Using Facebook to sell your art The Guide

USING FACEBOOK TO SELL YOUR ART – THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BEING A GOOD DIGITAL CITIZEN AND MAKING ONLINE SALES


using Facebook to sell your art and being a good digital citizen 


Wow, that is a sub-title and a half, and it is also a title that has been running around my head like a mouse in steel toe capped boots for the past six-months. The reason? Just occasionally on Facebook we all seem to stumble across not so good digital citizens. 

So I decided to let the mouse out of my head and start to discuss what makes a good digital citizen, and whether or not being a good digital citizen helps you as an artist to sell your art.

Facebook is the number one social media platform and for good reason, it’s huge. There is no denying it, if you’re an artist who is not on Facebook, you’re missing out. 

By March 2017 the numbers were bigger than at any previous time in the platforms history. 

Worldwide, there were more than 1.94 billion active Facebook users and each year those figures have been increasing by 18% year on year.

On mobile there were 1.15 billion mobile active users in December 2016, and mobile users are increasing by 23% each year. Five new Facebook profiles are created every second. There really seems to be no stopping the Facebook Empire, 

Want more? Well 300 million photos are uploaded each day and each person spends an average of twenty-minutes visiting Facebook. During each 60-second period those users post 510,000 comments, make 293,000 status updates, and upload 136,000 of those photos. (Source: The Social Skinny)

In short, imagine storing that amount of data on your iPhone. You know how quickly you can eat through storage on your phone or tablet, so take a moment to consider just how much storage is needed for all of those archived funny cat videos, photos, updates, memes, and annoying foodie photos, and them think about how much more storage will be needed tomorrow because it just keeps on growing and growing and growing.

In previous posts we have discussed the relevance of making sure that as an artist you have a presence on Facebook, you need to be on there because statistically speaking, it is too big an opportunity to miss.

In short, if you are a visual artist you have to be on Facebook.

Facebook really does work as a platform for getting your art exposed. Yes, you can make sales through it, and I can attest to around 30% of my sales over the previous two years have come out of engaging with Facebook. 

But just being on Facebook isn’t enough. You also need to engage with the Facebook community and be accepting that just as in your life offline, there are things that you need to consider when interacting with Facebook and its community.


YOU NEED TO ENGAGE 

As the world of social-media evolves, so must artists.  I have frequently written about how to use social-media as a promotional tool, but until today I have never really written about what you need to do to make sure that when you do promote your art on Facebook, your audience remain engaged. 

There’s a bit of a dark side to social-media though and just as in any community, you will find some people who don’t engage quite so well. I’m sure that if you were to meet them face to face, most of them would be really nice people, but a few just don’t seem to get that there is an etiquette which although not written in the terms and conditions – and which nobody ever reads anyway, should really be followed if you want to present yourself in the best light and encourage people to interact, engage, and ultimately buy your work. 

It’s probably a little bit of a hard line statement to say that some people are purely online to take from the community, but we have all seen it. It is probably the pet frustration of any Facebook group owner or admin.

Imagine this, you set up a group to discuss only abstract art and lots of people who love abstract art join the group. A few people see a new group and therefore a new potential market, yet they post a consecutive series of posts selling products totally unrelated to the arts. 

You would not believe the amount of posts over the past year that I have had to delete from my groups, purely because they weren’t related to anything that the group was about. More surprisingly, I often receive a flurry of messages from group members to let me know we have a drive-by!

There’s a reason why some people do this and that is that very few people read what the group is about, and so a series of drive-by postings appear within moments of being accepted into the group. At least that is until they get spotted by an admin who removes the posts and usually blocks the user.

That is why you need a great team of admins around you when managing groups, watching out for such postings, checking out the profiles and information of each new member request, and then policing the group, whilst being discreet about it. That’s something which will make a group successful.

It’s not a simple job being an admin. Sometimes admins can be greeted with a hundred requests to join a group and each one of those requests needs checking out. Did the user only set up a Facebook account a few hours ago, or does the user post inflammatory material on their timeline, do they belong to any groups which promote or support hatred, the list goes on. 

Occasionally a profile looks fine, the member is added to the group, and then they turn into the member from the ninth level of social-media hell. Believe me, I have seen Facebook users steal other artists work, troll other users, and scream out that they no longer wish to participate in the group because they don’t like the rules of the group they signed up for. 

A good admin knows how to nip it in the bud. Often admins will need to report posts or comments to Facebook, delete posts, ban members, and they will know how to do this with the utmost discretion. These are the admins who sometimes also get called upon to make sure a person gets the appropriate support if they have ever indicated that they are in danger online. You could write a whole book about what goes on behind the scenes to make large Facebook groups work, the admin is essentially the town mayor, social worker, and police force.

Some people prefer to remain silent and rarely engage with anything and that’s absolutely fine. But if it is your intention to engage fully with the group and to share your own artwork in the hope of making sales, perhaps the best way is to first build up a relationship with the group by commenting, liking, loving, and wowing the posts of others. Become an active member of the community and you will soon find that your engagement levels will rise significantly.

Another annoying thing that people sometimes do is build up a follower count by following a number of people. As soon as the other person reciprocates and follows back, the other person then unlikes the page. In short, they follow you until you follow them. So not cool, and it is even worse on platforms like twitter. Follower counts can be high one minute and desiccated the next. 

Social media platforms could restrict this, if person A follows person B, and person B follows back, if either one no longer follows the other, both followers cease to follow each other. If one person decides to follow someone but the other doesn’t follow back, then it stays just the same as it is now. It would possibly help reduce the number of fake profile follows where often people are tricked into following a person who is actually just a bot.

HOW TO ENGAGE 

Consider this the official etiquette as an official etiquette doesn’t seem to exist anywhere! This will at least help you to become a better digital citizen and will make sure that your audience remains engaged.

There’s almost an invisible line these days between what we do online and what we do offline. We have online friends who we have never met in person, yet we interact with many of them using messaging services, and eventually you become friends, just friends who have never actually met. Social-media has for all its faults brought many people who would otherwise never have met closer together.

So it is important that just as you would in life 1.0, that you treat people just like you would if they were talking to you in person face to face. I’m sure there is some psychological babble somewhere which says that we are different people online than we are offline, people have multiple personas, post how they would like to live their life online whilst living a different life offline, but for the most part most people are not too much different online, fake profiles aside.

To build engagement you need to post frequently but you need to make sure that what you post is relevant and is factual. Social media organisations and the media are seemingly doing everything they can to prevent the spread of fake news, yet only an hour ago I read something online posted twenty-minutes prior to me reading it, that was shall we say, totally incorrect.

I have written a post about spotting fake news previously and you can read it here so I’m not going to go over it again today, suffice to say that posting fake news articles already affects your reputation, but the algorithms used by the social-media companies are smart enough to know that what you are posting might have already been classified as fake, so your overall reach will go down.

There is no better way of engaging with the community than actually engaging with the community. Like, love, wow, sad, angry, and the occasional flower for Mother’s Day are emotions which get clicked on, but responding to posts in other ways produces the best results.

If you comment on a post and assuming that post is public, other people will hear what you have to say and might just follow you. Sometimes every artist needs some confirmation that there work is great, so saying so in the comments is a lovely way to raise the confidence of artists. The more comments a post gets, the more relevant it becomes, and the more it gets seen across the entirety of Facebook.

Facebook is a social networking service launched on February 4, 2004. It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow Harvard University student Eduardo Saverin. 

The website's membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League and gradually most universities in Canada and the United States, corporations, and by September 2006, to everyone of age 13 and older with a valid email address, so says Wikipedia, the rest as they say is history.

You have to decide why you are on Facebook in the first place. Is it to keep in touch with family and friends or is it to support your art business? It could be both, and that is why I am such a fan of Facebook Business/Fan pages if they are used correctly.

Read the Facebook terms of service and you’ll find that posting your artwork for sale on a personal profile isn’t actually allowed, yet many people do it. What you can do is sell from your business page and then share it to your personal profile, then share it into groups. It’s not obvious to everyone, but essentially it has been in the TOS for quite some time. I have a feeling that doing this will increase the amount of shares the algorithm see’s so it could be a way to increase the reach of the post. It's much easier to tell with Facebook pages because you also get some useful insights data too. 

That’s not to say that your personal profile can’t support the business in some way, by default it still remains a great way to introduce you as a human and artist.

Setting up a Business Page

I recently wrote an article on reinventing your Facebook business page, you can read it here

That post should cover the why you need a business page and get you started, but when it comes to your personal profile, if you want that to be linked to your business then there are a few things which you can do within the rules.

You might want to keep your personal page personal, if that’s the case then you have complete control over who sees what on your timeline in the privacy settings.

If you want to use your personal profile for sharing industry news, blog posts, and content you have stumbled across, then you are within the TOS as long as you don’t do direct selling. 

Using a combination of personal and business profiles though offers the best of both worlds. There are things you can do with a business page that you cannot do with a personal page, so you might want to mix and match, but be cautious in the way that you do it.

You can add a profile picture to both pages and I’m in the middle of creating new profile pictures and timeline covers for my Facebook page and personal page at the moment. I want to use my business page to write mini articles to support this blog, and share the work of other artists who I absolutely love a lot more on my personal page. 

Under your profile photo you can add who you currently work for, so as an artist you can easily add that information to link your business page to you so that people will know that both your personal profile and business page are related. When people hover or click on that link, they’re taken to your business page. 

Just make sure that your business page that you want on your timeline is listed as your current job, and make sure that things like your work and education details are publicly viewable.

You can list all of your websites, blogs, and other social-media profiles too. Again, this links your personal profile to your business page and you will remain within the rules.

What to post on your personal profile is the key here. Posting life’s observations is something my personal posts do really well at, but if I am ever stuck for an answer to a question, I will post the question on my personal profile, and nine times out of ten I get an answer in minutes. 

Essentially you need to be human on your personal profile. I have said so many times before that art lovers and art buyers (the two do not always share a common interest in the arts), like to connect with artists at a human level. So personal posts are an often intriguing insight into you as an artist. 

I have started to share some of my works in progress on my personal page, and recently a couple of time lapses of me playing around with the Procreate art app on iPad. They always get a bunch of likes, loves, and wows, and here’s an interesting observation, the artwork has sold much more quickly following me posting a time lapse. One sold on the day I released the work, another within a week, and a third, about two weeks later. All three buyers had seen the time lapse video. People love video and Facebook rewards good video by making it appear more often in other people’s timelines. Expect my feeds to feature more video, I’m even thinking of creating a podcast!

The personal page is for people who want to know you as a person, and your business page is where people find out about your marketing efforts. That’s not to say that your business page should be any less relevant, any business which doesn’t appear to be at least half human will struggle in the 21st Century. 

Your business page doesn’t have to be a swamp of marketing materials. Sharing the work of other artists and them sharing your work is a great way to keep your business page full of fresh new content. You can read more about how this works a little later in this post.

I am going to be focussing much more on my business page over the next twelve-months. I know I don’t have anywhere near the number of page likes than I do on my personal profile, but I know that the page likes I do have, often lead to new business. As I said earlier, 30% of all my sales are as a result of my business page rather than my personal page, so I am determined to get that to 50% by the end of this year.

There’s another option often not considered by many artists who are struggling to increase business page engagement, and it is an option which still means that you don’t have to pay to boost posts or advertise. Create a new Facebook Business page, even if you already have one. 

If you created a business page years ago you might have picked the wrong name, or you might have not updated it in forever, so creating a new business page is an option and it is an option that allows you to put things right. 

I will be creating a second business page which relates more to me as an artist rather than my work more broadly within my company BeechHouse Media. My tiny media company as some of you might already know actually offers much more than my artworks. It is essentially where I create the bread and butter to support my art by providing things like graphic design services, e-learning content, and artwork for use as props in TV and film and occasional consultancy services. In short, it is the corporate side of my artwork, and this blog. 

you get your page as it should be and you start to gain lots of followers and likes, you can then request for your new business page to be merged with your old page. You will lose previous posts, likes, reviews, ratings, and username, but your new page will receive the people who liked your previous page, along with any check-ins.

Of course the biggest benefit of a Facebook business page isn’t any of the above at all. It is the fact that you can link your shop and have a shop now button appear on Facebook. If you want people to be able to purchase your art, then this is the best way for them to do so without having to leave Facebook, and in fact Facebook don’t want you to leave at all.

If you have a premium account on Fine Art America you can easily add in the code which provides the Fine Art America portfolio to your business page, or just as easily point the shop now button to your Pixels or other Print on Demand, or indeed any website page. It’s really easy to do, takes around five-minutes, and hey presto you have an e-commerce site within your business page.

In short, yes you need a Facebook Business Page so go ahead and get one!


be a good digital citizen on Facebook and other social media platforms 


WHAT ELSE SHOULD I DO OR NOT DO?

There are lots of do’s and don’ts, but for the most part they’re not really written down in a concise list, so here are a few more dos and don’ts.

Keep it consistent across all social networks. Consistency is key when posting across multiple social networks. The only things you might have to change are the image dimensions such as on Instagram which only supports square photos. 

The message within the post should be the same wherever you post, but on platforms such as twitter, you need to convey the same message in 140-characters. Time to get creative and work on your marketing, it’s amazing what you can do with 140-characters, but it needs some planning. 

Start thinking of Facebook as a life-blog too. The more riveting a page is, the more often people will return to see the next episode. Focus on narratives, or story lines, questions, and opinions, in between your marketing posts. That way you will come across as a human and not a marketing department. The only marketing department that keeps me coming back is the @Wendys twitter account, and only because whoever runs that can be brutal in an entertaining way. Unless you have the flair of the Wendy’s marketing department, try to avoid brutal if you can.

Read other people’s posts. It’s easy to dismiss the posts you see that don’t immediately jump out at you or they appear to be too text heavy, but actually there are some real gems within some of those posts. If you find a post interesting and relevant, essentially something your followers and friends would like, share it. 

Also share the artwork of other artists too. The reality isn’t that the competition is on Facebook, the competition is from the huge corporations and box chain stores which sell discounted artworks and don’t pay the artists a decent fee and often not at all. 

Facebook is a community and communities work better when they work together. There’s a whole bunch of research around this all over the internet, so if you can support other artists and in turn they support you, it’s definitely not competition, it’s a community supporting each other.

There is a huge ripple effect which occurs on Facebook and it has real benefits when you post something worthy of being shared. If person A shares your post, person B reads your post and shares it again, and then all of their followers and friends do the same, a post can travel around the world within minutes. That’s essentially what social-networks do, they can convey news and content around the world very quickly.

Some of those people will want to find out more about the posts author, they might like your page or send a friend request, but more importantly, you become known, your business becomes known, and your art by default gets exposed.

Use Messenger with care. I love the concept of Facebook Messenger, but I just don’t like the Messenger app! Many of you will know that I uninstalled it about three or four weeks ago, and honestly it is becoming a struggle to live without it, I might have to relent at some point and reinstall it reluctantly. 

The problem isn’t so much that it used an extra 38% battery on my phone, it was that I was getting some random stuff sent to me at 3am pretty much every morning. I can see why people think that’s ok, the internet is after all 24/7, but I need to sleep, especially as I’m getting old and grumpy. 

I love getting messages from my friends, I especially love getting messages from potential art buyers, but honestly Linda, sending me a message and trying to sell me a bottle of Aloe Vera at any time of the day really isn’t going to cure my Crohn’s Disease is it. Please Linda, I don’t need an explanation as to why it would, unless you can get it published in the British Medical Journal and gain the support of a million research scientists and doctors. 

You see you can only turn off the notification for 24-hours at most, so when I was on board a cruise ship last year, I forgot to turn it off for a couple of nights, only to be woken by the dreadful ping noise, and reading about the benefits of Aloe Vera. You know what Aloe Vera is good for Linda? Sunburn. It’s really good for sunburn.

Okay, I might have to reinstall it, not that I want to, but it is becoming a pain managing three Facebook groups, and sending smoke signals to my team of admins is becoming a nuisance, and I do miss the occasional chat with a couple of my collectors. But just be aware that time zones exist for a reason, and we all don’t live in the same one, and neither is everyone totally convinced of the benefits of Aloe Vera. 

Going back to posting, there is nothing worse than a short description of your art. It might as well read, I’m not too bothered if you don’t look at my art, because clearly I don’t care enough about it either.

Make sure that you include details other than ‘buy my new art now’. As a minimum the medium used to create the art should be included as should the size, maybe the price but not necessarily, and perhaps a description of what or who inspired you to create it in the first place. Much better than “24x6 $500 buy it here”.


the artists exchange Facebook group 


THE ARTIST GROUPS

A lot of you will already know about my three Facebook Groups, the Artists Exchange, The Artist Hangout, and the Artists Directory, three groups with almost 10,000 members between them! 

Members have joined us from all over the world in little more than twelve-months since I started the groups. They are each wonderful communities of artists, art collectors, art buyers, and those who simply just love looking at the amazing art that the community posts. 

So if you want to join a group, here’s an overview of each one:

The Artist Hangout:

The Artist Hangout is a general art group with almost 4,000 members. In this group you can post anything related to any of the arts, and you can self-promote as often as you need to. Be careful about over promoting your posts, the last thing another member wants to see is 10 consecutive posts from the same artist because other posts drop further down the timeline. 

It’s an ideal group to join if you create art for print on demand, or just want to ask questions of the community, share art ideas, or share events and other groups. You can join it here:  

The Artists Exchange

The Artists Exchange is the biggest group to date, and currently has over 5,000 members. This group has a specific purpose, where artists promote artists. Self-promotion posts are limited to a maximum of two per week, but sharing the work of other artists is allowed as often as you want. 

The idea behind this relates to what I said earlier about communities working together. If person A shares person B’s art on their timeline, and person B then share’s person A’s work, both works appear on multiple timelines and reach much further afield than only posting on your own timeline. 

Suddenly your art is exposed to many more markets, and your work and posts are seen as being much more relevant by the algorithms which determine who sees what and when.

We also see artists engaging with the community and asking questions, and the only other rules really are to not post nudes. This was a decision I had to make in the early days when a couple of now banned members came to the attention of me, my admin team, and Facebook, for posting graphic images which were definitely not artistic. Some of those posts were actually deleted by Facebook, so a decision was made to make the Artists Exchange a truly family friendly group. 

I felt that was especially important as we have many younger members too. Whilst I appreciate that nudes are vitally important in the right context, they’re not for everyone.

You can join The Artists Exchange here

The Artists Directory

My latest group is The Artists Directory and in the past few weeks since starting the group, around 500 people have joined already. 

Again, I wanted this group to be very different to the literally hundreds of other art groups on Facebook which all seem to provide links to artwork. This group supports the business of art and the artist, as opposed to the art itself.

Members should only post links to their Facebook Business Page, or to their portfolio or artist website, and no links should go back to a single particular piece of art. 

This group will eventually become a truly independent directory of artists and I have what I hope is a game changing plan that will help artists to get seen.

That plan is to actually set up a directory of artists who sell their art online. The best will be periodically showcased on this site, but ultimately I will be creating an independent artists directory and publishing it on this or another website. 

The directory will be completely free for artists to join, and I am hopeful that this will eventually expand to include a directory of print companies an artist can utilise to fulfil their online sales, without the outlay of buying multiple prints up front, or paying for a set run of prints to be produced. 

It will work a little differently to the usual print on demand system and will put artists firmly front and centre, deciding on the profit, and working with print companies to make sure that base costs are competitive. 

If we can get a collective interest from local print companies around the world, then shipping costs could also be way less expensive for buyers because the artist will be able to fulfil their order in the country or region the buyer is from.

In short, this becomes print on demand without the middleman, and importantly local artists and local print companies, and local communities benefit. There will be some set criteria that print companies will need to conform, but I really believe that this could be an alternative way for artists to fully control their destinies, and of course, they still don’t need to utilise those print companies if they want to appear in the directory.

I have been thinking about this for a couple of years, what I wanted to do was always to be disruptive I guess. I can see a point in time where artists really are supporting each other on a global scale, rather than relying on the existing gatekeepers.

I now think I will either lose a few members or gain a few, but you can join the Artists Directory right here.

LIKE, LOVE, WOW!

Hopefully you will have gained a few tips on increasing your social-media reach from this post, and learned a little more about creating a positive experience for your art buyers when on Facebook. 

Stay tuned for more information about the Artists Directory, and of course the artists who will be featured in my first showcase, coming soon.

If you want to follow me on Facebook you can connect right here

If you are interested in taking a look at my art, then please visit my site here

If you have already joined my groups, thank you! You truly are an amazing bunch of talented people. I would also like to thank each of my admins who constantly strive to keep each of the groups on the straight and narrow. If it weren’t for them I don’t think I would ever be able to keep up! Thanks team.



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