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.

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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.