Monday, 21 December 2015

Social Media and the Botanical Artist

I'm a big fan of using technology, social media and any pretty much any digital platform for sharing my artwork and information with like-minded people. The way we promote our work and communicate as artists has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and the priority has to be to get the work out there for people to see! I have to admit to muddling through with technology, but find most social networking services are very easy to use and they are free that's good enough for me! This post is about some of the online services that I use, plus information on the direct benefits of online networking along with a few reasons why I consider using social media to an essential part of the online toolkit.

Instagram is a photo and video sharing service which allows us to upload photographs from a mobile device, we can reach people who might be interested in the posts by using the #. Posts can be shared with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr. I post a mix of personal images and my work because what I do in my spare time generally relates to much of my work and people seem to want to know about the artist as much as they want to view the work. With Instagram you can view the posts on a laptops but is only fully functional on mobile devices. I'm currently uploading a painting everyday under the #postapaintingeveryday. The idea being that I can share work completed over the past few years. Click to view.
I'm not suggesting that the online presence will be a miracle solution to all of your communication needs as an artist but it should be part of what you do on a day-to-day basis to promote your work, bear in mind that you do have to work at it - producing and writing about regular artwork and writing good content. The advantage is that with mobile technology much of the input can be done 'on the move' during what might otherwise be 'down-time'.

My online presence:
Two web sites, one for teaching and the other for my artwork, which should be kept up to date and be mobile friendly! websites can be promoted via social media
This Blog - I try to write regular posts with interesting and useful content
A Facebook Page which I sync with Network Blogs, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn
An Etsy Shop
Private Facebook Groups for teaching
A YouTube account for videos, mostly private for teaching.
....and any other useful means of sharing, including pages on other websites for societies which I'm a member of, such as ASBA and the SBA etc.

Sounds like a lot but it actually takes relatively little time to manage. It's the content that takes time not the management.

Facebook Page
A Facebook Page can be used to promote your work as well as for sharing Blog and Instagram posts, it can be synced to reduce the workload. Posts can be wide reaching and you can use the 'Insights'  facility to find out the reach of posts but more importantly to see what interests your followers. Click to view.

The main things to keep in mind is that it's important to know why you are using these services and to identify who you are trying to use your online presence with a purpose.

Website for my work, 'Profile' page. This of course isn't free but the cost are small. I'm currently overhauling it to make it mobile friendly. More people access the web via mobile devices these days, so that's an important consideration. For me the website is the reference point for clients, it has my biography, exhibitions, work history and awards as well as a showcase for my work. I also provide links to my teaching site Facebook page and Blog. So that all are connected. Click to view
I built a basic website over 10 years ago and started this Blog about 7 or 8 years ago. Over time the importance and role of both has changed. There is no doubt that both are more effective if used in conjunction with social media. I'm currently overhauling my website but these days it yields less communication than the Blog and Social media but is still necessary as a point of reference for clients.
I'm always slightly confused when people voice so many concerns regarding Social Media, personally I believe the benefits far outweigh any costs, often people raise concerns regarding copyright and having work stolen ... actually that can happen anyway and as far as I'm concerned the risk is minimal. I just keep image resolution low and never splatter my name and copyright symbols over the images because it looks bad in a business that's essentially based on visuals.

Five Good Reasons why Artists should use Social Networking
1. Easy to use - Anybody can set up a Facebook page it's very easy to add a page, also Twitter or Instagram are incredibly simple, all are excellent networking tools. To be most effective make sure that you link with a blog and/or website, and share with other services. Keep your networking relevant, remember to post interesting information for the benefit of your followers.

2. Reach a wide audience with your work - Social networking really does get your work to a wide group of people, if I write a blog post which I sync with my Facebook Page via Networked Blogs it also automatically posts Twitter and I sometimes add it to LinkedIn too. For example a blog post networked on my Facebook Page about my sketchbook reached over 4,000 people on Facebook alone,  the blog has hundreds of hits per day, which then declines over time, which is why it's important to write regular posts ...the main point to consider is that your content should be interesting and not just self promotion or images of finished work with little written content. Think about whether you would like to read it. I compare the statistics using Statcounter on each site and there is no doubt that by linking social networking with blogs and websites the traffic has significantly increased to both.

3. Make new contacts - Facebook has to be the best of all the networking tools. I have met many artists in person and had numerous opportunities through Facebook. Several years ago I became involved  as an admin for a Botanical Artists Group, which now has around 4,500 members! From this group several other other self help art groups and projects emerged. It's unlikely that I would have met many of these artists without the groups. I've also made some very good friends and become involved with several projects such as the Nature Sketchbook Exchange.

4. Benefits outweigh problems - Perhaps you are concerned about spending too long on social media but learn to manage the time, recognise the benefits, manage you feeds and target effectively. If used correctly it's a useful tool which creates opportunities. Considering the time spent it is by far the most economical way of getting work to a wide geographic audience.

5. It can create opportunities - You can market your work successfully for free and as a consequence can even sell work through various avenues. If you're not convinced here's a few examples of some direct benefits which have to me from my involvement with Social Media: I have been invited to invited to be part of the Royal Botanic Garden Florilegium Project, which means I'll be exhibiting there in 2016 and will have work in a beautiful publication, I've had several large commissions through companies who have found my work through Google searches (you need to use tags effectively and make sure that your website ranks well on Google but that's another post) and one commission for  a Boots range came via Facebook messenger! I was featured in Scottish Home & Interiors and was  invited to write an two page spread for the ASBA journal.

A feature in Scotish Homes & Interiors came from my website

My teaching online teaching practice has also expanded and I have a busy schedule for the year up ahead. Most recently I've been invited to run workshops in the USA as well as closer to home for two botanical art societies. None of these opportunities would have occurred without an online presence or social media.

Article in the ASBA Journal, June 2015. Resulted from my Blog post on the project, which also emerged via social media.

This is just a brief overview of how I use my web presence to communicate art, hopefully it's of some interest. There are lots of technical articles online which tell you how to do it. This is my own experience as a user and I know I could and probably should do more but the bottom line is that  get out what you put in.


  1. Excellent post, and I agree with you wholeheartedly!

  2. Great post Diane! I totally agree with you. I even removed my own personal profile so I could manage my business pages better. That's how much I believe in them. Only just joined instragram this year, can't believe it took me this long!

  3. All true. And for me in a distant land (Sweden) this online community of botanical artists are so important. Instagram and Facebook forces me to paint and publish. I have learned a lot this last year thanks to all online friends :-)

  4. Couldn't agree more, anyone in a creative profession can use social media to their advantage! These are some brilliant pointers.