16 Sep 2019
Sam loves telling quirky stories about The Big Idea’s community of artists and interviewing successful arts practitioners to gather insights about funding and commercialising their art.
Facebook. You probably use it. You might use it every day.
But Facebook is more than just a time-sink of scrolling and liking. It’s also a great tool that any artist can use to showcase their work and build an audience. I caught up with an expert to find out how artists can get the most out of Facebook.
I spoke to Kirsten Matthew, founder of Mabel Maguire. Mabel Maguire is an agency that helps all kinds of businesses and other organisations with social media - from helping them get up and running, to handling it for them. Krsten is also a mentor on The Big Idea’s Mentoring in the Arts programme.
Here are Kirsten’s tips for using Facebook as a platform to showcase your work as an artist.
Here’s the starting point: remember that you’re using Facebook for a clear purpose, and that purpose is to communicate with the audience for your creative work.. That means there needs to be a clear separation between you the person, and you the artist.
Practically speaking, this means creating a Facebook page in addition to your Facebook account. This has the benefit of establishing a clear separation, and also means people don’t have to add you as a friend to see your content - which might feel kind of weird!
But it’s not enough to just make a Facebook page. You also need to post different kinds of content. Your personal profile is just that - personal. It doesn’t have any particular goals, and it doesn’t need to post that often. You can post whatever you want, whenever you want.
Your arts page is different. This page has a specific goal - to connect you and your art to people who may be interested in it. This means you need to be a little bit more strategic about what you post, and how often you post. You can’t just post on a whim like you can with your personal profile!
That brings us to tip #2:
I can hear you cringing from here. I know you don’t want to put together a calendar. It feels boring, and it feels like work. But Kirsten says it’s a critical part of using Facebook as an artist.
Here’s why: right now, the Facebook algorithm prioritises pages who post a lot. This means that the more you post, the more of your posts your followers will see. So if you post every day, you’ll get in front of more people - and that’s the whole point!
Kirsten Matthew, founder of Mabel Maguire
But the problem is, it’s hard to post every day if you don’t have a plan. You might be able to do so on an ad-hoc basis for awhile, but life will get in the way eventually, and you’ll be overcome.
So take a weekend afternoon and prepare several weeks’ worth of posts. Facebook has a solid “drafts” function that you can stick them in. You can schedule posts ahead of time, or just press “post” on your draft first thing each morning. Easy.
The great thing about this approach is that your calendar doesn’t have to be all you post. If something comes up that you want to post about on the fly, just do it! But the posts you planned ahead of time form a solid foundation for you, in case you get too busy to deal with it.
This is related to the second tip. When you plan your posts, divide them into themes. These will be based on what your audience is into. For example, if you’re a painter, you could do some posts about upcoming work, some posts showing a “behind-the-scenes” of things you’re working on, and some posts about what inspires you.
This means posting a decent amount of content that isn’t just about your work. Post about exhibitions you’ve been to, books you’ve been reading, art podcasts you’ve been listening to - these things all help tell the story of who you are as an artist.
This helps you make sure you’re covering all your themes, and giving your audience what they want.
Facebook has great analytics, showing you which posts have received the most engagement, and which ones have the least. This information is very valuable! You can use it to set the direction for your future content.
This is particularly useful when you use your themes as well. Your analytics will quickly show you which themes your audience cares about, and which themes your audience isn’t that interested in. If one of your themes is coming up short, just dump it - you can replace it with a new theme, or post more content under the remaining themes. Remember, your page is about what your audience wants from you, rather than what you want to post.
By that, I mean respond to comments! Kirsten says “when someone comments, they’ve taken the time to respond to something they’ve seen.” You should reward that, quickly! Even if it’s just a quick “thank you.”
Also, engage on other peoples’ pages. Be sure to follow other artists you admire, and leave (genuine!) comments on their content. This helps you build a network of like-minded artists.
In general, you shouldn’t post something more than once. But there’s one major exception to this rule: if you have something coming up, like an exhibition or other kind of event. If you have something like this, go hard! Post heaps, because this is your opportunity to use the audience you’ve been building to create a real-world impact - more people coming to your events.
The Facebook algorithm loves pictures, and it loves video even more. It will reward you for posting these by getting them in front of more people than a text post.
You can create really nice looking images with Canva (which I also swear by), and you can create polished videos on your phone. Just make sure you get the basics right, like not videoing while you’re walking through town on a windy day!
Promoting yourself on Facebook is not that different from promoting yourself in other areas - it’s all about figuring out what your audience wants, and giving it to them as quickly and efficiently as possible. These tips should help you get started!
On Instagram? You can follow Mabel Maguire at @mabelmaguire.