Can You Sell Your Art with Social Media?


I make a living with social media - I'm no expert - but I make a living. Doing so has taught me a lot and I continue to learn more every day. Social media can be a great way to promote your work and connect with an audience all over the world. Or can it? The question was posted by photographer friend Peter Tellone about whether you can sell art (real art) with social media given that people spend so little time looking at anything anymore. In this age of instant everything most don't want to stop to think, much less to feel something. So how can your art succeed?

It can be very difficult to sell art on social media. Few succeed while many others fail. Some thoughts on the matter:

  • Attentions spans are short and even more so on social media. There is so much information being blasted at us every second of every day.
  • Real art creates a reaction, a feeling, an emotion. Can you accomplish that in a split second and, what's even worse, on a cell phone screen?
  • Some are of the opinion that those with real art tastes (and wallets) don't spend time on social media and that it's simply the wrong market.
  • Others claim that they are only on social media for connecting and being entertained and when that's the case they aren't interested in what you have to sell.
  • There are millions of distractions in social media because what you show is crammed together with so much other junk.

These are all valid points. There are ways to sell on social media but they don't involve any actual selling. The whole point about social media is being social. Social media is the place where you tell your story, it's where you talk to people and where you connect. It's where you answer questions or share something that you're proud of. Or where you show the behind-the-scenes of your work. When you build a network of people you can create the opportunity for others to get to know (and buy) what you do.

My thoughts on how social media can help you sell your art (in no particular order):

  • Social media isn't an instant fix and it's not a way to get rich quick. It takes time and effort to build those relationships.
  • Find ways to be genuine and offer to help people. Don't make everything about you.
  • Be authentic. Be who you are. Don't try to be someone else just because you think it will sell more. It won't.
  • If you do nothing but sell people will tune you out. Don't push your work on them and they'll keep listening.
  • Make a connections. If people comment on your work, respond. If they ask a question, try to answer it. Hearing back from you will help to make them fans.
  • Don't buy into vanity metrics. Likes, followers, etc. are just numbers. It's better to have a small group of engaged fans than a crowd of strangers. Besides, many people might "like" your work but not like it enough to pay for it.
  • Know who your buyers are (or who you want them to be) and find ways to connect with them. You don't need to connect with everyone.

Of course there is a lot more that could be said on the topic and ultimately what works for one may not work for another. Social media shouldn't be your only form of marketing, either. SEO, email and a great website as well as in-person meetings are all important. But don't discount social media just yet, it has a lot of possibilities. What are your thoughts on the matter?

For additional reading I recommend Austin Kleon's book Show Your Work. This fun and easy read has tons of great tips on getting your work seen out in the world.

Heirloom Tomatoes food photography