Starting with Social Media – The Discussion

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 posterousyoutube.

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

From Dusty Collection to Revenue Stream

To date the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has never had a photographic exhibition, and yet their collection of photos has become a revenue stream. How?

Well first of all they started loading the Tyrell Collection – a set of more than 7000 glass plate images known to be free from copyright – to flickr under a creative commons licence. In other words they put the images into public space, in effect they gave them away. So again how did that become a revenue stream?

Before setting up the flickr account the powerhouse had some of the Tyrell collection on their site, and were fairly happy with their 30,000+ visitors per year. In the first two weeks of putting the collection onto flickr saw more than 40,000 visitors.

Visitor interest has been really high, with visitors helping to identify where some of the collection is shot, and actively commenting on some of the images. The museum has also picked up on a mashup of their images, google maps and google streetview to allow a then and now comparison, the mashup was developed not by the employees of the museum, but by a fan. Other fans have made a more lowtech comparison, using images from the Tyrell collection in the foreground of a photo of the current environment.

Some photobuffs have gone to even more trouble creating remixed versions of the images.

The original plate glass image in the Tyrell Collection A remixed version entitled “Madame Pooch”

The museum works hard to load up the collection, to produce a “photo of the day” blog, and to collect images on flickr into the Tyrell today group on flickr (and link them to their historical equivalents. It’s a lot of work, but it’s paying dividends. It’s all been successful enough for the Powerhouse to create a book – published on demand – of the best of their flickr experience called “Then and Now“.

Their once dusty collection has become a revenue stream with uses and orders of their photos increasing year on year. The collection has become an asset, maybe one day it will even earn itself its very own exhibition.

image: camera

Stolen Content

I picked up a tweet this morning, regarding a “crazy one-in-a-million photo”.


So off I went to the relevant page in flickr – where the owner claims “all rights reserved” for this photo.


There’s a pretty funny discussion on English grammar in the comments but more interesting was this comment from a sharp-eyed flickr member.

Is this a case of copyright violation?

Flickr, which is owned by Yahoo, states in the terms of service agreement.

the relevant passage in Yahoo’s terms of service agreement


Investigating further it seems that all the images on xdvxas’s photostream are stolen from somewhere else, xdvxas has obviously had a lot of comments on his behaviour and provides this “handy guide” to his philosophy.


What xdvxas has missed is firstly a semantic argument. Olde Worlde pirates stole, those operating in the Carribean were after gold being exported from Mexico to Spain. The original meaning of piracy is “robbery at sea”. The term gained some respectability in the 20th century as pirate radio stations sought to break government stranglehold on broadcasting frequencies, and of course the movies have romanticised our notion of pirates even futher.

The second thing is that his model makes some sense for physical goods, but it doesn’t apply to intellectual property. In the cases of intellectual property the “making a copy” often dilutes the revenues stream of the person creating the goods in the first place. Given that xdvxas is operating in the murky waters of social media where sharing is the new mantra perhaps we should turn it around.

In the real world your reputation is worth something, we choose who we work with and who we do business with based on that reputation. In the online world the same dynamic is at play, by publishing works and not giving fair attibution, you’re claiming a reputation you don’t deserve. You’re stealing someone else’s reputation for creativity, you’re stealing their thoughts and presenting them as your own.

I’m starting to feel sorry for xdvxas, he’s missed the point of sharing on social media, it’s apparent he does not have any original thoughts of his own, and his attempt to pirate someone else’s reputation has backfired. On almost every photo someone has posted a link to the original photo.


image pirate via pixabay