Social Media Updates for Artists Summer 2018

Social Media Updates for Artists Summer 2018

social media updates summer 2018


Each week I write a new article to support members of our three wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artist Hangout, The Artists Exchange, and The Artists Directory. This week we take a look at some of the upcoming and recent changes to Facebook and Instagram that will affect how we artists use the platforms to market our art. With summer nearly upon us, it’s a good time to reinvent our social strategy. 

We’ll kick off with that Facebook thing because that’s kind of a big deal depending on how you already use the platform to promote your art. If you think it has become increasingly difficult to promote on Facebook it could become a little trickier moving forward but much of the impact will be determined by how you use the platform to start with.

I often hear that organic reach is dead and that the only way to guarantee that your post see’s the light of day in front of an audience is to pay to play. I have been talking about the benefit of using organic reach for as long as I can remember on this site and the new changes aren’t going to convince me that it is game over just yet for organic reach. If you’re not getting any reach at all it could be because you’re not paying attention to quality and engagement. The people are out there but your posts only get to the next set of people once they have proven to be relevant with the first group of people. 

My own page which you can follow here https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia has been growing over the past year with around 300 new followers in the past ten or so months. Now I know that doesn’t sound like many at all but these new followers have all come to the page organically and have chosen to click on like and not because they were prompted by a paid advert. I’d sooner have ten engaged followers than a thousand disengaged followers. You don’t need a million followers to have an impact, it’s how engaged your followers are and how engaged you are that counts. 

More interestingly though those new likes came after the most significant changes started to take place on the platform and when apparently a majority of people had given up their accounts following that data scandal. I’m not so sure that the numbers dramatically dipped at all despite what had been reported in the mainstream media. 

I have said it before and I will say it again, Facebook continues to be the most relevant social media network purely because it is Facebook. It is unique and it has two-billion people still signed up. Instagram which is also owned by Facebook has also seen some changes and will continue to evolve over the coming months but together with Facebook it still continues to be relevant for visual artists, arguably more so at times. 

In answer to whether or not Facebook continues to bring sales I can say from experience that it seems to. I released a new work on the 3rd July and within an hour of posting it on Facebook I saw its first sale, followed by another sale later in the day for an older work. Another customer the day after found me through Facebook too. That might have been a fluke, but had it have not been for Facebook I would have struggled to get news of the release out quite so quickly and my older work would have gone unnoticed. 

I’m someone who likes to test out things when it comes to posting and I did something very different when I posted the new work. I didn’t spray it across the social network and I only created the post on my Facebook business page before sharing it to my personal profile and into one group. 

There was something else that I did differently though as a result of the changes that are currently sweeping through Facebook and I wanted to try out an A/B test. I originally turned off the automated post to Facebook and Twitter from the Fine Art America site so that it didn’t automatically post to Facebook or Twitter when I uploaded my artwork, and instead used the sharing button on the products page within FAA. 

The issue at that point was that the post did get shared but the thumbnail generated from the link was tiny. It was one of those tiny posts that everyone scrolls past rather than the larger picture posts you sometimes see. There’s probably another reason why some posts appear larger than others, perhaps the format of a shared post picture is smaller or larger when you generate the link from elsewhere and doesn’t quite fit into a Facebook post frame. 

So I headed over to my business page and manually created the post, this time linking it to my Pixels site. Bear in mind that my Pixels site is also linked to my Facebook page (a link is in my about section). The result was a larger picture of the work in the post. Now what could also be happening here is that in the past I have provided links to my Pixels site more than directly to Fine Art America. These posts will have received more engagement and reactions than those from FAA, so maybe past relevancy is used by the algorithm to determine reach?

It could then be shared to my personal profile and to one of my groups retaining a larger format and footprint on the timeline. I shared it in my group, The Artist Hangout. This is the group that has significantly higher engagement levels than my other two groups for this type of post, the other groups work much better with other post types relevant to the rules of each of those groups. 

In short, the post was manually created and not automated, it was focussed on where I knew my target demographic hangs out and it was shared directly from my business page and I didn’t use sharing buttons. 

So why is this important you ask? For a long time Facebook has favoured a few things when creating and sharing posts. 

  1. Facebook loves native content – content which has been created on Facebook and doesn’t send people away from the platform. We know about this and it has been well documented on this site and more generally online. 
  2. Facebook doesn’t like repeated cross-posting, often mistaking it for spam which will either get down-ranked or flagged. We know about this too because so many of my friends have ended up in Facebook jail for being overly share happy in a short period of time. 
  3. Facebook favours links to and from some websites. Again, not a secret and something that has been documented all over the web. 

Again this could have all been a fluke but I’ve tried it on a couple of other posts too and had similar results. I don’t think it hurts to ensure that any websites you operate are featured prominently on your Facebook business page. If they then get clicks and engagement then they seem to be more likely to be up-ranked by the algorithm if those links are posted in the future. Unfortunately there’s just no way to know for sure as the algorithm is kept so secret, but what we do know from multiple social media watchers reporting online is that many sites across the internet have been down-ranked by Facebook’s algorithm.

There’s no science or definitive answer behind this but I have a gut feeling that we should really be paying attention to where we post links to and how we post those links. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post with links to your FAA profile either. FAA is very relevant but I would be tempted to post directly within Facebook rather than relying on sharing buttons. I tried it with another post this time linking it to my work on FAA and I got a large post again by generating the link within Facebook. There wasn’t any scientific approach to any of this but I just have a hunch that Facebook really does favour posts that have been created within Facebook. 

Posts generated on the business page have appeared to be similar has have posts generated within individual groups rather than being shared from anywhere else. It could all be a fluke but give it a go with your next post. Create the post exactly where you want to share it rather than relying on share buttons and see if the post performs better and importantly, displays better. 

What we also know of the algorithm is that a few more changes have been well publicised recently and depending on how you post, these changes could see your reach decline further.

Before we get on to those changes though there’s a 600-lb Gorilla in the room that we need to clear up. Remember when I said way back last year that engagement is the only metric that matters on Facebook, well engagement is still the only metric that matters on Facebook. The more engagement a post gets the wider its reach. That’s the crucial bit we all know about. 

This is why and especially when positing in groups that it is so important to engage with the group more generally, otherwise there’s a high probability that you won’t get much interaction with your posts. 

Cross posting randomly continues to be another issue and the volume of flagged to admin posts in each of the groups I created has risen sharply recently. From what I can see from the posts they all have similar things in common when they get flagged as potential spam.

  1. They are filled with hashtags that are not relevant to the post. Low quality hashtags and hashtags that aren’t relevant to the context of the post get flagged most often.
  2. Posts without any context to explain what’s going on in the photo and especially when the photo is text heavy.
  3. Posts that have been cross-posted repeatedly and especially in a short time period
  4. Photos and videos minus text do way better than text only posts, but that’s not a secret. More and more video is consumed on Facebook every day so it makes sense that with the introduction of Facebook Watch, video is going to be regarded higher than most other post types. 

Engagement is difficult. For the most part I see posts that have not received any likes and even more that never receive comments. The plain and simple reason for this is that no one really knows who the poster is. That’s why it is important to interact and engage with others.

Facebook is a reciprocal platform heavily based on being social. You kind of have to work at it before the engagement comes along and there will always be people who only use the platform as a tool to promote, forgetting that engagement is key to selling anything. 


typical Facebook post


That’s the thorny issue of engagement out of the way but what else is going on that could affect your reach?

The API (Application Program Interface) which is essentially the virtual string that brings other sites and services together with Facebook is about to change dramatically due to the not so recent issues with data. 

Automated posts are really taking a hit right now and especially through third-party applications. Scheduling posts from your Facebook business page looks like it will continue to be an option but there is some chatter that as from the 1st August 2018, some third-party automation applications will stop working if they haven’t already. 

The Facebook Pages API will only be available for developers who provide truly useful services and any access in the future will require the approval of Facebook. This is essentially how page management applications are able to schedule posts to your business page at a pre-determined time and on a specific date. Some developers have historically produced apps that would allow you to respond to comments on posts from your page and reply to messages, but this often came at a price with those apps requesting access to data that they didn’t necessarily need. The alternative might be to look at Facebook’s own page management app called Pages which has come on leaps and bounds over the past couple of years. 

In light of the privacy issues and a clear sign that Facebook is suddenly taking the protection of data very seriously, the Events API will also need Facebook’s approval to be used by developers. This will probably not affect you too much unless you use event discovery and ticketing applications, but what this also means is that developers of the apps will not be able to pull in the guest lists and suchlike. Again this is not something that will affect most of us, but it will affect the developers of these services and the end users who rely on them for ticket bookings for example. 

Apps that require access to Facebook group’s information will also need to be reviewed by Facebook. This is something I have never been a fan of in any case. I can see why a third-party might want to get access to the data of in some cases millions of members of a Facebook group and I can see some use for some admins. Currently apps need permission of a group admin or member to access group content for closed groups, and the permission of an admin for secret groups. 

But many of these apps are or rather were able to pull in the details of members of the group. Now those apps are no longer able to pull down the membership list, and personal information has been removed such as names and profile photos attached to comments that approved apps can access. I’ve never been a fan of giving away any permissions but I know some admins who have relied on external services who possibly didn’t quite realise that there are or rather were potential issues. 

There are changes to logins too and Facebook now need to approve any apps that request access to information such as check-ins, photos, posts, likes, videos, events and groups. Developers now have to undertake a stricter review process when submitting their apps that request this type of information and they need to agree to some even stricter requirements around protecting the data. 

Apps can no longer ask for access to personal information such as political views or religious beliefs, nor can they ask for relationship status, access to your custom friend’s lists, or your education and work history. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Music activity, fitness tracking, your reading list and games activity can no longer be shared with third-party apps and if the user has not used a particular app within the past three months, the ability for the developer to pull any data is revoked. 

Again, this protects your data and won’t necessarily affect how you use the platform but it is worth being mindful of and it is reassuring that potential issues with third-parties collecting data will become less likely in the future. 

Searching for people using their phone number is something that is also no more. Up until recently you would be able to type in a user’s phone number into the Facebook search bar and it would find the user the phone number belonged to. 

Bad players have used this feature where they have a phone number to get the details of anyone who is on Facebook. Essentially what this means is that the bad players could type phone numbers they have or random phone numbers they make up into the search bar and it would send back the results identifying the owner of the number. The same is true of using an email address in the search bar too, and this option is also no longer available. 

This will affect some more than others. On one hand it means that bad players will not be able to use the feature but in certain regions such as India and where many people have similar names, the phone number and email search features were often used to find people more expediently. The bad players made this a bad thing. 

Some changes have also been made to recovering accounts to mitigate the risks of scraping data this way too and Facebook believe that many people could have had their data scraped using the account recovery tool in the past. Not reassuring for past activity but it should provide a little comfort moving forward. 

Call and text history is part of an opt-in and now it has been refined to not scrape the content of the messages. On Facebook Lite, Messenger and on Android this has been a thorny issue of late with the feature allowing Facebook to present your most recent connections at the top of your contact list. The changes still allow that to happen but the content of messages and time of call will no longer be collected. 

Instagram…

The API changes are affecting Instagram too. Originally changes to the API were due to come into effect on the 31st July but those changes were brought forward leaving some third-party apps who hadn’t migrated to the new Instagram API completely broken recently.

If you had been relying on bots to follow and unfollow accounts or like posts then its game over. This is something that I have written about in the past and have always maintained that using following services  and bots for likes is generally a bad idea. 

This really affects the apps that analyse your followers or someone else’s followers and those apps will probably no longer work. This could be how you currently get insights to your Instagram followers and find information that helps you to build up knowledge of your demographics. However, there is a work around for legitimate users who use Instagram as another marketing option for promoting their artwork, and that is to use an Instagram business profile which you really should be thinking about using anyway. A lot like Facebook business pages, the business profile on Instagram will give you some Insights data.

There are other good reasons to use a business profile for Instagram. Firstly by switching from a personal profile to a business profile it will allow you to run ads through Instagram, but it also means that you are able to add links to your URL into Instagram Stories, well sort of, more on that in a bit. 

There are only two reasons that you would need to ever consider a non-business profile for if you are using the platform for marketing and those reasons are that personal profiles can be made private, and secondly a personal profile can link to multiple Facebook accounts whereas a business profile cannot be made private and can only connect to a single Facebook profile such as your business page on Facebook.

The Insights tool on a business profile is very similar to Insights for Facebook Business pages. There’s enough information to give you a better understanding of who your followers are and the times of day and days of the week where those followers are more active, but you can also see how your posts have performed. 

There’s also a contact button option which allows you to add a phone number or email address irrespective of the number of followers that you have, but it is perhaps the ability to add in links to your Instagram stories that will be the biggest sway for many. Unfortunately there’s a bit of a catch when adding links to stories using a business profile. Business accounts with 10,000 or more followers are the only ones who get to be able to do this so you are going to have to up your Instagram game to get anywhere remotely close. 

Still not convinced about making the switch? The good news is that you can switch back to a personal profile if you find that you don’t want the additional features, but bear in mind that you must have a Facebook business page to make the switch in the first place. 

Planning Ahead…

Facebook and Instagram have made some significant changes recently and whilst many might feel like a step or two back they are all positive and will benefit users of the platform including those of us who have come to rely on both Facebook and Instagram in our art marketing strategies. It doesn’t necessarily feel like it right now but longer term and once everyone has adapted I am confident that the changes will help rather than hinder. 

There is another platform that is becoming relevant once again and one that I have to say I don’t use anywhere near as much as I should but I’m hoping to spend some time on it soon and that is Pinterest. 

More and more I’m seeing traffic arrive at my FAA store and increasing numbers to the blog all of which has been originating from Pinterest. That might be another useful tool to have in the toolbox. It helps that the platform is visual which is great for the arts, and it also helps that organic reach seems to still be intact. 

I have seen as many as 30-40 re-pins of some of my older content which suggests that a posts half-life is a lot longer than on Facebook where it is all too easily forgotten within a few days. Just one word of caution, overuse of Pinterest can lead to you developing a compelling need to redecorate your home, redesign your garden, and you’ll develop a new found love for the mason jar. You might lose a few hours too. Pinterest is like scrap booking using Amazon Prime while taking a hit of some addictive substance. 

Hopefully this post will get you thinking about how you post in the future and it should also get you thinking about using a smarter posting approach when marketing your artwork. 

There’s little doubt that in time we will see even more prominent positioning of pay to play but for now the organic reach is still around, it’s just slower and harder to grind your way to the numbers. Persistence and patience seem to be the order of the day and it goes without saying that posts should be as carefully crafted as the artwork which you are promoting. 

The 80/20 rule is more prevalent than ever, 80% of your content shouldn’t be directly related marketing and posts really do have to be focussed on delivering something of value to your followers. That though is something that you should have been doing all along and whilst everything else on Instagram and Facebook is changing, the requirement for quality posts will never change.

That’s it for this week but you can check out my latest artwork over on my Pixels site, the link is below!


wild art by Mark Taylor Pixels


About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger who specialises in abstracts, landscapes, and seascapes. My work is sold in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada including The Great Frame Up, Framing and Art Centre, and Deck the Walls and you can also buy from Fine Art America or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com  

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

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site then please do consider donating the cost of a coffee over at https://gofundme.com/mark-Taylor-beechhouse-Media where you can still be the first person to buy me a coffee!

There’s no obligation to do so but in time I hope to remove adverts from the site entirely and create more pages which focus on and support independent visual artists. I’ll be removing one of the Facebook share buttons too!

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