Why Hacking Social Media Isn’t The Answer (and Why I Won’t Teach It)

Social media will not fix your broken marketing.

There aren’t enough friends, likes or followers that can help you when you have a weak foundation.

©Cynthia Morris, Tasting Light. Watercolor and ink on paper. 7 x 5 inches. Used with permission.
©Cynthia Morris, Tasting Light. Watercolor and ink on paper. 7 x 5 inches. Used with permission.

Plenty of online marketers will tell you how to hack social media, by which I mean they will teach shortcuts and tricks for “getting” followers and likes on social media.

There’s nothing wrong with learning this information, but I won’t teach it because I find it terribly uninteresting and, ultimately, unhelpful to the longevity of artists’ careers. The online marketers do it well, so I leave the job to them.

Out of Whack

For most artists, hacking social media is out of alignment with their values and it shows. Many artists are suspicious of gimmicks and tricks that reek of blatant self-promotion.

You can’t make something work for you if it doesn’t jive with who you are as a person.

Let’s start by examining the word “get” as in “getting” new likes and followers. It’s grabby. It’s icky.

What if, instead, we embrace the word “attract,” as in I’d like to attract more fans and followers.

If you agree that this approach is bundled in better energy, stick with me.

This Is More Valuable

I prefer to focus on helping you find your place in the artworld – to carving out an artist life that will sustain you over decades.

And I teach what I know. Art Biz Coach grew because I created and shared helpful content freely. Ninety percent of what I write is free right here on this blog.


©Kristin LeVier, Undulata, 2014. Carved compressed maple, acrylic paint, magnets, polyurethane, 7 x 9 x 6 inches. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Billing. Used with permission.
©Kristin LeVier, Undulata 2014. Carved compressed maple, acrylic paint, magnets, polyurethane, 7 x 9 x 6 inches. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Billing. Used with permission.


It’s a strategy that didn’t have much forethought behind it. My goal wasn’t defined as I’m going to be a content creator and build a huge following.

I only wanted to provide useful articles for artists – articles that would help you attract viewers and collectors.

When it comes to online marketing, I teach artists how to produce compelling content online rather than how to hack social media.

Social media is more valuable when you share your art with a generous and loving spirit. That your comfort level rises with each missive to your followers.

It’s more valuable when you remember your special gift that must be nurtured. That you must keep your art at the center of all your efforts.

It’s more valuable to grow a sustainable list of followers, the way I did, by ensuring that everyone on your list wants to hear more from you.

It’s more valuable to strengthen your foundation so that, when it’s time to investigate available hacks, you will be in a better place for your efforts to pay off.


©Liza Myers, Lillian’s Nest. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 inches. used with permission.
©Liza Myers, Lillian’s Nest. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 inches. Used with permission.

Do you get how different this is from hacking social media?

It’s about being authentic and sharing in a loving, gentle way rather than relying on tricks.

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28 thoughts on “Why Hacking Social Media Isn’t The Answer (and Why I Won’t Teach It)”

  1. Wonderful post! Although I do think social media can be absolutely wonderful for sharing, supporting and attracting 😉 I do agree that starting out with wanting a huge following is a bit weird. I hear often people wanting to start blogging as a job and they are wondering what to blog about and how to get followers. Surely that is the wrong way around. It must start with your passion and your drive. And social media can perhaps spread the love a bit. Thanks for the reminder of what it is all about. Am off writing my next blog post!

  2. Thanks for this! Sometimes I get distracted and lose track of exactly what my efforts should be toward. One day I am on track, painting and focusing on exactly how to get my work seen (of which I think I need your help on in maybe about 5-6 months as soon as I complete my new series. That is my goal anyway, to get your help at some point). Social media becomes a goal in itself sometimes. This blog of yours reminds me to focus on my artistic goals and not some nebulous number of followers that I don’t even know. I have almost 3k friends of FB all achieved organically. I have had many conversations to get there, but with 3k most often I can’t remember those conversations. Twitter being almost 7k was achieved organically too, but I know very few of them and have lost track of what my goal was there. One problem I have is entering politics. Ohhh stop I know! Am I a politician or an artist, right? No matter my stance on that, it is a problem. Some days I think… Oh, I simply must share this political meme! Why though? Total distraction and I know I must stop…. nts

  3. A great post Alyson.
    I am of the same mind set – for me it’s the quality not the quantity. If no one is engaging with you then it seems pointless.
    I really enjoy posting and connecting on Instagram with other artists who use my medium (Resin), as well as fans who like my style.
    When your voice is authentic people can feel the passion for what you do.

  4. So very aligned with my own feelings, Alyson; as usual you hit the target perfectly. It’s not just artists who need to rethink “get,” however. Pretty much anyone blatantly trying to “get” my interest is going to lose it.

    Also, I love seeing my contemporaries’ works illustrating your emails and blog posts. These were wonderful!

  5. If it weren’t for social media, I would rarely sell any of my art. I’m not sure about other artist, but I don’t feel that my art is good enough to be sending newsletters out. I feel that many people really don’t have time to read blogs, or newsletters, so I don’t send out request for my followers to read my blog, or send them anything other than a thank you. I just have a problem with being too pushy. I’ve deleted people on FB who daily post their jewelry or monogramming, etc. When does a person know their art is good enough to go this extra mile?

    1. Sandra: The link you left with your name doesn’t work, so hard for me to see your art.

      I love that you know you don’t feel ready. I acknowledge your desire to improve because i do believe that too many people are promoting prematurely.

  6. I totally agree Alyson! Sometimes it’s easy to get focused on the numbers themselves (the likes, followers) instead of recognizing the goal is to share your work, and help it find an appreciative audience. The quality of the interaction is so much more important. And that goes for me responding thoughtfully and with authenticity to others’ posts as well. On a different note, I love Cynthia’s title of her work in this post… “Tasting Light.” Perfect!

  7. I really appreciate this message. I started with Instagram this year and decided to just post and comment and let stuff happen. So far, it’s working. I get new followers almost every day. I also started monthly newsletters. No sales pitches, just open conversation, tips and stories from my studio. It feels good and natural, which means it’s a sustainable habit for me…which is the point [at least in my eyes.]

  8. Exactly how I feel! Thank you for putting it into words! And thank you for 1) all your FREE postings for artists and 2) for all you do for artists! I go way back recalling your beginnings (and mine) even before social media! Back to my studio..

  9. My goodness, I believe this is what I’ve been looking for! For the past few months I’ve been learning how to start my art business on and off line as well as how to get out of my own way. Spiritually based mind you and very well done, but I as an Artist I feel a bit out of whack with what all my “class mates” if you will, are doing. Now I want to learn how to do business in the a rial art world. I’m so happy you’re here!

  10. Yes! Once I started enjoying what I was posting myself, I found others enjoyed it and weighed in too. Then it starts to feel like a sort of “town hall conversation” and it’s more of a party and less work. Hope that makes sense.

  11. Yes, I also agree with the general consensus. After very purposefully avoiding social media in any form for years (my sarcastic motto was, “I don’t care what I’M doing every minute of the day, so why should I care about what YOU’RE doing??!”), I recently started making mixed media jewelry (earrings) and realized I needed to consider Facebook, Instagram…SOMEthing that would get some info “out there” about my work. So with daughter’s help, I got myself going. On January of this year, I started posting a different pair of paper/mixed media earrings daily on my FB business page and on Instagram. It’s been challenging, a lot of fun, and a wonderful impetus to keep me going creatively. The likes and followers have grown organically and continue in that vein. And BTW, I’m not near as sarcastic as I used to be. ;-). Having a blast with this, love being in the studio, and enjoy the informative, heartfelt blogs and tips from Alyson and all the artists who speak up here. Thank you!

  12. Dorothea LeBlanc

    Reading your stuff gives me peace, sounds like my language, and makes me want to continue on patiently with sharing my art in these media craze days!

    Well done and thank you for your loving nudges!

  13. Great article, Alyson. You’ve been inspiring me and goading me to be the best artist I can be for years now via your posts. Thanks so much. And thanks so VERY much for including an image of my sculpture in this post! I am truly honored.

  14. Thanks for a great, thought provoking article, Alyson! This is something I’m struggling with. I took your Creative Content Camp a year ago and it was very helpful in restarting my monthly blog and newsletter, which I am very proud of and people seem to enjoy. I have over 900 subscribers. The class also helped me to created more content for FB but in the end I still hated using it. I felt overwhelmed with all the noise from everyone, I really wasn’t reaching that many people (200 friends) and the conversations seemed to be limited to cheering each other on. Nice, but not useful. So a few months ago I just stopped. It’s a big relief and time saver, but now I’m wondering if I should try Instagram, as a way to share my work and connect to people.

    1. Hi Linda! For what it’s worth, I, too, became frustrated with Facebook and just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of daily posts. This was compounded by some glitch in FB that no longer delivered content to my inbox, so I was having to go online and dig through to try and find relevant posts. Well, I baled two months ago and now I only occasionally log onto FB. But – I am kinda loving Instagram! It’s so visually driven (and much less political than FB these days) and the good news is, you can link up you Instagram account with Facebook so you post to both account simultaneously. That really helped me minimize my time on social media.

  15. I absolutely agree with you, Alyson! There is no point in having a huge list of followers if they, at the end of the day, only get frustrated or don’t understand the art shared! Having an organic list is all that’s needed. Yes, it takes time but at least it’s filled with people who are enjoying hearing from you.

  16. Jo Anne Neely Gomez

    Exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it, thank you Alyson for not only your blog but webinars and connecting with me. I know I’m not quite ready for some aspects, am preparing as I take care of some personal and family related issues though I feel more connected and committed to my artist self through you.

  17. Enjoying is the secret. I will start from that place. I appreciate so much all your commentaries, they help me to decide to start. I am on my web page, editing artist statements. It is a good practice for my next step, newsletter or blogging.

  18. Thanks Alyson,

    From my experience the only people benefiting from social media are the social media companies and the online marketers selling courses on “how to make money online” via social media. I’m yet to see any worthwhile traction from social media efforts.

    All these social media platforms have just become places to be sold and marketed to. They are very annoying. Join instagram and you’ll immediately get followed by tons of awful artists following you just so you follow them. Try it. There’s millions of people with the word “_art” after their name. (e.g: joe_schmoe_art) It’s hysterical and they immediately un-follow you if you don’t follow them back within a day or worse a few hours. All of the automated software has only exacerbated the problem. These people are never going to buy your work, not at any worthwhile prices.

    I would love to hear a success story that begins with a webinar, facebook campaign, or live video and ends with 5+ $5000 painting sales. But you don’t. Everybody gaining something from social media falls into 2 categories:

    1.Hobbyists at best – selling low-priced crafts to friends, family, and a few fans – obviously not a real source of income – they have a fruitful spouse or are in retirement – they are probably making < $10/hour but "love what I do!!!"

    2. Internet marketers – selling a course, membership etc. (which is analogous to selling dreams and profits) They don’t sell things at all… only good feelings, support groups, promises and marketing skills that generally don’t translate into selling art.

    I would love to be proven wrong. Does anyone here sell $75k+ / year directly to clients and social media is a big part of that? I love to hear your story more than anything! And this excludes courses, coaching, etc… I’m talking about physical artwork… remember that stuff we love making and the reason we read Alyson’s terrific blog to begin with?

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