Social Media Marketing – It’s An Art Form

First of all, no one in the art community would call the advanced promotion strategies that they employ “social media marketing”. Only some label-loving online marketer would say that.

From the horse’s mouth:

“It’s not marketing. We just DO it. We don’t need to call it anything. It’s just natural to us.”

About six months ago, I was talking to my artist sister Alexis on the phone and she said, “SARAH. Join Virb now – I just sent you an invite.”

“What’s Verb?” I asked (unwittingly spelling it wrong in my mind).

“I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s cool, it’s got a bunch of artists on it, and it’s so much better than MySpace. And there are no weirdos on it.”

She was right. Six months ago, Virb.com was a pristine expanse of educated, arty types. And even now, following the inevitable occurrence of an unknown band from Cincinnati requesting to be my friend, I’ve still only gotten one spammy request.

My sister was lucky enough to have landed a featured-artist spot on the Virb home page a few months ago – courtesy, again, of connections through various people she has met online.

“The internet has facilitated a huge aspect of my career thus far,” says Alexis. “I can’t imagine that in recent history artists were still mainly dependent on slides and prints and mailing their actual art all over the place. The reach is so much farther and faster now. People get in touch with me from around the world, places my actual art has never been, even in printed form.”

Alexis maintains personal social networking pages on Virb, Flickr, and (more reluctantly) MySpace, as well as her own personal website at AlexisAnne.com.

Whether she is being interviewed by a local San Francisco art blog or garnering a mention from FecalFace.com about her recent art show, her online activities and her offline activities to promote herself and her art often go hand in hand.

“It is a VAST world,” says Alexis. “I don’t even know the extent of it. It’s so time consuming, and it’s a full-time job to really establish yourself online. I have friends who just copy and paste everything over everything because it’s too much work to customize it all.”

She’s right. From the ThinkFaest! forum at Faesthetic Magazine, to the Saatchi Gallery’s huge online community that calls itself “the world’s interactive art gallery“, I’ll never be able to fit it all in this blog post.

Says Alexis’ friend Tristan,

About three or four years ago I started to pick up on how powerful social networking communities could be. There are people on there that have had their personal networks boom for little more than being in the right place at the right time.

As soon as I began identifying myself as my artwork on communities rather than a guy that creates art, I started to taste the benefits. Commissions, art shows, sales, all kinds of connections and of course exposure really started to turn on for me.

Having an immediate audience for my work is a huge motivation of mine… You don’t want to start creating artwork solely to please the people, but a community based on feedback is a great resource for learning.

In summary: As online marketers and content creators, we can learn from these people. We should open ourselves up to all the possibilities that social media sites provide, while also taking care not to abuse the opportunity we have been given for engaging our target audiences. You’ve got to be real. If you develop meaningful and relevant content, it should get all the attention it deserves – naturally.