand followers and I follow approximately 800. On the gallery account that I manage, there are almost 2,500 followers. I’m suddenly tweeting like a bird.

So, that has been the journey but what has been my destination.Okay, there are clearly benefits from telling thousands of people what I do on a daily basis, sharing images of my latest paintings with them and informing them of future exhibition dates. I have grown awareness of my artist name & brand, built a reputation for being a productive and versatile painter, linked up with key people and organisations who can further help to promote my work. People tell me they are impressed by how busy I am, even when I’m not…shhhh, it’s an illusion in print and it’s effective.         ThumbFinal_3.25.15

Not to be undervalued is the amount of pleasure to be gained from participating.  I look forward to seeing what other artists are up to, where they are exhibiting, who they network with and what techniques they use to create their artwork. I have had some really fun exchanges with people in other parts of the country and abroad. We have built (somewhat faux perhaps) relationships which work for both of us. One major benefit to me is that this ‘social media’ network replaces the lovely team that I used to sit with at The Body Shop and the daily office banter that I miss. It stops me from feeling too solitary working alone.

I have sold work to customers who have been introduced to me only via social media, I have been offered new exhibitions spaces and I have been quoted in an article in the Times. All because of interactions on social media. When you think that this has cost me nothing except my time, it’s quite simply staggering.

I leave you with this thought; if you are still in doubt whether there is value to you as an artist, maker or gallery in using social media:     What would it have cost me to gain this amount of coverage in magazine adverts or paid for editorials? How many phone calls would I have had to make, how many uncomfortable cold calls to endure or fruitless introductory letters written? Could I have achieved all of that from the comfort of my own home?   See you on-line!      Lucy x

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