Self Promoting Your Art

THE ART OF SELF PROMOTION

 

The art of self promotion from Beechhouse media
You can also follow M.A on Twitter @beechhouseart

You are a truly talented artist. That was the conversation I had just a few short weeks ago. The phone rang, who could it be? No one should be calling me at 11:30pm unless it is to tell me a celebrity died or it’s snowing. It was neither of those, it was an artist friend who had gone in to meltdown. Suddenly I of all people was more accessible than a therapist or a roll of bubble wrap.

My dear friend explained that for nearly twenty-five years that he had been an artist, who had in the early days sold many works, but came to realise that over this last few months something had gone wrong. He couldn’t pinpoint exactly what had happened, but he hadn’t sold anything for nine-months in total.

He produces some amazing art, if a little deep at times. You can’t help but stand and look at his artwork whenever you find yourself in front of it. In fact, he was an inspiration to me when I decided that I would start selling my own work. He encouraged me, acted as a mentor, and was always at the end of the phone, but only ever until 10pm each night. So this call seemed completely out of the ordinary.

We spent the first twenty-minutes talking very periodically between outbursts of him sobbing and him taking sips of gin. I had told him before never to drink gin, and certainly never when he was alone. It’s a little like putting petrol in a diesel car, you know at some point soon it is going to break down.

Occasionally it would go silent and I would ask if he was OK. As soon as I said this he would start weeping again. I gave up asking after the first three attempts, just like Pavlov’s dogs, I was learning not to ask.

No matter what I said in that first twenty-minutes, it made no difference. I couldn’t really ask him to call me back once he had gotten a grip, although it was a thought I had been considering for 19-minutes and 22-seconds. Initially I was thinking about having to get up and be on the way to the station at 04:30am, I knew I was going to look like hell in the morning.

He settled a little at the 21-minute mark, allowing me to at least get the words “you are a talented artist”, quickly followed by “stop, listen, I need you to do something for me, I need you to listen to me”. My voice was unusually commanding for such a late hour, I normally go to bed at 7pm if I have an early start.

“I have lost my Zen” came the reply, honestly I was starting to lose mine too. He explained that in nine months no one had purchased any of his art, and he knew that he had been trying perhaps too hard on making each piece a little more special than the last. He sent over a photo of a piece he had been working on for three months. He had lost his Zen, he had been trying too hard, and it was one of the most complex pieces I had ever seen from him, and not in a good way.

“Are they all like that?” I asked as he asked me what I thought. “No, just this one”, the others it appeared were normal. If I had been a trained psychologist I would have felt deeply concerned. He had been adding and adding and adding. Totally out of character for him because he favours very simple designs, usually depicting poignant issues of the time. The environment, the fragility of earth, but this one was akin to a Jackson Pollock on acid with a touch of Salvador Dali on meth. He had also favoured the colour black. There was lots of blackness. He was clearly in a deep state of whatever, it just wasn’t normal. His previous work was bright and not fussy at all.

“I don’t think it is your best”, I tentatively spoke in a calm voice. “But I am sure it means something”. In all honesty it was almost sinister and I was glad that he was on the phone and not stood next to me.

So what went wrong? We spoke for another fifteen or so minutes. It wasn’t what went wrong, it was more a case of when did it go wrong, and what happened? It seemed that my dear friend who despite never having a formal arts education, but still managing to be one of my favourite artists, had discovered social media. When I say that what I mean is he had discovered extreme social media posting as a competitor sport.

Relentless were his efforts at self-promotion. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, even Ello, and some other weird social media platforms that no one probably uses anymore. I think he had tried to even resurrect his My Space account, and his AOL web page in his quest to become the king of social media marketing.

He had posted on Facebook on average every 30-minutes. In between he would tweet. He frequently hit his tweet limit, and his Pinterest board displayed more of his art than there are photographs of mason jars on the web in general. I was stunned.

I think you need to slow down. Now I considered this as one would when attempting to treat an addiction. “You need less social media for a while, cut yourself off for a few weeks and work on some new art”, the response was as if I had asked him to fake his own death or cut up his credit cards, or asked him to stick a pin in his eyes.

I mentioned that just a few weeks ago I had written about the need to also have an offline strategy, it appears that exactly nine-months to the day was exactly the day he had discovered social media as a sales tool. Actually he had discovered it long before but rarely used it as a sales tool, he never over promoted his work, and it was a consistent few posts each day. Somewhere around normal in fact.

The issue we discovered was that with so many posts being made and being made repeatedly, it correlated with the time that his sales dipped. Everyone knows if you go missing for a few days on Facebook, your followers will immediately think you have been buried without inviting them to the wake, or they will send out a search party of cyber-sleuths to track you down. I didn’t post for almost three hours once and people left messages to see if I was still around. Having said that, a few people hadn’t realised I had gone.

THE ART OF GETTING IT RIGHT

 

If the plan doesn't work change the plan
If the plan doesn't work, change the plan!

 

Self-promotion either conjures an excitable enthusiasm or a deep-rooted repulsion. It is so important to promote, promote, promote, but as I have said before on more than one occasion, over-promotion is bad promotion. There's a balance and posting up to 300+ posts across different networks each day was to anyone, a little overkill.

The amount of times I visit a group page and see that the same member has listed their work at least fifteen to twenty consecutive times in as many minutes, is considerable. We have all seen them, a 24 inch picture of a red dot, followed in less than a minute with a 30 inch picture of the same red dot. Other sizes available would have much more impact and might encourage people to actually click through the link to see if their required size is available. Two minutes later we have the exact same image but this time it is recoloured in green, a minute later, another size is posted and the words “also available in red” appear. What then makes it worse is that you click the Like button and the original poster ignores you, never reciprocates, and never engages. I call this one-way traffic. Some people forget that there is a social aspect to social media.

I post whenever I upload new work, I then have a strategy to post the same work again a few days later, alternate between different social media networks, and generally try not to fill everyone’s news feed with “my latest artwork is available now” and “click on this, and buy it because it will be far more expensive after I die”. But I do try to not promote everything at the same time. I know it's hard sometimes because social media can take time, but I figured early on that I wouldn't like to see 300+ of my posts in a row.

I have around 30-digital works ready to upload, and equally I tend not to upload everything at once. Some of these works were produced over ten-years ago! This way I have a supply of art waiting in the wings that I can use when I am too busy, or when that particular artistic style is more fashionable. Plus it avoids having lengthy dry spells whenever I get creative brain-freeze.

I don’t think there is an exact formula for the perfect number of posts. Some say it is five a day, (or is that about eating fruit?), some say less, some say it doesn’t matter. I honestly have no idea anymore. But I do know that 334 posts in a single day as was the case with my dear artist friend, is way over the top. I counted them up and this was a mean average over a month. Imagine that. My 2 Cool 4 School cheap calculator couldn’t keep up, aside from the fact that the last digit doesn’t display too well. I really need a new real calculator. It is on the list.

As creative artists we are not necessarily marketing gurus. I have learnt marketing over many years and it is not my day job. For many, it is a case of figuring out what does and doesn’t work.

Set yourself a smart strategy
Setting yourself a smart strategy is well, smart!

 

Selling in the modern day is very different from selling in the 1970’s. Selling in the modern day is a gradual process. The internet has given people the tools to compare goods and prices and has opened up new markets, consequently many more people now sell many more things and people are able to carry out more due diligence around online shopping. Just as the internet makes things easy, it also makes selling a little harder.

Making people aware of new products and artworks is critical, but think about the impact that this could have. Would it not be better to build your brand and / or you, get people engaged, and then let them know that you have new products?

You see it is just as much about relationship building as it is for sales. Positive relationships build sales. Marketing has changed over the years, and certainly since I started my own business at the age of 14, some 32-years ago.

In the short-term you need to sell today. Longer-term is about building trust and relationships, taking baby-steps, and working from the ground up. What you ideally need to do is to build a legacy and not something that is not sustainable.

You also need an understanding of what you are trying to sell. That is why I remind people that their artist descriptions need to be very near to perfect. If you don’t understand what it is you are selling and especially online, you need to think of your art description as your online sales team. If you can convey your enthusiasm in the description you will be so far ahead of the many who simply write the following:

“Abstract painting, acrylic. Produced in 2015” Not too inspiring is it? Whereas something along the lines of:

“This beautiful abstract features deep reds and vibrant blues. Inspired by the works of XXXX, who first created this style of painting in the year XXXX. The artist [your name here] created this acrylic work on a 24x24x2 museum quality canvas”.

Or, as Tate have done on their website with the work from artist Georges Braque

Bottle and Fishes c.1910-2 – “Ordinary objects – a bottle and fishes on a plate, laid on a table with a drawer – have been dramatically fragmented to form a grid-like structure of interpenetrating planes. The traditional domestic subject matter and sober colours in this work can be seen as a reaction against the luminous hues and free expression of Braque’s earlier fauvist paintings”.

Of course it depends on your market, not everyone enjoys something as formal, but you could add in some of your own personality too. Either way is far better than “Abstract painting, acrylic. Produced in 2015” or as I have recently seen, “untitled – acrylic”.

THE SYSTEM

Eventually you will probably more by luck than anything else, stumble across a system of using social media that works for you. But initially you need to have a clear idea about what you are going to do in terms of promotion and how you are going to achieve it. Otherwise it all becomes a bit random.

You may have thousands of people signing up to your email list, but if you don’t know what to do with them, there really isn’t too much point in having a list. How would you like to engage with them? Will you send out offers, will you send out invites to your studio of live Facebook stream in a closed group, or will you constantly barrage the recipients with a sales pitch, or will you just keep their details until you feel like doing something eventually, maybe?

If it is the latter, then chances are you won’t ever do anything with the list and when you eventually decide to do something people will have forgotten you. How many times did you sign up for something online only to be barraged with offers of free e-books, or you never heard from them again? We have all been there at some point.

Creating a plan for promotion is key. Setting yourself easily achievable goals such as getting three or four new followers each week, and then engaging with them within two or three days after first engagement should be achievable for most people. The more you do it, the bigger your goals, and then one day you’ll get the hang of it.

If you don’t have any idea about why you are doing what you are doing, you will find the path to successful self-promotion to be fraught with issues. You need a system. This system needs to work around you, there is no point in having a system that takes so much time and effort and leaves no time to create, or eat, or sleep.

My recent posts have all been written around finding those people that we call customers. You know, apparently they have some money and they buy things. You then just need to know how to engage with those customer type people. If you're working through print on demand at the moment, there are a few of these humans about, but not too many. Keep going, it will get better.

As with my dear friend, overdoing this self-promotion can lead immediately to two major issues. Firstly you look desperate, and secondly you could end up having a meltdown when it all goes a bit south. You end up becoming burned out.

Before he deleted all of his posts I took a look through as I counted them. Everything was leading to self-destruction. At the start of his increased efforts he sounded enthusiastic. By month nine, he sounded just as he did when we spoke on the phone. This was evident on one social platform when he was literally begging for someone to actually acknowledge that they could see his posts. That day he had hit an all-time high or low with a grand total across three social media platforms of 643 posts in one day. He later told me he had been scheduling posts for three weeks. It was like a DDOS hack fest on social media. It is a wonder the internet survived. By the way, he also gave me permission to write about his woes because he came out of this stronger. It can only be called an addiction, and it helps to remind him that those were dark days.

He will be coming back to social media soon, but this time he has a plan. Realising that self-promotion is not actually all about self-promotion, the plan involves going back to being a mentor and helping people, posting something other than his own work, and bringing people to him and his brand.

THE CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

As I have also said before, your social media followers are your circle of influence. If you have five followers, then your market is limited to those five followers and whoever else they decide should see your work when they share it. If you have a hundred followers, this is the same. This is the totality of your circle of influence. If you expand the number then your circle of influence grows. Followers of followers move in to your circle of influence whenever something is shared. Think of social media sales as a pyramid scheme.

BE DIFFERENT

Standing out is not only noticeable but people will remember you too. Self-promotion is far broader than we think. We can self-promote without it being in your face pushy, but understanding that self-promotion doesn’t necessarily have to mean that absolutely everything you create has to be immediately posted or that you need to be constantly chasing the money. Self-promotion is about being engaging as well.

Promote other artists be nice and be kind
Be nice and be kind. Promote other artists too.

Be different from others who haven’t quite grasped the nuances of marketing, and remember that a gradual sale and a quick close is a much more sustainable strategy.

I think there is something else just as important as anything else I have written here today and that is whatever you choose to create is entirely up to you. How you acquire your skills be it via a formal arts education or self-taught, it doesn’t really have to matter. That’s a controversial thing to say and no doubt there will be many who think that a formal arts education is the only way of being taken seriously. From experience it really isn’t.

What really counts is that you present yourself as you want, the way you present and promote yourself shouldn’t be determined by what you think your persona should be, nor should it be what the art world historically expects it to be.

My dear friend has hopefully overcome this obsession with overly frequent self-promotion but for him it was a period of time where he thought he needed to over promote in order to compete. He was doing fine before, and he is back to doing fine now. His Pollock/Dali hybrid drug fest painting is hung on his wall as a reminder that over promotion is nowhere near as good as balanced self-promotion.

MOST PEOPLE GET IT RIGHT

It's rare that you'll see such massive over promotion. My friend had been banned from groups, was extradited for 15-days on one social network, and he lost over 1,000 followers in that nine months. It seems contradictory that you can over promote because you really do need to promote yourself if you are an unrepresented artist these days. But getting the balance right is key. Making sure that each post can be the best it can be is critical.

If twenty posts is your average and it's working then that's the right balance for you, but if you seem to be doing nothing but promotion and you're not getting the sales, then you need to revise your strategy.

If you're spreading yourself across multiple networks you really need a different post approach to each. Look at the big names out there, they'll focus on images for Instagram, maybe a back office photo on Twitter, and a mix of video and text on Facebook. Each is created to do the same thing and that is to promote a specific product or service. But what the big companies realise is that each platform has a different audience. Look at the likes of Loreal or Nike, see what they're doing and follow similar strategies. It's all about studying what others are doing. These companies have teams of social media specialists who work out exactly what works where. You can get this information for free by following some of the big players and observing what they do on each platform. You've possibly never noticed before, but try it and you will be surprised. You think you are seeing a familiar post, but depending on where the post is, it will have sometimes subtle differences.

How to art market yourself
Market yourself but have a strategy for different social networks

Most of all, give some love back to others who have followed you, commented, and promoted your post. These people are your marketing team, but they need to believe in you. It's amazing just how far a post can reach if you're getting it right.

THE TRENDS

There are always trends. At the moment we are seeing vibrant colours in successful ads, bold music often with drum solos, and on the other side of the spectrum we are seeing simple understated ads.

Video posts are doing well. Use tools such as Adobe Spark to create a quick ad, and make sure you use royalty free music. Ask friends for their opinions on a range of ads you create and use the best ones. Most of all, have fun. Fun shines through any post, fun encourages clicks and calls to action. Then you can sell your art without doing quite as much hard work.

If you have any promotional ideas that work for you then we would love to hear them in the comments. In the meantime, you can follow me on Facebook at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where you will find some of my latest work, and posts that amuse and entertain from around the interweb. If you wish to purchase my art to support this blog, you can see my range on my store within this blog or head over to my Pixels site at http://10-Mark-Taylor.pixels.com

COMING SOON!

Do you want the low down on the best artists, who might just be as collectible as some of the biggest names in the art world today? Then you'll love my upcoming post which features and showcase artists from around the world.

If you would like to be featured, I need a short bio, what inspires you, links to your work and where people can purchase it, and a small j.peg watermarked image showing what you feel is your best work. The best will be featured throughout my series, and will take up a space on my artists spotlight page on this blog. Send your entries to: mark@beechhousemedia.co.uk it's free, and might get you a little exposure. Whilst I can't guarantee that you'll make a million, if you do you can always buy me a coffee!

Art Cards: I'm still working on my create an art card post, I'm just waiting for an update to be released for one of my favourite apps, I haven't forgotten!

In early,September I will be taking a couple of days off to have some shoulder surgery. Unfortunately my love of Bear Grylls style extreme sports such as reaching for the remote, running to catch the tube train, and spending way too much time on social-media has given me a frozen shoulder! I saw the X Ray this week and there is no way that a 2-meter roll of elasticated support and a can of Deep Freeze spray will fix it on its own, so I need some surgery. It came as a bit of a shock but when I saw the X Ray I realised that if I could get a copy of it, it would sell well on Fine Art America or to one of those Ripley's Believe it or not exhibitions. Who would have thought a frozen shoulder would be quite so bad?! If you have one, I can testify that it's really painful and you deserve to be waited on.

Whatever you do this weekend, have a great one!

 

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