Using Professionalism to Market Your Visual Art on Facebook

Using Professionalism to Market Your Visual Art on Facebook - The Big One!

professional marketing of your visual art

We have only just begun!

Just when you thought you had this whole Facebook thing in the bag, you realise that you have only just begun. Since the beginning of summer 2017 I have been writing about pretty much everything that you need to know to grow your social-media presence on Facebook so that you are better prepared to use it as a marketing platform for your visual art.

But we are only just at the beginning. If you have been following the series you should have seen at least some improvement to your reach and engagement by now, but there are still some things we need to cover that will help you to stand out even more. It’s time to become even more professional and engaged. 

Firstly I apologise that this article is one of the longest I have ever written. There is a very good reason for this and that is for those who read it and follow the advice, your social media activity will become relevant and worthy of being seen because you are taking a professional approach. For those who don’t then I can’t help, and I doubt anyone else can either. This week is going to be another one of those tough love self reflection articles. In fact it might even get brutal at times, but it is because I care. 

I covered a range of useful insights in my earlier article which you can read here, where we looked at the 25-most common marketing fails that visual artists make when using Facebook to market their visual art. Now it’s time to focus on getting things into perspective and understanding what really matters. 

Some of what we have previously covered is included so that you don’t have to jump from article to article, but I’ve also added a few golden nuggets in too, to make sure you have the most up to date information. It might be worth printing this off and the easiest way to do this is to subscribe to the site using the subscribe link at the top of the page. Pop in your email address and each week whenever I publish a new article you’ll receive it directly to your inbox and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

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This week we will be looking at the numbers and the data which are going to be the most useful to you, we’ll be upping our posting game, and we’ll be busting a couple of Facebook myths, but above all else you will be able to approach the serious game of marketing with professionalism. Many of you already do, so we will work with that and ratchet it up another level. First though, we have to understand what underpins this social network we call Facebook and we need to start to understand the numbers sitting behind it all. 

Are you ready to become even more professional?

The Algorithm…

Facebook is a constantly evolving platform and it is used by millions of visual artists to market the art that they create. It’s probably hundreds of millions of artists and artworks in fact and many of them will at some point cross post their latest work in dozens of groups, unaware they are being watched not by potential clients, but by artificial intelligence. 

Millions of posts each day then compete for space in your timeline so something has to be in place to make sure that you definitely get to see the best. Or at least that’s how it is supposed to work anyway. 

We have so often talked about the algorithm used on social media and it is always a constant source of frustration for many people. The algorithm is the over-watcher, the guardian, only it decides if you are going to get seen, but you can sway its decision a little if you know how it works. 

Let’s put the work of the algorithm in the spotlight for a moment. Imagine that your timeline could only display ten posts per day. Now imagine that you have twenty friends who each post on average twice per day. Only ten of the forty posts will ever be present on your newsfeed the rest will remain on your friend’s timelines, unshared and unloved. Those ten posts might all even be from the same person so you never see posts from those nine other friends. There is a lot we see on Facebook, but there are millions of things that we don’t.

Very few people will ever revisit a friend’s timeline and even fewer will go back to a business page and see everything that has been posted recently. Instead we rely on the posts to appear in our newsfeed because it means we don’t have to switch between different pages. Convenient yes, but in reality there is a trade-off whereby we only get to see a small percentage of what’s posted unless we specifically change our settings to receive all notifications from whoever we want, but there’s still a finite amount of space. 

The way our newsfeeds are controlled by the algorithm means that we don’t have to scroll through everything that everyone has posted. If we were to do that and only spent a minute on each of two posts from our 20-friends, we would need to set aside 40-minutes. That’s not much you say, but the reality is that many people have many more than 20-friends or pages or people that they follow and not many have enough time to see everything from everyone.

Take a look anywhere online and you will see figures suggesting that the average number of friends each person has on the platform ranges from anything between 155 and 338. Even seeing two posts per day for one minute from the lowest number would then take 310-minutes each day out of your already busy schedule, and we are assuming that the capacity to hold more information is now built into your newsfeed and you can see more than 10-posts. (You can, but most people might only scroll through a dozen or so depending on how much time they have). 

Now imagine if on your personal profile you had the maximum number of friends which is 5,000 and each of those posted twice per day. That would be 10,000 minutes or just under seven days’ worth of reading, and you would need to be reading for 24-hours per day just to get through one day’s worth of posts. Now you have a backlog which grows exponentially. In short you will never catch up with everything unless you are immortal and very bored.  

Not everyone will post every day but others will post frequently and some power users will be doing very little else other than posting. Now imagine if there was no algorithm and we were to see posts from Facebook’s 2-billion plus users, we would never find our friends posts at all and we would never be able to read even a day’s worth of posts, ever. 

Imagine 4-billion posts appearing in your timeline tomorrow, start reading because you will need about 7610.35 years to read each of their two posts for a minute, and only the posts that were made on one day. That’s exactly why we need an algorithm because without it we would never really see anything at all.

Reach Part One…

If the algorithm is the enemy then its ability to affect the reach of our posts is the devil incarnate. I take a few calls each week from worried clients who are concerned that their reach is diminishing day by day on Facebook. 

Each day more and more people sign up for an account on Facebook and as I said at the start of this article Facebook is not only constantly evolving, it is also constantly growing. A quarter of the world’s population has a Facebook account and that number will grow bigger over time. Of course you will reach less people, everyone else is competing for the same limited amount of space.

At one time I remember some of my posts getting hundreds of likes and every time I posted I would collect a new follower. Now it is significantly less as reach has declined over the past couple of years. The bad news is that I expect that over the next couple of year’s organic reach will decline quite a bit more. The question then is going to be is Facebook too big to be of any use? Some are already saying it, but the algorithm is working so there’s still some life in the platform yet, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 

Recently we all watched in horror as a story emerged that Facebook were testing out a second timeline where publishers would only appear if they paid to play. Facebook responded and told the world not to worry too much because for now they weren’t considering rolling it out further than they had done, and it was only a test anyway so please move on. 

I mentioned in my blog post that same week that there was no need to panic just yet and it would still be possible to play for free and get content seen even if you didn’t have a marketing budget, well at least for a little while longer anyway. But the reality is that you now need to start preparing for what is inevitably coming down the tracks.

Even if we’re not paying to boost posts or run ad campaigns, social media is I would suggest, the biggest game changer the art world has ever seen. It is the best tool we have for reaching an audience. It gets more relevant by the day and love it or hate it, you cannot dismiss it as no longer relevant. You need it. 

So how can you make Facebook work effectively for you?

You can spend days or months of your time trying to figure out what the technical nuances are of Facebook but it is really very simple. To get a high reach your content needs to be engaging. If your content is not engaging then you are going to see that future decline in reach a lot quicker than those who are currently creating high quality and engaging content. 

One of the best questions to ever ask yourself is would you click on ‘like’ on your own Facebook business/fan page? If the answer is no then you will have the answer to the question as to why no one is liking your page. 

If you answer yes, then this could also be the reason why no one is visiting and liking your page. You have to be totally honest with yourself and ask for the honesty of others too. Ask someone who you trust to give you an honest opinion to take a look and point out everything that is right and everything that is wrong with your page.

Unfortunately there are many who set up business pages and never commit to making their content engaging. If they were looking at it as another user, there is no way they would click on the like page button, if they did so out of courtesy then I expect they would very quickly mute the posts. 

The algorithm by default will display the most relevant and on point content first in your newsfeed. It picks up signals such as how many reactions (not necessarily just likes) that the content gets, and it looks for comments and people participating, sharing, and engaging with the post. 

It is also looking for what you have previously reacted with and engaged with and up-ranks this for display in your newsfeed because it is relevant to your historic browsing and engagement. This is essentially the algorithm validating that the post is worthy of being seen more widely. 

This also means that you could have the very best piece of content in the history of social media posts ever, but if no one see’s it and makes some effort to engage with the post in some way, the algorithm will down-rank it because it didn’t pick up any reactions or tangible engagement. Of course the post also has to be relevant and it needs to meet the criteria of a great post, engagement is the only key metric that will drive it upwards.

When you post anything, your posts start to be looked at by the algorithm in the same way that a search engine such as Google will be looking at pages to display on the search engine results page (SERP). It is looking for keywords that are currently relevant to your friends, and more widely. Are they relevant more widely, is it news, is it important, are the words trending? 

Just as you would add keywords to a blog post for your search engine optimisation (SEO), you need to make sure that your posts contain relevant keywords too. Yes, keyword planning on social media is just as important as it is for your website.

The algorithm is not so much looking only for likes, it looks for validation through reaction. Trying to trick it with likes from a like-farm or covering your comments with dialogue from fake followers gets the post noticed in the wrong way and the algorithm down-ranks the post. 

Comments, likes, but more so loves, wows and other reactions and shares from loyal followers will up-rank the post. We have covered the best types of posts to create in previous articles so when coupled with engagement from your followers it becomes the only guaranteed recipe for post success. Reactions are weighted a little heavier than likes which is why I always love my friend’s posts, it boosts them just a tad, and you’re welcome. 

Think of it along the lines of whenever you post your content will go to a subset of your friends and followers. If they engage with the post, the post then goes out to another subset of followers and maybe elsewhere outside of your immediate community. If they engage, then it goes out to another set of people, and so on and so on. If you are lucky your post will go viral, hopefully for the right reasons though.

The post looks like it’s spreading and reach goes up. You’re happy, but is it making a positive impact on your businesses bottom line? Are you selling more art? Well maybe not yet. 

Here’s the problem. Too many people are entirely focussed on the wrong numbers when it comes to understanding reach and too many are seeing reach as the best and biggest indicator that their page is doing well.

Firstly, reach doesn’t really mean reach and I’ll come on to that very soon when we get to reach part two, Secondly the only way to categorically say if any of Facebook’s metrics are problematic for you is if they are having no positive effect at all on your businesses bottom line.

If you provide something the audience want then they will remain engaged but the moment your business page and your posts become stale and of little value they will turn away. If all you do is post random thoughts then unless they are very funny, insightful, or offer value, they blend into every other post and this desensitises people to a point where they take less notice of your page and posts. There’s no magical cure for bad content other than to make sure that you keep your posts in line with what people want. What they want is engaging content, period. 

So what stops you from creating this magical content that will drive up engagement? Well, there are a few reasons. Reality check and tough love coming up right here folks.

  1. The effort required is greater than the effort it takes to share fake news and funny cat videos. 
  2. The time it takes to produce one great post is roughly equivalent to telling people what you ate for lunch ten times but the latter is so much easier to do, hey I might even apply a filter on my cheese and ham sandwich pic. 
  3. You give up entirely and find every excuse to not create great content because your reach is always low. Just no point in expending any effort is there?
  4. You are not getting enough page likes and you think this is an important metric. It’s not, and having a million followers on an unengaging page will just compound the issue even more.
  5. You only post selfies. 

Let’s take number four as an example. Pages with high volumes of followers have lost a lot of organic reach over the past couple of years. The pain for larger publishers and those with the highest follower counts was slightly neutralised for those publishers focusing on the preferences for video that the algorithm desires. But for those who didn’t pick up on the newsfeed algorithm preferences, in some instances reach declined by over 50% almost overnight and it was brutal. 

The reason for the decline is seen by many as a way to move brands and publishers towards this pay to play model but that’s only really part of the explanation. The other part of the explanation is that as more and more people continue to use the platform and push out content from their personal profiles and their pages, the less space there is for anything else. 

So the newsfeed algorithm has had to become more selective over which content it believes people will be more interested in seeing, and as a result has become proportionately pickier about what content it presents within a finite amount of space and an even more finite reader attention span.

professionalism and marketing visual art

So what else has been happening?

The newsfeed is now much more concerned with making sure that video is a key influencer when deciding on who to show it to in the newsfeed. Facebook Watch has recently sprung up on the platform so video staying as a relevant indicator for the algorithm is an easy prediction to make. In five years’ time the platform could very easily become a social-video platform.

Organic reach leading to publishers sites has declined in favour of video. Video is shared more than other post types so the relevancy score calculated by the algorithm increases and the posts are selected to be seen more often. There is no rocket science behind this, this is what algorithms are designed to do on social media. 

The issue is that not everyone can do video well and that presents another problem. If you haven’t got great video that people will want to engage with and share, then you still won’t see the reach or the engagement go up. Those quick Windows Movie Maker or iMovie videos, well they just ain’t going to cut it anymore. You have to do video well, or it has to be really engaging. 

You need video which informs and entertains and ultimately gets shared, and you really do have to go all in. If you can only do bad video now, steer away from it from it and learn how to do it better.

Facebook video drives 135% more organic reach than photo posts, but you have to post natively. Picking a video on YouTube and sharing it from there will down-rank the post. 

Picking a video which is on Facebook or you have produced using Facebook’s video tools is what is called posting natively. Anything from a share button is bad, but if you go on to Facebook and directly post videos or links or photos or whatever, it will respond much more positively.  All social media platforms would love you to spend your entire life within them. They see sleep as their biggest competition because whilst you sleep, you can’t watch the ads. However, static images disguised as being video will sink faster than a bucket with a hole in the bottom. 

Some publishers and brands haven’t been drastically hit at all by the algorithm changes in recent years and that is because they are more likely to have very engaged audiences already, or possibly because they don’t rely on Facebook alone as a single marketing strategy, or they pay lots of money on ads. The decline in organic reach will still come with plenty of pain for those who fit into these categories over time, but at least it won’t be fatal. 

Which brings me on to reach part two…

A question I ask anyone who gets in touch with me to help with their social-media strategies is why are you so focussed on this word reach when reach doesn’t necessarily mean reach at all? This is usually followed by a pause which is followed by confusion and the words “wait, what?”

Post reach in social-media terms is defined as: how many people may have stumbled across the post because it appeared in their newsfeed. Post reach is not how many people stopped scrolling to read and engage with the post. 

Let’s take the example of the recent US Presidential election. As many as 126-million Americans may have seen the content that is so much in question in the media. That is nearly half of the 270-million Americans who are old enough to have a Facebook profile. 

The 126-million figure is the number of times that those roughly 80,000 questionable posts appeared in newsfeeds published between June 2015 and August 2017. It does not mean that those posts were read or engaged with 126-million times. The media seem to play on the high numbers though and offer little in the way of explanation. The reality is that we probably won’t ever truly know just how many were seen, or read.

The figure also doesn’t take into account that in the first 365-days from when the post was created that some of the Facebook users would have been too young to vote, or how many times the post hit a fake or second user profile, and out of the 214 million monthly active users in the US (active users are those who logged into Facebook over the previous 30-days), how many of them were eligible to cast a vote.

Facebook have said that those posts were seen directly by 29-million people which is a drop in the ocean compared to the 126-million headline figure. What is meant as saw the post directly is less clear, but this could have been the number of times the posts were shared, commented on, or where people left a reaction such as love or wow or even a like or angry face. Now this could have meant the posts reached more than 126-million views, although I expect it didn’t. 

Given that 214-million Americans will mostly be also uploading their own posts to the platform too, and given the number of posts posted every day from everywhere else, those 80,000 posts might not have been so obvious because they were buried by everything else. On the other hand we might never truly know the extent of how many people engaged with or read the posts and more importantly were swayed, because reach doesn’t really tell you anything definitively. 

Politics aside, there is a general misunderstanding that reach really means reach because it kind of doesn’t. Reach really means might or may or perhaps, or could have, or possibly, the definition at best is a bit woolly, but it certainly doesn’t mean what we think it does. 

The other stats you need to know about…

Facebook as we know is big and it is statistically speaking too large to ignore. In fact a billion people are classed as daily active users or 50% of the 2-billion who have accounts. The actual figure is probably a little lower than this because some accounts are fake, and some people have more than one Facebook profile. You have to know your audience.

I have covered why you should be using Facebook’s own Insights tool to better understand your audience in previous articles, and if you are not using Insights yet then now would be the time to start. 

If we are to create engaging content then we need to absolutely know who we are engaging with. How is your audience made up? 

Facebook data more generally suggests that the most prevalent age group actively using the platform are people aged between 18 and 29. Out of all of the age groups represented on Facebook, the lowest percentage of users fit into the 65+ category. Now this might be your art market, so is it worth continuing with Facebook to reach those people? Categorically yes because out of that age group relatively few people will be active on platforms such as SnapChat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

82% of the platforms users have attended at least some college, and out of all users, women are only slightly more likely to use the platform than men. Sounds like your art market? These figures are Facebook’s figures but you need to understand your own demographic, you can’t base your own marketing on anything other than your own market.

Facebook was built in the good old US of A, but that’s not to say that the platform is more prolifically used in the USA. In fact 85% of the platforms daily active users are located outside of the USA. If your posts are created with only a US audience in mind then this means that you are missing out on a huge number of potential fans, buyers, engaged followers and all the rest. 

Once you understand those figures then there is a better chance for you to win more followers and engagement and go after Facebook’s presently untapped markets. 

Here’s the shocker of the week, 40% of those who use Facebook have never liked a business page, yet in 2016, more than 60-million businesses had Facebook pages. There has to be a way to bring those people on-board and I bet that it will definitely involve engaging them with creative content, and that’s why you need to understand your own market, who they are and what they want. 

Of the people who do click like on Facebook pages, something like 39% do so only because of an offer that has been posted on a business or brand page. So you have to offer something of value but not necessarily in monetary terms.

In 2015, Forrester’s Mobile audience data suggested that  Facebook dominated the social-media landscape with users accessing the platform on average for 15-days each month, Twitter users accessed twitter only over 7-days per month by comparison. 

What this suggests is that despite the lower levels of reach in recent times, there are audiences out there who are not engaging at all with brands and businesses, so this the market we should also try to reach out to. So if your engagement and reach and everything else is currently falling short, it’s time to review what you are offering. 

There are some other interesting numbers that we should take notice of too. Facebook as I said earlier is the biggest of the social platforms but Instagram is also relevant especially for visual art. 

Instagram has 700-million monthly active users of which 90% are under 35-years old, and 68% of its users are female. Pinterest has 70-million monthly active users so is a mere baby by comparison but 70-million is still enough of a user base to make the platform relevant – 81% of its users are female.

Tweets containing less than 100 characters receive 17% higher engagement, and ultra-short 40-character posts on Facebook receive 86 percent higher engagement. Those posts with 80 characters or less receive 66% higher engagement but posting short updates doesn’t always have a fit with what you are doing or the message you need to get across. A constant feed of short updates could then become less engaging. Each post has to be cohesive and mean something.

Uploading native video receives 10 times more comments than non-native video. Companies that use video in their marketing on average grow 49% faster year on year than those who don’t use video.

They also enjoy a 27% higher click-through rate and 34% higher web conversions. Posting at peak time is fine as is using custom hashtags but neither are as good as building up real relationships and driving engagement. You need to engage with your audience when they are around. If you are in the USA, then only 15% of users will be spread across the closest time zones, 85% will be some hours ahead of you.

If you really want to grow your reach and engagement then understanding how reach and engagement work and why engagement is the most important metric is vital. In short, you won’t get direct reach until you get engagement and this is exactly why engagement is the single most important metric on Facebook. 

Focus on the right things…

Now we have an understanding of why decline has been happening we should now also be a little more comforted that those numbers we all freak out about so often are not really worth freaking out about at all. The one you need to pay all of your attention to is that one of engagement and the phrase you see on Facebook which says: How many people are talking about this? 

Sure a few more page likes are always welcome but not so many that it becomes a huge and mammoth task to keep everyone engaged. There is no easy way to get page likes. We know that buying them really does not work and you will be penalised for it. Paid ads to get followers but whilst they can be useful, the ad has to be carefully targeted to a particular demographic which you will need to know before you go ahead with the campaign. Oh, and of course you will need to pay.

The best way to get more likes is you guessed it, through creating engaging content and participating and not just posting. Responding to comments should be one area where you constantly engage but listening is what you should also be doing a lot of, and never ignoring or not responding to the comments that people make, one comment could really change the way you use the platform for the better.   


There is one thing that only a few people ever do on Facebook and in real-life too, and that is to follow the advice of Steve Jobs who once said, “One thing separates people who achieve from those who only dream”.

Steve Jobs set high expectations for everyone. He challenged everyone to work harder, work longer, and do more, and often he would expect people to do more than they thought was humanly possible. In a word, Jobs was demanding. Whatever you thought of Steve Jobs he was always direct and his wisdom grew Apple into the company it is today. 

The one thing above all else was that Jobs was a firm believer in asking for help. There are reasons why as humans we don’t do this more often. Asking for help can make you feel vulnerable or insecure but it is also a sign of recognising that no one person including yourself has all of the answers. 

It shows respect in that you believe that another person will have more knowledge than you and you have recognised this. It also brings respect back from the person you asked because you admitted to not knowing what the other person might know. It says that you trust someone else, and that you are willing to listen. 

Jobs said this 22-years ago, the video is for all to see on YouTube. What he said back then still holds true today, asking for help shouldn’t be seen as anything negative in fact it should be seen as being the most positive thing to do. 

Just like Jobs, I have never met anyone who wouldn’t help me if I asked for the right reasons. So when it comes to your page you should never be afraid to reach out and ask your followers or peers for help. It might be that they share your content, or answer a question, or even create user generated content, and what this says more than anything about you and your page is that you trust your followers and you respect them.

The me, me, me, approach to marketing

There is a clue hidden in the word social-media. It is a social platform and when it is used as a social platform it becomes well, more social. That is exactly what you need to create engagement. Now you have engagement in the bag you can start working on building those important relationships. 

A very few artists and indeed others though see Facebook as an extension to the street where they live. The sad fact of today’s communities outside of social media is that we rarely ever engage with neighbours and often we have little to no clue about who lives next door. 

On social media things are just the same and we’re seeing more and more people using it as a platform for silo marketing and that’s not a very good or savvy thing to do at all and especially when it comes to art. 

This is the “me, me, and buy my art from me, me”, approach to marketing. I noticed an approval request to join one of my groups last week and the potential member had already joined over 4,000 groups. 

There is no way that anyone can actively participate in that number of groups, and when I searched through a few of them which were public, the member had cross posted in at least the twenty groups I had scrolled through and I’m sure they had posted in many more. At this point there was no reason to continue on with determining if that member had a fit in my Facebook groups because they didn’t.

All of the posts were somewhere between spam and spam. Each filled with unnecessary hashtags and all appeared to have been posted into groups at roughly the same time. 

There were no other indicators that this particular individual had contributed anything but those posts into the groups which the user had already joined. I get that there’s lots of competition and there’s often desperation to sell, but sadly this approach rarely ever works. 

This is a problem within the groups I already run and I know other group admins who have the exact same issues.  Everyone wants to be a part of a Facebook group, a community, and have a sense of belonging, but the last thing they want to do is engage with the community and have a sense of belonging. They are there for one reason alone, to market using the “me, me, and buy my art from me, me” approach to selling their wares.

They join because they want to be silo marketers who have an instant audience. If you have noticed them previously in the groups I run then there’s some good news. I’m clearing them out when I find them. If my group levels drop by a few thousand it’s no bad thing at all, those who will be left will be engaged with you and your art. This might sound harsh, but those who approach their art and marketing with some sense of professionalism are the ones I would prefer to buy from, surely others must think the same? 

Those we will wave adios to will be the ones who only post a cascade of photos and offer little to no context, and all too often post content which is outside of the rules of Facebook and never engage. 

I encourage all group admins to think about doing the same because we shouldn’t be giving a platform to those kinds of people and making it easier for them when professional artists and those who care about the arts are trying so hard.

These bad players sometimes pop up in the spam box in Facebook for group admins and then have to be reviewed. As an admin there is a choice to keep the post, delete the post, or block the member and delete the post and everything they have posted previously, and now you can cross ban them from your other groups too. This is the single most useful group tool Facebook have ever introduced. 

I am picking the latter one more and more frequently these days. There is also now an option to mute a member for up to 24-hours, and whenever I have done this, the member has never reached out to ask why they cannot post. That in itself should tell you everything really.

Why they get picked up by the algorithm is because the algorithm has noticed something about the post which resembles spam. It could have picked up an image that was NSFW, picked up on an image without any provided context (see my pet hate – 24 x 30, oil, $300 art descriptions), is filled with hashtags not relevant to the post, or has been identified as being posted in a pattern which resembles that of a spammer posting, which for example could be that more than 50 of the same posts have been shared in a day by the same person.

Some posts identified as being spam no longer get as far as the admin if they are known by the algorithm to be spam. Facebook will remove those without giving any indication or reason, the user will be down-ranked, essentially gaining a place on the Facebook no-fly list.

The reasons should be clear as to why spamming is bad, bad, and bad, but it has the potential to down-rank your past and future posts and can even lead to you losing your account. Sure there will be those who think oh well, I will just create another account if that happens, but why would you want to buy anything from anyone who thinks spamming is the way to market their art?

Selling art is all about creating relationships and trust, just as it is when you sell anything else. This is art marketing 101 yet something that many fail to recognise as a valuable business skill and it is so easy to learn. The only excuse for not learning this remarkable skill is laziness. Tough love and all that, I warned you that it was going to be a little brutal didn’t I?

If you want to create engagement which then leads on to building relationships, which then lead on to sales, building trust within a group or on your page is the absolute first thing above everything else that you have to do. It’s not optional if your ultimate goal is to sell your art or anything else.

When I look through my groups I notice that those members who are more actively engaging, and those who are adding context to photos and art, and those who are contributing regularly, always get the most likes, shares, reactions, and sales. They are building relationships, engagement, and trust. They are the ones who are doing well.

Sadly this year I am noticing that drive-by silo-marketing is a key theme. It’s not that the art that these artists are posting is bad, it is just the “I really haven’t got time for this” way that they post. 

My Artists Directory group I believe has the potential to be a game changer for artists. The plan is to build up enough Facebook business page links in an online directory so that art buyers can view a range of independent artists who they would never have come across otherwise on Facebook. 

The Facebook business pages of those artists on the directory will hopefully then see an increase in likes, engagement and become known for relevance by Facebook, thus improving organic reach, but those pages need to be posted and they need to be relevant.

At least once each week I have to write a post to remind new (and sometimes not so new) members what the rules of posting are. No individual art works, it’s not a buy and sell group, and links should be to an artist’s overall online and Facebook business page presence. Within five minutes I see a new post breaking the rules, 24 x 30, oil, $300. The irony is that it appears right above the post I just wrote!

If you are joining groups with the intention of selling your art, firstly remember that the group is often set up by passionate individuals who freely give their time up to administer the group. It is a privilege when a group admin allows anyone into any group, it is not mandatory to allow anyone entry. Groups are not really an extension of Craig’s List or eBay, yet this is exactly how some members use them and it is affecting them although they do not realise, but it’s also affecting those artists who try so hard to play by the rules. 

Groups aren’t operated by Facebook. Admins and those setting up groups don’t get paid by Facebook or anyone else. Some monetise them so that the group owner benefits financially, some monetise outside of Facebook’s community standards, the groups I run though are purely through having a passion for the arts. One member recently was taken aback when I explained that I didn’t run the group on behalf of Facebook, and up until that point the member had thought Facebook were doing their bit for the arts. 

Contributing to groups is really important. Groups are the places where large communities of people gather so you can see why they appeal to the spammers and chancers. 

Posts created outside groups also need to be considered. Your reputation extends everywhere online. Making sure that you present a consistent image across all of the social-networks you are on is important, and making sure that your personal profiles as well as your business profile reflects professionalism is also very important. When people check you out, well, they check you out everywhere.

Beechhouse Media art and practical advice for artists

What a post needs to be…

It is not just the engagement of others which is critical on Facebook but your own engagement too. If you only ever use the platform for self-promotion, spreading fake news, or memes then it is probably not going to be a useful marketing tool to you at all. 

If that has been your historic use of the platform then you need to start repairing your online reputation by becoming more engaged and building engaging and quality content. If you do want to engage then there are things that you can do to make sure that the algorithm and everyone else see your posts as being relevant.

So here’s the take-away for this week.

Communicate and engage with the people who leave comments on your posts. Keep everything positive but also keep things real.

Which brings me on to perception. How others perceive you on Facebook speaks volumes. Bragging posts, look at my 100th selfie of the day, or elevated sense of self, we’ve all seen those posts. They are the ones that say I have an amazing life with 2.5 kids, and a stately home, but which tend to leave out the bits of a life which present the truest picture. 

People are interested in you, and whilst those self-promotion posts can be as intriguing and informative as anything else, getting the balance of appearing to be perfect and being you is a juggling act. Those who do it well never appear to come across as ‘I am so much better than you’.

Check news stories before posting or sharing. This should be obvious and whilst Facebook and the other social-media platforms are clamping down, fake news stories still get shared widely. Posting these will ruin your reputation and no, there will be no 15-days of darkness coming anytime soon, nor will planet X crash into earth on the 15th of whatever month, and I hate to break this news here but the earth really isn’t flat. 

Add Context. Adding a new artwork and not giving it any context at all will not help with sales. You need to have a description and it doesn’t need to be long. One or two paragraphs is so much better than just leaving a statement reading “24 x30, oil, $300” or that other favourite, “IM me” which makes me think that they just want to get messaged. 

Use a Business / Fan Page for marketing. The use of personal profiles to market anything as a service or product in a business sense is a breach of Facebook’s community standards. Facebook do remove personal profiles used for marketing when they stumble across them, and they will also do this if someone else reports you to them for doing it. 

Always use the business page. Not only will it keep your personal profile in check, it also offers a suite of marketing tools which can be used to promote and market your art, set up offers, schedule posts, and it will give you a professional presence. You can then share from your business page to your personal page but you also get to use the tools that only business pages provide. 

Be around. Scheduling posts is fine although always try to use the built in scheduling tools rather than a third-party application. Scheduling apps are great and can save a lot of time, but the built in scheduler seems to give you a better reach. Also make sure you are around for those posts that are likely to illicit a response. 

Turn on the lights whenever you take a photograph of your latest painting. Watch out for reflection or bright white spots, but never take a photograph relying on only minimal light if you want your colours to pop.

Use a higher resolution image but never full size, and always make sure that a watermark appears on photos that you need to protect. Whilst a watermark can be removed very quickly using a heal tool in Photoshop, it puts off many casual image stealers from stealing the image. Also make it obvious that watermarks do not appear in paid for images.

Branding your images is a little like watermarking them, it too can help you to get noticed. So if you do have a logo for your art studio or as an artist consider adding it to your image. In some cases it can serve as the watermark and your branding. 

No copy and paste statuses. No matter what the cause behind these status update is, only a minority of people will copy and paste and it will be the same minority who are not annoyed by them. I’m afraid the rest of us are. If you want to highlight a particular cause such as a charity, visit the charities page and find something interesting to post from there instead. Only 3 people will copy and paste and share the link to this site so go ahead and prove me wrong.

Ever hear about the artist addicted to Farmville? Believe it or not I know an artist who plays a lot of games and also has quite a following. But recently the artist has sent out requests for gems and diamonds to level up to collectors of the artist’s work. Need I say more?

Don’t make your images appear to be images when they are really ads. A couple of celebrities fell afoul of advertising watchdogs recently when they posted images containing products which the celebrities had been paid to promote. 

If you are advertising a product which you have been asked to promote, you have to make sure that everyone is aware that it is really an ad.

Have a lot to say? If you have a lot to say don’t try to say it all in one post. Separate the key points and post those as separate posts. Status updates shouldn’t be overly lengthy, being more visual will give your post a little nudge in the right direction.

Use one link only. I have mentioned calls to action which should be present in your marketing posts. Often those calls to action include listing a link to your website or someone else’s website. Each marketing post should have only one call to action. 

If you have a sale on your artwork you might want to consider directing readers to your website to find out exactly what that offer provides rather than making a lengthy post.

 Focussing on providing value and signposting the reader where to go to find out more means that it is less confusing, it can drive traffic where you need it to be driven, but make it as easy as possible to get to, and keep everything as simple as you can.

Creative Marketing. We have been through this in earlier articles but you need to make sure that not everything you post is seen as a marketing post. In fact, as much as 90% of the posts on your business page should not be overtly marketing but they still have a part to play in your marketing strategy. 

You are not a faceless organisation with millions of followers, you are a visual artist who people want to connect with. Offer insights into what you have been up to, share stories of the creative process because stories are so important right now and you can expand on them in future posts. I call the follow up posts new chapters in that story.  

Offer something of value but try not to think of every post as having to be a sales pitch. That value could be those insights into your daily life, it could be that you want to share a tip, or that you will be going on live on Facebook. If it is the latter then set up the post telling people that you are going live using a Facebook event available through the business page. Make sure you give people time to plan so that they can watch it, going live in five posts really don’t work because it might not be seen by everyone for a couple of days and well, you will have been done and dusted by then and going live to no one is embarrassing. Been there, done that.

Your post calendar or schedule should also take into account where your posted content comes from. Ideally on a business page you need a mixture of 1st party (your content) and 3rd party (content from others). 

Research has been carried out extensively in the marketing world and it all seems to point to a golden ratio of posting. Forget frequency because that has less and less to do with anything these days. 

You now need to be mindful that all of the research carried out recently by various organisations seems to point towards creating a content strategy where 30% of your posts should be your own original content (not directly related to marketing), 60% should be curated content from external sources which is relevant to your page, and only a small 10% of your posts should be making any overt marketing statement.

Never beg! Asking for likes or shares will sink your post very quickly. Simply adding “please share” will get picked up by the algorithm and your post will get down-ranked. This is seen as share baiting and there is no way around the fact that the algorithm will punish you for doing this. Offer a real value instead so that people want to like and share your page.

If you are setting up a new group on Facebook, avoid inviting all of your friends unless you absolutely know they will want to join the group. Over the past few months I have been inundated with requests to join groups but I know I just wouldn’t be able to find the time to engage with them. Those groups I haven’t engaged with for a while or whose admins and communities have just given up have now been cleared out from my list.

By all means let everyone know about your new group but let them be the ones to decide whether or not they want to join. One more point on groups, if you create one thinking that it is an easy ride, forget it. 

Forget using short-links. At one time shortening URLs was a great way to make sure you could fit everything into your Twitter post but more recently short-links are being seen as a potential way that spammers use to hide the true destination of the link.

Now that Twitter are expanding tweets to 280 characters there’s really no need to use them and especially not on Facebook.

The Cryptic Cliff-Hanger Don’t know about you but I really do have just enough drama in my life to not have to start worrying about the cryptic cliff-hanger of a message that says “That’s it, I’m done”.

These do though manage to somehow get the most responses and if only your marketing posts could do so well you would by now be sitting on a tropical beach sipping cocktails and munching on Pringles.

The comments usually have a reply that says IM me, or the poster will go on and spill the beans throughout a string of comments and the post doesn’t disappear from your newsfeed for a week. This means that the poster didn’t want to tell you anything at all but wanted to be asked about it.

Then there is that other one, “I can’t tell you yet but you’ll find out soon”, oh my life stop it already, and that private joke between two people, well the other 2-billion people really have no idea what you are on about. These might appear to be engaging but honestly, they are kind of really annoying and I apologise for that one post I typed back in 2007.

Complete your profile. This really is in your best interest because you want people to reach out to you and buy your art. I have seen many business pages on Facebook with no contact details at all. 

Make sure that your bio is informative but it doesn’t have to be your full life story, and make sure that any links you provide to your other sites work as they should.

Reply to Messages. I had a perfect response time of less than two-minutes at one time on my Facebook page to answer private messages on Messenger, and it was there for everyone to see. I wore the badge on my page with pride. 

That was until someone sent me a spam post at 3am one morning and I didn’t pick it up until 6am. My response time then dropped so now everyone sees that I usually reply within a couple of hours or within an hour rather than a couple of minutes. I usually reply the second I hear a ping, unless of course I am asleep!

What I had failed to do on that one night was set my out of office response in the settings for messages. So if you know you will be asleep or will be uncontactable for a while, set the auto-response in the settings together with an out of office. My auto-response now sends out details about this website and to my art site so that people can take a look around whilst I beautify myself by sleeping.

Always respond to clients however they contact you and remember that if you don’t respond you won’t be able to proudly display the response time badge on your page. Respond to business page messages in less than one hour and always, always respond to comments made on your post. 

Never forget to monitor your page as viewers will see it. Seems an obvious one but from time to time check your page without logging into Facebook. That way you will see exactly what everyone else will see, and remember to test it on mobile devices as well as PC’s to make sure everything is displaying as it should.

Freshen up Your Timeline periodically. We have all posted something that we regretted either immediately after we posted it or at some point later, so make sure you go through your page and delete those posts which are out of date or no longer fit into what you want your page to be.

Tagging friends and anyone else has to be done with care. Not everyone wants to be tagged in an image so unless you know that the person wishes to be tagged try to avoid it. People can tag themselves in if they want to. 

Customise your Facebook tabs on your business page. We’ve covered doing this in earlier articles in this series but this is a good time to remind you to link your online portfolio to the shop now button.

Remember your long-term strategy should be longer than two minutes!

I think Facebook is a bit of a disposable platform for many people. What I mean by this is that so many marketing departments let alone visual artists forget that content can be re-used effectively and usefully.

A marketing campaign can be rehashed as too can your old posts and it can save you a lot of time. Even posts that received little engagement can be rehashed into something useful, but only if you have a content strategy.

Social media posts do have a life-span and whilst it is limited, it can also be extended again and again if you create quality posts to start with.  Think too about how you currently abandon your art after the first post. Upload it to a print on demand site, make a hoo-ha with a single post on the very same day and then never tell anyone that art exists again. Revisit, remix, and re-post your old posts from time to time. 

The life of a Facebook post is around five-hours. Instagram posts last on average 21-hours, Pinterest posts last four-months, LinkedIn posts last for about 24-hours, YouTube is a whopping 20-days, but they only last 18-minutes on Twitter, unless you are a certain President in which case every post from as far back as one can remember constantly resurfaces in the media.

That doesn’t mean to say that posts will disappear unless they are stories in which case 24-hours is the maximum that they will be present on the platform for. What it means is that posts have a life-span when they are more likely to appear in a newsfeed. You need to resurface them as part of your ongoing content strategy. Think about day one, and remind people on day three. Remind them again a couple of weeks, months, and years later. You should never have to write a filler post describing your dreary day ever again.

I mentioned that post frequency wasn’t all that important any more. Quality content will outlive what you ate for lunch type posts every time. If your engagement is low and you constantly post low quality content, then this can also affect your reach and your engagement further. It compounds rather than fixes the issue, or rather it affects your overall quality score.

So what’s this quality score? Think of it as a credit rating. The algorithm looks at what you have posted previously and the engagement the post received. It also factors in what you have said in your posts and determines if what you said has any relevance, think back to making your posts as relevant as a website.

It also looks at what you have written as replies in the comments of yours and other’s posts and makes a determination whether or not it should show the post to a new set of people or not. The algorithm is not only looking at anything new, it is looking at your old posts too. 

That’s when mistakes are made when it comes to paying for reach. The overall reach you will get for whatever they charge you will be determined by the same set of factors from the same algorithm. So two people posting to a similar audience, paying the same cost and offering the same value, can bring two very different results. 

If one of those two people historically posted more relevant content and they were engaging more than the other person did previously, their paid ad will do better. It’s not a level playing field and rightly so in this case. It rewards those who play by the rules and have something to say that people want to hear.

Hashtags and Shadow Banning…

We’re nearly there but I really do need to mention hashtags on Facebook. Using more than two hashtags in a post really is kind of pointless and what’s more it has the potential to down-rank you. 

Statistically those posts using one or two hashtags receive 21% higher engagement than those posts using three or more hashtags (Source Linchpin SEO). Over population of hashtags is also seen by many as an indicator of spam and I have to say that whenever I look at those posts I always scroll right on past. 

I can’t quite be absolutely certain that the Facebook algorithm uses a similar algorithm to the one used on Instagram but as they are both owned by the same company (Facebook), there just has to be some overlap, and if there isn’t there will probably come a time when there will be. 

That’s deeply concerning because Instagram uses something called shadow banning. It’s not a new concept in fact it has been around since 2006, but it is only relatively recently that it has gone mainstream. 

Twitter were first to use it more widely when they started filtering out abusive tweets on the platform by applying something that could be described as a ‘time-out’ for users who broke their terms of service. 

Temporary bans of course will be familiar to those who have posted something that was in breach of Facebooks community standards and to those who have landed in Facebook jail for ten or thirty-days or however long they apply the ban for. Facebook users will know if this has happened because the platform lets them know, on Twitter they don’t.

But by definition, a shadow ban is where the user is blocked from engaging with an online community and the user isn’t informed. This could be another reason why members who get muted by the admins in groups don’t get informed, yet it should be obvious to them when their posts do not appear if only they were that engaged to notice. 

On Instagram the shadow ban hides your posts from users who do not follow you. Clearly this is concerning because it would be difficult to reach anybody new and will limit the potential for new followers dramatically. 

Now here’s how shadow bans link to hashtags. If a hashtag has ever been used to promote or increase reach on a post with questionable content, the hashtag could appear on a banned hashtag list. Use that hashtag and your post will get down-ranked, and we can’t be certain that a shadow ban might not happen. This could possibly be one of the reasons why posts appear in the spam list within groups, they might contain a hashtag that appears on the banned list. 

And Finally…

For the most part, many of the metrics you will get hung up about are no longer adding any value to how your page is doing on their own, they have to be used collectively and in context. Some are now not much more than vanity metrics. It’s all about engagement now, but even this isn’t new.

It should always have been about engagement. Ask any business or brand if they would prefer the casual browser or if they prefer an engaged buyer. Chances are that they will pick the latter and if they don’t then they are unlikely to be in business for very long. 

You have milliseconds to grab someone’s attention on Facebook or indeed any social media network. That’s roughly the same time it takes to scroll past something which the brain identifies as being irrelevant. Your content has to make someone stop scrolling and take notice.

If everyone is scrolling past your non-engaging posts then your quality score will drop further. Not only are irrelevant posts a waste of your time, they can affect how you are seen in the future too. The work then needed to repair it takes up much more time than if you had done it right in the first place. 

I mentioned likening the quality score to a credit report earlier, and just like banks dumping junk lending, social media works on a similar principle. If there were fewer junk posts then there would be more space for those who play by the rules to be seen. If you are a professional artist you have every right to be annoyed when you see the bad players spamming. 

Those who continuously fail at engaging are often the ones who complain that the algorithm is beating them up for no reason. Yet the reason is simple and it’s fixable but it takes effort and that is exactly why many pages fail. 

Whilst you might be working hard posting fifty updates a week, they’re not engaging. Write one or two, or ten, but absolutely make them count. We aren’t seeing you now with all of those posts you are writing but we might see you more often with fewer posts, it is your job to make sure that they are engaging. 

Have patience. You cannot build a Facebook business page, gain a massive following, guarantee reach, or create engagement in a day, a month, or even two months. It takes time and along the way you will no doubt make a few mistakes. Your quality score will go up and at times it will go down, just as your reach and your engagement will. Recognise that you are on the right track and you will eventually arrive at the right destination.

Even the biggest corporations with their experienced social-media marketing teams still make plenty of mistakes and that’s okay as long as we learn from them. 

If you take one thing away from today’s feature let it be that some numbers are worth more of a focus on than others. At the moment it really is all about engagement rather than reach but who knows, next week it could all be centred on something different entirely but I honestly don’t think it will because engagement has always mattered. 

Facebook is constantly evolving and in the coming years we really will need to adapt to the changes so make sure you keep on top of the latest trends and above all else be professional, ask for help, and stop getting so stressed about those vanity metrics that do not matter one bit. Above all else, approach it with professionalism, put in the work and the results will eventually come. 

As usual I will be scouring the web and carrying out research and I will be talking to industry insiders to find out where we might or might not be heading next. Rest assured I will also be passing on whatever I learn and if there is anything that you want me to take a look into, let me know and I will try my hardest to get you the answers.

Mark Taylor Artist beechhouse Media


Mark A. Taylor is a British artist and blogger who specialises in abstract and landscape work and also produces art to be used within TV and film, and book covers. You can see and purchase Mark’s artwork on a wide range of print mediums and other products right here and you can follow Mark on Facebook here.

Mark not only produces artwork which is available in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada, he is committed to helping independent visual artists to gain exposure. Any sales of his art go towards maintaining this site. Supporting local and independent visual artists over the upcoming holiday season really is a very special thing to do.

the Emergency Christmas Marketing Guide


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