Internet marketing for artists: What are you doing wrong?
The internet provides a world of opportunity for artists. Are you making the most of it or just flailing along trying a bit of this and a bit of that with no real goal in sight? If so, you’re not alone.
The term ‘internet marketing’ has negative connotations; it evokes images of conmen in cheap suits giving little old ladies the ‘hard-sell’ in an attempt to rinse them for huge amounts of money in return for products promising to heal diseases or make them millionaires overnight. But if done well and authentically internet marketing can build admiration for your artwork and trust in your brand.
Today we’ll look at 6 of the mistakes many artists make when promoting their work online. Actually, many of the common pitfalls aren’t specific to artists. The only reason I feel qualified to write this article is that I’ve made at least 3 of them myself in my time running TextileArtist.org!
Mistake 1: Not doing it!
The number one mistake made by artists is not using the internet at all to promote their work.
As you’d expect from creative people, they come up with creative excuses: I don’t know how to do it. I don’t have the time. What if my work is stolen? I don’t think it will work. I don’t like technology! I could go on.
Think about it logically. If potential fans and buyers aren’t finding you on Google, they’re finding other artists. If people aren’t sharing your art on Facebook, they’re sharing other people’s art. If online magazines, galleries and blogs aren’t featuring your work, they’re featuring your competitor’s work.
The rewards of marketing your art online aren’t just financial (although if done well it can increase your sales); if you’re not doing it, you’re missing out on inspiration, conversation and potential collaboration. Since we started TextileArtist.org we’ve had the honour of chatting to and working with some really fascinating people – people we never would have known about if it hadn’t been for our online activity.
What’s the solution? Address your excuses and start!
If you don’t know how to do it, learn. A quick Google search for whatever it is you want to do online will reveal hundreds of free tutorials.
But don’t try to do it all; starting a blog, building a website, creating social media profiles, sending out a newsletter, opening an online shop all at the same time is a sure-fire way to put you off doing anything at all. When starting internet marketing for artists, pick one area to focus on first and master that. You can diversify as you go.
Saying you don’t have the time is really just saying it’s not that important to you. If building a reputation as an artist and selling your work is a priority, you’ll make the time.
The issue of image copyright is complex and vast; far too complex and vast to discuss in detail in this article. It’s understandable that many artists want to retain control of their work, but does having an image of your work shared on Pinterest or Facebook or anywhere on the internet equate to theft? True – occasionally you may not be credited as the artist. But the majority of the time you will and potentially your work will be seen by thousands more people than in a local exhibition. And what’s to stop people taking a photograph of your work at that exhibition and posting it to the internet anyway?
Mistake 2: Being I-centric
Narcissism is rife on the internet; social media is the worst culprit, but it also rears its ugly head in newsletters and blogs. Talking incessantly about your achievements, dropping names of big clients, and droning on and on about your artistic philosophy are likely to turn off potential fans and buyers. After all, what do they get out of it besides a bout of jealous rage?
What’s the solution? Put your audience first
Be careful how much you talk about yourself. If what you are posting anywhere on the internet doesn’t serve your audience in some way, don’t post it. Is it funny? Engaging? Informative? Educational? Then it’s ok.
When you do talk about yourself, try to put a spin on it so it has some benefit for your audience; how can a new piece of your work inspire them? What will they learn from your latest blog post? Does your newsletter contain a VIP invite to your latest exhibition?
Ways to serve your audience better
Show them how a piece was made in photos: This might seem dull to you but to a non-artist the process could be fascinating and it will encourage a deeper connection with you and your work.
Share brilliant resources: What are the tools of your trade that others could benefit from? They don’t have to be directly related to art, but they can be.
Who inspires you?: Your creative heros may also be able to ignite a flame in the hearts and mind of your fans.
Share tutorials: How did you learn a particular technique? Let your audience in on it too.
Invite feedback: Ask questions of your audience (like this one we posted on Facebook), encourage conversation, and reply to comments – this will help your audience understand you care about them.
Mistake 3: Using free hosted blogs
Hosting your artist blog on a free platform like Blogger.com may seem smart in terms of cash-flow, but it can make you seem amateurish, cheap and as if you don’t care how your art is presented.
The themes are normally ugly and over-complicated, the functionality is clunky and your visitors may be subject to all sorts of unwanted distractions such as unrelated banner ads.
You don’t own your blog on a free platform, which means you can’t control what happens to it down the line.
Remember, art is a business and you need to project a professional image on your website.
What’s the solution? Build yourself a WordPress site (it’s simple I promise)
You don’t need to invest hundreds of pounds to have a bespoke site designed by a flashy company. Art is normally best showcased in a clean, simple environment, which is why I would recommend learning how to build a site on WordPress.org.
Using WordPress itself is free, but you will need to pay for a dedicated domain name and hosting (both available very cheaply from Bluehost).
Mistake 4: Not building a mailing list
If you aren’t asking your website visitors for their email addresses you are missing out on building a very valuable asset; a mailing list of people who have chosen to receive your correspondence. That’s right, they have already expressed an interest in what you do by volunteering their contact details and are therefore more likely to become a dedicated fan and eventually a buyer.
I know you’d love to think that your work is so memorable it will keep people coming back again and again. But the truth is, without an option to sign up on your website or blog, many visitors will land on your site, like what they see, but forget all about you within a day or so. Getting them to join your mailing list means you can use your newsletter to encourage repeat visits to your site, and deepen your relationship with your audience.
What’s the solution? Set up a free mailing list with MailChimp
Here at TextileArtist.org we use Mailchimp to build our mailing list. We’re now paying for the service, but your first 2,000 sign-ups are free. They offer great email templates, easy to implement sign-up forms and fantastic metrics so you can track how well your email campaigns are doing.
If your site is built on WordPress check out this quick and easy tutorial for setting up your mailing list and putting a sign-up form on your homepage.
Give visitors a reason to sign-up; make it worth their while. Perhaps offer a free gift, such as a video tutorial or a ‘behind the scenes’ PDF sketchbook; you can send them a link to this content in an auto-responder once they’ve signed up.
A word of warning – never ever add people to your mailing list without their permission. This makes you seem sneaky and untrustworthy and there’s no point in filling up your mailing list with just anyone – you want them to be genuinely interested in what you’ve got to say.
Mistake 5: Using social media just to socialize!
If you only use Facebook to post pictures of your cat and play Candy Crush, you’re missing out. Of course all of the social media platforms were originally designed for making contact with friends, but they’ve evolved into invaluable marketing platforms too.
What’s the solution? A Facebook business page
On Facebook it’s important to have an artist business page as well as a personal profile; this way you can separate your true friends from your fans and potential buyers.
Of course there will be a crossover, but your business page should be goal orientated and your profile is just for fun.
Mistake 6: Making it difficult to buy
Visitors to your site won’t have a clue which of your pieces are still available unless you tell them. And they won’t know what you want them to do unless you ask (Enquire about a piece, buy my work, hire me for a commission).
What’s the solution? Be clear, open and honest
Without displaying prices or clear, simple instructions on how to buy, many people will simply not bother enquiring for fear of being embarrassed when they discover they can’t afford the piece they wanted.
If you sell online make sure you also include clear information about shipping (cost and time), your returns policy, and which methods of payment you accept. It is also a good idea to think of all the possible objections or sources of anxiety for a potential buyer and address them on your sales page.
If you’ve been marketing your art online for a while, what are your top tips? What’s been working? And what has been a waste of time? We’d love to hear from you – let us know in the comments below.