It’s kind of hard to believe how much the online art market has changed over the past few years, isn’t it?
When I first started blogging in 2006 there weren’t all that many options for artists looking to sell art online—now there are new venues launching every week.
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Naturally I’m excited to see how the internet is changing art marketing for the better, but there IS a dark side. . . it’s becoming very common for artists to spread themselves thinner and thinner, trying to sign up for every free (or paid) art service online while hoping that at least one will pay off big.
Sure, it seems as though being everywhere at once would increase your chances at selling art, but to be completely honest, I think that method will do more to simply wear yourself out than help sell your art.
So the point of today’s article will be choosing “quality” over “quantity” when it comes to internet marketing, and I’ll be giving five steps for making your chosen method work.
My hope you’ll walk away with a better idea of how to create a personal, internet art marketing strategy—your own plan of attack, if you will.
1. Choose your weapon of choice
This is my main point—you CAN’T try to work every marketing angle online. Not anymore, anyway. My suggestion is to pick just one method of marketing your art online and then stick with that until it works.
The goal here is to choose a method that you’d be good at, based on your strengths. For instance, if you’re good with video you could launch a YouTube channel and focus your efforts there.
If you’re friendly and you like to network you could start a Twitter account and build a group of fans and collectors of your art who are on Twitter.
Creating a StumbleUpon profile that you use every day would work, as would blogging on a regular basis. Other ideas include having a social network focus, like joining Facebook and MySpace and just putting your efforts towards making friends.
Any of these art marketing tactics will work, but I’d suggest picking the one that you’re most interested in and using that one as the primary vehicle for marketing your art.
Whichever one you choose, realize that you’ll likely need to spend some long hours at it if you want to succeed. By focusing most of your hours in one place I strongly believe you’ll have a better chance of breaking through all the noise online and gaining an audience for your work.
2. Adjust your short-term expectations
Believe it or not, art marketing on the internet is really all about numbers. (It’s a complete myth that just putting your art online will make your art sell.) How many people have come to your website? How many views do your videos have on YouTube? How many subscribers does your newsletter have?
These numbers are a much better representation of your success online than sales. Yes, selling your art is the end result, but you won’t BEGIN by selling art right away (unless you’re very gifted or incredibly lucky). No, you’ll slowly build UP to selling art, and in the early stages of marketing your art online, it’s all those numbers that will actually show your progress.
For example, imagine that you’re organizing a human pyramid—you know, the kind you might see on the sidelines of a football game.
The bottom level (the base of your pyramid) is made up of all the people who have ever visited your website. Kneeling on their backs are all your newsletter subscribers and perched precariously on top of them are all the folks who have actually bought your art.
You can’t expect to add more people to that top level unless the two levels below them grow as well.
3. Set two kinds of goals
Whether you choose YouTube, blogging, or social networking as your primary marketing method, you’ll need to create two types of goals if you want to succeed.
Here’s what I mean:
Say you’re on YouTube. . . the first type of goal you should set for yourself are for circumstances you can directly affect, like the number of new videos you’d like to create each month (4 might be a good number).
The second type of goal is for things that are technically out of your control. These might be the number of views per month you’d like your videos to get, or the number of new channel subscribers you want per month.
Why is this type of goal-setting important? Because it’s attacking the problem from both ends, keeping you focused on the end-results you desire while including a method to achieve them.
Too many people just hope for the pageviews and don’t set goals for how to get there. Others might set goals for themselves (creating videos, blog posts, etc) but don’t have a clear idea of what they want to achieve from it.
Create goals for both, then revisit and change them as necessary.
4. Get your hands dirty and promote
How do you increase visitors to your blog each month or more channel subscribers on YouTube? First, stick with your goals of adding new blog posts or videos on a regular basis. Then start joining the conversation in forums, adding comments on blogs, and emailing your friends and family.
Set a little time aside each day to accomplish this, like a half-hour ever day (at a minimum) to answer questions in forums, submit articles to websites, or leave intelligent, helpful comments on related blogs.
And of course, always leave a link back to yourself.
This promotional period will be the most difficult and time-consuming part of your marketing strategy—it won’t go on forever, but it’s VERY important that you follow through with it for at least the first 3-6 months.
If you do, you’ll begin to see a lot more visitors trickling back to your blog (or YouTube channel, etc). Within a few months (or years, although hopefully it won’t take that long) you won’t have to do as much marketing as you did when you started.
Instead, you’ll be reaching enough folks that your visitors will start promoting FOR you. This is the exponential power of the internet—you only need to start the avalanche moving, after that things will pick up speed on their own.
5. Give up control of the ship
It may seem crazy, but giving up control of your blog, YouTube channel, etc, should always be the final step of your marketing plan.
Think of it like making a sledding path in the snow. One kid always has to go down first. . . and that first kid probably won’t get very far. In fact, it’ll look like a lot of work without much pay-off.
But all it takes is determination and effort for a little while, because once it looks more like fun and less like work every kid on the block will want to join in to make the ride a little longer and a little better.
It’s the exact same way on the internet. Doing something well means hard work up-front, but if you can smooth out the path for others, you’ll have no shortage of helpers down the road.
Plan for the moment where you can team up with other artists and help them get a foothold online, too. Your own workload will ease up considerably, and everyone wins.
Of course, it’s up to you how you want to go about giving up control. With a blog, it’s pretty easy—here on EE anyone can submit articles as it strikes them, and I also have a few fairly steady writers.
With a YouTube channel you could do the same type of thing, letting other artists submit videos to you for a chance at more exposure on your channel. You could also actively look for other artists and offer them greater exposure under your brand.
Obviously I’m a big proponent of collaboration online mostly because it’s worked for me. I couldn’t have kept EmptyEasel going for so long without all the help from other artists and writers (who have made EE so much more than I ever imagined).
If you can’t handle giving up your primary marketing method, at least use your contacts and network to create some kind of opportunity for others—a group blog, group YouTube channel, forum, etc.
This final step, as odd as it may be, will probably turn out to be not only be the most fulfilling but also the most successful from an art marketing perspective.
Good luck. . . and if it gets tough, remember that nothing worthwhile is ever easy!