Too much time on Social Media is depressing

How can you turn off the comparisons with others?

Untitled, oil on paper, by Carol L. Douglas

My husband was in Rochester for work this week. Bad weather meant it took a very long time for him to get back to Maine. The easiest way to track his progress was to check his location on Google Maps. I found myself looking at my phone every few minutes. After each glance at his progress, I’d turn to Facebook and Instagram to see what my friends were doing.

By the time he got home, I was thoroughly depressed. Kathleen, Julie, and John all painted gorgeous work yesterday. Meanwhile, I spent the whole day on marketing stuff. “You didn’t do the Strada 31-day challenge and now they’re all driving past you in their Lamborghinis,” I scolded myself.
By the time Doug finally made it home, I would have gone into the backyard to eat worms, except that it’s 0° F. and the worms are all encased in ice. Did I mention that Mark is teaching in Georgia and Charles is in California?
Untitled, by Carol L. Douglas

Comparing oneself to others has long been known to cause depression. It’s only been since the advent of social media that we have found a way to beat ourselves up with it nonstop. Dr. Mai-Ly Steers, who has studied the link between social media and depression, called this phenomenon, “seeing everyone else’s highlight reels.”


“One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare,” Steers said. “You can’t really control the impulse to compare because you never know what your friends are going to post.
“In addition, most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad… this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives.
Scrotum man (detail), by Carol L. Douglas
For the artist, it means we can constantly compare our own struggles at the easel with our friends’ carefully-lighted, perfectly-photographed finished work. We can come away wondering why we ever thought we could paint in the first place.
Social media is a two-edged sword for artists. It is the conduit through which we (increasingly) pour our work out into the world, but it’s also a way to burn a lot of time and psychic energy. There’s no turning back, so we have to develop strategies to protect ourselves from the anxiety it produces.
The Joker, by Carol L. Douglas
No thought—including envy—can have power over you without your permission, although you do need to be aware that you’re doing it. One of the best ways to get out of the envy loop is to distract yourself. Thinking about something else is a proven coping mechanism for stressful situations. And, luckily, the work we should be doing—making art—is the best possible distraction from the competitive envy we find so difficult to process.

We’re all fauvists now

There’s no place for subtle in online art sales.
Headwaters of the Hudson, by Carol L. Douglas

If you look at pastel kits online, you’ll see a bias toward high-chroma colors, even though lower-saturation chalks are the workhorses of pastel painting. In part, that’s because all mixing results in lower chroma; pigments are impure and their overtones tend to cancel each other out. But more than that, pastel kits are sold to beginners. People who already have kits just buy individual chalks to fill in holes.

Bright colors are attractive; a kit with luscious reds, brilliant yellows, and tropical turquoises will turn our heads while the hardworking neutrals sit in the corner, ignored. Since pastel manufacturers are in business to sell their products, they give the people what they want.
Fish Beach, by Carol L. Douglas
The same thing happens with online painting sites. Although my Android phone has a 1440p display, the standard square image on Instagram scrolls by at 600×600 pixels. (Instagram stores at up to 1080 pixels, but doesn’t display at that size.) Compressed so severely, the best-looking images are the ones that have arresting composition, high contrast and lots of color.
Inside people’s homes, a very different trend continues. In 2015, when I painted my last house to sell, I used Benjamin Moore’s best-selling color, Revere Pewter. This is a warm, soft grey, and I ran it ruthlessly through that elegant 1928 interior. I wish I’d done it when I still lived there; it looked beautiful and the house sold fast.
Finger Lakes vineyard, by Carol L. Douglas. There are a lot of places in America with muted light.
Greys show no sign of abating. Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year for 2019 is Metropolitan, a neutral that somehow manages to look like it contains every pigment mixed together. BM is marketing this palette as a neutral refuge from the noise of the modern world, with tag lines like, “The calibrated silence of layered grays helps a modern home find its soft side.” They are not alone. Other paint manufacturers are also exploring the world of greys words like “repose,” “sea salt,” “mindfulness,” or “passive.”
I’m not averse to this trend of neutral walls with eye-popping color within picture frames; it looks great and matches my own worldview. But it behooves us to remember that high-chroma is just a style thing, driven by our electronic toys. It’s not an eternal verity, and it might not be the best way to make our point. Is there room for the quiet, contemplative painting in such a media-driven world?
All flesh is as grass, by Carol L. Douglas
Yes. For one thing, the online market remains a small part of the overall art market—about $5 billion of a total market of around $63 billion. That means plenty of paintings are still sold in galleries.
But an interesting thing happened in the last cooling period for art sales, which was from 2015 to 2017. While traditional galleries and auction houses experienced retraction, online sellers did not.
I assume this is another sign of the bifurcation of the art market, between high-net-worth individuals trading pieces worth millions in the global market, and the small (under $10,000) galleries that represent the bulk of working artists. But sales aren’t tracked that way, so I’m only guessing.
The numbers for 2018 aren’t out yet, but in 2017, online sales represented 12% of the total art market. That’s too big a percentage to be ignored, and it’s steadily growing. We can’t ignore the screen-popping world of contemporary painting much longer.

Painting with meaning

The paintings that catch our eye aren’t necessarily the ones that are perfectly executed.
American Eagle in Drydock, by Carol L. Douglas

While I’ve had an Instagram account for a long time, I’ve only recently understood how it really works. I’m not talking about its mechanics, but the algorithms that drive it. It has the power to be a massive dipping net. When you use it as a tool instead of passively looking at what it throws up at you, you see a lot of art outside your own little puddle. That exposes you to style and content you wouldn’t otherwise see. It’s all at thumbnail size, so the work must compel you instantly, just as your own slides must compel a juror’s.

Obviously, high chroma wins over subtle color every time. To imagine otherwise is to think that a fruit compote could be savored by a person who is stuffed full of Christmas cookies. Some of the qualities of painting that we traditionally admire—finish and modeling, for example—seem irrelevant, even counter-productive. Such paintings can seem academic and dull on Instagram, whereas they’re the ones that would look the best in real life. The exception is composition; it’s more, rather than less, important at such a tiny scale.
Dyce Head Light, by Carol L. Douglas
Instagram is chaotic. A painting by a complete duffer will appear in your feed after something by a well-known contemporary artist. The well-known artist will have more followers, increasing his chances of being seen. But if the duffer uses hashtags properly and you’re looking for paintings of his specialty, you’ll find his work.
That’s why I’m suddenly wasting all my free time on Instagram. A whole world of painters who will never be represented in New York galleries are there, painting their hearts out. I want to see what they’re doing. I want to understand my reaction to their work.
Jonathan Submarining, by Carol L. Douglas
What moves me, overwhelmingly, is content.
I recently saw a painting of a small house decked out in Christmas lights. It wasn’t a brilliant painting, but it was accurate enough that I could see my own life reflected in it. It was a portrait of coziness and contentment. It has been on my mind all week.
Emotional content doesn’t come easily to me. It’s possible that I’ve trained it right out through my fingers. When we do plein air events in unfamiliar places, we’re not expressing anything about purpose or meaning. All we can do is paint beauty.
Fish Beach, by Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday, I confused the suffixes amity and amor in writing. At 2 AM, I was awake and restless and beating myself up about it, as we like to do during bouts of insomnia. I’d been writing about domestic intimacy, so it was easy enough to slip up between ‘friend’ and ‘lover.’
A different thinker might be able to find concrete images to convey the easy, old relationships within a happy, functioning family. If I ran across that painting on Instagram, it would be the one that would still my hand and echo in my thoughts all day.
Now how do I get some of that for me?

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.

The nuts and bolts of social media: content

Want to write a successful art blog? Be brief, punchy, disciplined and focused.

Barnum Brook, by Carol L. Douglas. (Private collection) Your blog is primarily to promote your brand, so use your own photos when you can.

I used to post whenever I had a new painting or brilliant thought. That’s how most artists post, and it doesn’t work. To succeed, you must commit to writing on a regular basis. Twice a week is the bare minimum. I now blog five days a week, excluding major holidays.

When I tell people this, they sometimes object:
  • I can’t write fast enough to do that;
  • I don’t want the internet taking over my life;
  • That sounds like too much work.

This blog takes me 90 minutes a day. I do it before I get out of bed. Unless I’m doing bookkeeping or marketing, I seldom open my laptop again for the rest of the day.
I can only do that because I keep a list of future topics on my laptop. I almost always go to bed at night knowing what the subject will be the next day.
A blog post should tell a story. Consider this postabout Crista Pisano’s dead battery. Not much happened in absolute terms, but it ended up being a powerful story about women helping each other.
If you’re literate, you can blog. But some people hate to write. They should consider Instagram instead. My Instagram feed is the back story to my paintings. I use it to post the funny or charming things that happen on the way to a painting.
Be brief. Today more than half my readers read my blog on their phones, rather than on a computer. Brevity and punch are more important than ever before. If you have a lot to say on a subject, as I do here, write it over multiple days.
The most important part of the post is the headline and the tagline that follows it. I write these after the post is finished. Use important keywords here, because this is what search engines will see.
I try to cover the basics of a story as taught by my high-school journalism teacher: who, what, why, where, when and how. But other elements of ‘good’ writing go by the wayside—there’s no introductory paragraph and no closing paragraph.
After I’ve written my post, I edit viciously to bring it in under 600 words.
You’re using your blog to promote your own brand. This is a great opportunity to use your own photos. Even so, if your work is in a gallery, be sure to link to it in the caption.
Below Ottawa House, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy Kelpie Gallery.
If you’re using another person’s photo, obtain their consent in advance and credit them for the picture. Do not, under any circumstances, use uncredited images from the internet. That violates copyright law.
You can use work in the public domain, including artwork owned by museums who make that work available to the public. However, even if a painting is exempt from copyright law, the photo of the painting may be owned by someone. Wikipedia gives instructions for crediting pictures. In the case of a museum, credit the organization.
The Fair Use exemption allows reproduction to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. I use photos of others’ work under this exemption when I write about art history or contemporary art. Go carefully; Jeff Koons has gotten in trouble repeatedly for stomping on others’ copyright. Consult an intellectual-property lawyer if you have questions.
Several people at Maine International Conference on the Arts (MICA) asked me for more detailed information on marketing on social media. This is part two of a series on the subject. 


Part three: Getting readers

Feel free to comment or ask me questions, below.

The nuts and bolts of social media: what platform is best for you?

The internet is a powerful tool for artists, offering free or inexpensive direct and indirect marketing. Learn to use it.
Ocean Park Beach, by Carol L. Douglas, available through Ocean Park Association. Put your strongest visual image first.
I’m no marketing guru; I just developed this blog by the seat of my pants. I learned along the way, and you can, too.
Indirect marketinggrows awareness of you as an artist. It comes in the form of news stories, the paintings you donate to non-profit auctions, word of mouth, referrals, reviews and First Friday walkabouts.
Direct marketing is when you ask clients to buy a painting from you directly. That can take the form of an online store, a booth at an art fair, newsletters showing off your paintings, or paid advertisements.
Brand awareness is how much your name and work are recognized by potential collectors. The whole goal of indirect marketing is to increase brand awareness. The better-known you are, the more paintings you’ll sell.
 

Sunrise, by Carol L. Douglas, available through the Kelpie Gallery. Use your blog to steer your readers toward your galleries or stores.

All artists need both indirect and direct marketing channels, and it helps to be clear about what yours are. For example, my direct marketing happens through plein air painting events, my targeted mailing list, and the Plein Air Store. My indirect marketing is through this blog, public appearances, and Instagram.
Rocks, by Carol L. Douglas. Available through Camden Falls Gallery. Using your own artwork also avoids copyright issues.
Developing brand awareness is most important when you first enter the marketplace. Of course, that’s when you can least afford it. Luckily, at this juncture, there are powerful online tools you can use for free. Here are the ones 2D artists use most:
  • Blog: best for indirect marketing.
  • Instagram: for indirect and direct marketing.
  • Targeted mailing list: useful for direct marketing.
  • Facebook business page: good for indirect marketing to an older audience.
  • Google business posting: useful if you have a physical studio or gallery you want to direct traffic to.
  • Website: can be commerce enabled (direct marketing), but, as Alex Serra remarked at MICA, websites are fast becoming the online equivalent of business cards.
  • Other free listings. Maine State Tourism offers studio and gallery listings, for example; your arts council or state tourism board may as well.

What direct and indirect marketing channels are you using now? What other ones would you like to explore?

Above is an image of my blog. It is very simple in design, and hasn’t been changed since I moved it back to Blogger in 2016. To me, the art, not the design, is the most important thing. Here are the important features:

  • There is a text ad for my workshops directly below the masthead. This runs 365 days a year and links to my website.
  • Below the headline is a tag line, which is simple search engine optimization (SEO). I just treat the first 25 words as if they were an ad for the whole post. I’m not into mindless click bait, but I do try to ensure that words my readers care about are there.
  • My most compelling picture goes first. Reposters like Facebook automatically run that photo.
  • There’s almost always a link to another of my blog posts in the copy. This increases readership and is important for SEO.
  • There’s an ad at the right and at the bottom. This is the only revenue-generation I do on my blog. I do not sell endorsements or links.
  • Five days a week, I write 400-600 words of fresh copy.

Several people at Maine International Conference on the Arts (MICA) asked me for more detailed information on marketing on social media. That’s my subject for the next few days. 

Part three: Getting readers

Feel free to comment or ask me questions, below.


And, for those who wonder, my medical tests yesterday went great. I’m cancer-free for another year.

Going by the numbers

We should all immediately switch to Instagram. But as with blogging, there’s a lot of unpredictability on the internet. There’s still plenty of room for intuition.
Joan of Arc, 1879, Jules Bastien-Lepage, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yesterday I had my left foot operated on, giving me a matched pair of incisions and some hope for less pain going into the summer.

My mind is muddled, so I’d hoped to reprise an old post. To that end, I consulted my stats for this blog. Blogger tells me what my top posts are (although this blog has been on three different platforms over the years). A few years ago, the most popular posts were The One Thing Every Painter Should Know and a recipe for scallops from my friends Berna and Harry.
Plastic bags, dethroned by art history.
Since I last checked, art history has steamrolled over them. The top view-catcher is this post about Jules Bastien-Lepage’s Joan of Arc. It’s eleven years old, it violates the modern dictums of length and language, it’s complex, and it continues to get readers. In fact, there are a number of art history posts on that top ten list, including The Adoration of the Magi in the Snow and Ingres and Napoleon.
Measured week-to-week, however, art history is a slow starter. Those posts usually have the lowest immediate readership, even when they have much to say.
Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne, 1806, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, courtesy, Musée de l’Armée, Paris
After more than a decade of blogging, I still see no discernible pattern for what will be popular in a post. That’s liberating. It means I can write about whatever I care about, rather than pitching content to some ‘expert’ idea of the public’s low taste.
A surveytells us that new galleries are opening more slowly than they did a decade ago. This is part of a general decline in entrepreneurship in the United States. It’s no surprise to those of us who worry about our battered small town Main Streets, but there’s good news in that same report.
It surveyed a group of high-net-worth individuals about their collecting habits. These are people with more than $1 million but less than $5 million in assets. The vast majority (89%) spent $50,000 a year or less on art and objects. That suggests they aren’t buying from tony Manhattan galleries, but from low- and mid-tier galleries. In other words, they’re buying works by people like you and me, in places like S. Thomaston, Camden and Ogunquit.
The Adoration of the Magi in the Snow, 1567, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, courtesy Oskar Reinhart Foundation
Meanwhile, the online market for art and collectables continues to grow, but at a slower pace. That makes sense as a market matures, and it’s nothing to worry about. More than half of online art buyers said they will buy more art online in 2018 than they did last year, according to the Online Art Trade Report.
Instagram has dethroned Facebook as the preferred means of online promotion. In 2016, galleries used the two platforms almost equally. Now only 31% of respondents prefer Facebook to the 62% who liked Instagram. Instagram is also the favored platform for collectors under 35, 79% of whom said they discover new artists on Instagram and 82% of whom said they use it to keep up with artists they like.
Going by the numbers, we should all immediately switch to Instagram. But just as with blogging, there’s a lot of unpredictability in sales. There’s still plenty of room for intuition.

It’s about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, at Rye Art Center, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

Instagram, the internet, and the painter

Instagram is changing how buyers respond. Should it also change how artists paint?

Hashtag #pleinair. By the time you read this, the top nine will be something different.

I haven’t painted in square format in a long time. The stark symmetry of the square can be lovely, but it can also be static. Recently, however, one of my daughters suggested that I start up again. “You should try painting for Instagram,” she said.

Instagram images started at 612px by 612px but have grown to 1080px by 1080px. (On your laptop or tablet, the images are scaled back down to 612px.) You can nab a few more pixels by posting portrait-format images. This made it easier for marketers to cross-post to Facebook. As someone who uses Facebook/Instagram marketing, I appreciate that.
While 1080px is incredible resolution from a wee little phone app, it’s not going to reproduce the subtleties of a masterpiece like Frederic Church’s Heart of the Andes. It skews art to the graphic-design side. What’s important isn’t how the work reads on a wall; what’s important is what it looks like on a phone. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it does tend to leave subtler painting back at the Met.
Hashtag #landscape is overwhelmingly photographic and mystical.
The Instagram artist’s goal is to end up where newspapermen used to call “above the fold,” meaning on the upper half of the front page. That translates to being among the top images in a wildly popular category like #art. You’re not going to get there without great images. But you also need to discipline yourself to act like a trained monkey at times, to do things like randomly “like” posts by your followers, over and over and over.
The artist/gallerist has to wrap his mind around the fact that Instagram isn’t a way to flog paintings, it’s a medium in itself. It favors the bold and simple. Composition and color are key. Instagram users like video. And they aren’t librarians: even in a category like #pleinair, the top posts don’t necessarily have anything to do with painting.
Hashtag #artist. Is that a Vampire Facial in the middle?
Instagram flows both ways, of course. There are artists whose work is about the interaction of people and technology, like Jeanette Hayes. There are many more of us who’ve integrated Instagram and Google into our reference material. That makes the search engine roughly analogous to the camera in the 20th century. Instead of creating our own reference images, modern artists appropriate them from others. Yeah, I know that’s illegal and unethical, but appropriation is one of the major movements in modern art.
Then there’s the issue of what’s acceptable. “There is also a notorious censorship issue on the app that prevents real artistic freedom,” said Instagram darling Brad Phillips. “Sure, the official stance is that you can post pretty much whatever you want but sexual images (ones that do not violate Instagram’s terms around nudity) are often flagged and deleted.” That predates Instagram, of course.
Hashtag #art. If they print it, it must be true.
All this is puts great pressure on the artist, particularly one trained in the 20th century, when there were very different ideals about craftsmanship and the meaning of art. I’m ambivalent about Instagram, but I ought to get past that. Should I change how I paint? I’m not sure I want to. Should I change how I photograph and present my work? Absolutely. 

Has the internet revolutionized your career?

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have replaced print marketing, but how we use them remains the same.
Full Stop is one of my favorites from 2016. But will a juror like it as much as I do?
This is the time of year when plein air artists apply to shows. It’s not easy to look at the year’s output and try to guess which three paintings will most impress jurors. But at least it doesn’t involve slides. (For you young readers, those were 35 mm photo transparencies stuck in little plastic frames.)
In the old days, artists took (or, more likely, had a trained professional take) three bracketed exposures of each of their pieces with a film camera. Slide film’s exposure can’t be fixed in the developing process, and it was important that it be right. We repeated that a second time, because we wanted to be sure of our work. That meant that a 36-exposure roll netted exactly six unique images.  
Apple Tree with Swing was painted for Castine Plein Air.
The film was then sent off to a developing service. When the slides came back, we looked them over on a light table. The keepers were sent back out to be duplicated. All applications—which went off by mail—included a stamped, self-addressed envelope to return those precious slides.
The process was expensive and time-consuming. Whenever I see a $50 online entry fee, I think back to those days and smile.
Yesterday, Keith Linwood Stover of the Cyber Art Show asked, “Would you say that the internet (including social media) has revolutionized your art career?” It has certainly changed my work, but in many ways, the work itself remains exactly the same.
Flood tide has to be one of this season’s contenders because, well, boats.
Take marketing. I’ve just spent three days doing an overhaul of my spring marketing efforts. Meanwhile the paint for a project I’m excited about is jelling on my palette. Is that so different? Not really. I remember attending a seminar back in 1980, where we learned that we’d have to spend about half our time on marketing. We’re not doing it with physical portfolios anymore, but we’re still doing the exact same thing.
There’s no real fundamental difference between advertising in a magazine and advertising on social media. It all costs a lot of money.
Drying Towels was painted at Ocean Park.
Instagram occupies a similar niche to the art festival as a way to court new fans. The only people who miss doing art festivals are those who’ve never spent time in a hot, humid sales tent or unloaded a van full of unsold merchandise at the end of a terrible run. On the other hand, Instagram requires just as much work.
Plein air events themselves are a modern phenomenon. They started thirty years ago with Plein Air Painters of America, founded in California by Denise Burns. This group held annual paint-outs followed by a show. The format has been copied by countless other groups and events worldwide.
The point of these events is their immediacy, and their growth has been entwined with that of social media. Most well-run events use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep fans up-to-date on where and what we’re painting. Some maintain an online map telling fans our whereabouts.
How do artists know about these events and their relative prestige? We follow them on the internet, of course. In fact, the whole modern plein air revival is so intertwined with the internet that it’s impossible to separate the two.

The Internet is a control freak

There is no Fountain of Youth on the internet. Publish or perish, my friend.

Jonathan Submarining, 2016, Carol L. Douglas
Earlier this month, I went sailing. That made social media almost impossible. I could have found a workaround solution, but it would have been time-consuming. Constantly searching for a phone signal to make my next tweet, post, or pin would have wrecked my trip.
I’ve written before about how important frequency is to blogging. The results of my mini-vacation were immediate and dramatic. The following week, hits to my blog dropped by half. It was as if Social Media was in a snit, refusing to speak to me. I was talking to myself in an empty room. Then, suddenly, I was forgiven and my readership went back to normal.
If Social Media were a person and had given me the silent treatment because I went sailing, I’d know exactly what to do about it. I don’t have much use for control freaks. But in our relationship, Social Media holds the whip card. I need her more than she needs me.
J&E Riggins and Bowdoin in Castine Harbor, 2016, Carol L. Douglas
Most artists don’t have access to market research, so we end up guessing a lot, looking at successful posters and trying to figure out how they manage to get so many followers.
Guessing, of course, is just a nasty word for ‘testing.’ We read, try things, fail, and try again.
A marketing guru gives the following as his schedule:
  • Tweet 14 times a day during the week, seven times a day on weekends;
  • Post to Facebook twice a day, once at 10 AM and once at 3 PM;
  • Post to LinkedIn once each weekday, at 8 AM;
  • Post to Google+ twice each weekday, at 9 AM and 7 PM.

Obviously, there’s a big problem here for one-man shops like ours. We don’t have the staff to post at 3 AM, and we don’t have the time (or in some cases the knowledge) to automate posts to go ‘bang’ at that hour.
Storm over Lake Huron, 2016, Carol L. Douglas
Socialbakers, a media analytics company, found that the sweet spot on Facebook is five to ten posts a week. Of course, that was done in 2011, and Facebook has tweaked its algorithms many times since then.
They also say that between three and five tweets a day gives you the optimal engagement per tweet. This isn’t, of course, the optimal engagement for your brand, it’s just the point where you wring out the most value for your work. If you want to get the most value for your Twitter presence, multiply that by ten. No joke.
I’m never going to tweet 30 times a day. I haven’t got that many insights. I’m not sure I can stretch them to 3-5 times a day.
Parker dinghy, 2015, Carol L. Douglas 
Social media experts measure posts by ‘half-life,’ which is the time it takes for your post to reach half its total engagements.
Twitter’s half-life is eighteen minutes. Instagram’s is slightly less than an hour. Facebook posts have a half-life of 90 minutes. Conversely, a Pinterest post has a half-life of 3.5 months.
It helps to live in the eastern time zone. About half of Americans do, which means you get a timing advantage.
What does this tell us? Basically, that artists can use the so-called ‘free’ marketing platforms to great effect, but only if we’re constant and aggressive. Otherwise, we’ll sink without a trace.
Note: if you want to read this blog without having to find it on Social Media, you can always subscribe. There’s a subscription box right below that gold medal on the top right.