What are your thoughts on using social media for your marketing, and how do you approach it?
When we talked with our Allies about what type of marketing works best for them, social media was one of the best.
But what’s interesting is that even though the artists and athletes are finding success on social media, many of them have mixed feelings about participating (for various reasons).
There’s no one way to “do social media”, of course, but below our Allies share what’s worked, what hasn’t, and how they’re figuring it out as they go.
For a while I realized that what people really responded to were these bird’s-eye view shots, top down, where it’s kind of a work in progress. You can see my hands drawing something. They’re really fun to stage and set up. It does take a couple of hours, realistically, from start to finish, to set one of those shots up and get it and post it.
But then I realized that, through doing that, I’m not posting a lot of the brand design work that I do, the more vector, graphic, computer stuff, which I love equally. And I’m not posting the interactive murals that I paint. If I don’t post that stuff, too, people aren’t going to know that I can do that and hire me for it.
Currently I’m reassessing and I don’t really care what I post in the sense that if it’s something that I don’t think is going to get high engagement I’ll still post it anyways. I’m more interested now in the idea of putting out into the world what I want to receive.
The only thing I’m specific about is I don’t really post on the weekends because I have low engagement. I have a business account so I can see when my audience is interactive or engaged.
I generally try to post between 8 and 10 a.m. because that’s when my audience is most active. Other than that there’s very little thought.
I do try to use between 20 and 30 hashtags for every post. I used to just copy and paste from a notes app where it was like, This is a lettering post, so here are my lettering hashtags.
Now I come up with random ones or experiment. I don’t do a lot of research or anything, I kind of just start writing stuff, looking at what has a lot of hashtags and using some of those.
I do Instagram. I’m not super on top of it. I do social media for the RiNo [River North] Art District and also RiNo Made so most of my energy is kind of put into that and I don’t want to do my own. But any of the art that I complete or I’m in the process of doing, I will always post to social media. I try to interact with a lot of other artists on social media and build a network. I feel like that’s really helpful.
I took [a class] on using Instagram and it kind of empowered me to use it as a tool. Instead of looking at it like, Oh, it’s just a platform to say “look at me” it switched that thought to, I need to be able to use this for actually growing business. I don’t know if that’s working or not but I feel more comfortable on using it which was a big deal. Not being afraid of it or thinking it’s something other people know how to do better than me.
We definitely live in the social media age and a major focus of mine has been on building a platform on Instagram. Part of that is because I think the great thing about social media, especially the way Instagram works, is that you’re in control of telling your own story. It’s not relying on a magazine writer wanting to write a profile on you and it’s not reliant on a filmmaker portraying you correctly. The beauty of the social media age is that you can be in control.
From a business perspective, the media landscape is always changing and Instagram will change, but the reason I put so much effort into Instagram is that there is longevity in it right now and at least for the foreseeable future.
What I’ve done on there to build that platform, build that following and build something that also creates value — not just for me but also for the brands that I partner with — goes back to that aspect of being real. I don’t think that being real always has to mean that you pour your heart out and write a novel on there. I think that being real is as simple as sharing the real passion you have and the real lens that you’re living through.
A lot of my stuff is serious and contemplative and that’s because that is a true side of my life, in terms of overcoming injuries and the deeper, more intimate connection that I feel when I’m in the mountains or when I’m on a pair of skis. But another very real side of me is the fun side and people definitely love the fun side too, and none of that is a gimmick. None of that is fake. I really do eat burritos and gummy bears on top of mountains damn near every day.
I think when it comes to Instagram, people just want to see something that makes them smile, makes them want to get outside, makes them feel something, whether it be because they laugh about gummy bears or because they resonate with a story about what it means to be on a pair of skis.
That’s a good question and a really good conversation to have because there’s obviously a push when social media is such a big part of what we all do and that you always have to be putting something out there.[B]efore I put something out there, even if it’s as simple as an Instagram post, I just check in with myself and be like, Is this me and is this in line with the story I want to tell and the direction that I want to go in, in my career and in my life? It seems like a lot to think about when you’re posting a photo on Instagram, and I definitely don’t think that deep every day, but it just goes back to the aspect of being real. I think that’s the best strategy.
But if you’re curious about how strategic it is in terms of the mix of content or timing of posts and all that stuff, that stuff’s definitely strategic. I think it’s cool to be good at your job and so I do put a lot of effort into that. I look at metrics. I look at timing of posts and how I can do everything better. And that goes back to the aspect of being in a position where you’re constantly learning. When I pull up my Instagram and follow a bunch of professional surfers or a bunch of runners, when I see somebody in a different sport doing something really well, I’m like, Whoa, nobody’s doing that in skiing right now, so I pull that in. I think that’s part of the strategy too.
I try not to get too abstract with social media and I try to stay pretty on point and direct. I try to give insight into both my process and a little bit into my personal life, because that’s part of art, you really do want to pull people in because it is so personal. But I also keep a separate personal account.[For events she participates in:] I always do marketing for myself as well because I know that the event’s marketing won’t reach everyone. And it’s actually really incredible when I have people who come to an event who say, I saw your post on Instagram, that’s why I’m here. And that feels so good! I always tell them thank you. It feels good to hear that it’s working, to know that social media is being utilized as a tool for advertising and that there is some sort of return on it — all that time that I put into making my posts and looking at Instagram. Because, let’s be real, once you get on Instagram, you start looking through Instagram. But there is a return on that time and it feels pretty cool to have that direct interaction with customers. Social media is such a vast place.
But just letting people know about the event before it happens. And I try to space it out — a week before, a couple of days before and then day of. So that way if you missed it then, you see it now. But most places do a pretty good job of putting some sort of word out there to get people to come.
Instagram is a visual app so I take advantage of that and specifically focus on just posting there since I’m a visual artist. I don’t post too much of my personal life, just my artist life.
I used to have Facebook and a website as well. But I don’t like social media at all. If it wasn’t for my art I would not be on any of it.
I usually post around 7 AM, 12 PM and 7 PM to connect with my following from South Carolina to San Diego — I use specific times that I know those users are most active.
I approach my Instagram in a natural way. I’m not posting every other day at 9 a.m. with a million hashtags. When I have something cool to post, I’ll post it. I’m not trying to force it. I hate the million hashtags thing. And you don’t need to write five paragraphs under your photo. Every single post can’t be that deep. [Laughs]
I try to do what I’d like to see — the finished piece, the progress, shots of mountains. If I tried to do scheduled posting it would just come across so forced. I don’t want to fake something just to post it on there. And certain jobs I can’t post about so there will be gaps.
You don’t want to oversaturate people, but I say I don’t like that and then there’s people who are really good at it and have 100,000 followers.
Do you find it drives a good amount of sales for you? Just people seeing your work there and then going into your shop or contacting you?
I think it does [drive a good amount of sales]. I think I’ve gotten a couple of commercial jobs. I think it helps that clients can see the progress and not just the finished piece all the time. If they can see a carving they might think, Oh, this really fits the aesthetic of our company a lot more than somebody who does a computer illustration.
I do get hit up for commissions a lot and I just can’t handle them right now. And tattoos, but I’m like, Oh I can’t do that, that’s too stressful.
Lindz: We’re working on it. We just hired a social media coach to help us understand algorithms, to help us understand tagging, how to post a story.
Jon and I were born in the early ’80s and don’t live our lives on social media. And there’s nothing wrong with that but we’re figuring out how to navigate our lives with social media and how and when we show our work.
It’s been enlightening. There are a lot of artists who come into this print shop who definitely school us on social media and have given us tips. We received a lot of feedback from large international artists we’re friends with and our clients saying, Are you hash tagging this, have you thought about this? We were even at an event with an artist and they called us out saying, I haven’t seen you sharing any of this yet.
It’s a new and interesting thing for us to consciously be thinking about what our social media posts are going to be and how to present ourselves to the public. Our social media coach has explained to me that people like to connect with people on social media, so it is okay to show yourself a little bit outside of your work. And for us, being married, we create together and work together 100% of the time and I’ve been told that people would like to see more of a window into that world. So we’re getting there.
But I also have to be aware of time zones and keep in mind at what time I post. I have a lot of followers on the East Coast since I grew up there, but I also have a lot of followers in Alaska since I did an art residency there and last year the majority of my work was bought and sold in Alaska.
You know, I get quite a bit of work from social media, Instagram, Facebook connections and stuff like that. I would say it’s starting to be like maybe a third word of mouth, people reaching out directly, and then probably two-thirds through the social channels.
A lot of the stuff I do get comes from social media and people who find me through CRUSH.
Social media is definitely a huge part of it, but even then, I think word of mouth is connected to social media in a lot of senses because someone will say, So and so does this you should check out her Instagram. It’s just like your resume.
Social media I feel is good for quick flips. If you’re doing studio work and you have prints, if that’s one of your main sources of revenue, it’s a great way to make money.
But for me, I want to go for larger projects and installations. And I think as I start applying for public art and stuff like that, I’ll probably be dealing less with people reaching out directly. I think in the next five or ten years it’s going to teeter in a different direction.
I’m very lazy when it comes to it. But I also don’t want to be too involved in it because even with that mindset it can still hurt my feelings if a post doesn’t do very well. And I don’t like that feeling. It bums me out that it’s ingrained itself in our society so much, so I try not to worry about it as much as possible. I think that sometimes it can be unhealthy.
I’ve had people reach out to me through DMs and I’ll set up painting sales through that. I’ll post stuff through my story and people will be like, I want it, and then I’ll sell stuff that way. But I try to direct people to my email, I prefer that.
As soon as I got Instagram I posted drawings and thought it was really just going to be shared locally because my followers are my friends here in town. But then 100 followers turned into 700 and then I’m in the thousands and it just keeps branching out with the sharing and the attention and people are hitting me up all the time.
At one point I was thinking of getting off social media because it was bugging me but I immediately shut that down in my head. Because I was like, Man, I can’t do that because it’s this wonderful thing that gives me the power to share what I’m doing worldwide, why would I just shut that door?
I’m comfortable with the amount of people who are following. It’s nice. It’s not too hectic. It’s nice to know that I get this feedback that my art is doing this and that for someone or that they’re feeling good things from it.
I’m just trying to put out a good vibe. That’s most important to me with sharing my art. Then comes the business side and that’s great too.
I don’t need money or fame, I’m really just stoked to be sharing my art and maybe be pushing the world in a way that I believe in. I don’t need much to live. I just want to take care of my family and that’s about all I need.
Honestly, print sales only happen when I post something [to Instagram] and say, Hey, I’ve got some prints for sale.
Other than that it’s always commissions. There are so many reasons to ask me for my art — album covers or t-shirts, everything.
My fan base is continuing to buy the art, they’re collecting it. I have a few people where they have everything I put out. So I can count on that, I guess.
It’s social media — I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way. I understand I can have a website but I’ve never even gone that far.
I think it’s more about engaging other people. I also discovered how I could find influence from it in my studio practice. Engaging with people is sort of how I got started. Not just throwing up a picture and waiting for people to give feedback, but actually going out there and commenting on other people’s stuff, actually engaging them. A lot of people who I consider friends now I found on Instagram. I’ll throw opportunities to them as well.
I invited this one artist from Atlanta, Fabian (who goes by @occasionalsuperstar on Instagram), to a mural festival here. We’d only known each other on Instagram because I commented on his stuff a lot. Situations like that are really where a lot of my growth happened. And then from there, I’m just making sure that if people comment or like my work, I engage with them because they made the initial step. They’re already looking at my stuff, let me engage with them.
You can ask a lot of artists a thousand questions and you won’t get an answer back, but with my work or social media, you can throw a question at me and 90% of the time I’ll get back to you at some point. So that’s why my direct messages are always full, because people will ask some random question like, I saw on your Art Tip Tuesday you said you use Behr paint to protect your work, can I get some in Canada? I then actually go out and see if it’s sold in Canada. Because when you do that, people really remember that type of thing and they’ll tell their friends about it. They’ll say, This artist is really good, I follow them and they also answer back, and they give good insight. They then start to share.
A lot of artists don’t share much of their behind-the-scenes stuff, so a lot of the times you’ll only see the end product on an artist’s social media. But really early on I was showing people everything. I would have a good five posts on one piece — me actually building the canvases, putting down the sketch, painting and the time lapse of me painting it. A lot of that stuff really worked out. But now my time is limited, so I’m not always on Instagram all the time, creating content or, if I do a painting, sometimes I don’t remember to record myself, so I lose that. Or the projects that I do now are a lot bigger, so they just take a lot more time to do and there’s sometimes a gap in the content that I’ll post.[Now] everyone is on Instagram now and there’s a plethora of things to look at and video. It’s getting really complicated. I’m focusing more on the Art Tip Tuesdays and posting content that I really, really like rather than trying to focus too much on just trying to create content. That’s really what I try to focus on now.
I’m always trying to find other platforms to do some promotion — even Reddit, I did that a couple of times, finding different forums that are specific to maybe a particular piece that I’m doing. When I did an Anthony Bourdain piece, I wasn’t only posting it in the art section but also posting in “Kitchen Confidential” for the cooks, because they love Anthony Bourdain. If I do a jazz piece, I go to the jazz Reddit forum and post that as well. So they really responded to those pieces well.
Trying to find new platforms, different avenues. You just never know nowadays what works and what doesn’t work.
Well, I’ll get a bunch of money sometimes and then not spend much of it. Sometimes I just buy new things to make more art.
I bought this pounce machine for $700 last summer. It’s another tool to make art. I didn’t need it, but I’ve wanted it for years, so I bought it. And as soon as I got it, I got two big sign projects and it instantly paid for itself. That’s what I spend my money on, stuff like that.
My money goes to rent, computers, beer and food. That’s it. I don’t really spend much money, I guess.