Business of Art | The Three C’s of Online Marketing
A concise how-to for creating and maintaining your digital presence.
If you’re working in the visual, performing, or literary arts, you probably already know that having a website is crucial to your career. A website functions like an online business card, providing visibility for your work and the opportunity to get your message in front of potential buyers, sellers, supporters, and funders. Social media and email newsletters are also part of the online marketing equation, and are essential tools for furthering your career. No matter the medium, success boils down to what your goals are, who your audience is and where you can find them, and being able to effectively communicate your voice and vision with that audience. Your time is valuable, and determining your marketing strategy is personal to you and what you’re looking to achieve.
In this post, we’re sharing tips from three communications experts who recently joined The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and College Art Association (CAA) for a “Marketing for Artists” panel, as part of their one-day Artist as Entrepreneur program. We’ve distilled advice from Ben Hartley, Executive Director, National Arts Club; Valerie Lynch, a fundraising and strategic planning consultant; and Mara Vlatkovic, an arts marketing and communications professional, that will help you better understand how to focus your online efforts.
The panelists agreed that having a clear/identifiable goal is key. Before considering your online presence, ask yourself what you want to achieve from your marketing and where your audience is. If you’re a visual artist, then Instagram may be the platform to focus on; literary artists may consider Twitter, Medium, or other text-based platforms; and performing artists may gravitate towards Instagram (especially the Stories feature) or YouTube.
Defining your success is critical. “If you’re a visual artist who is looking to get a gallery show, you should be attending as many gallery shows as possible and speaking to the people who are there, handing out your card,” said Lynch, underscoring the importance of face-to-face contact. In-person meetings can lead to website visits, social media follows, and e-mail sign-ups if considered thoughtfully.
Knowing who you are as an artist is integral to your practice, and is especially important to how you represent yourself online. Talking about your work–no matter the setting–takes thought and practice. “No one is going to do it for you,” said Hartley. He advised developing an elevator pitch in two short sentences that describes “What your work is, what it deals with, and what it is inspired by.” Vlatkovic suggested looking to your inner circle for help and inspiration. “It’s a challenge for artists to talk person-to-person about their work. Think about whether your friends and family know how to speak about what you do. If not, you may not be communicating properly.”
This mindset can be applied across platforms, from the bio on your website to the language you use in your email newsletters and social media posts. Get feedback from those close to you to determine if you’re on the right track, and use their responses to fine-tune your messaging and visuals and ensure that what you’re communicating best represents you. For examples, refer to the Instagram feeds of Ekaterina Popova, Lilian Martinez, Marc Dennis, Deanna Breiwick, and Amalia Andrade. These artists infuse their posts with personality, which is an essential ingredient to having a successful feed whether you have 100 followers or 1 million.
Think about the people that you follow on social media (they don’t need to be artists!). One thing they likely have in common is a consistency in tone, language, and visuals. Raul Gonzalez, a San Antonio-based artist, shows his process, his family, and his sports alliances on his Instagram feed. Through this variety comes consistency, as his followers can expect this sort of content to be shared over time. Some artists choose to stick with one aesthetic. Popova, according to Vlatkovic, “has a very clear visual aesthetic – very pink, very pastel-colored, and she keeps it going throughout her entire profile.” Consider the types of content that you share or that you could potentially share to give your followers an inside perspective into your life and career. Once you decide what platform is right for you, you can work to develop the right kind of content mix for your feed – one that feels authentic to you.
When you commit to a platform, commit to posting with regularity. If someone starts following you on social media or signs up for your e-mail list, they want to hear from you! “Being aware of fatigue is important, but you also do want to have something to say. When using these platforms, know what your goal is!” said Lynch.
Social media is just that – social! Lynch again cites Marc Dennis’ Instagram as an example: “He uses social media not only to let his audience know what’s happening with him professionally as an artist, but also socially.” In this way, he is introducing his followers to new artists, giving them access to industry events from his perspective, and promoting a culture of sharing that is inherent on social media. As we alluded to earlier, online communities and in-person communities are complimentary. During each show, performance artist Taylor Mac (Fellow in Inter-Disciplinary ‘09) passes a hat around and attaches the donated money to specific social causes. “Mac really connects to the broader community and is intimate in conversation whether in person or on social media – people really relate to that,” she added.
Once people are on board with your work as an artist, keep communicating with them. Hartley offered: “Tell them about your process, new works, some of the challenges you’ve been facing, keep the contact going.” E-blasts are one way to keep in touch, and are useful because they provide a direct line to your audience. “If they’re on your email list, they trust you. Maybe you should be telling them about other things that are going on – a different conversation that’s not just about you. Offer them a lens into your world,” Hartley concluded.
– Amy Aronoff, Senior Communications Officer
The Artist as Entrepreneur program was presented through NYFA Learning, which includes professional development for artists and arts administrators. Sign up for NYFA’s free bi-weekly newsletter to receive updates on future programs.
Image: Jen Liu (Fellow in Digital/Electronic Arts ‘17), “Pink Slime Shift (Working Title),” 2017, HD video