At beginning of the pandemic we hired a social media expert. We had been convinced that through the restrictions who forbid opening the gallery, it would be a better way to reach publicity. We had been thinking the whole world will be just virtually anymore, this will sustain after the lock-downs, we will reach more people – and it will be much cheaper than the classic way of acquiring new clients. We installed our web-shop, offered skype and zoom events, and collected likes from all over the world. Now after almost 9 months we have to admit, that we did not reach any new client through social media marketing. And we found out, that we cannot pay bills with likes and shares. As well our artists find out, that something is missing, in spite of all the global appreciation of their works, something essential is missing, something they could buy bread with. Our social media specialist gave us a lot of advice, to find the right hashtags, the right time to post, the right colors to post and so on. Photos, films, jokes, some content which is just indirect related to contemporary art from Central Europe. At the end of the line, our expert analyzes that we are not really in the market. Somehow we had the same impression. The chance to find new clients on social media is not determined by the market, but by chance.
My critic on social media should not sound as comments from frustrated guys, who just simply don’t know how to do it in a proper way. My critic should waken up the sector and encourage us to think, what aside social media is necessary for art-sales. Last but not least, social media can be a marketing instrument, but it can be not a sales-tool.
Surviving in world of contemporary fine arts without social media is simply not possible anymore. It is like the virus of the “Emperors new cloth” catched us all.
So what exactly remains to do? First of all, we have to be aware of the difference between marketing and sales. Marketing can only help to increase the awareness in your target group. But awareness in arts, even appreciation, is not leading mandatory to sales, there is another step, that has to follow. The process of sales has its own conditions.
I assume, that in spite of many social changes due to Covid 19, one important factor remains, that trust and confidence are the most important ones in art-sector. Dealers, galleries and artists trust a lot into social media, it seems that collectors are still hesitating and waiting, they don’t trust in the same intensity. Still it is necessary to win the confidence of the clients. If your clients are the persons, trusting you and believing in you, they will help you as well through hard times.
As a logic consequence of what we said until now, and in paradox to the vibe, everything should be online now, I think, personal contacts are getting more important in very near future. People are getting more and more individual and more and more privat nowadays. Art-Industry cannot ignore it. The times are over, when speechless, black-dressed unfriendly and arrogant people are “running” art-galleries, just proudly showing what they have. Even named galleries are suffering on that problem. The task of sales-staff in galleries is to find out the lifestyle of the client and what would fit the best to him and her. They have to remain friendly and behaving like good friends, even when the discussion is ending without deal. And they have to take the leadership in the sales process, not to let it up to the client, if they buy or not.
The future belongs to the art-seller, who is asking and understanding his clients and winning its trust, even when the instagram and facebook accounts are not showing the most likes in town.
Coming back to social media: Instagram & co. are helping artists to achieve a name amongst other artists, their main competitors. An art-gallery in a city with two million inhabitants might have 50, if it is good organized 10 relevant competitors. Being aware that social-media marketing is just entertaining, but not selling, I have to face the truth, that there I have one up to six million competitors. Even when you combine your social media activities with good content, it will be hard to break through. Meanwhile collectors buy a piece of the artist personality. This is transmitted more intensive in unique artworks than in uniform social-media trends.
Most of the big shots of collectors are not represented on facebook, some of them you even can’t find on the internet, because their access is filtered. They will not involve themselves in the unfiltered world of social media. Of course this idea has a big “BUT” button as well. The art-advisors, curators and secretaries around the decision-makers need social-media to inform themselves about the works, artistic CV, indicators for concepts or criteria to buy. In the front office of the collectors instagram and facebook are checked and filtered.
Do my friends, contacts, the people I am following reflect my self-understanding? Does it reflect the context I would like to be in? Who is my target group, whom I am following and who is following me? At the beginning you will be happy to obtain any follower; later on you should have the courage to clean your list from time to time. Of course in social media, masses are counting. But in opposite to TV-Stars, artists are not under the pressure to win everyone. Less is more, and it is more important that you build your marketplace in your target-group.
From our experience there are a lot of advices to give in social-media marketing, and I am sure other art-dealers have to give that as well: Prepare content for some days or weeks ahead, so you have it, when you will need it. Always be aware, that posting by its own is not enough. It is more important, to involve yourself into the community. Like, share, comment, communicate, take care of postings, stories and catch awareness with being there.
In order to have a strong presence, you have to be online permanent. You have to react and be one of the first to comment share like and repost. The permanent presence is not only in posting but as well in involving yourself into the community.
The threat is that small galleries with small capacities on human resources as well as artists marketing themselves will be selected out, if they are not following the rules. The algorithm will not remember them. But when you are just hanging on twitter & co, there is no more time for the real job of an artist, painting, as well as the real job of a gallery – convincing the right people and selling personally.
This article was published first on November 17th, 2020 on the blog of Thomas Emmerling. The original article can be found here.