It’s a word you’ve probably heard quite a bit over the last year.
When it comes to marketing your artwork, you have a few options, but one popular one is using social media. Many artists have active Facebook pages, Instagram accounts and are using Twitter to promote their artwork to potential and existing customers — and this is smart marketing to be pursuing now.
The challenge with “growing your own” marketing is that it takes time and consistency. Facebook pages take months of constant content creation to get to a point where your audience is big enough to make a difference to your bottom line. Many people simply give up before they hit that sweet spot.
What if you could find that one person with a big following who would help you spread the word? Enter the “influencer.” You could define an influencer as someone who already has a built-in social media following. Up until a couple of years ago, online influencers were mostly bloggers. Today, however, given the scope of social media, influencers exist on every platform: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat.
Connecting with an influencer can provide a marketing shortcut. The first step in working with an influencer is to find one. Here’s how:
“You may also connect to influencers in other spheres who are not writing about artwork, but may be dialed into your subject matter.” ~Rebecca Coleman
How To Identify Potential Influencers
Start with a Google search. Type in a few keyword search terms and your geographical location. For example, if you are a watercolor artist living in Denver, type in “watercolor Denver.” You will get many responses from Google: everything from stores selling watercolor paint to other watercolor artists. As you weed through the results, note any results of bloggers who are writing about watercolors. You could even add the word “blog” to your Google keyword search.
Depending on how many results you find, you may need to widen your search. Do this by expanding your keywords to terms like “art” or “painting.” You can also widen your geographical location by country or continent, such as to the entire United States, North America or Europe.
Create a method of tracking these blogs. I use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, but you could even do it with a pen and paper. Make note of the website’s URL, the writer’s name, email address and any social media they may have, along with how many followers they have. Note how often they post: Is it consistent and good quality? Does the site show that they are engaging — meaning, are they interacting with their readers, and are their readers interacting with them by posting comments, for example?
An influencer can still be influential even if they don’t have a huge following. If his or her subject aligns with your niche and they have a faithful following, they could still be helpful, even if they don’t have a million followers.
You may also connect to influencers in other spheres who are not writing about artwork, but may be dialed into your subject matter. For example, if you love to paint dogs, find bloggers in your city or community who blog about dogs. Is there an Instagrammer who posts nothing but photos of dogs? This may be someone you can also approach.
Once you have your spreadsheet complete, choose your top five influencers to approach.
How To Connect With Influencers
1. Follow the Influencer Online.
The first step to connecting with influencers is to follow and interact with them online. If they are a blogger, subscribe to their feed and start to comment on their posts. If they are on Instagram, start to like and comment on their photos. If they are on Twitter, re-tweet their content. In this way, when you send them a pitch, they will already know who you are, and be much more open to working with you if they see that you are already a supporter of their work. The goal here is to establish rapport with the influencer.
2. Pitch to an Influencer.
Write them an email. You’ll want to write a customized email to each influencer you pitch, but the core content of the email can be the same for all.
Keep the tone of your email casual. Many bloggers, unlike the mainstream media, prefer a less formal approach. It’s OK to use colloquialisms and a casual salutation like “Hey!” instead of “Dear.” Be authentic and don’t be afraid to show your personality.
Start with addressing the person by name, and spell it correctly. Next, reference recent content they have produced. You can say something like “I really enjoyed your recent post on the top five art galleries in Denver for new artists. I didn’t know about a few of those, so thanks!” This shows them that you are familiar with their work.
Next, tell them a little bit about you and what you do. Keep this short — only a few sentences are needed.
Now it’s time to go in with your ask. What do you want? Do you want them to hype an upcoming show? Do a profile piece on you and your work? Include your work in a roundup post? Be clear and specific.
What do you have to offer in return? Many influencers do what they do for the love of it, because they are passionate about their subject matter. But you are also passionate about your work and you still like to get paid. Offer them something in return: a print of your work, free tickets to a show, an exchange of services or a sponsorship opportunity at a media event.
Some bloggers will pitch you right back and ask for money in exchange for this kind of post. That’s OK. It’s up to you to decide if you think the investment is worth it.
Finish up with a link to your website. The idea is to let them explore for themselves and give them more information should they want to do some deeper research.
3. Let the Influencer Create the Piece.
Once you’ve negotiated with the influencer and you have figured out what the blog post or Instagram post (or whatever they are doing for you) looks like, the ball is then in their court to make that happen. Be sure to follow through on your promises as well — that includes sending them images for the post or meeting for an interview.
Once the post is live, you will usually be contacted by the influencer letting you know it’s up. It’s not good form to ask the blogger if you can see the article before it’s posted. If you find errors in the post, you can point those out and request them to be fixed.
You now have an article or post written about you. Now what?
4. Share the Article After it’s Published.
You can negotiate with the influencer about whether they will share the post or article with their other social media audiences. For example, if the piece is a YouTube video, will they also share that video on their blog, Facebook page or via Twitter? If they have a decent following on those platforms, it could amplify the reach of the piece.
Then, of course, you share it enthusiastically on your own social media, and be sure to tag the writer in your posts. Share it to your personal Facebook so your family and friends can see it and to your professional Facebook page as well. Tweet it several times, using slightly different language and hashtags each time with a link back to the original post. Pin the post to one of your Pinterest boards. Take a screen capture of it and post that to your Instagram. Share it as far as you can. Part of how you compensate the influencer for writing about you is to introduce them to a new audience: yours.
If they gain followers and recognition from the experience, it will result in a win-win for both of you.
“The best part about influencer marketing is that it is a win-win for everyone. The influencer gets new, cool content to share, and you get exposure for your artwork.” ~Rebecca Coleman
5. Say ‘Thank You.’
I’m a big fan of the hand-written thank- you card. If you have cards with a print of your artwork — even better (and more memorable). But even a thank-you email is better than none.
Now that you have the process down, you can repeat it for other influencers on your list. And while this example focused on bloggers, don’t forget there are influencers on all social media platforms, and you may find someone on YouTube or Instagram that fits your niche and will be willing to work with you.
You will likely get some refusals to your pitches. That’s OK. It’s possible that it’s just not a good fit for that particular influencer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you encounter rejection, thank them and move on to the next name on your list.
The best part about influencer marketing is that it is a win-win for everyone. The influencer gets new, cool content to share, and you get exposure for your artwork.
What are you waiting for? Start writing those pitch letters.
This is a complimentary copy of an article in the February/March 2016 issue. Click here to get the whole issue.
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Rebecca Coleman is passionate about helping artists, small businesses and not-for-profits to become better marketers. An early adopter of social media, she’s the author of Getting Started with Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations. She teaches courses in social media marketing and blogging at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the University of British Columbia, and travels internationally giving workshops. Coleman is an avid foodie, a blossoming photographer and runs three blogs. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her 12-year-old son, Michael. You can learn more at rebeccacoleman.ca.