Social networks and websites

An important part of making sure people can hear about you and your work is to be present on the internet. There are a number of different ways to do this. Choose the ways that work for you.

The way that you will present yourself on the internet will depend on:

  • The time you have to update social network profiles or a website.
  • The kind of work that you make.
  • The digital skills and devices that you have access to.
  • The amount of money you can spend on paid services.
  • Your general interest in the internet.

There is no one perfect way to get your work on the internet. Before you open social network accounts or start building a website, think about the time and energy you have to put into it.

Why be on the internet?

Over 5 billion people used the internet in 2021. There is an enormous potential audience for an artist and their work. Not all of these people will be interested in art, or in your art. But many people in the art world in Western Europe and North Amercia are connected to the internet. Internet connection around the world is increasing rapidly as smartphones and computers become cheaper. Curators and buyers use the internet to find artists that interest them. Having some kind of presence online is an important way to:

  • Build new audiences, and keep in touch with people you already know.
  • Have a conversation about your work that you can control.
  • Be easy to find on internet search engines.
  • Show how you work and your work-in-progress.
  • Sell your work.
  • Collect different content about you in one place. An artist website can link to galleries who have shown their work and press articles, for example.
  • Maintain a public record of your research and thoughts. A blog is a good example of this.
  • Provide an archive of all your art work.

Ways to be on the internet

The main ways this article will discuss being on the internet are:

  • Artists websites.
  • Blogs.
  • The main social networks that artists use.

You can find information on setting up a mailing list in another article. Many artists include a link to their mailing list on their website too.

Artists websites

Many artists decide to make a website to show:

  • images of their art work,
  • photos of exhibitions you have had,
  • an artist CV,
  • an artist statement,
  • your contact details,
  • lists of press and other writing about their work,
  • news about their art work, like exhibitions you have coming up.

There are many options for building a website at no cost, although they can take a long time to set up. Think about the time you have to set up a website. You might be better to use social networks instead. Do an internet search for artists you like to see what kind of websites they have for some inspiration. Some general website builders with free basic services include:

Many general website builders include templates you can use to quickly set up a site. Some of these are free, and some you have to pay for. You can do an internet search to find many more options.

If you mostly want to sell your work, you might choose a website that specialises in this. This is an ‘e-commerce’ site. Popular options for e-commerce include:

Some of the general website builders above also let you sell things online. These might be suitable if you make editions or other mulitple artworks.

If you have money to spend on a website, you could get a developer to build you one instead of making it yourself. You will still need to send them all of the text and images that you want to use in your website. You might need your developer to update your site instead of being able to do this yourself. Budget for ongoing fees for your developer.

Media platforms

All of the website builders mentioned above can include text with:

  • Sound work
  • Video work
  • Images

It’s often a good idea to upload video and sound work to a specialist media platform. Then you can embed the work in your site. Many artists use Vimeo for video work, and YouTube is popular as well. For sound work, SoundCloud and MixCloud are popular and options. Each of these platforms have limited free accounts depending on how much you want to host on their site. This means that people can find your work on the media platform as well as on your website. Video and audio are often large files, so it means your website can be faster to load and cheaper to find web hosting.

Images are usually held in your website and are not embedded. Some artists like to use an image platform like Flickr to host their images. This means that people on the image platform can find your work more easily.

Before you upload any of your work you should check the terms and conditions to make sure you continue to own the copyright. DACS publish a useful factsheet about intellectual property and social networks, which includes media platforms.

Blogs

A blog is a special kind of website site made up of short entries. Entries might be text or images, or embedded video and sound. They can be useful for showing work-in-progress or presenting research. Many artists use them for a particular project.

Blogs are often regularly updated. Consider how much time you will have to update a blog on a regular basis. Artist Corey Arcangel created an art work that includes blog posts where people apologise for not updating their blog for a long time. Although many blogs are hosted on blog sites, like Blogger or a-n’s artist blogs you still need to promote it.

Try to have an interesting title for your blog entries to atrract people to read it.

Social networks

A social network is a website that brings people together to meet and share ideas online. Anyone with an internet connected device can set up a social network account for free. Social networks are free becuase they make lots of money through advertising. They know how you interact with different types of content and show you targeted adverts.

Many artists use social networks to:

  • promote their art and exhibitions.
  • find out about the art world and opportunities.
  • sell their work.
  • network with artists and meet curators.

Like with all online tools, maintaining a social network account takes time. They are intended for two-way communication so are not just for promoting yourself. There is a lot of information on social networks and people prioritise information from their real-life friends and family. Artists on social networks spend time:

  • sharing images, videos, and text of them and their art work.
  • interacting with other people on the network.
  • reposting or commenting on other people’s content.
  • promoting themselves.

To make a connection with someone on a social network, try:

  • mentioning their account in one of your messages.
  • leaving feedback on their posts.

Social networks are an informal way to follow-up with someone you have met in real life and got on well with. They are good for research about the art world, artists, curators, press, galleries, exhibitions and opportunities. Start by following people you know or admire and join in on conversations where you can. Look at the people who comment or like your posts to find new connections.

After making an account you can create a public profile, follow people’s posts, exchange messages, and make your own posts. Use your real name on your account so people can find you easily. A post might be text, images, or video. Anyone can see a post but you need an account to send them. You can send messages to people too. Take time to come up with interesting content and look at how well your posts do. It is more important to post fewer, more engaging posts. Use hashtags to connect your posts with others on the same subject.

Many social networks also have live video. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic some artists have broadcasted live studio tours in this way. Test this with friends before you organise one to make sure lighting and sound are high enough quality.

Check the terms and conditions of the social networks you use before posting images of your art work. Most have licensing agreements that mean you will sign away some of your rights to let them use your content.

Remember that anything you post can be shared. What you write becomes part of the public domain. Never write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face or to a large audience.

Social networks have reporting functions (‘analytics’) to tell you how your posts are doing. They will tell you how many people share, like or read your posts.

Test out different social networks to see what suits you. Some of the main social networks that artists use are described below.

Instagram lets you post images with a shorter piece of text. Spend time on the word content to encourage people to share them. You can also have a single website link on your profile. You might want to change this link from time to time. Instagram is the most popular mainstream social network for artists right now.

Twitter lets you send and read short 280 character messages they call ‘tweets’. You can post up to 4 images with any tweet. You can set up lists to categorise accounts in different ways. This can be helpful if you want to send tweets to only press, buyers, or other artists that you know.

Facebook lets you create image, text and video posts. You can also promote events and manage ticketing. Groups let you filter different types of contacts to separate professional and personal posts. Some artists create a Facebook Page linked to their personal profile for professional posts. Many artists do not post images of their art on Facebook because of its licensing. Facebook also owns Instagram.

Hootsuite is a tool to manage different social network accounts in one place for free. You can schedule posts to be sent at particular times.

More advice

Listen to artist and arts communications specialist Binita Walia talk about how artists can use Twitter and Instagram.

 

Limitations and problems

Just because something is online, it doesn’t mean that everyone can see it.

Around 7% of the artists who access Artquest’s services experience some barriers to using the internet. This is because of:

  • low-speed or unreliable internet connection. Some people share an internet connection with other people, which slows it down.
  • sharing internet devices, making it difficult to plan use.
  • accessing the internet mostly on a mobile device or old devices.
  • using a screen reader, automatic dictation, accessible input devices, or screen magnification.
  • general discomfort in accessing the internet.
  • lack of privacy when accessing the internet.

Access to the internet is difficult for many more people. Every year the Good Things Foundation publishes Digital Nation, a report into internet access in the UK. They estimate that:

  • 10 million people lack basic digital skills
  • 1.5 million UK households have no internet access
  • 37% of people not online don’t have the right equipment
  • 36% of people not online find access too expensive.

If you are making your own website it’s a good idea to follow best practice for web accessibility. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes web accessibility guidelines to help people make websites that more people can use. If you make a website through WordPress or another large provider, these guidelines will be built into the software.

Despite the advantages, social networks are not for everyone. They can be addictive and some people find them distracting. Some of the main social networks have been the target of advertising boycotts because of their poor practice.

Artquest stopped using Facebook in October 2020. We did this because:

  • We noticed more negative comments on Facebook, in particular racism, transphobia, and misogyny. Given our support for Black Lives Matter it is not appropriate for us to continue on the platform.
  • Maintaining many social networking sites with our small team was becoming too stressful. It was taking time away from our core purpose of supporting artists.

We also stopped using Instagram to promote our work. We still have an Instagram account but only use this to promote artists we work with. We know that most artists who use social networks use Instagram and felt it important to use our platform to promote artists.

Review these tips to avoid the negative effects of social networks:

  • Turn off notifications and app badges. This helps stop social networks distract you.
  • Limit the time you can use social networks. Apple users can activate Screentime and Android users can use the Digital Wellbeing functions. These functions will set a daily timer for an app. They can tell you how long you use them each week.
  • Browse the internet anonymously to limit the data you share with social networks. Small pieces of code called cookies can track what you look at, and search engines use this information to show you ads. Qwant, DuckDuckGo and Firefox all have options to block search and social network tracking. This will reduce the number of distracting adverts and social network posts you see.
  • Don’t click on links that are recommended after you watch a video or read an article. Recommended links tend to reinforce the things you see to deliver more adverts. Choose your own content to avoid internet rabbit holes. Some extensions for the internet browser Chrome can block recommendations.
  • If you find something that provokes you online, fact check it before you share. Do a search or check it with fact-checking services. BBC News Fact Check, Full Fact, FactCheckNI, Fact Check from Channel 4 News and Ferret Fact Check are the main UK services.
  • Avoid clicking on adverts. By clicking, you help create a financial incentive to social networks and advertisers to continue making negative content.
  • Get different points of view by following people with different opinions. Always avoid accounts who consider people’s identities and existence as a matter of debate.
  • Talk to people about social networks and find out what they think.

If you care for young people, consider:

  • Not allowing internet devices in their bedroom. Or set a deadline for internet use before bedtime.
  • Do not allow young people to use social media until they are at least 16. Talk to them about the internet using resources from the NSPCC.
  • Agree a ‘time budget’ with your children to decide how long they want to use social networks.

Similar How to articles


Related opportunities, listings and Artlaw articles



Featured project

Adaptations

The awardees for Adaptations 2021 are Emma Edmonson and Lu Williams (Dog Ear), Libby Heaney and Tamara Stoll Emma Edmonson and Lu Williams (Dog Ear) This slideshow requires JavaScript. Lu Williams cre… Continue Reading Adaptations

Read more


Comments