Taking a Social Approach to Marketing Art Materials

It’s just human nature—whenever you run into someone from your own tribe, you immediately start swapping stories and talking shop. Artists are no exception, and we particularly love to discuss the tools of our trade—art materials. Especially for beginners, it can be extremely helpful to talk to more experienced artists who can explain how one brand of paint differs from another and why that $250 watercolor brush from the art store really is better than the $2.50 brush from the craft store.

Joe Miller gets it. An artist himself, he’s spent nearly 30 years talking to artists about art materials. It’s a huge part of his job as owner of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff in Boone, North Carolina, one of the largest mail-order art materials retailers around. Even back in the days when his business was conducted through a paper catalog, Joe was social. He understood that artists enjoy telling stories and sharing experiences—the funnier, the better!—so he included them in his catalog. And now that social commerce is in full swing, Cheap Joe’s is taking full advantage of it.

In addition to the company website, which includes discussion forums for almost every art topic imaginable, Cheap Joe’s has an extensive Facebook page, which is connected to its YouTube channel (filled with art instruction videos), which is connected to its Pinterest page, and so on. Supporting these platforms are special incentives delivered on Twitter. In other words, the company’s online presence is smartly integrated (Wehmann, 2011). Throughout it all, visitors get to enjoy lots of great announcements of people winning awards and fun events and links to other valuable resources for artists. And the product messaging is so subtle. For example, rather than post something about some type of paint, Cheap Joe’s posts a picture of paint being made, like this one from the company Facebook page. For an artist, that’s really cool to see, don’t you think?  The overall theme to everything Cheap Joe’s does is the pure fun and joy of creativity—that’s what the company is really selling.

Like all online retailers using social media, Cheap Joe’s has opened the door to criticism and negative feedback. And there is some to be found. But the company has responded appropriately, according to what many experts recommend, by clarifying misconceptions, providing additional information, and yes, apologizing when things haven’t gone as planned (ASPCA).

Cheap Joe’s must be devoting a lot of resources to social commerce and SM marketing, given the volume and tight integration of everything that the company’s marketing team is putting out there, yet the company has consistently invested heavily in marketing. As someone who has routinely given away thousands in free product every year, Joe Miller has always believed that marketing pays off in both tangible and intangible ways that can’t always be measured (Owyang, 2010). Today, the Cheap Joe’s Facebook page has more than 13,000 likes and more than 5,000 subscribers to its YouTube channel. In the art world, that’s big!

I’m obviously a big fan of Cheap Joe’s and Joe himself. How about you? Are you a fan? Why don’t you come and join me in the conversation about art materials at Cheap Joe’s?

–Jennifer

ASPCA (n.d.). Using social media: Top 10 tips for responding to negative comments, ASPCA.org, retrieved from http://www.aspcapro.org/top-10-tips-for-responding-to-negative-comments.php.

Owyang, Jeremiah (September 19, 2010). Matrix: Risks and rewards of social business, Jeremiah Owyang, retrieved from http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/09/19/matrix-risks-and-rewards-of-social-business/.

Wehmann, Jim (August 25, 2011). 5 ways to maximize your social commerce ROI, .net, retrieved from http://www.netmagazine.com/opinions/five-ways-maximise-your-social-commerce-roi.

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One thought on “Taking a Social Approach to Marketing Art Materials

  1. It sounds like he is taking the time to respond to the conversation that is happening, and it also sounds like he is doing a great job. The minute we stop being a part of the conversation that is already happening is the moment we fail at our SM efforts.

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