Social Media Tips for the Artist
by Andrew Kaufmann
Associate Director, Integrated Marketing and New Media
A key component of a digital presence is professional use of social media. When it comes to social media, it's time to think of yourself as a marketer and a public figure, not just as a student.
This doesn't mean you have to take down the photos of your tabby cat from Facebook. It just means you have to be aware of the image you present in public. And social media (and all online activity, for that matter) counts as "public."
Social media allows artists and other professionals to engage with audiences in ways unlike ever before. Why does this matter? Because an engaged audience cares about what you have to say and might just be ready (if not today, then tomorrow) to support your art by hiring you, purchasing your work, collaborating with you or making donations.
Below is a quick series of tips for using social media as a practicing artist to build engaged audiences.
1) Split your professional and private worlds entirely by using different accounts.
On Facebook, your professional artist brand (which could be yourself, your ensemble, your startup company, etc.) should be split off into a Page. Your Page can then be the central point for your art rather than your personal profile. You can still drive people to your Facebook Page by promoting it on your personal Facebook Profile and encouraging your friends to Like it.
This doesn't mean you can ignore Facebook privacy settings just because you have a professional Page that you're sending strangers to. Always be thinking about who you're allowing to see information about yourself, what you're doing and where you are. (See item #2 for more on privacy.)
A major benefit of this is that your followers will then know that any content from the Page is related to your work, whereas your Profile might contain your views on the latest Spider-Man or Batman installment at the movie theater.
But a bigger benefit is that when someone Likes your artist Page, you are then given an important piece of information: That person is ASKING YOU for updates on your work. They are giving you permission to keep them up-to-date. They want to know what your latest creation is, they want to know about your artistic process, they want to watch your development as an artist. That permission is invaluable.
On Twitter, the lines aren't quite as neatly delineated as on Facebook. Many people post both personal and professional content on the same Twitter account, while others have separate accounts on Twitter for the two worlds.
My recommendation is that you have one Twitter account - but transition your content to be 80 percent professional (with the other 20 percent being carefully chosen topics of interest that might not directly relate to your art, but that showcase your other intellectual and artistic interests). Twitter relies on short bursts of information, and spreading short bursts of information across too many sources can cause you to spread yourself thin and neglect a channel. Keep the bursts in one place, but be careful with what you say. Remember, everything is public!
LinkedIn, of course, should be all professional all the time. But you knew that already, right? Don't overlook LinkedIn - it's possible to make powerful contacts there. Most don't use LinkedIn for daily updates, but be sure to keep your profile up-to-date not just with your education but with your artistic ambitions and projects.
2) Be aware of your profile's privacy settings.
Facebook has a complex set of privacy settings, viewable on their website. In short, most individual pieces of data can have visibility settings attached to them. A status update could be visible by Family only, Friends only, Everyone, or any other group that you create. To use this most effectively, be sure to categorize your Facebook Friends into groups - Family, Acquaintances, Close Friends, Professional Contacts, etc. Then, each time you post to Facebook, make sure that only the appropriate audience is allowed to see your post.
Also be aware that Facebook has a separate set of settings for how people can find you - whether or not your profile appears in their search functions. This is unrelated to the visibility of your content.
Most importantly, if someone is taking actions that are making you uncomfortable on Facebook, don't just ignore it. Block the user, report the user to Facebook, and notify SMU Police.
Twitter, on the other hand, is a much more binary world: your account is set to either Public or Private. If Public, then anyone can view your posts and follow you. If Private, then no one except those who are following you can see your posts - and you have to approve all followers.
In a professional context, Twitter should be set to Public. Setting your account to private takes your content out of Twitter searches, out of retweets, and removes any viral potential it might have had. Twitter can only flourish in public accounts. If you have concerns over your privacy on Twitter, you might want to consider not using any personal identifiers (such as name or location). While your account has to be Public to get the most out of it, there is no Twitter rule that says you can't adopt a persona or use a stage name for your Twitter posts. Just make sure your name is consistent across Twitter, Facebook, and your website.
Always remember that you never know who might be reading your content. It might be your friends, it might be your family, it might be a stranger, and it might be a member of the media. Think about who might read your content before you put it out there for everyone to see.
3) It's all about the content.
Audiences engage with content they find interesting: by Liking, or by retweeting, or by sharing on their own walls and web pages. This transcends any one social media service - it's true for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram and is certain to be true for social media services that don't exist yet. That means your job is to provide interesting content. Sounds easy at first - but you can't just do it once. You have to provide interesting content consistently. Keep it fresh by posting different types of media: Share your inspiration and process, post photos of your work, post video of you creating your work, and so on.
4) Keep it social.
Don't be so concerned about your own content that you forget to engage with others' content. Help spread others' ideas, and they'll help your ideas spread. The beauty of the Internet is its ability to help a good idea travel the globe - but this ability of the whole begins with the actions of the individual. Like others' Pages from your Page, share their content on your Wall and on your Page, and help your audience find other artists that you find significant.
5) Integrate your channels.
It sounds fancy, but help your channels grow by referencing them across your other channels. Promote your social media on your website, point to your YouTube channel from Facebook, Tweet your followers the URL of your Facebook Page. If someone likes you and your work enough to follow you on one channel, odds are good that they'll want to follow you on other channels as well. But reward these people, the most dedicated of your followers. Don't put the same content up in all places every time - for instance, linking your Facebook and Twitter accounts together and cross-posting every update will ensure that people follow only one or the other. Think about the message you want to deliver, and choose the service that best helps you deliver that message.
6) Don't ignore your website.
Social media is hot, and you need to use it. But it can't be your only outlet.
Social media is geared toward delivering the "right now:" Your Facebook Page (even with the new Timeline features) focuses on your latest updates, and no one will read your Tweets from a year ago.
Your website, however, is like your "best of" album. You can show off your latest work (and should!), but you can also highlight the work from your past that you're still proud of. Your website lets you paint a vivid picture of who you were, who you are, and how you got there. Think of it as your home base, and your archive of your most important digital assets.
In fact, there is one major audience member who does a better job of reading your website than your social media channels: Google. If you've built a strong online digital presence, when you Google your name, you should see your website, your Facebook Page, and your Twitter profile, in that order. That webpage will always carry more weight with Google's crawlers because of the domain name attached to it and the other parameters used for determining search relevancy.
7) Get ready for the next big thing.
When the class of 2012 entered college, Twitter had been created but hadn't really taken off yet. 2009 saw Twitter's big explosion. Today, Twitter is a part of daily life. There is almost certainly a service that is currently just an idea in an engineer's head - or your own - that will be a major player in media by the time you graduate.
If you see a service and you think it's going to be big, and it's free, sign up for that account! If it explodes, you'll be glad it did. I got lucky - I heard about Twitter early and registered "@andrewk." If I had waited, today I might be @andrewjkauf9278. It never hurts to beat the land rush.
Don't be afraid to experiment with new services. Your content might be moderately popular on Facebook, but huge on Pinterest. Or maybe you think too big for Twitter, but Tumblr lets you share your 3000 word essays (that you link to from Twitter - Twitter is just too big to totally ignore).
Just remember - good content tends to travel.