It’s time to take your online presence as an artist seriously. It’s not that hard, it can be free or pretty affordable, and, maybe most importantly, it’ll give you peace of mind so you can focus on your work and not on performing for “the algorithm”.
I’m just a nobody on social media, so this blog post is more of a document for myself about how to control and target how I use social media. I’ve gotten stressed out about what to do, what I want from it, etc. and I think many people might share this.
Here’s what I suggest you do and then I’ll give my thoughts on what you should start thinking about.
Get a site!
How? You can get a LinkTree mini site, or carrd.co, you can get a Tumblr blog (more on this later). These two are free. If you have the ability to pay, you can start with an affordable WordPress site ($4 at the time of this writing), or Wix ($16 a month as of this writing) but I discourage the Free tier.
Why? Because you want a central place that is all things you. Eventually, you want to tie it to your own domain name so that people can always go to “super-awesome-artist.com” and not “some service.com/people/super-awesome-artist-0023994”
Tumblr lets you use the free tier and tie it to your domain name for free. Here’s an example where I’m experimenting: tumblr.bobdraws.com
Wix can create a beautiful site right away, but I don’t like the ad banner up at the top present on all free sites because it makes your site look unfinished and unprofessional. I think because people are just used to Tumblr that the free option there does not look quite as unfinished as a nice Wix site with an ad banner at the top.
Linktree will give you a nice, free, landing page but you have to put in a card, even if you’re selecting the free tier. I’d say go for it and get that site going.
DO NOT use the following for your online home base:
- Patreon: It is just not setup for this purpose. Link TO your patreon from your online home. And, always link BACK to your online home from patreon.
- Any Sort Sharing Service: DeviantArt, Pixiv, Etc. etc.
- Any service that can BAN you or disable your account: These include Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Maybe your work veers more towards the spicy side of life, maybe you’re the target of a trolling campaign that gets you banned through no fault of your own, if the service shuts down your account, you will lose all your work and your fans will lose access to you.
Plan Your Presence
In some ways, I think this is the most important thing you should think about, but, I wanted to get the “get a site” idea up first because you should do that now.
Here’s what you should think about and I’ll then talk a bit about how I see people approach social media.
Specify what you really want from your online presence
Do you want to:
- Get noticed by art directors?
- Get sales? Commissions? Prints? Shirts?
- Get people to your Patreon?
- Get support from the creator community?
Thinking about HOW you want to use social media will help you focus your effort. You should be busy making art, not stuck trying to get people to notice you on social media. Getting eyeballs SHOULD be part of your online strategy, but it’s not everything. And how you get noticed changes across time and across platforms.
Think about and tailor your social media interactions
Think about who likes your stuff, who follows you, and contrast it to what kind of people you really want to reach given your main online goal.
Is it other artists? If you’re on twitter, and all your followers and likes come from other artists and your goal is to sell prints you’re probably not going to make a whole lotta sales from those artists. You might be better off putting pictures up on Pinterest (that link directly to your store) or making some product focused posts on Instagram (and you have setup a pro account that lets people click to your STORE). If, on the other hand, your goal is to get artists to buy your ProCreate brushes, then, great! Artists is what you want. So, think about how you interact with others on your various social media channels and tailor those interactions to your goal.
And remember, your goals and audience goals might change over time. Maybe this year you’re focusing on shirts instead of procreate brushes: this is gonna change who you want to reach and so your focus will change. But, you must ALWAYS have a digital home base where your audience will always be able to reach you.
Sales Channel or Support Community
Too often I see artists mix their social media presence as promotion and as a support community. Your fans don’t necessarily care about those interactions and, while they may not see them as negative, it does add to the signal to noise ratio, potentially making them pay less attention to your future posts that are more targeted to your fans to get sales. This same does not apply if your main goal is to get noticed by art directors.
Ok, plan your presence … here are some that I think most people assume are truths:
- Getting engagement on social media translates to exposure.
- Getting noticed on social media gets you sales
- Social media makes it easier to get discovered.
Keep the following in mind as you think about social media — particularly sites that promote virality like TikTok and Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook — users have such a low barrier to engagement (a like) that it does not translate to a sustained, long term relationship with you or your work as a fan.
Let me explain it like this: I’m waiting in line at the register line and I whip out my phone because I’m bored. I go on twitter and I start to scroll. Hey! This picture is cool: like! Then I keep going. I might think it’s so cool I think I’ll follow the creator later, but now the person in front is moving and I need to take out more groceries from my cart, I’ve completely forgotten that I just looked at your cool picture and I’ve moved on.
Multiply this times thousands, millions, and, even though you may have thousands of likes you are unlikely to translate that to sustained engagement. This kind of hit or miss thing means you have to continuously contribute to the feed so that you can stand out from the noise.
Yes, you SHOULD continue to publish on social media, but, you should do so in a way that will lead to longer term engagement from users who will translate to fans or customers. If you post an image, add a link to the same image on your blog, or put your home base link as a watermark.
There are interesting discussions taking place about how social media will affect how artists are discovered by art directors.
Get a Domain
Eventually, you WANT to get a domain name that you will always have with you. You don’t want to rely on my-name.tumblr.com or linktree.com/my-name because
- you don’t want to have to update all your links later on if you eventually do get a domain.
- If that service shuts down or bans you or you no longer want to use it as your home base, you will have to update everywhere and start the long, difficult process of telling your followers where to go now.
- You can use the shorthand form of your domain as a watermark: bobdraws.com!
Get a Blog
Don’t worry, you don’t have to write something every day, week, or even every month. You don’t have to do SEO or whatever. A blog is a place where you can post important news your want your audience or fans to know about. You can make a post about all the artworks you did that week. You can make a post about how your trip this winter break inspired you to do those illustrations. If you use Facebook, post a summary to your post on FB and link to your post. If you use Instagram … good luck! Linking sucks on Instagram. But, you can try to do what other sites do and have your main instagram bio link be to a filtered category of your “instagram” posts. That way, when people click on your linkinbio they get something that looks similar to your instagram feed and the user can go straight to that artwork they were interested in.
It used to be that people used news readers to get updates on their favorite sites. This was accomplished through something called RSS feeds, which are like a computer-friendly way that your blog software lists the posts on your blog. Most mainstream users have no clue what this means. It’s sad. It would be great if maintream browsers had a built in news reader but, alas.
Get a Newsletter
This is one I have not done quite yet because I know I don’t have the time to author a newsletter, even a low volume one. A newsletter is different from a blog because it goes directly to someone. So, if you don’t use audience segments you will send out content to people who are not interested in that content. So, I need to plan out my newsletter, think of my online goals, and then if I decide it’s worth testing out, I will start the newsletter and figure out how metrics to determine if this tool is successful.
ok. So, in summary: Think about what you want to do as an artist, who you want to reach, and that will guide how you want to use and engage social media. And, importantly, create an online home base that is separate from all your social media channels.