The art of marketing art

This past weekend I attended the spring Saint Paul Art Crawl. Held in Lowertown Saint Paul, this annual event is the official signal that spring has arrived for all of us that live in the neighborhood. The farmers market opens, restaurants pull patio seats out on the sidewalk, and about 350 artists open their studios to the public for all to see what the winter cold has produced while snowbound for the last six months.

I spoke to many artists as I trekked from studio to studio. Little did they know that I was on an informal fact-finding mission. I wanted to see how many artists used social media, and what their public relations efforts were prior to the Crawl.

My small sampling of unscientific research found that most artists have websites, either standalone or through a collective service. About 50 percent I spoke with have Facebook fan/like me pages, but they don’t advertise them. Instead they lean on word-of-mouth to get new fans. There are other interactive online communities they participate in as well, but don’t advertise to the masses.

I only found two active Twitter users. There were two others who had accounts, but didn’t use them.¬†And the biggest kerplunk? No one had ever heard of Four Square.

I sense an enormous void in the art community when it comes to social media. The reaction is the same as in other communities – it’s scary and no one knows how to make it work right out of the gate. I understand marketing is a tough nut for an artist. Some feel it takes away the creative integrity of their work. But I stood in proximity to over 350 individual art studios, and could not find one on Four Square? It was heartbreaking.

So artists who aren’t won over by social media – what do you need from us? The Minneapolis/Saint Paul area is packed with social media mentors. Would you take a class? Do you prefer one-on-one? Do we need to paint it out?

Talk to us. There are a lot of people that would be willing to help.

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5 responses to “The art of marketing art

  1. Who would have known that judging for the St. Paul Camera Club would lead me to a social media diva! As a photographer trying to gain traction in the social media world, I think it’s a lot about time. Figuring out what to say, when to say it, and where to say it is more than a little overwhelming. FB is a logical place to be because that’s where my clients are, and Twitter is a great resource for communicating with peers and industry insiders . . . but new stuff is popping up everywhere. Yelp, Foursquare, and who knows what else . . . it’s endless. I think for many, it’s easier to just shrug the whole thing off. What you don’t understand can’t hurt you, right?

    I’m looking forward to learning from your example. Thanks for so many great resources on your blog, twitter, etc.

    What do I need? A good push! :) No really . . . not a hand holding, and not a step-by-step connect the dot’s guide. What I’d like is a better understanding of how my clients are using social media and what they want from me, and what would make them excited to interact with my brand! Thanks Colleen!

  2. The freedom of social media continues to bind us, right? I had a conversation with one of my designer friends about this same thing a few weeks ago. He ventured that maybe artists are just more passionate about what they do and less into it for the money. Not sure if I believe that or not but it’s a thought. What are you thinking?

    • Colleen McGuire

      I believe there are a lot of reasons why artists refrain from social media. Your designer friend hit one of them – more about the art than the marketing of the art. I suspect there is a “selling out” factor. “True artists don’t market themselves.” I wonder if there is a socioeconomic factor as well. We know social media is a great way to market, but if an artist is on a budget, perhaps they don’t have the financial means to own a computer. Going to the library isn’t always convenient. If I could teach a social media class to artists, I would train them on the basics, plus include a time management aspect of marketing themselves.

  3. Hey Colleen I am behind you and any help I can be let me know! Yes art studios, places you paint, places you sculpt, places you sell your art, places you pick up supplies, places you show art all are potential marketing impressions for sending a signal thru social media!

    As an artist get creative where you place your art online and your customers or potential customers will find places to buy your art.

    Colleen if anyone can energize a community to take action to elevate their signal for social and economic value it would be you. Great journalistic integrity to step out there this weekend to gather information from a IRL perspective. Not an online survey or poll, but asking real people from a real market what are using and doing to utilize social media to produce an economic value.

    NICE WORK! Look forward to hearing more

    • Colleen McGuire

      Keith, you are such a great mentor and inspiration. THANK YOU for your support. Perhaps we could do something with Free Arts Minnesota sometime in the Lowertown art community? The beautiful thing about art – it speaks every language.

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