Mistakes To Avoid When Marketing Visual Art on Facebook and Instagram

Mistakes to Avoid When Marketing Visual Art on Facebook and Instagram 

mistakes to Avoid when marketing on Facebook and Instagram

More Tough Love for Artists!

This week it’s time for another tough love article for artists who want to successfully market their visual art on Facebook and other social media platforms. Whilst there are many artists who connect with their buyers and produce outstanding work, just as with any community in life, there are a tiny minority of bad players too. 

This is the tiny minority who think that the art world is easy, but ask any artist who has been around the industry for a few years and they will tell you that it is one of the toughest industries to gain a foothold in. 

You have to stand out way more than anyone else and above all else you have to compete with the major players who have ad-campaign budgets bigger than most of us would ever dream of. 

Buckle up folks…

Back in April 2017, the month when we had almost a whole day of sunshine in the UK, Facebook had amassed 1.2-billion monthly active users. 

Of the couple of billion active accounts, 1.2-billion people were logging on around the world and posting things. I think most of the 1.2-billion users were artists though because I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have seen as much art as there is on the platform at the moment. 

This is a great thing and I love how social media has made the art world more accessible to everyone, but I have to say that some of the art whilst it’s not bad, indeed some of it is very good, it tends to be the same.

The usual genre of “painted to be sold, vaguely impressionist-modern with heavy impasto” has been particularly well represented of late. Well, I guess that style has been well represented throughout every decade since World War II. 

Not that I dislike impasto at all and I have even been known to bust out the painting knives from time to time, but just sometimes I would love to see something different on Facebook. 

Currently there seems to be a lot of Van Gogh and Picasso inspired pieces, along with those heavy impasto’s but nothing that has struck me as being either new or original, other than from the artists I follow and who really do have their own uniqueness. You can check out a few of them on my artists spotlight page on this site right here.

Those are the artists who have worked out that creating works in their own style is so much better than trying to mimic the style of someone who is currently in vogue. Those are the artists who never really go out of vogue because their work depicting whatever subject matter they choose is always exciting and fresh. 

I remember many years ago when one of my early mentors discussed the work of past artists with me and he said, “Never try to be Matisse or Cezanne, they already got their markets cornered even in death, heck especially in death. Be the new Matisse or Cezanne and start a new dang movement by being yourself”.

He had a point. It is the job of the artist to bring something different to the world and put it front of people and keep things moving. You have to dare to be different in order to stand out amongst millions and millions of other artists. 

Standing out is difficult when you market your work through Facebook. The algorithm is looking for relevancy and engagement and flooding groups with the same art and the same post means there is less screen estate for some other artists to stand out. At times it seems like the whole of Facebook has been given over to a single artist who has cross-posted 500 times, but I notice that they have very few likes, a lot less loves, and virtually no other engagement. 

This is the 600-lb gorilla in the room that no one really wants to speak about. We’re all too polite to point out to those artists that we saw their exact same post 300-times in the past hour alone, and we would all engage with those posts if only the artist engaged in the groups or even with us. You came along for the ride buddy, but you insist on sitting in the back seat in silence, but you might as well be in the trunk.

You see there are only two types of exposure you can get on Facebook. Good exposure which breeds good engagement, or bad exposure which either doesn’t attract engagement or attracts engagement that one would wish to never have. Okay there is maybe a third type which you have to pay for through boosting posts or running campaigns but even then there are only ever two results, one good, one bad, you pay either way. 

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about using professionalism to market your art which you can read here. It was at times brutally honest and it seems that more than a few of you liked it. It resonated and woke a few people up, but the reality is that a few others hit the snooze button or missed the alarm entirely which kind of proved my point or rather my two points.

There were two points that should have come across in that article, the first one being that to market art successfully, it needs to be done in a professional manner. It can still be fun and it doesn’t have to be dry, but being professional sells more often than not being professional.

The second point was about standing out above those who don’t play by the rules and who waste our screen real estate. What those who fit into this category perhaps don’t realise is that they are completely wasting their time on Facebook, and completely wasting their time on other social platforms too. It’s a real shame because some of the work is really good. 

I know this because I frequently deal with campaigns that have historically struggled with positive engagement, and because it is there for all to see in the hundreds of groups the work has been posted in.

Mistakes to avoid…

There are things that work well on Facebook and things that don’t. Over the past however many months I have been writing these using Facebook to market your visual arts articles and we have covered more than a few ways to improve that all important metric we call engagement. What we haven’t really been through in any detail is definitively what doesn’t work on Facebook. 

We kind of touched on the first thing earlier and that is that you do have to be different. If heavy impasto or Van Gogh is your usual thing then you have to stand out a little bit more than everyone else. 

But standing out isn’t all about running promotional campaigns. I mentioned in articles throughout the summer that only a tiny percentage of posts should be marketing posts in their truest sense, the remainder of your posts should be more about getting people to spend their time with you rather than spending their money with you. The latter will come if the first element is in place.

How you fill that 80-90% content void that you now have on your business page is something that you will want to consider. I have been mentioning frequently that you should be telling a story, and posts that offer added value or provide history or add context to who you are and what you do are the best ways to fill that void. Re-sharing the content of others is important too, and if you can get user generated content, all the better.

Helpful content is more shareable than any other content and if it includes video, well it is game, set, and match because informative video content that offers tips and usable advice is where it’s at when the algorithm decides on who gets to see your content. 

It’s not easy and it takes so much time. Looking through my page I made some major mistakes lately. There were at least 10 posts over the Black Friday weekend that all did what you should never do, they were all promotional. I’m addressing this though, and I am making a few videos too. As Christmas is coming up I am taking a lighter approach with video and I will be sharing one of the best cookery tips I ever learned. We have to eat right?

avoid these Instagram mistakes

Cross posting on other networks blindly…

One would think that as Instagram and Facebook are essentially one and the same, that sharing the same copy across both platforms is an obvious thing to do. It’s so easy and there are tools built into the platform for you to do it, so why wouldn’t you?

Firstly because Facebook and Instagram attract different audiences. My demographic on Instagram is very different to my demographic on Facebook and what works on one doesn’t always work on the other. More often than not it doesn’t work at all.

When you share across networks such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, or even Ello, the visuals and aesthetics can really get messed up. A square peg doesn’t fit so well in a circular hole, yet that is what happens when we cross-post the same images of the same size, in the same ratio using automated and built-in sharing tools. 

Important areas of your photo can get auto-cropped by the other platforms or even worse they get stretched. Individual posts should be created for each social network and as you will see in the diagram below, they all vary greatly. 

Posting natively in each of the social networks is the only guaranteed way to know exactly how your post will look. You might also want to change the message on each platform too, so you should work on slightly longer story based posts on Facebook, summarise into 280-characters on Twitter, and make it short and snappy for Instagram and at that point maybe include a small handful of hashtags.

If you are a fan of hashtags, cross posting your Instagram post with 10-hashtags looks entirely out of place when posted on Facebook. On Facebook the fewer hashtags the better. I tend to stick with two at the most, on Instagram I have learned that there is a sweet spot. 

On Instagram 30-hashtags is the upper limit, but that is not to say that you should use all 30 up. Choose a few well-chosen ones instead, hashtags that competitors or influencers are using for similar posts (if those competitor posts have high engagement), and keep track of the hashtags that have brought you the most success, and consider using niche hashtags. Try creating posts with between 3 and 6, and run a comparison with posts using a lot more. But only ever use hashtags which are absolutely relevant to your art, brand, or audience. On Facebook, hashtags work differently as in Facebook users don’t like seeing them as much.

Avoid Drama…

It is so easy to be sucked into drama on Facebook and all too often a post appears that you just have to have an input into. All too often I have stumbled across outrageousness and really wanted to throw in my viewpoint, but over the years I have realised that this can do you more harm than good.

The art of commenting is to stay as neutral as possible. The last thing you want is to get into a battle with internet trolls. Agreeing with negative comments where the comments are unfounded or cannot be substantiated can drag you into a wholly negative conversation. This not only takes up a chunk of your time, but it can divide your existing loyal followers and put off any potential followers which could just as easily be potential buyers of your art.

Whilst it is important to be aware of the conversations particularly if they are happening on pages that have close links with your business or where pages are within your industry, biting your tongue and working out how to avoid drawing the same conversations to your page is the best approach.

If you have disgruntled customers speaking out on your page, answer those as a priority and offer a solution that everyone can see. There are more than a few pages where negative comments have been left unanswered and this just puts people off engaging or buying anything from you. It’s also a good idea to reach out to those people via Messenger as it takes the conversation away from the thread, and hopefully the poster will provide positive feedback because you resolved the issue quickly.

You just don’t have the time to post updates…

There is no getting around this one. If you don’t have the time to write a post or create engaging content then you have to make the time. Keeping those who like and follow you engaged is your number one mission aside from creating your art.

If you find that you still cannot make the time to create top quality content revisit your old posts and rehash them into something relevant. Add new images, change the story a little, or browse through posts from pages you follow to find some inspiration. 

Preparing content days, weeks, or months ahead of posting it will alleviate the pressure significantly. The articles on this blog are often written up to 6-7 months in advance and usually only need minor tweaks prior to publication. 

I will spend a couple of consecutive weekends every couple of months doing nothing but writing, then I might spend one evening each week either jotting down ideas or starting new articles or finishing off part written articles, and another evening publishing the blog and preparing follow up posts for social media that will run over the following week.

In total it takes between 4-6 days to get three or four articles like this one written, then another 10 evenings each month and I only publish once per week. It is a huge commitment but it does mean that in theory I have enough material in the bank to publish anywhere between 6-10 weeks of articles if I need to take a break. Creating the images used on the site is usually done with templates I have pre-prepared using Adobe Spark Post although I use Photoshop for others. 

Get ahead of the game…

These are some of the most common mistakes that visual artists make when managing their social media strategies. There is no easy answer when it comes to finding the time to prepare and create engaging content, you kind of just have to find it. 

It would be really easy to just post anything at all as and when, but that will harm your engagement more than anything else. As I have been saying week after week, you really need to provide posts that are entertaining, informative, offer a story, and add value to your followers’ social media experience. 

If you are not doing that it will be evident because your engagement levels will dip, followers will leave your page, and ultimately you r sales will take a tumble even more. 2017 has been a brutal enough year for those in the print on demand art game and the last thing that you need is to lose the opportunity to reach out to a group of followers who have liked your page.

You have to give them what they want. Spending time now will better prepare you for the future. It’s an investment that you absolutely have to make whether you are selling art or anything else. 

My latest work!

free Spirit art by Mark Taylor

Free Spirit is my latest creation and it’s available now on both my Pixels site here and on Fine Art America here.  

This piece took more than 7-months to create and I love the way it turned out. I took a different approach and direction with this work and hopefully it is one you will enjoy. On my Pixels site you will be able to see it on a wide range of print mediums and other art collectibles including a new range of fleece blankets, yoga mats and spiral notebooks. 

Remember too that any work I sell via Pixels or Fine Art America is what helps support this site so that I can continue to bring you the latest news, information and practical advice week after week for free! 

free Spirit Artwork by MA Taylor on Pixels

Next Time...

I will be telling you why you should be supporting local and independent visual artists this Christmas and I will be spilling the secrets and letting you know some of the best independent visual artists out there right now. 


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, film, and as 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 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.


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