Article by Maura Whitehurst. Originally published in print Art Hive Magazine, Issue #23.
Young artists today face an incredible set of obstacles in the field of self-marketing: having a public relations manager direct and control the way an artist interacts with the public is a thing of the past. In fact, it’s getting too expensive for young artists, who often can’t afford the steep fees that managers and promotions experts charge. The good news is, artists can manage the task of self-promotion on their own, as long as they learn how to navigate the field and invest a great deal of constant effort. Artists have to be aware of how to use technology, how to use strong visual self-branding, and how to build a loyal online following – things that fifteen years ago weren’t nearly as important for artists. Here are some ideas below to get you started on building your online artistic network for self-marketing purposes.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Most artists want to be able to manage a career where they can balance artistic integrity and have an extremely large fan base. However, the truth is that smart artists find their niche and remember that they can’t please everyone in the art world. Finding that one aspect of your art that sets you apart – and catering specifically to that online market when promoting yourself using technology – is what will help you rise to the top in your discipline. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the age demographic of the consumers of my artistic projects?
- Who does my art speak to?
- Who do I want to share my artistic message with?
- Is my art limited by language, style, or culture?
- Who is likely to understand my art?
- Are there particular aspects of my identity as an artist that resonate with specific communities, cultures, or social groups?
These questions are not meant to limit you in terms of how you artistically express yourself – they are meant to guide you in your first steps of how to effectively market yourself to a particular audience that is most likely to appreciate your work. Once you build this strong following, you will be able to branch out and reach other target groups.
BUILDING A COMPLETE, CONSISTENT IMAGE
We are living in an increasingly visual world. Think about the way songs sell on iTunes – a striking image cover from an album or a zany superficial identity of a pop star creates spikes in download rates. If you want to build a strong online presence, you are going to need to think about all the ways you are visually represented. Put together a toolkit to help you build a complete and consistent image, starting with the guidelines outlined below:
- Do you have professional headshots that are attractive and represent you and your style?
- Have you chosen a consistent color pallet or style pallet for your online presence? Are there particular fonts or images that show off your energy and style well in printed form?
- Do you have samples of your work – visual or aural – that you can share online that contribute to your image?
- Do you have a long biography text to post on your website that shows your extensive talent and experience?
- Do you have a short biography, about one paragraph long, that gives a strong and energetic snapshot of you and your work?
- Do you have a one-sentence biography that uses active verbs to describe your work in a concise nutshell?
- Do you have a CV and condensed resume that is consistent with your other print materials and is up to date?
ASSEMBLING A WEBSITE AND SOCIAL NETWORKING
- Making a website is quite easy to do, and is a great and inexpensive way to share yourself with the world. Using ‘Build-it-yourself’ websites such as Weebly, Tumblr, Blogspot, or Wordpress, you can create great sites for free and not have to pay for additional hosting space. Some of these programs online might involve some HTML/CSS coding experience, while others use drag-and-drop technology to make it really easy for those without experience to build professional-looking sites. Keep your website simple at first, but make sure to include these critical aspects on your site:
- A homepage that features your blog and one-sentence biography, with links to your social networking pages (described in detail below).
- An “About the Artist” page, which features your long biography, headshots, and downloadable CVs and resumes.
- A “Links” page, in which you provide links to your work online, articles about you online, and other important links. If you are curious, you can Google your own name to find reviews, articles, and information about old projects you have done – you might be surprised by how much you can find about yourself online.
- A page dedicated to sharing your art – whether sample sound files, samples of your visual art, or pictures of the sculptures you create.
- Once your website is up, sell it using social networking so that you can build a fan base. Create a Facebook “Fan” Page for yourself, and connect it to your site. Create a Twitter account, and use the provided “widget” to embed a Twitter feed directly on your homepage. Using these tools on social media, “like” and “follow” tags that you feel have to do with your work.
For example, if you are a soprano, follow tags such as #opera, #theatre, #soprano – and see what kinds of information show up in the news about the work you do. Tap this information base, and use it to find other artists and potential fans who can appreciate and relate to the work you do. Be sure to “sync” your accounts, so that when you post something on your blog, notices come up on your Twitter and Facebook accounts – that way, people will be sure to find your updates and click your links!
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: STAYING ACTIVE
These tools are inexpensive to put into use by artists with little experience and know-how, but the truth is that these are only effective if you stay on top of them. Create a schedule and follow it: how often will you update your Twitter and Facebook? How often will you post new art on your website? Will you update your blog at least once a week? Remember, the more you give to your fans, the more they will be interested to purchase from you later on, or attend your shows and exhibitions in person. Stay active with your new self-marketing campaign, and you’ll be sure to watch your fan base grow.