8 Ways Artists and Photographers Should Use Social Media: The Complete Guide

Instagram
Pinterest

The Complete Guide to Social Media for Artists and Photographers

For artists and photographers, social media can seem a bit bewildering. But it’s become an important way to showcase work or even make a sale. True, there might be much clutter out there, but artists can sparkle by sharing their work online (and for those who might be thinking, “Why do I care what someone had for breakfast?” I like to point them to Stephen Shore’s Breakfast, Trail End Restaurant, Kanab, Utah, 1973).

Small Screen; Big Intentions

Naturally, looking at art, photographs, sculptures or prints through social media on a 3×4” screen is not the same as seeing it in person. But it is a place share your latest work, announce exhibitions that you are included in, comment on art you like, and generally keep top-of-mind to your followers, drawing them in so they will see the work in person.

Social Media is a Cocktail

The best way to use social media is to think of it as chatting at a cocktail party or an opening: it’s not really the place for lengthy dissertations or diatribes, but rather perfect for light, occasionally witty/brief quips or snapshots. Remember, there is always a human on the other side of the keyboard, so be polite, share something of interest, don’t over sell, and just be yourself. And think, who would you rather speak to at the cocktail party: someone that constantly thinks of themself or a person that is interesting and engaging. Be that interesting person online and draw people to you.

Overwhelm Alert

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. If just starting, pick one tool such as Instagram and stick with it. After feeling comfortable, start writing a blog, which then can be shared on a few other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

What are the options and how can artists to use social media successfully? Here’s a look and eight social media platforms, what they are, how to use them, who they are for, what to add there, and some tips–starting with the most important at the top of the list.

1. Website

What Is It

The first thing you might notice is that a website is not really a social media platform. But it’s included here because it’s a crucial part of an artist’s arsenal for a few reasons.

First, an artist’s website is their most stable and controllable locale for their body of work, and as such, care should be made to curate only the best work here. Don’t muck about with fancy widgets: keep the focus on easily and quickly showing work.

Second, as the locus of your art, it becomes the central point that feeds everything else, including social media platforms. This is important because we want dealers, collectors, curators, gallerists and editors to be directed back to your site, a place that you control. But we also do it this because it generates site traffic, and the more hits (basically), the higher you can rank in Google search results (a rudimentary explanation of search engine optimization). So this is very important.

Who Is It For

This is for your target audience: people interested in your art or photographs.

What to Post

Only the most refined and well thought out portfolio goes here. It is roughly equivalent to your physical box of photographs that you take to a dealer, or paintings shown during a studio visit.

When to Post

These could be tweaked but mostly they are posted until taken down (or when the Internet explodes).

How Many

About 15 images (per portfolio); 25 max.

Tip

Make sure the image files themselves include your name and something descriptive about your work, such as, “nighlandscape-photography-wyoming-tree-steve-giovinco.jpg.” This makes it easier for search engines to find you.

2. Blog

What Is It

Your site should have a blog. This is crucial because it is a place to showcase new work, and because Google likes updated websites with new stuff, which again helps boost the site’s search ranking. Mostly, your blog should be the only real “moving part” of your otherwise static web site, rotating in new works and sharing things–exhibitions, films, etc.–that you think are important.

Who Is It For

Mostly for your key followers, but branch out to include new people with related interests (such as those in design, architecture, etc.).

What to Post

Add work-in-progress art, or that deviate slightly from the main portfolio. Other things to add could be reviews of interesting shows; work by friends; riffs or rants on the art world; comments on art fairs; a grant that others might find helpful. Try aiming for about 500 words per blog.

When to Post

Monthly for sure, but ideally, every few weeks or even more frequently is best.

Tip

This is the main content engine that drives sharing on most of the platforms below.

3. Instagram

What Is It

If there ever was a social media platform made for artists and photographers, Instagram is it. Made for images, Instagram is the go-to place for artists and those interested in art. This visual app allows for some text description to accompany a photo but includes no clickable links except in the profile.

Who Is It For

Again, gear Instagram posts towards key followers, as well as those with related interests.

What to Post

Be consistent and try sharing one type of image–not everything under-the-sun. I like posting my latest images, work from art residencies, and some gallery shows I like.

When to Post

Ideally, daily, but weekly is a good start.

Tip

Be sure to include your site’s URL in the Profile.

4. Facebook

What Is It

The behemoth known as Facebook is kind of like the Macy’s of social media: it may not be the best, but it has a little bit of everything. You can add images, share articles, upload videos, chat, send private messages, comment on other’s posts–nearly everything.

Who Is It For

Facebook could be a slightly more general audience than your regular art followers.

What to Post

Stick to quality here, generally. Facebook is like a scrapbook that you share, filled with interesting notes on things. Just copy and pasting an article link doesn’t really do much, so instead write an original thought on a recent show or film. Add images of the latest work here and include a few descriptive few sentences.

When to Post

Daily, but don’t over do it–try during regular week-day business hours (nine to five).

Tip

Join Groups; avoid creating a Business Page since, unless you pay for ads, hardly anyone will see your Facebook Newsfeed.

5. Snapchat

What Is It

Snapchat is an intriguing place for artists, and might seem, to some, an odd option. It’s grown from being the destination for salacious imagery, and is the up-and-comer social media app, contenting to be one of the top new places to show work.

Basically, images and posts disappears after 24 hours. I hear the collective, “WTF, why would anyone want that?” Well, for one thing, it makes it more compelling: if you want to see it, you better look before it goes away. And this makes it unique and precious–more in line with art–and differs from the “merch” feel you get when scrolling through image after image and the seemingly frantic grab for followers that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can feel like. Snapchat also fosters a personal connection (if that is possible) because you can send an image just to one person, and this makes it feel special. It might be much more difficult to connect with someone, or a “Friend,” but when you do, they probably will actually pause and see your post on Snapchat.

Who Is It For

Snapchat is great for more general viewers, although since the followers are probably interested in your work, keep them in mind too.

What to Post

I think of Snapchat as a sandbox for trying new things. It could be a place for quick images of things you like or catch your eye, like snapshots, or a way to develop a narrative over time. Although you can add text or upload a previously taken image, it’s not really a place for show announcements.

When to Post

Daily, or several times a week, perhaps in afternoons or evenings.

Tip

Share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on your blog that you are on Snapchat to get followers.

6. Twitter

What Is It

Twitter is for headlines. With a restriction of only 140 characters, why would anyone use it? It’s a way to blast out quick, brief snippets of thoughts. Although images can be attached–any they always should be when you use it–Twitter mostly delivers text in a timely fashion. Importantly, links can be included here. “Followers,” or those that signup to see your messages, are important to gather but can come and go, depending on if they like what you post. Another reason to use Twitter is because Google can include it in search results, making it easier for you to be found online.

Who Is It For

Use Twitter to connect to your base followers, but it can also be a great way to expand out to new ones that might be interested in your work, especially those more business oriented or in publications or the media.

What to Post

Twitter is great for show announcements, resending messages (re-Tweets) of your key followers, mentions of your work in publications, links to your blog. Importantly, re-Tweeting a message is a great way to get followed and to get Followers yourself.

When to Post

Several times a day, especially during regular week-day business hours (nine to five).

Tip

Use the List feature in Twitter to easily identify and organize key Followers, including galleries you want to connect with.

7. Pinterest

What Is It

Pinterest could be derided for being too mainstream, where every post seems to be a brownie recipe or includes a kitty under a rainbow, but there are some serious art users here. While it might not be the main focus of your social media efforts, Pinterest should be on your radar because of it’s popularity. Here you share your images, or “repin” or repost work of others, with minimal comments.

Who Is It For

Pinterest is for a general audience with a creative bent.

What to Post

Share (Repin) other images within Pinterest and Pin other images–especially including your own–that you like. Some might feel the site is too craft-oriented or light, but some good art is shared.

When to Post

After 5pm through 10pm and weekends are best.

Tip

Include comments in your Pins and if Pinning your own work, make sure it includes your name and a link back to your site.

8. Tumblr

What Is It

Sorry, Tumblr; alas, you’ve fallen from grace. The once mighty Bushwick of the web, a quirky corner with an almost-anything-goes attitude of Tumblr is a shell of what it once was (after the purchase by Yahoo). Tumblr is a like a blog where images, articles and text can be uploaded.

Who Is It For

Quirky art interests.

What to Post

Add your images here, and repost other images.

When to Post

Once a week.

Tip

Tumblr seems to be slipping away from popularity, but always include links back to your

Bonus: Other Social Media Platforms

Google Plus

Google seems to have abandoned this social media platform but it still is useful.

Flickr

Confusing to use and a poor user experience, but good for more mainstream photos.

Conclusions

Using social media can help artists and photographers get more visible to collectors, galleriests, museum curators, agents or editors. Be honest and yourself: remember, there are people on the other side of the keyboard, so share things that they might like.

Also, this could be a part-time job in itself, easily requiring 10 to 20 hours per week. If you could only use one platform, it definitely would be Instagram (but explore or think about Snapchat for the future).

Questions? Need Help?

If you have questions, feel free to reach out.

If need be, I could consult, build or manage your social media platforms for you, so just ask.

See related articles:

Eleven Tips for An Artist Residency Application

Find Your Way Creatively: Let the Work Lead You Through, A Guide for Artists and Photographers

Comments are closed.