I had the opportunity to be one of the experts in a round table discussion on Social Media last Friday with young artists as part of the Realisme event. The other expert, with more claim to the title then me, was Martijn Verver.
At the end of the round table sessions the advice we had could be summarised in to two phrases; “just do it” and “tell your own story”. So much for expertise!
But the discussion was really interesting and some of the questions were really pertinent and I’ve tried to summarise the answers here (with links I hope are helpful).
There is a real and understandable temptation to focus on the technology, to go straight to the tools. But it’s worth keeping in mind that social media is about how you behave online; it’s about connecting people.
1) You need to be yourself online.
2) You can connect to others – even people you haven’t met before. You can ask them to also “friend” or “follow” you. It will take time to build a following.
3) Should it be in English? If your target audience is international then you probably need your content to be in English; but you can rely on visual content, you don’t need a lot of written content.
4) I’m not comfortable promoting myself, how can I use social media? (This came following a discussion of how social media can be your “marketing department”) You don’t have to describe your work in glowing terms; you can just post pictures of progress or inspiration, and say what you’re working on – let others praise you!
5) You may get negative comments – they will probably be outweighed by the positive ones – but be prepared for it. If you have a mature following your followers may defend you, but you may have to decide whether, or how to respond. Generally speaking discussion is a good thing.
Perhaps the most questions were about the tools themselves – here are the most interesting.
1) Should I use facebook if my audience doesn’t?
Probably not – at least not to address that audience but you, or the gallery you work with, might want to use it to promote an exhibition.
If you’re using facebook think about setting up a separate fan page for your art, rather than using your personal page. ING Art Management has a fan page for example. This means that you won’t be promoting your new exhibition right after lamenting that you burnt the spaghetti.
2) Should I be on linkedin?
Linkedin is particularly relevant for business, so if you run your own company, or are a freelancer you should be on linkedin, it’s a question of reputation.
Linkedin offers ways of sharing content; you can connect to your blog, a slideshare presentation or display your portfolio.
It’s also worth looking for connections via the groups function, which does give you the opportunity to have a discussion in a ‘closed’ group, and the chance to email members of the group.
3) How can I share my work?
There are a lot of different tools out there; the easiest and most used one for images is flickr, on the site you can share your photos – including with a creative commons licence if you like – and you can contribute to relevant groups, or start your own.
Other tools worth considering to store your content are tumblr, wordpress or blogger or posterous, youtube.
Look for “post to many” options on tools, for example I can update my twitter and linkedin status at the same time – in fact I could update facebook at the same time but choose not to. Being smart about the content can save you time.
1) What content can I use?
Profile your work, update this often even if you draw on older works, perhaps saying how you’ve developed since creating that works.
Photographs , poems, stories or articles that inspire you.
Progress updates of your work – this is fascinating for a non-artist, particularly if you’re working on a bigger project
Behind the scenes – take the visitor through the creation of a work, perhaps as a slideshow or a video. This is really time intensive for you you but it would create a piece of content that could stay on your site/blog and be re-used regularly as showing how you work.
Mashable – good resource for discussion on the latest tools
Problogger – tips on writing, maintaining and thinking about content
PR squared – tips on promoting yourself online
Etsy – great resource of supplies and artists
Cool Hunting – a group blog promoting great design, get ideas on how to present your content.
Style Cowboys – a Dutch site about design, again with great ideas on presenting your content.
The summary of our advice stands – “Just do it” and “be yourself”. On reflection I’d add “connect”; connect to other artists, connect your content, connect your tools (to be more effective). Have fun!
What other tips would you add? Do you have other questions? Add a comment below.
image connection /Sara Lando/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0