Social media tools for the savvy arts professional: internet connection required.

Building platform is not only for those in the publishing business but is necessary for the visual arts too. Here are seven social media tips on how to build platform for arts professionals such as artists and gallery owners (net)working in Asia.

Asia Society, website page, 2013.  Image courtesy Asia Society.

Asia Society, website page, 2013. Image courtesy the Asia Society.

The business of art is booming, or so it seems. Mashable, the online news source reporting on digital-related news, reported statistics related to the buoyancy of art revenue on 10 November 2012:

According to market research firm First Research, there are about 5,000 art dealers and galleries in the U.S. with combined annual revenue of about USD6 billion, and Art Market Monitor estimates the size of the overall global art market to be around USD15 billion annually. There are also more than 200,000 fine artists working in the U.S., according to recent research by the National Endowment for the Arts (pdf download).

The article goes on to say that it is more important than ever for artists and galleries to get the word out about the art they are selling, and one of the most effective ways to do that these days is through social media.


The publishing industry agrees. They call it ‘platform’ and ‘platform’ is what sells books – lots of books. So what is ‘platform’?

‘Platform’ refers to having a certain number of people following your message, which would eventually lead them to purchasing your message. This is why famous celebrities, TV chefs, and acclaimed doctors are able to get their books published as they have large platforms of people avidly listening to them for advice or entertainment. Platform can be accrued by Twitter followers, Facebook likes and Linkedin connections.

Platform is not only for the publishing business, but necessary for the business of visual arts. In Asia, where it’s customary to hand out business cards upon meeting someone for the first time, the embracing of social media networking has increased. Artists and galleries tweet, email, and network using the various online tools.

Are you doing enough to get your message out? Let’s follow Mashable’s 7 tips on how to market your art via social media, and apply it to Asia.

Artist Zhang Huan's home page, screen shot, 2013.

Artist Zhang Huan’s home page, screen shot, 2013.

1. Optimize Your Website

Whether you are an artist or you are running a gallery, you are featuring art on your website, so it is vital to make sure the images on your site are the best they can be. Images must be in focus, and not pixelated because the resolution is too low. The lighting must be correct so the image is not under- or over-developed. Also choose images that are easy to understand on a computer monitor. Some complex art installations do not look good on the screen or are hard to decipher what’s going on in the photo, so choose your images wisely.

Images of artworks must have captions. Typically the order is: name of artist, title of artwork, date it was made, dimensions, medium, and whose collection the work belongs to.

Also include artist’s bio, exhibition history, published articles, and most importantly, contact info. You definitely want to be easily contacted by the interested reader.

For inspiration, check out professional websites like The Asia Society and Zhang Huan.

Screen shot of Manila Art Blogger, 2013.

Screen shot of Manila Art Blogger, 2013.

2. Get Busy Blogging

Regular blogging, meaning at least three times a week and even as frequently as several times per day, is important to keep your website showing up in the search engines, especially Google. The higher your site ranks in Google, the more people come to visit your site. If you have ads on your site, that translates to making more money.

Blogging is also like having a conversation with people who are interested in similar topics. The reader can leave comments on the blog and with each other. This builds a sense of shared community and grows your audience, which, by the way, increases your platform.

A Facebook screen shot of an Asian art site, 2013.

A Facebook screen shot of an Asian art site, 2013.

3. Maximise Your Facebook Presence   

Facebook is popular with curators, gallery dealers and artists alike. People post their exhibition info, photos of their artwork, and photos of art exhibitions they visited. Since arts practitioners are generally a global group and they travel a lot, Facebook is extremely useful in keeping people up to date with the latest news via text and images.

Facebook provides two options for profiles: a personal page and a fan page. The personal page includes your personal written data, like name, location, education, and work experience, and allows you to post status updates, photos and videos. The fan page can be of a gallery, or art movement but is registered under the user’s personal page.

For both the personal page and fan page, ‘friends’, which are people you connect with, can share your posts, and press a ‘like’ button. Using Facebook to post your art information provides more visibility to a wide range of Facebook users.

Similar social networking programs such as Orkut and Ibibo are popular in India. However, Orkut may be losing its popularity to Facebook as stated in Search Engine Watch.

Ai Wei Wei on Twitter, 2013.

Ai Wei Wei on Twitter, 2013.

4. Be Active on Twitter

For Chinese artists the Chinese microblog site Weibo , which is similar to Twitter, helps them to reach large numbers of people, especially outside of China. Weibo is invaluable in getting information past the prickly government censors.

According to The Next Web, activist and artist Ai Weiwei calls Twitter his city. According to the Next Web, Ai’s use of social media tools is to challenge the Chinese government’s tight restriction on freedom of speech. Is taking on such a big adversary a shrewd marketing tool?

Cai Guo-qiang on Pinterest, screen shot, 2013

Cai Guo-qiang on Pinterest, screen shot, 2013

5. Take Advantage of Pinterest

Pinterest is a photo-sharing site which is popular with artists, because it is heavy on imagery and low on text. It works like a bulletin board where you can pin your images up and even arrange them by category.

A good example of how this is utilised is the account by artist Cai Guo-qiang. One word of caution though: if you are sharing photos you may run into some copyright trouble, so be sure you have permission to use the photos.

6. Experiment With Facebook Ads

Mashable recommended the use of Facebook ads and cited the example of Artlog, which promotes art events. Organisers found ticket sales increased when they purchased Facebook ads.

For small and large businesses like art galleries, art fairs, auction houses and event promoters which are selling artworks or tickets, purchasing ads on Facebook are ideal because you can specifically target your audience.

7. Use Press Releases for Search

Mashable also recommended to use a promotional website like PR Web which distributes your press release to major news sites and search engines for a low fee.

Alternatively, you can also distribute your press release and email it to these various sites, but be sure you’ve written your release with the appropriate keywords so that it can be easily searched online. With Google constantly updating and changing its search algorithms, your site will be penalised and fall low in the rankings if you engage in keyword stuffing, said Web Designer Depot.

A Last Word: Skype

Not included on the Mashable list was Skype. With artists, curators, art writers and museum staff traveling around the world at a frenetic pace, the use of Skype, which is a free conversation tool, allows users to talk to each other without having to pay the prohibitive cost of a long-distance call via landline. Many interviews and exhibition decisions have convened by using Skype.

Related Topics: market watch, promoting art, art and the internet

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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