6 Social Media Tips for Artists and Gallery Owners

Artists need not starve now that sites like Pinterest and Tumblr allow them to leverage their creativity to market their works.
November 05, 2012

According to market research firm First Research, there are about 5,000 art dealers and galleries in the U.S. with combined annual revenue of about $6 billion, and Art Market Monitor estimates the size of the overall global art market to be around $15 billion annually. 

But while fine art is big business, there is often a wide chasm between the creative process that makes a great artist or a sophisticated gallery owner, and the marketing process that drives branding and sales.

“For the majority of artists, success will ultimately come down to their effectiveness in marketing,” says Darius Himes, assistant director of fine art photography gallery Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. “Artists need to embrace the fact that both their work, and they themselves as artists, are brands that must be marketed.”

So whether you’re an aspiring artist who wants to build an initial following, or a veteran art dealer looking to expand awareness of your brand, it pays to get savvy to new social marketing techniques to help you achieve your objectives. Here are seven strategies for effective social marketing.

1. Optimize your website. A website is now a cost of doing business, and it’s essential for artists to have at least a minimal web presence. But even established artists and galleries with robust websites should consider a refresh, particularly to ensure that the site is optimized for search and mobile devices.

Himes notes that Fraenkel Gallery recently overhauled its website to incorporate more social, search and web marketing best practices. “In addition to making a number of aesthetic and navigational enhancements, we also eliminated all of the Flash-based elements that weren’t searchable and that reduced the mobile functionality,” says Himes. “We also made sure that the new website was scalable to any mobile device, and that all pages had unique web addresses which would be easy to feed into social media.”

2. Get busy blogging. Blogging is one of the best ways to get your art or gallery found by the search engines and provides excellent content to fuel your other social marketing activities.

In addition to posting new work or promoting new shows or openings, your blog can also be a place to offer a behind-the-scenes look at your creative process, share pictures from relevant art events or chronicle your time at a prestigious art auction.

“As an artist myself and owner of a creative company, I'd say my number one tip is to pull back the curtain and show the behind-the-scenes work that takes place,” says Mark Ley, managing director at Copper Blue Creative. “Showing how a piece is made, or the location you are shooting photography, all help the fan to feel as if they are a part of the creation.”

3. Maximize your Facebook presence. Having a Facebook business page for your artist brand or gallery should be a no-brainer: it’s free, it’s simple to use and it gives you access to more than 1 billion people.

To use Facebook as a vehicle for promotion and awareness-building, first set up your Facebook business page and invite your friends and colleagues to “like” the page and share with their network … then start posting! Many of the same content strategies for your blog also apply to your Facebook page, but make sure to also spend a little bit of time each day engaging with your fans.

“The main reason why artists fail with social media is that they are not providing a value to their connections with any helpful, interesting and relevant content in their comments and posts,” writes John R. Math of Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery. “As artist participants we need to be active, engaged and consistently provide some kind of value.”

4. Take advantage of Pinterest. Use of the visually oriented social site has exploded over the past year, and many artists are using Pinterest to share their work beyond Facebook and Twitter.

To get started on Pinterest, first set up a profile that includes keywords and your website address, then start pinning. When you pin your art, don’t forget to add a watermark to protect the image, as well as keywords: Pinterest is searchable, so make sure you describe your pin clearly. You should also customize the link to point back to your website or whatever other page you’re promoting.

You can also get more exposure for your images by including a price for the item into your description. This simple trick will add your pin to the “Gifts” section on Pinterest and will display the price across the front of the image throughout the site.

5. Experiment with Facebook Ads. Many artists and galleries are also using Facebook Ads as a low-cost way to promote upcoming shows and events.

Artlog, a social platform allowing people to connect with the international art scene, uses Facebook Ads to promote events and sell tickets to art events like exhibitions, tours and discussions. For example, 10 days before its Chelsea Art Crawl & Party last summer, Artlog began running Facebook Ads to promote the event and direct people to Artlog’s website in order to purchase tickets. For every $75 Artlog spent on Facebook, it saw $200 in ticket sales.

6. Use press releases for search. While galleries often neglect to distribute their press releases over the wire, and thus miss out on one of the best low-cost ways to propagate their brand across the internet and drive search results. You can use a low-cost service such as PRWeb to distribute your release for under $100.

To optimize your press release for search, start by making a list of the keywords and phrases that are most relevant to your company, and then cross-check these terms using Google’s keyword tool to assess monthly search volume. Once you have your list of keywords, use them in the headline and subhead of your release as well as throughout the body of the announcement. Avoid repetition by using secondary and tertiary keywords.

For example, if you’re a San Francisco fine art gallery looking to boost your search results on the phrases “fine art photography” and “San Francisco art galleries”—as well as around a particular photographer’s work—you might include the phrase “fine art photography” in the headline, subhead and first paragraph of the release, along with the artist’s name, while including the term “San Francisco art gallery” elsewhere in the release.

Make sure that you attach any hyperlinks back to your website or blog to these keyword phrases rather than your name or generic terms like “art opening.”

You should also consider adding images or video to your press releases: Releases that include an image or a video get shared three times more than text-only releases—and viewers spend up to thirty seconds more with this content.

How are you promoting your art or gallery using social media? Tell us in the comments.

Photo: Facebook.