Rules of Engagement

By Daniel Grant

Most often associated with pictures of food or influencers on holiday, snarky comments, hashtag fads, and cancel culture, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube also allow artists to promote themselves and their work at virtually no cost other than the individuals’ time and energy. Here are a few tips to make the most of both.


Use social media to support, rather than replace, other forms of marketing and public relations. For example, if you’re preparing a mailing of printed promotional material for art consultants, critics, and editors to announce an upcoming show or recently installed commission, maximize the marketing opportunities by connecting with those individuals on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Use different social media platforms in different ways. Facebook, for instance, can serve as a portfolio, while Twitter provides a place to gather information and build an audience, and Instagram, a showcase for your work. Using #hashtags on posts helps to reach new audiences. For instance, if you finish a painting of Sedona or the Hudson Valley, make sure an Instagram post about it includes #Sedona or #Hudson Valley. Otherwise, you might be missing exactly the type of audience that wouldn’t otherwise know about it, and who may respond to it.

Manage your time. If you’re not already addicted, social media might seem like an enormous time suck whose rewards are theoretical, and the requirements of which guarantee distraction and time away from work in the studio. However, just two or three hours per week should be sufficient to scan the posts and tweets made by the community you have built, providing you with marketing insight about news, reviews, and opportunities within your sphere, and to compose and schedule periodic posts for the coming week. To be effective, you may only need to do three posts in a week, two of which may just be sharing someone else’s content.

Protect images of your work. For artists who want to reserve all rights to their artwork, posting images on social media may be tantamount to flashing expensive jewelry while walking at night in a bad neighborhood. Copyright laws exist to protect people, but the risk of some harm is high. Posting an image online, for instance on an artist’s own website, does not necessarily imply the hope or expectation that the image will be passed around from one interested person to another, but posting within the social media environment implies that its owner is licensing it for some form of distribution by other site users, for instance through the Share function on Facebook or a retweet on Twitter, and that the image will go viral.

Solutions include posting low-resolution images of your work, which displays the art well at a small size on the screen but does not look good when enlarged and reproduced, and embedding metadata (information about whether the image is copyrighted and to whom, who owns the particular image, the camera that took the image and the exposure used) in the image.

Know your terms. The Terms and Condition pages of social media sites indicate what the site operators and users may do with posted material. Giving away some control is the price someone pays for the ability to use this free service, and undoubtedly many users consider the benefits to greatly outweigh potential drawbacks.

Daniel Grant is the author of The Business of Being an Artist and a regular contributor to PleinAir Magazine.

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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