Social Media for Artists

Here’s the situation: you’re an artist and you’ve been debating whether to have an online presence or not. Or you already have one and, like me, are struggling to manage it effectively. Assuming you already have a website, which is very important, should you also „do” social media?

My short answer is: yes, unless…

Let me tell you my feelings towards social media: I’ve always found it difficult to share my life and work. I’m a pretty private person, and I also don’t have such an interesting life (sorry, haha). And people’s opinions really get to me because I’m a people pleaser, so I try to keep them out as much as I can. There’s also this fear that I’m annoying people, or that I’m being spammy if I post too much.

(Here’s a PRO TIP if you want to stay less on the apps: get yourself an old smartphone that has a poor battery life and that dies if you want to post something—that’s my current situation and a good excuse for posting rarely. 😆)

Ok, ok, but in all seriousness, I noticed that I have these fluctuations: there are times when I’m really good at posting consistently, but then I’ll get really tired of it mentally or I’ll get busy with client work and forget about posting for months. I used to feel bad about it, but now I’ve accepted this pattern and I’ve come to expect it. The truth is that managing a social media presence is a lot of work—it’s no wonder there are people with full-time jobs to do that.

So should you post your work on social media?

Actually, let me rephrase that: would it be beneficial to your career to post on social media?

  • Yes

Many (but not a lot of) people reach out to me after seeing my work online. My first children’s book happened because the editor saw my work on Facebook. It’s ultimately a free tool that helps you get your art in front of many people and you don’t have a lot to lose if you use it (only your ability to focus for long, uninterrupted spans of time if you use it A LOT).

  • Unless… you already have years of experience and an extended network of real-life connections and clients that provide work without any marketing effort on your part

A good example of this is Annette Marnat, one of my favorite illustrators. She is a very prolific artist, having created tons of work for high-profile clients, and who doesn’t need to market herself anymore—she just has a tumblr account where she posts from time to time. But I think she has zero pressure behind it, she does it just for pleasure, like putting art in a gallery.

  • or you have other ways of marketing yourself

Other options are having a website, a blog that you update frequently, an illustration representative, maybe a YouTube channel (this one sounds terrifying to me 😂), email subscribers, and a client list that you regularly send new work to. It all depends on what you want to do: private commissions? Social media might be the best way. Publishing and editorial work? Submitting directly to art directors may be better.

Here’s how I approach posting on social media:

I like to wait a little between finishing an illustration and posting it

Sharing is a vulnerable action for me (and I think for most people)—the feedback and number of likes affect me, no matter how much I tell myself they shouldn’t. Maybe I really like how something turned out, and then I post it and it gets ignored—that makes me feel like I should just quit illustrating (although I KNOW it shouldn’t!). So taking that little time in-between helps me detach myself from the piece and not take it personally if it doesn’t get a lot or traction. It’s like a cooling-off period, if you will.

I try to use a planning tool to schedule posts

Let me tell you a story and you tell me if it sounds familiar: you wake up, you think to yourself „ooh, this is a good day to post that image on insta”, you post it at 9 AM and then check your phone every 7 minutes to see „how it’s doing”, you answer that lovely comment and the next thing you know it’s 3 PM and you did no actual work the entire day.

This is what happens to me if I don’t schedule my posts. And probably why I don’t like social media, that it can get its claw in my head and derail my day. It’s just incompatible with focused work. And unfocused work is incompatible with creating illustrations and making money. Not a good outcome.

Every marketing person kept suggesting „scheduling posts”, but I really didn’t think much of it until recently. I’ll be honest, it is kind of a drag having to sit down and actually do it, but when it’s done, I can just forget about it and worry about drawing, not about post performance. Set it and forget it, baby!

I don’t post just for the sake of it

Have you ever thought „oh, no, I haven’t posted in a while, I should make something for Instagram / Facebook / tumblr / etc. or else people will forget about me!” Yeah, me too. It kind of sucks, doesn’t it?

First of all, people don’t forget that easily. And even if they do, they can just go to you profile and get a refresh when you post something after a long time. „Oh, yeah, it’s that artist with the butterflies, they made something new, cool!” People aren’t sitting at home thinking „that artist hasn’t posted in 4 months, I’m gonna be so mad if she doesn’t post something today!!!” No, they will be perfectly happy to see what you have to share when you are ready.

We have a saying in Romanian: „a pune carul înaintea boilor”, which translates to „putting the cart in front of the cattle” and it means doing things in an unnatural order. Creating with the end goal of „making content” is, in my opinion, the wrong way to approach art and it adds too much pressure on the drawing part. Focus on the making part, and only after on sharing it. Just a few posts per year could be enough if they are AMAZING posts. 😁

These are my thoughts about social media, maybe I’m overthinking it, maybe for you it comes easier? Let me know in the comments and make me jealous of your posting skillz 😆.

And if you’re reading this and you don’t necessarily create art, but appreciate it, please remember to support your artist friends when they’re brave enough to share their work online because it’s not as casual as it may seem. 🥺

Ok, that’s it for now, „see” you next time!

Teodora

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