Facebook for Artists The Big Change

Facebook for Visual Artists The Big Change Of 2018


Facebook for Artists The Big Change

More importantly, will those new changes affect us?

This week we will be taking a look at how the most recent changes to the Facebook algorithm will affect what we do on Facebook when it comes to marketing our visual art, and we will also take a look at how best to take advantage of those changes so that you not only enjoy the Facebook experience more, you will still be able to get the best out of the platform when it comes to marketing your art too.

Last year I started writing a series of posts about using Facebook as a tool for marketing visual art and kept everyone updated on the changes happening behind the scenes at Facebook and the redevelopment of their algorithm. It was tough figuring it all out because Facebook aren’t ones for publicly telling the world exactly what they’ve updated or even when, but I think for the most part I managed to get pretty close. 

I also spoke extensively about the algorithm and what the changes meant when it came to marketing your work, and throughout the series I frequently mentioned that both content and marketing strategies had to be relevant to the audience and offer value. At times it was tough love but it was all leading to the changes that Facebook have recently made, and for once have told the world, well they’ve told us some of what their new direction will be at least. 

Here’s the shocker, if you think that Facebook have finished with their latest algorithm changes then think again. 2018 is when Facebook will hopefully get fixed, but the benefits and results in the most part are going to be solely down to you and how you continue to engage with the platform.  

For some the changes being made will mean that organic reach will sink more than ever and the platform over time will become less relevant as a marketing tool. For others these changes will be embraced as we start to see less noise, less fake news, and fewer posts that divide opinion as much as many of the heavily politicised posts have done over the past couple of years.

Facebook lost their way and it seemed as if everyone except Facebook knew it. I am sure there will be readers who are thinking that they might as well just give up using Facebook as a marketing tool altogether. Some will be thinking that the new changes will mean that it will be even more difficult for some posts to get seen and they wouldn’t be wrong.

There’s a glimmer of hope if you have been following my series and making your business pages more relevant and if you have started to provide that all important value to your own readers, Facebook will be sort of fixed in 2018 and it will be significantly better for the right businesses and people, or they could get it completely wrong and it won’t get fixed at all. 

There is a reason why I didn’t share any Facebook marketing articles over the past month or so and that is because I needed to take a deep dive into how the new changes will affect everyone. Too many were too quick off the blocks and commented that these latest changes would be the death knell for many who rely on the platform for their marketing but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. 

The reality is going to be very different if you are committed to using the tool within the boundaries that have been set within the new changes, and most of those boundaries are about making sure that what you post is engaging, and relevant with a strong emphasis on quality.

Mark Zuckerberg said that “you’ll see less public content like posts from business, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Those last five words are quite telling and pretty much what I said all throughout last year, Facebook is a social network with emphasis on the word social. Facebook is not Craig’s List.

Let’s get the tough love out of the way first. Ready? Here goes. If you think that Facebook should only be a tool to talk about me, me, me, and only my, my, my art, then it really is time for you to move on. Forget Facebook for marketing because the, me, me, me, marketing of last year is well, so last year.

If you started embracing some of the most relevant skills we went through throughout the past year in my articles and you are serious about upping your marketing game then stick around. Be warned, this time around you kind of need to play exactly by the rules.

How will the changes affect me?

Content publishers will definitely see a decline in organic reach, well mostly they will. Posts from content publishers were once seen as a high priority for Facebook but have now been demoted. Not completely stripped away but it will be much more difficult for publishers to get seen from here on in.

Back in December 2017 the company introduced a significant change to their algorithm and down-ranked posts classified as engagement baiting. Posts that bait engagement by asking for likes, reactions and shares will be down-ranked and just won’t reach the audiences they reached before the update. 

Yet it still surprises me that even some of the big players in social media continue to think that holding a giveaway contest on Facebook with the winner selected from those who liked and shared a post is a good idea, it never has been and has always been outside of Facebook’s community standards and could see you lose your account. You have to immediately stop with the engagement baiting thing, and you need to play by the rules. If you don’t then the chances are high that you’ll see engagement drop lower than anyone else. 

There is a glimmer of light in that Zuckerberg has said that he doesn’t want to put publishers off from creating content, but he wants publishers to focus on quality. If you already create posts that stimulate conversation, add value to the reader, and you already create posts that are high in quality and promote commentary, then those posts will probably see an up rise in engagement. I know, that’s kind of weird.

Essentially there will be more room on people’s timelines to show relevant quality content. Space once taken up by fake news and click-bait posts will now be given over to quality posts with engaging content. 

The change doesn’t come into play for paid ads. If the content creator pays to have their content seen then those sponsored ads will still get some screen real estate, although the cost per click might rise considerably over the next year and in some cases this rise in CPC might put a few people off paying for ads at all, or it might put people off paying for junk ads so not entirely a bad thing.

Organic posts are the new social media… and maybe the decline of social media management agencies…

Last year I spoke about the importance of sticking with an organic approach and not totally abandoning the idea that a post could be seen without having to pay for it to appear as an ad. Whilst many social media platforms continue to chase the ad spend, Facebook are now chasing the organic as in unpaid for post just so long as it meets the standards set down.

That’s a bit of a shocker too given that ad revenue for any platform is vital to their success, but Facebook are the first to recognise that in this modern age, paid ads are not why most people use social media at all, they use it to connect with the people and businesses they care about. Marketers love paid ads but the problem is that nobody else does.

What is perhaps more of a shocker is that many social media agencies are suggesting that pay to play is now the only way to go with Facebook but I think they are a little misguided and I also think that those who are suggesting this is the case are the very people who have skin in the game when you use them to create your social strategy and manage your ads.  

They are of course the social media management companies and agencies who offer to develop your online presence and who are currently seizing the opportunity to manage an ever increasing social media spend from publishers and taking a fee. 

Pay to play of course is so much easier than creating great content, it’s quicker too but I doubt it will be sustainable for many independent visual artists and many of the experts that I have seen all offer relatively generic answers to marketing which might work for some products and people but not for all. 

That might sound a little out there but the last thing that many of these social media management companies want is for publishers to have their own successful organic strategy with maybe a set ad budget. Where those companies should be focussing on next is not by suggesting how best to place ads or getting you to increase ad spend, they should be evolving into companies who focus on helping you to create engaging content in the first place and help you to build up highly-engaged follower bases from the right corner of whatever market you are in. In short they need to become more bespoke.

While we are on the subject of ads, ads can also be so disposable. If you don’t reach your target market in the first place then your ad spend is a waste of money and time, and when you do hit your market and run a successful ad campaign it never remains sustainable unless you keep on spending to continue that campaign. To maintain it for longer each time you need to spend just a little bit more, and one poor campaign can increase costs on your next. 

One off ad spend is spending on disposable advertising unless you are extremely lucky and get the right ad in front of the right audience but even then, what will continue as the hook to keep them engaged? Whilst your ads will appear and in some cases will increase your follower count, unless you are creating quality content that will keep those followers engaged, it’s all for nothing and those who followed will either mute or unfollow just as quickly. 

Whilst that has been the case at least for the past year this new focus on friends and family and favouring quality content means that posts that meet the quality standards will be up-ranked and they will be up-ranked organically so focussing on quality is key. Paid ads with quality content will always win out though so don’t cast the option aside just yet. 

Those who do pay will need to understand where and who their audiences are, and they need to understand that much better than they do now or it could become very expensive.

There is a very simple take-away for visual artists or indeed any business moving forward, quality content is the new baseline. Focus on this and you will find that these new changes will be of benefit. For those companies that don’t evolve then 2018 could very well see a few of them go into decline, or they will start steering their clients to other social networks. My take on this is that they really should be focussing on the quality and engagement strategy instead.


engagement is the only metric that matters

So what will work going forward?

If you have been following the series of how to use Facebook to market your visual art features I have been writing then you will already be ahead of the game and know what’s going to be needed to develop your social media strategy for the year ahead. 

As I said last week, finding your market and targeting those within that market with quality artwork and quality content will be critical going forward, but there are a few things that you should definitely pay more attention to when posting on social media. 

Facebook Live…

Facebook Live continues to be one of the most relevant engagement tools on Facebook and as it is a facilitator of conversation and Facebook themselves have called out Facebook Live as being integral to the continued user experience, it is going nowhere other than up. 

If you haven’t started with live streaming yet then now is a good time to start engaging and I will be publishing a brand new feature on using video with Facebook in the very near future. Within that feature you will be able to find out how you can do it without breaking the bank or having to buy new equipment.

Pre-recorded video on the other hand could see a downward change but there will be much more of a transition towards pre-recorded video on the Facebook Watch platform. And there another story unfolds as YouTube have essentially cut off spammers and fakes from their service by not allowing monetisation for feeds with less than 4000-hours of watch time over twelve-months and who attract at least 1000-subscribers.

But in doing this they are also cutting off the small businesses who rely on ad-earnings to continue creating some great content. The new changes are lesser than the previous requirement to achieve 10,000 life-time views, but the new change is possibly going to affect tens of thousands who are trying to build a business on YouTube.

They say it will prevent bad players from gaming the system and that is to be commended, but the fact remains that many of the more niche channels particularly those who create visual art, will find it all a bit of a drag without any chance of reaching those numbers. Get rid of the bad players by all means, but it should not be to the detriment of those who want to build up fan bases or get their niche channels seen. Unless YouTube start promoting some of the good players who haven’t quite peaked, we could see more than a few of the smaller video producers move away from the platform altogether.

This could become a focus for Facebook with their Watch platform although no one has commented on that just yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the more niche channels started to migrate over to alternatives such as Facebook watch. As long as the bad players don’t jump across too, then there could still be hope for pre-recorded video. For now, and as I have said many times before, Live is where it is at right now if you want to build up engagement. Oh, and those static images presented as videos, they will sink your engagement faster than anything. They no longer work. 

Are Facebook Business Pages dead yet?

Heck no. Facebook business pages will continue to be the single most valuable tool that artists have when marketing their work on the platform, it is also the only tool that anyone has for marketing on Facebook full stop.

Those wondering why should be reminded that using a personal profile to promote your artwork or any other product or service is outside of the community standards for Facebook, although I expect that the issue of using personal profiles to reach out with marketing efforts could become a more significant issue if business page reach declines much more. Do it though and you risk losing your account.

Having a business page is still the number one priority before marketing your work on Facebook, but having a business page which is engaging is a higher priority still. Without a business page you can’t even pay to play, and without a business page you won’t get any useful analytics such as those provided with Facebook’s Insights tool either.

Insights are going to become even more vital going forward and these are the metrics that tell you how engaging your strategy is. Engagement as I said last year is the only metric that matters on Facebook and now it matters a whole lot more. Engagement literally is everything. 

I have covered how to create a social media strategy and how to create engaging content many times right here on this blog, and the series of articles I wrote last year will be even more relevant moving forward. So today we won’t go into any greater detail other than saying, you need to be engaging and definitely not dull and most certainly not spammy.

Whilst Facebook is now much more people focussed instead of page focussed, one could be forgiven for thinking that pages and the platform as a marketing tool are no longer as useful.

There is no doubt that Thursday January 11th 2018 saw a monumental shift for marketers on Facebook, but I just don’t see it as totally drastic news. I’ve been around social media since before it was really even called social media, and it has always been pretty much a merry-go-round with new things coming and the old disappearing and then making a reappearance later down the line. This time it just feels more positive, and as art buyers love to connect with artists, what better way of creating the engagement that Facebook clearly want than by connecting with buyers and having real and meaningful conversations with them. 

It would be insane to panic just yet, the changes are too new to say if they will be totally detrimental to our metrics over time, but putting people front and centre is what artists are good at so it all fits together nicely. 

The key words that Zuckerberg used when he spoke of the changes translate into hope and positivity. ‘Page posts that generate conversations between people’ will show much higher in the search results. Let that sentence sink in for a moment because what it is saying is that ‘if you start using pages to engage with your fans and buyers, and strike up meaningful conversations, you are going to do better as a result of these changes’.

If your community of followers are not currently engaging with comments between you and each other on your posts, it is time to switch up your strategy. 

Where to begin…

Forget the negatives that you have heard and read, Facebook is alive and well but it is going back to its roots. That is something to be celebrated rather than feared, but other than live video where else do you need to take your marketing strategy?

First you need to do something about your own engagement levels. I see it in groups and I have written about it time after time, Facebook really ain’t Etsy, eBay, or Craig’s List. The me, me, me, style of drive-by posting is out and it’s not like I didn’t warn you. Joining groups just as another arena to rack up the view count is not a strategy worth following anymore, even if it ever was.

If you are in groups or maybe you even run a group, engaging with the community rather than making it all about you and your work is the only strategy that has ever worked. Joining 5,000 groups is perfectly fine but unless you are engaging with the other members within the group’s community your reach will suffer, you won’t build those all important relationships and you definitely won’t sell your art on the platform. 

Sounds harsh but this is what so many artists deem to be a perfect marketing strategy, honestly it is a total waste of time. I see around 200-300 posts per week in my groups, The Artist Hangout, The Artists Exchange, and the Artists Directory, and despite having almost the best part of 20,000 members between them, maybe 30-40 people engage with the posts of others or answer comments left on their own posts, and these are people who are making a real effort to sell their art. Art doesn’t sell itself, so forge relationships and build a professional image on social media. If you want to be taken seriously as an artist that’s the only play you have. 

Join relevant groups, not just because they have the word art somewhere in the title. Look at the purpose of each group and if you can add value in line with the core principles that the community have signed up for, then you will find that likes, loves, wows, shares and sales will be easier to achieve and you won’t have to beg for them.  

Never share your post from anywhere else either. Keep posts native by visiting the group page instead of sharing from your page or from elsewhere to the group. Organic and native sharing are symbiotic, Facebook prefers native content first and this isn’t something all that new.

Trim your groups list down too. 5000 groups in your timeline is far too many and the best use of your time is to focus on those where you know you will get the results, where you can spend the time engaging in, and where you can become the part of the community you signed up for. In short, focus on where you can win. Not all groups are sales platforms.

We have covered why it makes sense to create your own Facebook groups in previous articles so again we won’t go into that today except to say that groups or more specifically, engaged groups are a must have.

Encourage the comments…

Click bait or in this case engagement baiting is a bad thing. Asking people to like and share is the quickest route to the bottom of the rankings, and it also annoys people. If something is worthy of being shared believe it or not, people will share it. The same goes for likes and other reactions too. But what you do want to do is to start encouraging some meaningful dialogue on your page.

No need to ask for comments, all you have to do is start thinking about creating good content that drives conversation and ideally conversation between other people too. If other people are having conversations on your page between themselves, that’s the sweet spot. 

Always reply to comments whether they are good, bad, or indifferent, and keep the conversation moving, phrase your own comments in a way that will illicit further comments and replies, but keep everything really positive. Facebook loves its new found positivity and the company are also very aware of the influence that social media has on mental health, so keeping internet trolls and spammers away from your page makes sense. 

So what kind of posts lead to conversations? It surprises me a little when artists try to do the entirely corporate thing on their business pages, most of the posts are solely around marketing their art, and they shouldn’t be. For an artist a business page should be the commercial side of their personal profile but that is not to say that you have to take away the personal aspect at all.

Only a maximum of 20% of your business page posts should be focussed on marketing and the other 80% of posts should be around providing added value for your readers. That could be posting the latest breaking news from the art world or discussing a topic people are passionate about, maybe even a work in progress, but it could also be those conversations you start off with in the real world, you know, the world away from social media. Think about how you engage with those other beings we call humans. 


marketing for visual artists masterclass beechhouse Media

See First…

A feature that is so often missed by users of Facebook is the ‘see first’ feature. A user can select up to 30-people or pages to see first on their timelines so that when they log into Facebook they get the content they want, without the algorithm having a say.

Letting followers know how to turn on the feature should be one of the messages that you send out, and perhaps include a short video on your page which you can create using a screen recorder tool. 

Post less and post less…

A bad post or two can affect your strategy even in the short-term, so if you really don’t have anything to say, forget what you used to think about posting with high regularity and post less, but make the posts you do create count.

That means no more ‘I just decided to go out for lunch’ or ‘I just remembered that I needed to do X, so I did X’ type posts. These are fillers and frankly dull. No one wanted to read them when they were up-ranked in the good old days, no one wants to read a filler at all today. I just made toast, wow, you’re 48 years old, that’s a real achievement pal. Well done. 

Fillers no longer keep you relevant and can do more harm than good. So instead use the time it takes to create ten of these filler posts to create one post, you know, one post that is useful. Posts that don’t get engagement will see the biggest fall in distribution across the platform and will drag the rest of your posts down too, so focus on only the good stuff.

And post less that takes people away from Facebook. Facebook would love it if you spent 24-hours every day connected to the platform, but there is no loyalty card for doing so. Instead the time spent on Facebook which even Facebook say should be less than you previously spent on the platform, should be spent entirely within the Facebook eco-system. That means links to external sites will get down-ranked, but if they’re quality links (like this site !) then it might not be as bad as some other sites. 

Diversify…

No one and I guess not even at Facebook knows for sure how quickly this merry-go-round will turn this time before we will see more new updates or revert back to the old ways, but this new change should be seen as a positive which reflects Facebook’s new found fondness of positivity and rather cynically perhaps with a little fear of becoming regulated by governments. 

In the future you have to be prepared much better than you were for the most recent changes because change can happen whenever and however and often with no warning. So it will pay to start looking at other channels too.

YouTube will be more difficult to achieve monetisation on, but coupled with a strategy of promoting your content on other networks and driving traffic onto your YouTube channel will for now mean that it is at least achievable in time and with some hard work.

Considering Facebook Watch is probably a good move, but there are other platforms which are so much more relevant for artists yet are largely ignored.

Twitter and I really cannot believe I am saying this, is becoming a useful tool once again and networks such as Ello are beginning to pick up real pace in the creative community. It’s also great at bringing in new followers without the preconceived notion that you will follow them back. They want to follow because they want to follow you. It is more grown up, and totally focussed on creatives. Pinterest is a staple although engagement with the platform is limited, and Google Plus is still Google Plus, often confusing and tied into Google a little too much.

LinkedIn has the weakest (or some will say strongest) algorithm of the current bunch and is exceptional for business to business related social activity, but posts have to be short, and useful to make any impact. 

Instagram is also gaining more traction and it is still possible to get a good number of views, but turn your account into a business account and you won’t necessarily see less engagement and you will get access to Instagram’s metrics. In addition you will also be able to respond to comments from Facebook’s Pages application which cuts down considerably the time it takes to go through all of your comments and likes across your business page on Facebook and your Instagram feed. 

If your market is the younger millennial crowd then SnapChat continues to be relevant but it is also the biggest time consumer. The platform is great at meaningful and also less meaningful engagement from what I have seen, but you can be drawn into streaks and keeping them alive. It really is another world. In short SnapChat is great for teens with little to do (although I am sure they have other stuff they could do), for busy artists, it can be useful but only if your market is on the platform and you can dedicate enough time to it. It is social gamification at its best.

However you diversify you need to make sure that you can invest the time and commit to each platform as much as any other. Focus on two or three but make sure that you are doing them all as well as you can and make sure that when you post content, that the content is bespoke to the nuances of each platform. Screen and post ratios, correctly sized header images, you know, the usual stuff. 

Why Change?

Facebook know that many of its two-billion plus users haven’t been enjoying the platform for a while and it is pushing the blame squarely on publishers. What they are saying is that people like engaging with people, (they haven’t met me without my copious coffee intake taking effect), and that those people care less about engaging with brands and publishers. 

Zuckerberg has said that he recognises that the time people spend on Facebook will go down as a result of the changes and that some measures of engagement will also decrease, but the real 600lb gorilla in the room is that Facebook really didn’t handle the fake news and political issues which have beleaguered the social empire over the past few years very well at all.

Facebook were just as guilty as the publishers by letting what happened happen. They bred a self-imploding monster where fake news was fine for a while until it wasn’t, and politicised posts were fine too, but what they hadn’t realised was that people would fall for it all and start engaging with the bad players. To be fair, I’m not too sure anyone would have predicted fake news becoming what it became though. 

What Facebook are doing now is what all companies who are in need of an opposite strategy do. They are future-proofing the platform and they know that they will take a short-term hit. The longer term prospects will be less risky and likely to mean that any talk of governments regulating them gets kicked into the long grass at least for now and if they pull this latest change off quickly enough. That tells me that future changes to the platform could be frequent and fast. 

In the short-term it will cost them dearly, but longer term the outlook will be better, and eventually way more profitable too. Spend less time on the platform now and spend more time and money on the platform in the future, call me a cynic but as I said earlier, I have ridden this particular ride a few times. Businesses take a hit for two reasons only, they are either desperate or they can afford it to make the future more sustainable and with Facebook I have a feeling it is a little out of desperation because they know if they don’t then people will move on.

Those of us with small businesses and who rely on social media, times really are changing and we need to adapt and work with whatever we are given. Facebook have dealt us a new hand, now we need to change the strategy up a little but we can only do that if we start focussing on the quality.

About Mark

Mark is an artist and blogger who specialises in abstract and landscape work. He has also produced numerous book cover commissions. His work is sold around the world and in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada including, The Great Frame Up, Framing and Art Centre, and Deck the Walls. 

You can see Mark’s latest portfolio and buy his work from https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com or on Fine Art America. All of his Fine Art America and Pixels sales go towards maintaining this site in order to help other visual artists and art buyers.

You can also follow Mark on Facebook at: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia and on Twitter @beechhouseart


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