Differentiation

Photos of museum events like this one should be part of CAM's social media efforts.

Photos of museum events like this one should be part of CAM’s social media efforts.

Art lovers living in and near Cincinnati are lucky to have a number of impressive art museums to visit. Two of the most popular are the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Contemporary Arts Center, both of which use social media extensively in their marketing campaigns. However, neither museum is reaping the full benefit of having a social media presence, and both could improve their use of the various social media platforms.

The Cincinnati Art Museum is typically thought of as a more traditional art museum featuring a wide range of artwork made over the last several centuries and around the globe. It’s a family-friendly institution with a lot of activities aimed at attracting families with children. CAM’s website links out to the museum’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube entries, and Instagram.

The Contemporary Arts Center, as the name suggests, features predominantly new works by living artists, which actually gives them a little bit of an edge in terms of content they can include in their social media efforts. This art institution is often able to get or create video and photography of the artists themselves, discussing their work and sometimes even interacting with museum visitors. The CAC’s website links out to a slightly different mix of social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, and YouTube.

Even a quick overview of the two nonprofits’ social media efforts reveals that members of their marketing teams are actively contributing, making daily impressions on Facebook and Twitter. CAC’s Tumblr blog is also updated frequently, although neither organization posts on YouTube and Vimeo very often. Despite all this activity, it is all centered on meeting just one organizational objective: public relations. The vast majority of posts are reminders of upcoming events, with a few photos/videos from the actual events sprinkled in.

As Olivier Blanchard notes, a nonprofit can use social media for a number of different objectives, such as providing member support, increasing member loyalty, and achieving other desired outcomes (Blanchard). Both CAM and the CAC could improve in these aspects of their social media campaigns. For example, both could do more to promote the idea of membership, perhaps through giving members more of a voice on social media (as in post-event commentary written by members, not staff) and drawing attention to the perks of membership.

Behind-the-scenes looks at the CAC are interesting but don't do much to engage viewers in social communication.

Behind-the-scenes looks at the CAC are interesting but don’t do much to engage viewers in dialogue.

Another area for improvement for both brands is better engagement with visitors. Very few of the posts ever generate any kind of response, so both organizations might try to focus on who they’re trying to reach and do more to listen to and engage them in two-way conversation through social media (Baruch). For example, CAM posted a reminder on October 4 that it was holding a children’s craft activity on Saturday, October 5. Yet there is no follow-up, no photos of children engaged in the activity. It would have been great to have asked some of the parents who were there, who undoubtedly had their cell phones handy, to post some of their pictures, using Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Because so much of the social media effort for both institutions is basic PR, it also lacks any kind of character or flavor, which is another best practice recommended by social media marketers like Trish Forant (Forant). Developing a stronger “voice” or tone to the social media messaging might also help to clarify the target audience and make the campaigns more engaging. And in both cases, blog or other posts written by the museums’ directors or curators would probably attract a lot of attention from followers.

It appears that the social media efforts for both the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Center are still in their infancy. While both organizations are using social media effectively for public relations, neither is utilizing these platforms to their full potential.

Baruch, Yolanda (n.d.). Module two: Translating business objectives into social media initiatives, SNHU website, retrieved from https://bb.snhu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1133927-dt-content-rid-1095328_1/courses/MKT-655-13TW1-MASTER/MKT-655-13TW1-MASTER_ImportedContent_20130724121237/MKT-655-OLMASTER_ImportedContent_20130528050143/Learning%20Modules/Module%20Two%20Module%20Overview/MKT655_M2_Overview_1.pdf.

Blanchard, Olivier. Social Media ROI, Indianapolis, Indiana: Que/Pearson Education, Inc., 2011, p. 24-27.

Forant, Trish (July 10, 2013). 10 social media best practices for brand engagement, Salesforce Blog, retrieved from http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/2013/07/best-practices-social-media-engagement.html.

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.

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.

5 Tips for Using Social Media to Market Your Art

We all enjoy using Facebook to stay connected to our friends and family, and Pinterest is a lot of fun for collecting and sharing ideas, but have you thought about how you can utilize these social media tools as part of your overall marketing efforts for your art career? A recent study shows that 81% of business owners using social media have seen an increase in business (Camusio). By understanding who else is using these tools—and why—you can develop a streamlined, efficient social media strategy that will up your art sales.

1. Let people get to know you. As you probably know by now, collectors usually make buying decisions based on more than just the work of art—they want to know and like the artist, too. Having your own website that includes your bio is a great start, but you can use social media tools to give potential buyers more and frequent glimpses into your personality and lifestyle. For instance, nature painter Jane Freeman’s daily meditative Facebook posts on her environment reveal her love of nature and her poetic outlook, which supports her artwork. Similarly, your professional pages on Facebook and LinkedIn with frequent posts about your artistic activities will let people get to know you. And don’t forget Pinterest, another way to show your followers more of your style. With 845 million people using Facebook (Cheredar, 2012), 161 million members using LinkedIn (LinkedIn, 2012), and nearly 19 million people using Pinterest (Swartz, 2012), plenty of would-be art collectors will have a better chance of getting to know you through social media.

2. Celebrate your successes. Another great thing about social media venues like Facebook and LinkedIn—even Twitter if you’re trying to reach a younger crowd (Pew, 2012)—is its immediacy, making it the perfect means of building your credibility by announcing big accomplishments like awards, commissions, and media coverage right when they happen. You might be uncomfortable with the idea of “bragging,” so find creative ways to work around that. When Silvano Raiti wanted to announce his most recent award for “In the Studio” (right, oil, 24 x 24 inches) for instance, he used a Facebook post to thank the judge for the honor. It was subtle, but you can believe potential buyers were excited to know that this beauty for sale is also a gold medalist, which makes the work more valuable.

3. Market your artwork. Of course, new works should be added to your website as you complete them, but don’t miss any opportunity to “push” your latest works out to potential buyers with Facebook or LinkedIn posts or by adding them to your Pinterest board. And if you create fine craft, be quick to post them to your Etsy shop. You never know who may be looking at your pages for fine art since the vast majority of social media users are silent observers, or spectators, as they’ve been dubbed by Groundswell authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Li, p. 45). Ken Ichihashi (whose vase is shown below right, porcelain, 18 x 12 x 12 inches), Frank Serrano, Donna Talerico, Marc Hanson, Gladys Roldan-de-Moras, Kevin Courter, and countless others report that these spectators often turn into buyers. Even better, the more you can demonstrate a consistent record of sales on your own, the more likely you’ll be to land gallery representation.

4. Market your other services. Hardly any professional artist has the luxury of making a living solely from the sale of their creations. Almost everyone supplements their income by providing other services to fellow artists, such as teaching, workshop teaching, critiquing, and coaching. Although you’ll be marketing these other services to a different audience than your artwork, you can still use social media tools to do the job—at no cost to you. Facebook, LinkedIn, Etsy, Pinterest, and more are filled with artists communicating with one another, individually and in group forums. Once you get involved in these venues, you can start promoting your services, just like artist Chuck Marshall. Chuck is an active Facebook user with more than 4,200 friends, and he says his workshop teaching business has quadrupled since he joined Facebook four years ago.

5. Find inspiration in others. Swapping stories, sharing trade secrets, enjoying others’ works, and rediscovering your motivation when it flags are all benefits you’ll enjoy from engaging in social media tools like Facebook, Pinterest, or Etsy. But these go beyond mere personal enrichment. With inspiration and knowledge, you can continuously create the best works you can, which will inevitably lead to more sales at higher prices. So social media is not just for fun—it’s smart business, too.

Of course, these are just some of the many social media tools and uses that are out there. What have you been using, and why? I’d love to hear your success stories!

–Jennifer

Camusio, Zeke (n.d.). Social media networks as a marketing tool (a new study), Startup Nation, retrieved from http://www.startupnation.com/business-articles/9457/1/social-media-network-marketing.htm.

Cheredar, Tom (February 1, 2012). Facebook user data: 845M users monthly, 27.B million daily likes & comments, VentureBeat.com News page, retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2012/02/01/facebook-ipo-usage-data/.

Li, Charlene, and Bernoff, Josh.  Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social media, Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011, p. 45.

LinkedIn (May 3, 2012). LinkedIn press release: LinkedIn announces first quarter financial results, LinkedIn.com, retrieved from http://press.linkedin.com/node/1192.

Pew Internet & American Life Project (June 1, 2012). New data about Twitter usage, Social Harbor, retrieved from http://socialharbor.com/blog/new-data-about-twitter-usage/.

Swartz, Jon (April 26, 2012). Pinterest growth curve levels off, USA Today archives, retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-04-25/pinterest-growth/54560126/1.