This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.
(5 minute read)
We interrupt this series Newsletters 101 for this public service announcement…
All Fine Art Views writers have been encouraged to focus on online marketing/social media marketing during the pandemic. It gets harder to keep that up as time goes on. I’m weary of it, and I’m sure you are, too.
This week, I struggled to think of a fresh idea for a column.
So here we are in a situation that has not happened since the Spanish Flu, more than 100 years ago. It has changed everything, worldwide. Everyone on this planet has been affected, some more harshly than others, for many different reasons.
For artists, that means virtual events instead of gallery shows, open studios, or art fairs. For many of us, it means not even being able to go to the studio. Sales have fallen drastically. And there’s no end in sight, yet.
Yesterday, for some reason I can’t even remember, I paged through my daily schedule/to-do list notebook. On September 7, I’d written a few thoughts from one of my favorite advice columnists, Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post newspaper. (I think I must have gone on a Hax spree through the archives, because the mention of Apollo 13 was actually from her April 4, 2017 column.)
In discussing how good marriages aren’t about a perfect fit, but are about couples working with what they’ve got, Hax said this:
“In a memorable part of (the movie) “Apollo 13,” engineers have to build a carbon-dioxide filter with only material (the astronauts have) on hand. That applies to marriage, too: Understand what you need, see what you actually have, then try to build something that works.”
Let me repeat that:
Understand what you need. See what you actually have. Try to build something that works.
What do we need right now?
What we need is connection with our audience. Yes, we want sales, too. But that comes from the connection, right?
What do we actually have?
Let’s see…. Open studios? Nope. Gallery shows? Nope. Art fairs? Nope.
Facebook. Instagram. Email. Our websites. Virtual events.
This is why we’ve been asked to focus on social media insights for you. It’s all we got!
So what can we do with it? What can we build that will work?
We can create a website.
We can create a website on a platform that is specially built for artists. (FASO!)
It will showcase our art, yes. But we can also tell our creation story, how we came to do what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.
We can create email newsletters that lets our audience stay up-to-date about what we’re up to.
We can show stages of where we are with our new works-in-progress. Instagram is PERFECT for this! This week, I had a breakthrough that’s held me back on several big projects for years. I’ve been posting updates on IG. (Okay, today I realized I haven’t actually solved the holding-me-back thing, but I’m excited by how close I am to fixing it!)
We can share on Facebook, especially our business page. We can share updates, thoughts, stories, images, etc. (And you can post on Instagram, and have it re-posted on Facebook.)
Virtual events are more common. Do they work? Yes and no. I participated in three virtual events in August and September. I didn’t think I’d made any significant sales, especially with the two that took place here in California. But afterwards, I realized this strong uptick in several larger-than-normal online sales during that period came from…a virtual event in New Hampshire!
The people that have followed me for years suddenly leaped at the chance to buy my work, and it was very satisfying. (The sales didn’t occur through the online channels of those events, which is what threw me. People found me there, then went to my online store and made their purchases directly from me.) These virtual events didn’t cost much, and I consider what fees I did pay, as my online marketing budget.
Social media marketing is what will get us through this ‘new normal’, until something like the ‘old normal’ returns.
And yet, from some of the comments made during this time, Fine Art Views readers often remind me how tired they are with all this focus on social media.
I try to remember to check back on where commenters are coming from, so I check their website and their work. Seems like the unhappiest folks didn’t have an online store/shop, or even prices on their work. Some don’t even have a website.
In my volunteer work for one major virtual event, I created captions/sentences for over 140 artists, describing their work, their inspiration, and what made their work unique.
I was shocked how many of them didn’t have a website. Or they didn’t have a correct link to their website. (I had to Google them.) Or they only had a bare-bones website, not even featuring more than one image of their work.
So many people had ‘resumes’ instead of actual artist statements. I had to dig deep to find anything of interest to say about their work, or simply go with what I thought of their work. (Don’t worry, I was kind to everyone.)
So many people didn’t have any social media accounts—no Facebook, no Instagram, even though Instagram, based on images, feels made for visual artists.
I know hundreds of artists and craftspeople. Yet in my own email feed, I get email newsletters from less than a handful of fellow artists. And some of those are not newsletters I signed up for. They got my address from events I signed up for, or a group activity I was in. (DO NOT sign up people without their permission!)
And some artists didn’t even share their email address.
To continue the metaphor, if these folks were astronauts, they’d be dying for lack of oxygen.
Now, if your intention during this pandemic is to step back, focus on your work, and let go of sales and marketing until the ‘old normal’ is back, it’s okay, and I don’t blame you. It’s definitely a great time to dig in and make our art. Fewer distractions, fewer obligations, and I can’t go thrift shopping. (Did I say that out loud??)
But if you want to boldly go where you’ve never gone before, now is the time to bump up your social media marketing game.
Don’t complain, up your game!
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If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.