Selling Art Online – Pt 2 – Strategy

StrategyIn part 1 of this series of articles, I gave some insight into why these blog posts are being created. Not only is it giving me the opportunity to update outdated information in my book, it is giving me an opportunity to share the results of my online marketing experiments with other artists who are seeking to develop an Internet sales strategy.

An effective marketing strategy for selling art online begins with a very basic premise: “People don’t purchase products they don’t know exist.” Quite simply, this means that it is necessary for as many people as possible to be informed of our products if we plan to successfully sell them. Statistically, the greater the number of people that see our artwork and images, the greater the chance a purchase will be made. Because of this, we need to discover and implement techniques with which to put our products in front of the eyes of as many viewers as possible. In this modern age, what better way to reach an enormous potential customer-base than by using the Internet?

According to Internet World Stats, as of June 2012, 78.6% of the North American population has access to the Internet. Statistics also indicate that 67.6% of the population of Oceania/Australia have online access. Many other areas of the world show similar percentages and it is obvious that a large segment of our population currently has daily access to the World Wide Web and social media sites.

As the years have passed, Internet social-networking has seen an explosive amount of growth:

  • Facebook reports 874 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products as of September 30, 2013.
  • Facebook reports 727 million daily active users on average in September 2013.
  • Facebook reports 1.19 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2013.
  • Statistic Brain reports 645,750,000 total active registered Twitter users as of January 1, 2014.
  • Twitter reports 76% of Twitter active users are on mobile as of January 2014.
  • Twitter reports 230+ million monthly active users as of January 2014.
  • Twitter reports 500 million Tweets are sent per day as of January 2014.
  • YouTube reports more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month.
  • YouTube reports 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Traditionally, product purchasing recommendations from family and friends have been the most trusted. According to Cone Communications Inc., however, 81% of US consumers now go online to do additional research, with 55% looking for user reviews, and 10% soliciting advice from their social network groups. ExactTarget‘s research indicates that 90% of people trust the recommendations of their Facebook friends while Edison Research claims that 31% of daily Twitter users ask their followers for product opinions.

With the increasing level of Internet, social-networking, and e-commerce utilization, it is only logical that we should investigate marketing our artwork through this easily accessible channel. It allows you to promote your business while receiving immediate feedback from potential customers. Spending a few minutes a day posting messages and comments of interest to your target audience opens a line of communication that allows you to learn about your customers and to connect with them in real time. I utilize Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and a business web site to reach my social-network follower-base in order to promote my original paintings and prints. Each of these services provides an avenue with which to present information to potential clientele. Although similar in concept and design, however, each social-network operates in a unique fashion and combining them into an effective centralized marketing strategy can be confusing to first-time users.

While it is tempting to simply create user profiles on every social-networking site in existence, haphazardly proceeding without having a preconceived marketing plan can lead to frustration. I have found through extensive experimentation that it is much more effective to create a central base of operations to which all other web-presences point. This essentially creates a marketing network which is designed to attract potential customers and to drive them to a central storefront from which they can purchase products or services. For example, I have a business web site at http://powersfineart.com/ designed to directly sell my fine art prints and original paintings. It contains my biography and artist statement as well as additional information about my art and portfolio books. I utilize Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to direct traffic to my main site and StumbleUpon to notify people of new paintings as they become available. The key to making this strategy effective, however, is to develop a follower-base in each of the social-networks one plans to utilize.

The next article in this series will illustrate why I believe in the importance of having a central website or storefront. This will be followed by tips to help the central site rank higher in search engines by having an optimization plan.

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Comments (13)
  • William Lee January 5, 2014

    Great service for our company. The facts you give are very important for the online business community.

    • Ken Powers January 5, 2014

      Thank you for the kind words! I am glad you are finding the information helpful. Keep your eyes peeled for the future articles about social-media! 🙂

  • Bette Orr January 5, 2014

    Hi Ken – I am wondering why you don’t mention Pinterest? In your opinion is Pinterest a waste of time and not beneficial to selling our artwork?

    • Ken Powers January 5, 2014

      Thanks for reading the article Bette! I have listed Pinterest in the list of services that I personally use but I didn’t have time to put together some statistics for Pinterest in the above list. I am going to actually dedicate an entire article to Pinterest later in this series. As for whether I think it is worth using, I think it is a “must-use” website. Some of the brief stats I found show that it creates far more purchase conversions than several of the top social-media sites combined. The fact that it is such a visual, image-based service definitely makes it perfect for marketing artwork. Hope that helps! 🙂

  • Christina Rollo January 6, 2014

    Hi Ken, Thanks for providing helpful information on a consistent basis. It’s always difficult to determine where and how much time to spend marketing. It’s definitely very useful to know the potential size of our audience!

    • Ken Powers January 6, 2014

      Thanks for taking the time to read my articles Christina! I probably spend more time than I should experimenting with marketing techniques, etc… but I think it is an unfortunate necessity. With all the gallery closures and economic woes over the last few years, Internet marketing becomes more and more important. I am going to have a lot of fun with this marketing series of articles. Some of my Facebook viewer statistics will be very surprising to readers when I get to that article. For now, however, know that there is much more to come and I hope it spurs on some interesting dialog and innovation. This is going to be fun!

  • Bette Orr January 6, 2014

    Hi Ken – Yes, your reply to my question on Pinterest was very helpful! I look forward to your future in depth article on Pinterest. I have only been on Pinterest a few months, but am really surprised with the exposure it generates. That is why I was curious that I had not seen your mention of it. I know your research is always thorough and accurate and didn’t want to waste time with Pinterest if it wasn’t worthwhile. I shall definitely carry on! Your generous help and knowledge sharing has always been immensely appreciated! Thanks, Ken!

  • Ian McKendrick January 7, 2014

    Another great article Ken, and many thanks for sharing.
    When giving my social media presentations, I have noticed that particularly in the art sector, many artists feel that taking time out for social media takes up way too much time, especially as the tools are so new and constantly changing. To help my audience overcome these objections/fears I try to encourage them to share updates of how they are progressing with their work, and to make this part of the process – almost like taking a short tea break. It’s quickly and easily done, especially if you use a smartphone or tablet, taking less time than boiling a kettle. Also, sharing your progress in this way is a little like working “En plein air” in that you’re visibly creating your art in the open. It builds interest in what you’re doing, and certainly helps you to grow your number of followers, who are then keener to buy the finished work.

    • Ken Powers January 7, 2014

      Very well stated Ian! I appreciate your great insight and contributions to this helpful series of discussions. It is definitely difficult for many artists to determine how to balance social media usage/marketing and creating their art. At first it may seem that it is necessary to spend more time marketing than creating. The key is definitely to approach it with a plan like the one you have brilliantly presented. One thing I have experimented with in the past is to take quick progress shots and present them in the manner you suggest. Later, I combine the images into short slideshow-style videos that I post on YouTube. This is another way to get twice the mileage out of the initial social media progress shots. Not only do you have regular posts but you also have video to post on YouTube which can capture an entirely new audience. Thanks again for contributing to this discussion Ian! I think other artists are going to find this to be quite helpful.

  • Dai Wynn January 16, 2014

    Hi Ken, I do enjoy reading your erudite articles, but they tend to raise more questions than they offer answers.

    I will preface my “two-bob’s-worth” with a statement of my philosophy: “There’s no more genuine a compliment than for a random collector offering me true market value for a piece of my art”. While a below-cost sale on eBay is interesting, and the statistics on views and watchers are probably indicative of the marketplace’s taste in art, it is a garage sale on the Internet and the expectation of a give-away price has been set long ago.

    Firstly, the product to be promoted online must be excellent. This is a politically incorrect statement of motherhood and apple pie. I receive newsletters from artists who auction their small works on a daily basis. While they enjoy the luxury of selling all of their output, and there may have been a self-selection process prior to posting, the quality varies and prices offered reflect this. In almost all instances I agree with the “market” in valuing a piece of their work. Despite the average art lover claiming to know nothing about the production of a piece of visual art, they generally know what they like without being able to say why.

    Secondly, the “random collector” probably isn’t random at all. People buy from people. In my experience, social media networkers work hard at developing personal relationships. It’s a bit like the telemarketeer with a list of random telephone numbers versus a list of semi-qualified potential buyers. The latter is “warm calling” rather than random “cold calling”. Facebook addresses this issue by sharing items; Twitter has followers and retweets; and all other social media sites have some version of these. However, for an introvert like me, the constant challenge is to build a coterie of dedicated followers rather than taking a random “scatter gun” approach.

    Thirdly, I have been told that many potential buyers of art are intimidated by the amorphous nature of art. They will excitedly spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone because everyone else has one and they all work the same way. The value is plain to see and all they have to do is choose the colour or the case design. But a unique piece of art – only one piece in the universe; now that’s scary. Buying it online from somebody you’ve never met; terrifying. Where’s the value in a substrate with a few coloured marks on it? What if it turns out to be worthless, a fake, a second rate reject, a Renoir that was stolen from a museum eons ago? What if it doesn’t match the curtains? Clearly these buyers want a qualified curator to assure them, in dulcet tones, that a Dai Wynn will be an excellent investment and will appreciate faster than the stockmarket.

    Yes Ken, there are many more questions and thousands more answers.

    • Ken Powers January 16, 2014

      Thank you for the comment Dai. And yes……the articles do tend to raise more questions than answers and to some degree that is intentional. The articles must truly be read consecutively in order for them to make sense. The first serves to introduce a concept and reasoning. The second offers a simple strategy which involves implementing a central web space to which to drive traffic through the use of social media. The third speaks to why I believe one needs an Internet-based central home of operations. The next question becomes, “How do we get this traffic?” This question begins to be answered in the fourth article which will address some basic search engine optimization strategies. Now, once the main website is established and we have focused a bit on its construction and optimization, the articles will begin to focus on presences external to the main site. Article five discusses print on demand services. Although I know that this is where many artists begin their online marketing journey, I felt it necessary to preface this with the previous information just in case some artists are utilizing the web shops offered by FAA, RedBubble, Imagekind, or the like as their home base of operations. Article 6 then begins to delve into a general philosophy concerning why one should utilize social media as a web traffic driving service. Social Media is important because it helps us develop relationships and as you stated in your comment, “People buy from people.” I developed the articles this way because there are a lot of artists who refuse to see the relevance of social media for creating sales. Article 7 then begins the social media journey with a discussion about one of my favorite traffic driving social media services…..Twitter. One might ask why I wouldn’t address Facebook first but I have my reasons and some of my personal Facebook Page statistics will be interesting. So, hopefully you can see that I have a plan and it definitely involves intentionally raising questions in order to answer them more specifically in the future while encouraging an interesting dialog based around these questions in the process. Hopefully the entire project helps generate some new ideas, techniques, and procedures that can aid everyone in the process. It is important to note that by looking at the series of articles as a whole, they slowly address developing online relationships, establishing trust, encouraging purchasing, and developing sales. But yes….there will be more questions, there will be disagreements, there will be alternative suggestions, and there will be stimulating conversation that will hopefully foster art marketing innovation and discussion. Thanks again, as always, for reading my long-winded articles and for taking the time to comment.

  • Dai Wynn January 16, 2014

    Thanks again Ken for your well-rounded response. I do hope that you don’t need a spoiler alert.

    As ever, you are correct in not assuming that all artists have your considerable technical skills, let alone your artistic prowess. So naturally you have to address all levels of competence when setting the scene for each article.

    Many things in this life are far from simple, and I am often frustrated by marketeers wanting to use one acronym or another to increase the traffic to my website and other online presences. This reminds me of the old adage that “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink:. Yes indeed, the conversion of hits, page visits, likes, shares, tweets and retweets into genuine art collectors is the crux of the matter, Convincing someone to subscribe to a weekly newsletter is another challenge. There is a huge amount of artistic talent out there in the ether, and that means my dedicated online presence must be superior in all respects to most others in order to be visible.

    • Ken Powers January 17, 2014

      Thank you for the kind words Dai!

      I definitely agree that it is easy to become frustrated with the large amount of marketing advice available. Most of it is the same old stuff and most of the time someone wants to sell it to you. That is why I am hoping this series will be a little different and helpful to other artists since it is free, describes what has worked for me, presents some of my personal statistics, and is delivered in “bite-sized” pieces.

      As for newsletters, it is definitely a difficult task to get subscribers. Believe it or not, at this time, my number of subscribers has tripled due to this series of articles. However, due to the nature of this material, you can be sure that they are mostly other artists and therefore, not looking to purchase my artwork. The added visitation, though, is definitely going to give a boost to my own site’s search ranking which can ultimately get more organic traffic and more sales. Interestingly, visitors to this site view an average of 3 pages if they enter the site through blog pages and my original artwork pages are nearly always part of that visitation.

      I agree with you that artwork sales conversions are going to be lower due to the nature of the product and the personal connection that must be established. But, I think this just means we need to get the work in front of more eyes. People don’t purchase what they don’t know exists.

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