The nuts and bolts of social media: getting readers

You’ve written an amazing post with catchy copy and valuable tips. Now, how do you get discovered?

Best Buds, by Carol L. Douglas

Before you start blogging, make sure you have a Facebook business page, separate from your personal page. There are many differences, but the most important is that your business page is always public. It is meant to be a web listing. Spend a little time making sure it’s complete.

This should remain business-like. Keep your political opinions and agit-prop off your business page, unless your art or posts are overtly political. Invite your FB friends to ‘like’ this page; they’re the core of your following.
Also, make sure your email list is up-to-date.

Cut and paste this to each repost site.

Once your blog post is published, you’ll want to fashion a new ‘hook’, different from the tagline below the headline. You’ll use this and the link every time you repost, as in the illustration above.
Reading, by Carol L. Douglas, private collection.

I repost in this order:

  1. Share photos to Pinterest. This has the longest half-life of any social media site, it’s extremely easy to post to, and it has high viewership.
  2. Google+. Why add a social media platform that nobody reads? Because what you post on Google+ is indexed on Google.
  3. Twitter. Remember to manually add a photo to your text and link here.
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Facebook business page. From there, share back to your own personal page, as well as to any user groups in which you’re a member and who might be interested.

There are three other marketing channels for related, but not duplicate, material:
  1. Google My Business, if you have a brick-and-mortar location.
  2. Newsletter—I use it only to announce upcoming workshops, 2-6 times a year, but you should definitely use it to introduce your blog to your fans. Ask them to subscribe.
  3. Instagram—related content, 1-2 times daily.
Tom Sawyer’s Fence, by Carol L. Douglas
Why hashtags? Those words are indexed by the social network and are searchable by other readers. If you click on a hashtag, you’ll be brought to a page that aggregates all posts with that tag.
All blog platforms have stats built into them. These tell you how many people are looking at your posts, which posts are the most popular, where your readers come from, and how they’re looking at your blog. Make a habit of looking at it regularly.
Regular readers of this blog know it ran under a newspaper’s aegis for about 18 months. My readership dropped during that time, so I consulted Bob Bahrof Outdoor Painter. He told me that, everything else being equal, it’s always better to work under your own brand rather than someone else’s. My own experience showed that to be true.
This is the last of a three-part series on art blogging. Part one is here, and part two is here.

UPDATE: On October 8, Google announced it is discontinuing Google+ because of a massive data breach.

You don’t need $450 million to buy a painting

Original art comes in all price points. It’s not just for rich people.

Apple Orchard by Chrissy Spoor Pahucki is available at pleinair.store.

Almost everyone in America knows that a painting reputed to be by Leonardo Da Vinci sold for a record-breaking $450 million last week at Christie’s. That’s an amount I can’t even begin to comprehend. It implies that regular folks like you and me can’t afford art.

“When I was a child middle-class people didn’t have original art in their homes, unless one of the family was an artist,” said painter Bobbi Heath. “Things are different now. Original artwork is available at a price point equivalent to buying a poster and having it framed. You can find it online, at art fairs and open studios, especially this time of year. And you don’t need a gallery owner to tell you what you should like. Spread your wings and hang something on the wall that makes you happy.”
This little dinghy by Bobbi Heath is available at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery.
When I was a kid, our public library had an art-lending program. You could borrow a painting or print, hang it on your wall for a while and enjoy it, then return it and borrow another work. That was as profound as checking out books.
Art is a tool by which we can dream. It has the capacity to transport us out of our current situation. The hospital where my friend lay dying had beautiful floral paintings in its cancer wing. When I had to step out of her room while they did a procedure—which was often—I found myself staring into those paintings. They were my path out of a sad situation.
Our choice of paintings is one of the primary ways we express ourselves in our personal spaces. Bob Bahr used to write a column for Outdoor Painter called Artist as Collector. It told you as much about the artist’s personality as the artist’s own work did.

This little mussel by Susan Lewis Baines is available through the Kelpie Gallery.
“One thing I have learned after 20 years working with art is that the ‘price’ of a work of art has nothing to do with its value,” said conservator Lauren R. Lewis. “The value lies in how you connect with a work of art on an emotional level. I have never been able to get on board with the idea of ‘art as investment.’ The art market is fickle, so I never recommend that someone buy a painting with the intention of selling it later at a profit.”
I have clients, a married couple, who pared their lives down to almost no material possessions. They own two large oil paintings—one by Marilyn Fairman and one by me. As nomadic as their life is, they hang those paintings in a prominent place wherever they land. Art brings a language of beauty to our lives,” one of them told me. “We have contentment and constancy from looking at our beloved pieces.”
White Pines and Black Spruce by Carol L. Douglas is available at pleinair.store
“Unlike generic prints from the nearest big box store, original art comes with a story about where you found it, why you bought it, or the super cool artist you bought it from,” said painter Chrissy Pahucki.
Original art is less expensive than you might imagine. I was at a gallery last weekend where there were hand-drawn colored pencil works for less than I was considering paying for a mixer attachment for my daughter for Christmas. Less, in fact, than a coffee-table art book, but with more staying power.
Buy art because you love it,” said Lauren Lewis. “Buy art because it makes you feel good to look at it. Buy art because you need to have it in your life. That is how you tell the worth of a painting.”

How to write a successful blog (about art or anything else)

Be brief, be consistent, know your stuff, and manage your own content.

Bicycles on Water Street, by Carol L. Douglas

That little logo to the right of this post that reads “Top 75 Painting Blog” is not based on someone’s opinion. It’s based on social metrics, and I’m very flattered to be number seven on the list.
I’m frequently asked how to blog; after all, I’ve been doing it, on and off, for more than a decade. However, until a few years ago, I wasn’t getting much traction. My friend Brad VanAuken was taking my painting class. I asked him for advice. Brad is successful author, consultant and blogger, and an expert in his field, which is brand strategy.
Brad told me that random and irregular efforts are ignored in the blogosphere; I had to post on a regular schedule if I expected anyone to pay attention. Since then I have written five days a week. I keep this schedule up whether I’m in my studio or above the Arctic Circle.
That’s the same advice I give about painting. Inspiration is less important than consistent work habits. The more you practice any discipline, the better and easier it gets.
They say “write what you know.” I know painting, and not a lot else. Photo courtesy of Margaret Burdine.
The internet reacts to pot-stirring. The more you post, the more attention you get. That’s why Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media sites matter. The good news is, you really can do them all and still have time to paint. The secret is to develop a posting protocol and follow it.
Only you can determine what social media sites works for your following. That comes from trial and error. But give them a fair shake. I regularly post on Tumblr, even though it is not my target audience. Someday, those kids will grow up.
The process takes me 90 minutes each day. If it took longer, I wouldn’t do it, because it would cut into my painting time too much.
The craft of telling a story in 400-600 words is a very specific one. It doesn’t allow for much research or for fully-realized concepts. But within it, one can convey a lot of information.
I also got excellent advice from Bob Bahr of Outdoor Painter. He said that, all other things being equal, it was best to host my own blog. That would give me control of my brand. Until then, I hadn’t realized how constrained I was writing under the flag of a daily newspaper. Since I left, my readership has risen markedly and I’m much happier.
These are the top affinity categories for my readers. I don’t tailor my writing to them.
Art is a niche market. I write about art-specific topics, so it surprises me that visual arts and design aren’t even in the top ten affinity categories for my readers. I have never been able to predict what blog posts will capture my readers’ fancy. I generally just write about what interests me.
If you only write once a month, and your writing is strictly limited to your paintings, then perhaps it is best to send newsletters directly to your client base rather than trying to maintain a blog. Instead, use online-selling websites like Fine Art America or Saatchi Art to find new buyers.
I do not send my blog to my email marketing list. Most people read it through social media. I think the email subscription list is going the same way as the postcard. Use it, but rely more on social media.