Social networks and blogs

Online social networks can be an excellent way to attract large numbers of people to your work, but come with some strings attached.

  1. Maintaining any social network takes time, and each one has its own quirks and etiquette to negotiate when you first start.
  2. Most are designed for two-way communication, so just pushing information out about your work won’t engage people for too long – you need to spend time interacting with people and reposting other people’s content that interests you.
  3. Audiences on social networks are bombarded with information, much of it from their real life friends, and content pushed toward them from unknown sources is likely to be ignored.

With any social network, start slowly. Test it out for a while and see if it suits your way of interacting with the world; it’s better to have no Facebook profile if you don’t update it than an empty one with no followers or news.

Carefully check the terms and conditions of the social networks you are interested in before posting images of your work. Most have licensing agreements built into their terms of service, so you are signing over some limited rights for your content to be reused without your further permission.

That all being said, the rewards can be significant in terms of exposure. Here we present a short overview of some of the main social networks, drawn from our experience and those of artists we’ve worked with.

Twitter

Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets”. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.

Users send tweets to their network or open messages to each other, both of which anyone can view, or they can send direct messages that are only seen by the recipient. Hashtags, first invented for Twitter but now widely used across other social networking sites, are used to refine and join content for a particular subject.

Some of the most popular uses of Twitter are to:

  • Share knowledge, information or wit
  • Keep up-to-date with specific topics or news
  • Hear about people or organisations that interest you
  • Directly contact people you might not know personally
  • Update your followers about events or current activities you are engaged with more regularly than an email mailing list
  • Share pictures, videos and links

Twitter is predominantly about engagement and interaction, not just spreading information. People get followers by engaging an audience, ‘retweeting’ messages sent by others and being generous with their network, and sending interesting or time-sensitive information.

Twitter introduced its own analytics, but many other companies mine its data for insights into user activity: two of the services Artquest uses are Tweetreach and Klout. You might also find tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck useful in managing multiple Twitter accounts – keeping your professional and personal accounts separate. chenhaot.com will help you compose tweets that have a strong chance of being retweeted.

Artist Binita Walia (@Tspaceinbetween) has created large scale public and private architectural glass commissions since 1995. Having joined Twitter in April 2010 she has quickly found herself becoming part a large network of artists who use this social network daily to communicate, share and comment on everything they are interested in, from politics to feminism to art.

We interviewed Binita about her experiences and prepared a list of tips from the interview below.

1. Twitter can take some time to understand and find a way that feels comfortable to you.

You need to create a good profile picture and description text, and try out a few different ideas before you settle on something good. People won’t follow you unless you sound legitimate and interesting. Put a link to your work and say briefly what you do. When you first start, watch how others use Twitter and learn from their techniques until feel confident you know what youre doing. There is a quirky etiquette around Twitter and followers: some people will only follow you once you follow them, and only about 20% of people on Twitter do most of the tweeting. If you want to be a ‘leader’ in Twitter then you do need to tweet a lot, retweet and join in discussions.

2. Look at users previous tweets to decide if you want to follow them.

Follow curators for insights into who and how they work. Start by following all the artists information sources like a-n, Artquest, Axisweb, DACS, Q-Art plus the galleries and magazines you are interested in, and check who they are following for ideas on others to connect to. You can also follow your favourite artists and friends.

3. Make friends by responding to conversations.

Often artists tweet from art conferences and events which means you can join in with them directly, as a conversation is taking place. I mostly meet new people on Twitter by engaging in these conversations. Hashtags are used to identify a specific conversational thread where you can easily see what others are saying about a specific subject or event.

4. Show and share.

Sharing work in progress, a new show or an exhibition you have enjoyed offers an insight into your work and inspiration, building audiences who are interested in the same things that you are.

5. Beware the Twitterstorm

Remember that anything you tweet can be retweeted and shared endlessly: what you write becomes part of the public domain, so never write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face or to a large audience.

Useful resources:

See also a-n’s video guide to Twitter for artists below.

Facebook

One of the oldest online social networks with over 1.59 billion active monthly users. After registering to use the site, users create a personal profile, add other users as friends, exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles.

Facebook profiles can be filtered into different types of friends, so you can maintain separation between professional and personal posts. Some artists (and especially organisation) maintain a Facebook Page, linked to a personal profile but posting under the organisation’s name, which allows any other user to follow them without having to be accepted as a friend, and provides further separation between personal and professional posts. Some even use Facebook as their only or main web presence, and don’t have a website as well.

Facebook users can also get information about talks, opportunities, events and exhibitions by following Pages or accounts, but many artists choose not to post images of the work here due to licensing concerns.

Facebook Pages also come with useful and detailed statistics, so you can understand your audience and create targets for their activity.

Hootsuite can also maintain Facebook Pages and profiles alongside Twitter, bringing both of these accounts into one place.

Blogs

A blog is a discussion or informational site consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Many artists use them for longer pieces of text as they don’t have the same post length limitations of Facebook and Twitter. Although many blogs are gathered into specific service communities, like Blogger, WordPress or a-n’s artist blogs, they often rely on Twitter and Facebook to further promote content.

As posts are longer, more effort and momentum tends to be required to keep them up. To draw attention to the difficulty of maintaining a blog long-term, artist Cory Archangel produced a blog listing blog posts written to apologise for not blogging.

Many artists integrate a blog into their website for news or social content to keep this separate from a portfolio or artists statement, and ensure their content is not hosted on social platforms that may impose automatic licensing on their images.

See also a-n’s video guide to blogs for artists below.


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