Make Social Media Work for You

Cocktails, 2016, by Shannon Abbey. Pen and Ink and digital. Copyright © 2016 Shannon Abbey. Used by permission of the artist.

I have strict rules about social media: No tweeting before 12 noon, absolutely no Facebook before bedtime, to name a couple. I’m sure if you’re a productive artist, you’ve set some similar boundaries for your engagement with social media.

In the latest issue of Professional Artist magazine, I set out to discover how artists weren’t avoiding social media but using it to find inspiration and grow their careers.

In the June/July 2017 issue, I interviewed five artists and one writer about how they employed social media to research, build community, make virtual studio visits, and build excitement among audience members.

Some artists I spoke with treated social media like an accountability tool after they decided and then stuck to a schedule to post work everyday. So instead of a distraction, social media became a way to meet other artists, share work and build an international following. For other artists, they used social media to start conversations with existing and potential customers.

Illustrator Shannon Abbey ( uses social media for doing research she could never have accomplished this easily back in the pre-internet days. “Back then we all had a scrap file or morgue of stuff cut out of magazines. Every illustrator had a subscription to National Geographic. Now I follow National Geographic on Instagram and I follow a couple of their photographers,” she said.

Abbey visits Pinterest almost everyday for inspiration. “I look at textures in old textiles, color choices back when printing was expensive and they were limited in colors and did weird combinations to create texture and colors,” she said.

Many of the artists I interviewed agreed that social media can be both a distraction and a boon to inspiration. How does Abbey avoid the distraction? This was her advice:

“Stay off Facebook as much as possible. My computer is in the house, and my studio is a small outbuilding in the back yard. That helps. My illustration agent told me that her new schedule is she gets on FB for 10 minutes and then spends 5 minutes calling or writing a congressperson. Sounds like a great idea. Not there yet.”

For more on how you could be using social media to help rather than hinder your productivity, read Use Social Media to Inspire Your Art on page 14 of the June/July issue, which just hit newsstands or can be purchased here.

Gigi Rosenberg is an author, artist coach and editor of Professional Artist. She wrote The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing (Watson-Guptill) and coaches artists to help them find funding, blast through creative blocks and launch vibrant marketing plans. To sign up for her smart, art-filled news, visit