Social Media Is Only a Tool

Are you relying too much on Facebook?
I have heard of many artists abandoning their blogs in favor of Facebook.
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Janis Kirstein, Snow Day. Mixed media on paper.
Janis Kirstein, Snow Day. Mixed media on paper, 14 x 10 inches. ©The Artist

Facebook should be only one of your marketing tools. You can’t throw all of your faith behind a site you don’t control. It’s like putting your career – everything you’ve worked so hard for – in the hands of a single gallery.

You Can’t Control Facebook

Facebook changes the rules of the game constantly, and often without warning.
Recently, Facebook decided that it knows better than you whose feeds you want to read on your home page on Facebook. It changed the default feed to “Friends and pages you interact with most.”
When we add an update to our profile or fan page, we think that everyone who is a friend or fan will see it. Not so. Unless Facebook users go in and change this setting, only the people you interact with most will see your updates.
This has enormous implications, especially for our art businesses. To find out more about this topic and how you can change your settings, I suggest reading this article by Dan York.
You don’t want to be beholden to this atmosphere.

You Can Control Your Sites

As I describe in the new chapter of the revised edition of I’d Rather Be in the Studio, you have to maintain a solid online base camp – a site where you have 100% control.
Your website or blog looks the way you want, displays the information you want people to see in a format that is most pleasing for your art, and is altered only with your blessing. You’re in charge on your domain.
Don’t rely too much on social media tools. They’re just tools, after all. You need to build a powerful Web presence through your own site.
What do you think?

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51 thoughts on “Social Media Is Only a Tool”

  1. Several months ago, I came off Facebook for the final time and deleted my account. They notified me that it would take TWO WEEKS to close my account. Ridiculous. I left due to frustration over their control and concerns about the security of my information. These main concerns were trumped by the fact that, according to Google Analytics, I’d never received one single referral from all my interactions on Facebook.
    Sometimes, it just isn’t worth all the hassle.

  2. Well Said.
    While Facebook is my favorite of the three (twitter, linkedin,or FB) it is so true to maintain one’s own presence. Facebook is hot right now. But 10 years from now, it might be uncool, lol.
    I often hear this same scenario when people are talking about their Etsy shop vs. their own website or blog. It makes me cringe as I know that it is something that one day they will regret.

  3. I agree, Alyson, just too little control there! I love it that on Blogger, at any rate (and I’m sure on other sites as well,) I can link a blog or a specific post to Facebook and it goes up immediately–best of both worlds. My original LJ blog, which I still use some, is linked to FB automatically.
    Mostly I really do use Facebook as a true social media, keeping in touch with friends and family and other artists.
    I believe I’ve had a different experience from Nan’s, though…I had a lot of response last time I offered an online class, immediately after mention on FB. But I DO count on my blogs to get info out in the first place, and much prefer the control I have there.

    1. …and I guess I should say that I DO earn most of my income from services to artists–books, articles, CDs, classes–rather than selling paintings. It makes a difference to your FB audience, which is, as someone mentioned, mostly other artists, not galleries, interior designers, or collectors.
      I’m between galleries at the moment, and have a LOT of paintings on hand. 😉

  4. I totally agree. I use Facebook heavily and it pays off in feeds to my blog – it’s always one of the top 2 lead generators according to my googly analytics. But I have 2 measures on my main blog and the 2nd one makes me think google is missing stuff. Twitter was the one I deleted because after almost two years I can’t figure out how to build a community there – too fast. I suspect that’s age oriented…younger folks (who aren’t my demographic) use it a lot – but even then I’m not sure it’s a “sales social” versus a “strictly social” tool. I find it as useful as going to my local Chamber of Commerce events (not very). Which brings up a point about tools: FaceBook may be the new Chamber of Commerce and it’s better because it’s more targeted and wider reaching. And yes, it is a tool. And no I certainly wouldn’t base my business on anything I didn’t have final control of! Blogs and websites these days are SO easy that not having your own is crazy! AND I’m still (after 5 years blogging) figuring out how all of this works together for the artist solopreneur!

    1. Tammy: It’s so funny because Twitter really started out with an older crowd. (By older, I mean over 35.) The first social media conference I attended was in the fall of 2008. Nary a young buck in site.

  5. I completely agree. I moved my blog from blogger to my own WordPress that I own for similar reasons. I still use FaceBook and twitter, but my site is where I want all that socializing to lead.
    Google, twitter, and Facebook have all continued to change the rules and being cut off from your people because someone made a change on a website you don’t control is unacceptable. FB has really done a lot of damage with the ‘interact with the most’ default. How are you even supposed to contact people to tell them to change their default setting if they can’t see your posts anymore?
    Another change they did at the same time that makes your Fan page posts show non-chronologically, but by ‘popularity’. So your new post with no comments yet will be buried under old posts with comments and likes. Ugh.

    1. Brian: Yeah, I really miss the status post at the top of the page. It’s where you could be assured that something really important to you would be seen.

    2. So that’s what happened to my FB business page. It really irks me that the posts show out of order. Is there no way to fix that setting?
      And yes, I totally agree one should keep an online presence that they are in total control of. That is one of the great principles of working for oneself, that we control our marketing/image/presence. (now to work on my new web site I need for my current business!)

  6. It seems like Facebook is shooting themselves in the foot with this one. Why would they want to limit the reach of all those FB fan pages? Why would they want to limit potential traffic throughout the FB network? That serves only to limit potential advertising dollars. Maybe I’m not seeing something here. It looks like a dumb move to me.

  7. I couldn’t agree more! Facebook is a great tool and I use it myself for both my fine art and my web design business. You can reach a wider audience but it in no way replaces your website or blog.
    I use Facebook to post links to recent articles and new work. The goal is to bring visitors to my website where they can see my work as I have intented.

  8. Alyson is so RIGHT with this. Last week, my brother lost 3/4 of his Facebook Friends and all of his posts. The Facebook system crashed causing this data loss, and there was NO backup, no so much as a convincing sorry. They told him; “it happens”. What?>?>, IT HAPPENS.
    To rely on any “platform” besides *one* you can control beomes rather pointless. You can get started for less money (free), but in the end, your name isn’t known as far or wide. The free platform gets the search engine juice; so build it there if you must, but keep an eye on how many search engine results your name gets. When the growth slows down, consider ways to fix this.
    All the best,
    -Stefano (artist), and CEO Heart Press – Media For Women

    1. Stefano: Wow. Thanks for sharing that story. I’ve never heard of FB crashing and losing a bunch of info. Lesson learned.

  9. I jumped on board FB at the beginning of the year because of all the hype about connectivity and new audiences. And then FB makes changes to undermine their own efforts on this. I definitely put most of my energy into my website and email newsletters but it doesn’t take much time to post on FB a few times a week, so I’ll continue… least for awhile. I view it as one of the many spokes in a wheel that comes back to my website.
    One thing I’ve noticed is how many artists post on other artist’s pages so they can “like” each other. While this may increase fan numbers is this really an effective use of time? Other artists generally aren’t in the market to buy art, though they do appreciate it and in my experience are very supportive of each other.

    1. Casey: Do you mean like leave a note on another artist’s wall? Or post images? (the latter is uncool)

  10. Casey Craig said: One thing I’ve noticed is how many artists post on other artist’s pages so they can “like” each other. While this may increase fan numbers is this really an effective use of time? Other artists generally aren’t in the market to buy art, though they do appreciate it and in my experience are very supportive of each other.
    I’ve always wondered about that myself. The phenomenon extends to artists’ blogs–the vast majority of readers are other artists. How will that benefit me in art sales? I understand wanting to link-share for SEO, but beyond that it almost seems a waste of effort. Unless I am selling instructional or other services to artists, it doesn’t seem like I am reaching my target audience. I want to be blogging and Facebooking for my buyers….but only seem to be connecting with other artists. I enjoy those connections tremendously, and learn from them as well, but that doesn’t make it a marketing tool.

    1. Like everyone you know, each artist knows about 150 other people. Don’t discount those connections.
      I think artists do this to be supportive and I love that. I see it in other non-artist online communities, too.

  11. This is so true. If you are an artist on FB, aren’t most people who want to friend you also artists ?
    That’s the equivalent of having an art opening and all your artist friends show up. Yes, you’re happy for the emotional support, but a gallery of art buyers is what you’re aiming for…

  12. “Like” can be a good thing Casey, it brings eyeballs. For instance, if you somehow befriend Berussa and your art is visually stunning on screen, you may find your work as one of his posts – or not.
    If you do, he has 97,000+ fans; and he has gathered this total in less than two years – but is virtually unknown outside of Facebook.
    -Stefano (artist), and CEO Heart Press – Media For Women

  13. I agree that “like” can be a good thing and eyes looking at your work is always a good thing. In fact, you are all invited to like my FB page 😉
    However facebook fans don’t necessarily = collectors.
    Alyson has mentioned several FB stories that resulted in sales or other opportunities on this blog, and that’s why I decided to join. I just think artist’s need to be careful and not equate FB fan numbers with actual collectors and not invest a great deal of their time in getting other artists to like them. It seems that targeting art consultants, interior designers, galleries and museums would make more sense.

    1. No I can’t. FB now allows biz pages to post and comment but only if you also have a personal profile and I don’t. I’m weighing the pros and cons of creating a personal profile just for this ability. I don’t think it’s the best use of my time on a format that is so riddled with problems….but for those artists that ARE doing it they might consider other audiences.

  14. To be perfectly frank, none of the social media has worked for me as a marketing tool. I make a post about my art and get nothing. When I have asked friends face-to-face about this, I am told that they do not follow links, because it is too time consuming (or too difficult to connect to on their cell phones).
    I do have a Facebook friend who is not an artist, but “doodles” for pleasure. Every time he posts a new “doodle” he gets at least 30 comments and has had offers to buy and at least one business opportunity. Again, I get no responses to my posts.
    Where I do get get responses is through snail mail, although I do find that when surveyed, the recipients do not read any of the copy except the contact information.
    As for most of artist’s friends being artists: networking with other artists is the best way to know about opportunities for artists. Most of my artist friends are forwarding links to exhibition opportunities, residencies, grants applications and the like. Also, getting into a gallery is often done through artist recommendations and creating a “scene” can lead to the attention of curators.

    1. Alfred: Out of curiosity, are you interacting with others on FB — commenting on other pages?
      I LOVE snail mail! Huge fan.

    2. Absolutley. I know it is necessary to keep active with my FB friends, to be interested in their posts and to keep my name moving around.
      I was once part of an artist’s support group. We met once a month and talked about our careers. I had the most active career, but I soon found that no one in the group would come to any of my exhibitions. (there were only 5 other people) One of the members lived only 2 blocks from the gallery where I showed and wouldn’t come. They all claimed they were “too busy.” I gave the group one year and had 2 exhibitions at that time (a solo show and a group show). After they all passed on the second event, I left the group.
      Facebook and Linkedin seems like deja vu. And no, none of the former group members are among my connections.

  15. Good point, Alyson. After attending your wonderful workshop in Estes Park, I have managed to keep the whole picture afloat. Website, Blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Fortunately, my blog automatically updates to Facebook and Twitter, so it helps with the workload. I cannot imagine removing any of these key elements from the whole scenario.
    I do, however, remove any posts to my Facebook wall that don’t belong there. Well meaning friends and relatives don’t always understand the purpose of my page. Anything inappropriate gets deleted.
    Thanks for your great posts!

    1. Beth: Come back! I’m doing a workshop in Golden on October 15-16. 😉
      Yes, remove those inappropriate posts and the ones that are self-promoting.

  16. Diversification is where it’s at. As long as you are leveraging each social media tool to it’s maximum capacity and to what suits YOUR vision, mission and values as an artist, you can’t lose. Like multiple streams of income and good investment in the stock market, as an artist, you leverage your ability to represent yourself strongly and give yourself some insurance by blogging, websiting, FBing, Twittering etc. If something goes “bear” or “bull” on you at any moment – you’re covered. 🙂

  17. Why in the world don’t they make these things known when they change these settings?! Its’ absurd that they think they can get away with this stuff without causing great distrust. When I mentioned to you last week that I hadn’t seen your updates for awhile, Alyson, I was hoping that you write about this. I am cynical when it comes to FB…and I do think I know why they do things as they do. I believe it’s because they want us to pay to advertise on FB. I can’t see any other explanation. People are getting tired of this nonsense, myself included.

    1. Do big companies, like Procter & Gamble, who have fan pages for their products, pay for that advertising? Or does FB just count on ad dollars from the sidebar ads on all those pages? Because it does make sense for big advertisers like that to be paying to tap into the power of Facebook. On the other hand, I’d kind of like to do it for free 🙂
      I had just become convinced that I need a FB fan page for my art business…but now it seems much less useful, if it will only reach people who have recently “touched” it.

    2. I agree, Kim. One of the pages I had “liked” and wasn’t seeing was administered by the Farnsworth Art Museum. I bet they didn’t have a clue that they weren’t being seen by some or many, either. The same goes for our local television station. I hadn’t seen anything from them in a couple of months. Completely unprofessional on FB’s part!

  18. thanks alyson!
    i have been so frustrated with the new FB and it’s settings and have been feeling like no one is seeing what i post anymore. even after i changed the settings it still feels pretty desolate on my biz pages. i think i will send this information out as a note and an update and cross my fingers that it helps. i had big news to announce and it felt like no one cared because i got only 2 likes to it. so thank you for this post.
    hope you are well.
    warm regards,

  19. i had a new account tell me that before they saw me at a show they had known about me due to facebook. they saw a friend had “liked” my page and then went to check it out. so when we met at the show he knew a little bit about me already.

  20. How can we tell FB how unhappy we are with these news feed settings? This is an issue that needs to be heard…although I do agree that it may be part of some nefarious FB plan. Still, we have to try. Any suggestions? I don’t know a lot about FB, but I had just decided to establish a page for my business–and now that seems like a waste of time.

  21. Wow! Someone certainly hit a nerve on this one! I have used Facebook for a number of years, for mainly two reasons: It’s an easy and efficient way to communicate with family and friends; as an e-newsletter publisher to more than 14,000 subscribers, FB is an easy way for me to extend my base. Granted, I am sure I don’t get that many new subscribers, but the added low-cost exposure is very important. I also don’t put any personal information in there that I might have to be concerned about somebody else getting (they probalby already have it, anyway).

  22. Pingback: facebook or not | Austin Art Blogs

  23. I totally agree with you Alyson! Social media is a useful marketing tool, but your website is your *primary* marketing tool for promoting and selling your art. It’s critical to build your brand on your own website because it’s the online home for your art business that you own and control. Similarly, it’s also easy to rely too much on shopping venues or marketplaces like Etsy and Artfire or hosted blog platforms like Blogger.

  24. Two great things about this original post–thanks for the information about the default FB preferences. I’d noticed some people seemed to be “missing” and now I know why.
    Also, thanks for the introduction to Janis Kirstein’s artwork (the featured image). This was a new stylistic choice for these featured images, which I appreciated, and when I clicked through to her site, I was amazed by her artist’s statement and other work.
    A great post overall!

  25. I must admit I did “gave up a bit my blogs, because FB (and not even the fanpage) was faster, but it’s not the same and it annoys me a bit, so what I do I use both the fb and particular to promote my blog. And for twitter, I use it but I’m not really convince…time will say

  26. Pingback: Starting an Online Presence for Your Art — Art Biz Blog

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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