Social Networking for Artists: Tips for Success

This is my follow up to my article Social Media: Marketing Art in the Digital Age that appeared in the July/August issue of Art Calendar. I appreciate the positive feedback I’ve received from many readers and self-described “newbies” who thanked me for encouraging them to begin social networking and have joined me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Much like in-person networking, “social networking” consists of communities of people who share interests and/or activities; however, it takes place on Web sites known as social sites. The most popular social sites, like the ones I use — Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — are free. Each day, I network with hundreds of artists who use these sites to advance their professional careers. Please note, I do not claim to be an expert on the subject. Like many of you I learn from experience, reading articles and asking questions from more experienced users. I encourage you to read the plethora of “how to” articles available online. You will reap many rewards if you pay attention to some simple tips and put the time and effort into the process. Create and follow a general plan, but also experiment, and make it your own experience.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

Create a Strong Presence

1. Before you begin networking online, create your own art Web site or at least a professional art blog. It is much more professional to direct users to your own Web site than only to pages on MySpace, Etsy or another supermarket online gallery.

Tip: Suffering from writer’s block? Keep a computer file containing today’s inspiration for your work, favorite quotes, links, an upcoming workshop or a fun fact that relates to art. Then, whenever you need a tweet or status update, it will be at your finger tips.

2. After you have joined a particular network, spend time reading other users’ profiles and comments to feel more comfortable in this new arena.

3. Make creating an attractive profile your number one priority. You have only one chance to make a good first impression. Make it clean and easy to understand. Avoid flashy graphics, music and long load times.

4. Select your profile picture carefully. If you choose to use an image of your work, select a graphically strong image, since it will be small. If you use a headshot, make it as professional and approachable as possible. An empty square where your photo should be is suspect and makes you seem unapproachable.

5. In terms of the design, try to be consistent across all of the platforms you are using. For your profile picture, use the same headshot or style of artwork on each site, as well as your own Web site and blog. This will help people recognize you. (Tip courtesy Audrey Chernoff. See sidebar for more.)

Twitter is perhaps the most mystifying of all of the social media sites, as there are no real hard and fast rules of usage. In fact, while there are millions of users, including many of the top companies in the world, only recently have these users begun to formulate ideas for how to make their 140-character tweets most effective. There is an art to Twitter, and it will take some practice.

Keep in mind these helpful tips:

  1. If you’re tweeting about a popular subject, such as the Metropolitan Museum or Van Gogh, put a number sign (#) in front of the subject. This makes it easy for others to find your tweet through Twitter searches, and they may want to follow you.
  2. Upload photos of your artwork and post them directly to Twitter by using services like Twitpic.com.
  3. Set up links to your Tweets from your blog. I did this by using “site feeds” and “add a gadget” on my blog at blogger.com.
  4. In addition to feeding your tweets directly to your site or blog as described above, you should also add “Follow me on Twitter” sign up link on your home page.
  5. Learn about the top Twitter discussions happening in real-time by going to http://search.twitter.com. That way, you can tweet current topics of interest. You can also learn who’s tweeting about you by searching for your name.
  6. Select the option to follow only those discussion topics of primary importance. That will help you avoid e-mail overload.
  7. Follow people you have never met. It’s perfectly appropriate and the purpose of Twitter to connect with people who share your common interests, hobbies and professions. Use www.TwitDir.com to locate them.

6. Let your unique personality shine through with each post, and be consistent. Avoid appearing like you have multiple personalities.

7. Update your profile regularly, as you would your resume.

Protect Your Interests

8. Read the service contract. Each site is different and permits the host of the site different usage rights to images, posts and other personal information you enter. Make sure you are comfortable with the contract before agreeing.

9. Manage your privacy settings so that you can control what information you share. For example, on Facebook, when you post to someone’s wall, your mutual friends may be able to see the posts as well. Adjust your settings on SETTINGS, PRIVACY and NEWS FEEDS AND WALL.

10. Protect yourself from data theft and viruses. Since social networking began, data theft and viruses have increased. Change your password regularly. If you have a PC, install an anti-virus program. You may have a sufficient program already installed.

Build Your Network

11. Begin by searching for your friends, alma mater, arts organizations and businesses you know, and then add to them. It’s okay to ask for referrals.

12. Network in groups, such as Manhattan Arts International on LinkedIn. Join the discussion topics that interest you most or start your own. Stay active in them, as this will build up recognition and enhance your relationships.

Audrey Chernoff is a technical recruiter and abstract artist based in NYC. She is the founder of Visual Artists and their Advocates, and the Bloggers’ Network. Both are excellent groups on Linkedin. Chernoff can also be found on Twitter as @audreychernoff, and is available as a consultant to help clients navigate LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Here are some of her tips for artists trying to make an impact on Twitter:

• Connect with like-minded people. Chernoff suggests, “Find your appropriate market. To connect with people who might enjoy your work or what you have to say, go to http://search.twitter.com. Search for a keyword or phrase — for instance, abstract art. From that page, you can set up an RSS feed for the phrase you chose.”

• To make the most of Twitter, “You can also set up e-mail alerts at http://tweetbeep.com for free. Follow the people that interest you and some will follow you back for two way networking. You can follow up to 2,000 people at first.” However, she warns us, “Don’t do this all in one day. It is called aggressive following and will affect your Twitter account.”

• One of the best ways to grow your Twitter circle is to connect with locals, says Chernoff. “Find twitter users near you. Here is an article about how to do that: http://mashable.com/2009/06/08/twitter-local-2/. Finding people who live near you is a great way to network and even take things offline and in person.”

• Learn the lingo. Chernoff asks, “When you are on Twitter, do you wonder what RT means? It means ‘re-tweet.’ When someone tweets something you like, it is good form to re-tweet it like this: “RT @reneephillipsny Please read the article I wrote ‘Social Networking for Artists’ at http://www.artcalendar.com.” In this way, you are giving credit to the person who originated the tweet and you are sharing the information with your network. Be sure to thank people who re-tweet your tweets. (Thank you Audrey!)

• How do you generate interest on Twitter? Chernoff advises, “Engage your audience.” We know this is extremely important in business relationships. Specifically, she recommends three things: First, when you add a new blog entry ask a question of your readers to inspire comments. Second, blog, comment and tweet about other people (not just yourself) to increase interest and expand your audience. Third, point readers toward an interesting article you discovered with a direct link that would be of interest to your followers.

• Final tip from Audrey, “As much as you may be tempted to warn others about a bad experience, don’t write anything inflammatory or you will be vulnerable to a libel lawsuit.” (It has happened!)

13. Join groups selectively, since other users will be able to read what groups you joined. In addition, you want to focus on the most productive groups. It’s okay to leave groups if they don’t fill your needs and search for new groups.

14. Start a group that reflects the nature of your artwork and become the expert on the subject, such as Sue Smith Contemporary Pointillism. Then contact art professionals and art enthusiasts who share your interest in Pointillism and ask them to join your group. Your name could also appear as your subtitle on your Web site. You may want to create a blog using the same name.

15. Exchange information about social networking (including a link to this and other helpful articles at www.ArtCalendar.com) with fellow users.

16. Consider adding your social networking links to your business card or linking from your Web site to your social networking accounts.

Communicate Effectively

17. Keep your posts, status updates and tweets professional.

18. Use spell check and correct grammar. The same rules apply here as for offline forms of communication.

19. Read twice, click once. Proofread, not only for spelling and grammar, but also for tone and clarity. Ask yourself, how will this message be interpreted by the reader?

20. Realize there is a different style that is appropriate for the each site. For example, an informal post on Facebook may not be appropriate on Twitter.

21. Read other members’ profiles so that when you do reach out or respond to their requests you can comment about their business, hobbies or recent posts. Ask or say something that shows you read it.

22. Always type the prefix http:// whenever you post your Web site URL so that it will create a live link.

23. Set aside time each week to invite new friends and followers, but keep in mind quality is better than quantity.

24. For Facebook or LinkedIn, consider easing into a new relationship by exchanging a few messages with a new person first before you add them.

25. Contribute information, experience and ideas regularly. Share a link to an article of importance, a book you’re reading or favorite Web site, or inspiring quote of the day.

26. Make an effort to turn your strong online connections into a phone connection, or a “let’s meet in person” connection whenever possible. Suggest, but don’t push.

27. Send people a personal thank-you reply when they start to follow you on Twitter or accept your invitation to join your network.

  1. Don’t use social networking as a place for group therapy or venting. Whatever you post stays there. Decide if and when it is appropriate to make strong political statements, and consider whom you might alienate.
  2. Don’t make blatant, crude, self- promotional comments, such as this actual comment that I read: “Hay, Check out some of my new work on http://xcbzqwxz.wordpress.com/ & provide your feedback.” This comment did not receive any replies. Instead you want to come across as positive, friendly, cooperative and resourceful: “Please view my new video that documents me painting landscapes in Santa Fe, NM, the magnificent vistas that also inspired Georgia O’Keeffe. Here is a link: http://fjfjfjsdfjk. I would love to know what you think!!”

28. Follow the rules of social networking for when it’s appropriate to send a personal message, to share a status report or to “send to all.”

29. Search for local events posted by fellow users, and attend them; then post about the event the following day.

Keep learning as much as you can!

30. Always keep abreast of new free applications on these sites, and apply them to fit your expanding needs. AC

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