Promoting Your Work Via Social Media

Social media marketing is a space you can spend a lot of time studying, but that doesn't mean you have to spend years studying it to benefit from it. Here are a few tips for how to use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, to promote your work for free.

In order to actually promote your work, your social media account should have some means to connect people with your work. This might be a link to your professional site listed in your profile so that if people get really intrigued with the kind of work you do, they can find your work and some means to purchase it.

Keep in mind that it is a social space. In other words, people participate to connect with other people. You can use it to promote your work, but you don't want to be too sales-y.

While you don't want to be too aggressive and sales-y, you also don't want people to have to ask you for essential information. You should make it easy for them to find it.

Here are some good practices:
  • Be interesting
  • Be agreeable and respectful
  • Think before you speak
  • Post at least twice a week
That's the short version. Let's expand a little on each of those thoughts.

Be Interesting

Your motivation for posting: You want to promote your work and hopefully make more money. That's what's in it for you. But you need to ask yourself: what's in it for other people?

People do not want you to market your stuff to them. They want to be entertained. If you are too blatant about "buy my stuff," you will drive away your audience.

If you have a brick and mortar business, you want to "Get feet on the street." In other words, you want events that attract traffic. This will result in sales.

The same thing applies online. You need traffic. The way you get that is by being interesting.

If you get enough eyes on your stuff, some portion of it will result in sales. The sales part needs to be there, but it needs to be low key. You need to focus instead on giving people a reason to read what you post to the internet.

Quotes, factoids, good pictures, short video clips and news are some good things to use to make your content interesting. You should also learn the culture of whatever social media you are using and learn to follow customary practices, such as using hashtags appropriately.

You can promote events in an informational way to let your audience know what is going on. Don't be pushy about it, but do assume that people are interested in you and your work or they wouldn't be following you.

Assume they would appreciate knowing when and where they can see your work or meet you in person. Consider it to be a means to notify interested parties.

For example, if you are an artist involved in Art Drives, let people know you are participating and tell them when and where this is happening. If you are showing at your studio, tell them that. If you are showing at someone else's studio, let them know where you will be for this event.

Just try to think about it from their perspective. What information do they need if they want to participate? If they want to see you in specific, how can they do that?

Be agreeable and respectful

The internet tends to be a fighty place. One of the reasons for that: It's easier to get into a discussion if you disagree with something. If you agree, the tendency is to feel like all you have to say is "Yes, I agree" and that's it.

But it doesn't have to be that way. You can be agreeable and add to the conversation. It just takes a little practice.

Instead of just saying "Yes, this!" you can say "Yes, this!" and then add your own supportive anecdote or link to related information. Keep in mind that you need to clearly signal that you are agreeing because there is a lot of negativity online, so people tend to interpret vague or ambiguous responses as negative.

If you are seeing a lot of inaccurate information, you don't have to keep your mouth shut about it. But, also, choosing to speak up doesn't require you to pick a fight.

You don't have to rebut something you heard right then and there. You can use it as inspiration for writing up good info at a later day.

Think before you speak

While you want to be personable and relatable, you also want to post in a way that is safe for you and your loved ones and that doesn't lead to drama. The way to do that is to stop and think a bit before posting that cutesy anecdote.

Ask yourself this: Would you be okay with this being headline news on the front page of your local newspaper?

If not, then don't say that exact thing. Either skip it, or find a better way to say it.

You should assume that if you talk about someone, it can get back to them. Even if you don't name them, they may recognize themselves. A story about your sister may not tell internet strangers who you are talking about, but if your one and only sister reads it, she will know you mean her. Will that funny anecdote be so funny if your sister reads it and brings it up with you?

Some good rules of thumb:
  • Talk about your work, not yourself. This goes double if you are a woman.
  • If you want to tell personal anecdotes, talk about yourself, not people you know.
  • If you say something about someone you know, don't trash talk them.
  • Give the minimal necessary personal info to tell your story or make your point.
  • If x+y info would lead to a conclusion you don't want people to make, never put them both out, even in different places.
If you post something and feel uncomfortable afterwards for any reason, delete it. It may not entirely solve the problem, but it is a good damage control policy.

If you are posting information someplace where you, personally, cannot delete it at will, err on the side of caution. Don't post anything that makes you wonder if it should be posted. Or at least sleep on it. Write it up and decide later if it makes sense to actually publish it.

With practice, it gets easier to figure out what works and what doesn't. In spite of the popular saying that "There's no such thing as bad publicity," there absolutely is such a thing as bad publicity. While you want to get attention in order to foster more sales, there are some kinds of attention that are all downside, no upside.

That doesn't mean you should live in dread of posting to the internet. Just think of it kind of like locking your car when you park it and go into a store. You need to take reasonable precautions. That doesn't mean you shouldn't ever go anywhere.

Post at least twice a week

Not everything you post needs to be brilliant. If you are having a rough week, it's fine to post something real lightweight, like an inspirational quote or two. But don't let your social media account go for long periods with no updates at all.

You want new people who trip across it to recognize that it's active. You want current followers to not abandon you.

It's fine if you post a lot sometimes, and not so much at other times. But don't let weeks or months go by without any new updates (unless you post notice that you are on vacation, having a health crisis or similar and you expect to be gone for X period of time). Otherwise folks will think it is a dead account and they will move on.

Some people will find it more challenging than others. The good news is that you can develop your social media presence at your own pace.

But you should go ahead and get started now. Start in whatever way you find comfortable, but don't put it off.