Crystal Ball: Three Trends for the Future

With the rapidly expanding emergence of social media over the last several years, I think the majority of artists—like most people—have looked upon the phenomenon with anything from mild curiosity to enthusiastic interest. Many of us have jumped on the bandwagon to one degree or another, thoroughly enjoying connecting with other artists in virtual communities. It’s been novel and fun and exciting.

But as the novelty wears off, I think artists will start to expect more from their virtual communities. Based on what the experts foresee happening in the overall online world, I’m going to make three predictions for artists participating in the virtual world of the future.

1. Virtual communities that involve both artists and collectors will open and grow significantly.

Up until now, art collectors have kept a low profile in online communities. There are plenty of artists’ communities in Facebook, for example, and the artists have been very smart to build their individual brand profiles by posting and sharing thousands of examples of their work. But the collectors have been reluctant to reveal themselves within these communities, perhaps for fear of being bombarded with too much art from too many artists. This makes it more challenging for artists to successfully sell their work. But I think this attitude is changing.

Digital marketing expert Alex Hisaka writes: “While conventional wisdom holds that people don’t want businesses to encroach on their personal lives, that’s far from the truth. Many customers today are utilizing multiple outlets, not just Facebook and Twitter, to ask questions, give feedback and share and connect with others (Hisaka, 2012).” While this trend has emerged sooner in other industries, I’d like to believe it will eventually come to affect the online art communities as well.

In other words, as today’s art collectors realize that you can control the volume of marketing messages that come from online sources, they will start to feel safe in getting involved in art-based communities. And on the flip side, as savvy artists realize that it’s unproductive to chase every possible collector, their efforts will become more appropriately targeted to the right segments. Bottom line, I believe collectors will start to reveal themselves because they trust they will attract only the artists with whom they want to connect, which will offer tremendous benefits to both sides.

2. Artists’ communities will become business networking tools, not just social networking opportunities.

At first, artists started connecting with each other simply because being an artist is often a lonely journey. We were just excited to meet others like us. Very rapidly, and aided by other players such as art materials manufacturers and others, the social networking evolved into forums for sharing ideas, information, and resources. It’s all great, but there seems to be an unspoken limit. Artists are also fiercely competitive and don’t want to give too much away. I’d like to see this trend toward more productive uses of social media continue to evolve even deeper into the professional realm, with artists using their social networks to set up shows, recommend other artists for commissions, find partners for collaboration, and so on.

As much as we’ve all been enjoying social media, I think many of us have come to realize that it can be a big time suck if you’re not using your tools and connections wisely, for a purpose. CrushIQ CEO Tim Moore states: “It’s clear that a fresh paradigm is next to emerge that will simplify our online activity, have richer content and control, be more meaningful to our interests and lives. I don’t see larger being the answer (Barrett, Moore).” So those artists like Paul Heard and Mike Kus who have already used their social networks to land real business will turn out to be leaders in a growing trend (Drell, 2012). They prove that we can all enjoy greater success when we use our time productively to help each other.

3. Artists’ communities will start producing art via the web.

I know I mentioned this in an earlier post, but artists are already starting to use technology and social media to produce and promote artistic creations, like the Creators Project (Drell, 2012). This is not surprising to me because artists are always finding ways to take things created for one purpose and turn them to their own purposes—it’s the heart of the creative spirit. Really, the sky is the limit in terms of creative collaborations that can emerge from social media.

What makes it all possible is that mobile technologies, social media, and mobile apps are rapidly becoming ubiquitous in our lives. Groundswell author Charlene Li notes: “What is interesting about the future of social media is how behavior is evolving. Users are learning, adapting and growing more aware of their surroundings. Photos and video are playing more dominant roles in how we communicate (Barrett, Li).” With so many artists carrying smartphones—a.k.a. art materials—in their pockets, it will just be that much easier to collaborate.

So what do you see in the crystal ball? What trends are you predicting for the future as new technologies and tools emerge and more artists get involved in online communities?

—Jennifer

Barrett, Jeff (May 9, 2012). Charlene Li: The future of social media, The Washington Time Communities, retrieved from http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/status-update/2012/may/9/charlene-li-future-social-media/.

Barrett, Jeff (May 2, 2012). The future of social media: CrushIQ CEO Tim Moore, The Washington Times Communities, retrieved from http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/status-update/2012/may/2/future-social-media-crushiq-ceo-tim-moore/.

Drell, Lauren (January 20, 2012). Artists and digital: why social media is the new art gallery, Mashable Social Media, retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/01/20/artists-social-digital-media/.

Hisaka, Alex (April 26, 2012). The future of social media and business, Social Media Today, retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/node/496960.

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.

How Social Media Has Transformed the Art Industry

Those of us in the fine art industry know that artists and art galleries have had a long-standing love/hate relationship. Artists love the fact that galleries market and sell works of art, but they hate the fact that the better galleries keep 50% (or only 40%, if you’re lucky) of every sale. Then along came the Internet, and things got so much worse. Artists started setting up personal websites to sell their own works directly to the public, and social media allowed them to market themselves like the best professionals. Their efforts made deep cuts into galleries’ profits. For a few years there, the relationship between artists and galleries was seriously contentious. But once it became obvious that web-based art marketing was here to stay, both groups seemed to settle in to a new way of co-existing peacefully and profitably.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s clear that there are still many art collectors who will only purchase works of art from art galleries or auction houses. The collectors look to gallerists and curators to provide a level of expertise and unbiased information that they just can’t get anywhere else. And now that gallerists and curators understand the important educational role they play, they’re using the web to fulfill this role more effectively than ever before. All of today’s galleries and auction houses have their own websites, but most also have Facebook business pages along with blogs and Twitter accounts to push out useful, informative snippets of information (Huff, Blue chip galleries). In fact, social media is an ideal forum through which all kinds of art dealers can sell their high-ticket “products” by informing, rather than persuading, which is exactly what today’s collectors want (Huff, Art galleries). Social media platforms are also a great way for these businesses to remind their customers of openings, auctions, and other upcoming events.

However, many eager collectors are also willing to buy direct from artists, especially if they are familiar with an artist’s work. And many artists now prefer to sell their own work via the web, although some would still rather leave the marketing and sales functions up to a gallery. Those artists who do market their creations can charge the same amounts for works that are sold in galleries, but they get to keep the full amount (minus taxes and shipping, of course). Many artists feel that the increase in revenue more than makes up for the extra time they invest in marketing their own work. And many of these artists have learned to be pretty savvy marketers. Going beyond merely optimizing their websites and waiting for visitors to show up, they are proactively using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more to attract collectors’ attention.

Social media has turned the artists’ world upside-down in other ways, too. The life of an artist has always been a solitary one, with hours spent working alone in the studio. Professionals artists are a fairly rare breed, too, so unless an artist lives in New York or some other major “art town,” there were generally few opportunities to meet other members of the artist tribe. Facebook and other forums have changed all that.

There are now thousands of artists who’ve joined Facebook, and they’ve set up literally hundreds of different groups where they can interact. Artists typically set up groups based on something they have in common, so there are groups that run the gamut from Serious Collectors of Realism Art to En Plein Air Paintings and Painters to The Beauty of California by Facebook Painters. And it’s more than just online socializing—members are using these groups to connect in real life. For example, one group called KAWA (Kick Ass Women Artists), led by founding member Anne Nelson Sweat, will be holding its first group meeting and paint-out in Jackson, Wyoming, in mid-September, and nearly 170 women artists plan to attend. Artisans who create fine craft are enjoying a similar experience within Etsy, a site that doubles as their e-commerce site.

A smaller, yet still significant, number of artists can also be found participating in art-related forums all over the web (Huff, Thriving artist). For example, the two biggest “how-to” painting magazines in the U.S., The Artist’s Magazine and American Artist, each facilitate huge online forums where artists can ask questions and discuss issues.  Not only do forums like ArtistsNetwork and ArtistDaily provide a place for artists to connect, they offer a place where beginners can learn from more seasoned professionals by asking questions and watching demonstrations. Similarly, YouTube is loaded with how-to videos for beginners. And all of them, along with social media sites like Deviant Art, allow artists to post their latest creations and get feedback from fellow artists.

Arts industry workers and art enthusiasts, in general, are using social media tools to connect, too. In fact, hundreds of art lovers have been using Meetup.com to find fellow art lovers and set up trips to museum shows, gallery exhibits, film festivals, and more. These people have formed groups in cultural cities around the globe, and many groups from Philadelphia to Toronto to New York have memberships over a thousand. London’s Culture Seekers group actually has about 5,000 members (Preston, 2011).

Almost inevitably, artists are now using social media as a tool for creating art itself. Just one example is the Creators Project, a collaborative art installation that pops up at events all around the world. It’s an idea dreamed up by Intel, Vice, and hundreds of artists. Participants contribute pictures and videos of the events through a variety of apps and other social media tools, then tweet, post, or otherwise communicate the project to art enthusiasts everywhere (Drell, 2012). Collectively, the images become a work of art.

From artists to art dealers to collectors, art aficianados of every kind are discovering an increasingly large and fascinating world of art online, especially through the use of social media tools. How about you? What are some of your favorite sites and tools?

–Jennifer

Drell, Lauren (January 20, 2012). Artists and digital: why social media is the new art gallery, Mashable Social Media, retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/01/20/artists-social-digital-media/.

Huff, Cory (n.d.). Art galleries and the internet, AbundantArtist.com, retrieved from http://www.theabundantartist.com/galleries-and-social-media-part-1/.

Huff, Cory (n.d.). The thriving artist survey results, AbundantArtist.com, retrieved from http://www.theabundantartist.com/the-thriving-artist-survey-results/.

Huff, Cory (n.d.). What blue-chip galleries can teach us about social media networking, AbundantArtist.com, retrieved from http://www.theabundantartist.com/what-blue-chip-galleries-can-teach-us-about-social-media-networking/.

Preston, Jennifer (October 21, 2011). Rendezvous with art and ardent, New York Times, retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/arts/artsspecial/social-networking-among-young-arts-professionals.html?pagewanted=all.