Selling Art Online – Pt 8 – Facebook

Facebook LogoAs of January 2011, Facebook has defined itself as the largest social-networking community of its kind in the world and as of January of 2013, it is still holding this title. According to the Facebook web site, the network has an average of 757 million daily active users. Approximately 81% of the users are from outside the United States and Canada. Facebook also states that it had 1.23 billion monthly active users and 945 million monthly active users who used mobile products as of December 31, 2013. This is a huge number of people to which to market artwork.

Marketing Methods

While one might assume that Twitter and Facebook fall into the same category of social-networking service, it needs to be acknowledged that networking techniques that work for one community don’t necessarily work for another. Each social-network has its own set of idiosyncrasies that make certain marketing methods more effective than others based upon how information is presented to the subscribers.

In my opinion, Facebook has essentially three main effective ways to market via its service. These are the Profile, Business Page, and Facebook Advertisements.

The Profile

The first of these Facebook tools to examine and the initial required component for use of all of these tools is the Facebook Profile. The Profile gives basic information about yourself including age, likes and dislikes, hobbies, education, employment history, and just about anything else you would like to include. It also allows you to supply links to your web sites and is a great way to connect and to share information with family and friends. I love to use mine to share photos with my relatives and occasionally will share information about new paintings and promotions with those who have chosen to subscribe to the profile’s newsfeed. Generally, however, I prefer to use my profile as a private entity used only to communicate with those close to me such as family, friends, coworkers, and school mates. I only really utilize it as the administrative account for my Facebook Page, however, which is the crux of my Facebook art marketing. It is important to note at this time that it is a violation of the Facebook Terms of Service to operate multiple profile accounts.

When creating your account, it is critical to use your real information in order to avoid possible account cancellation due to violations of the Facebook Terms of Service (TOS). Filling out the many individual information sections completely can alleviate confusion when people are searching for you. In the security section of the profile, you can easily determine whether this information is publicly or privately visible. It is also very helpful to include text describing what it is you do or the focus of the company for which you work, operate, or own.

One of the most important aspects of the Facebook information section is the web site link area. Be sure to include links to your central storefront and also any additional web sites that you may have. Don’t make your friends on Facebook have to do a general search of the Internet to find your business when they could easily click a link you have supplied. I often have people who stop by and “Like” my Business Page and I simply can’t find their Business Pages or web sites because they have not thought to leave links to them in their profile.

While many people have successfully used the Facebook profile to promote their businesses, the main deterrents to using it as your only social-networking marketing tool, are the limitations that have been intentionally engineered into it. The Facebook profile limits the number of friends you can have to 5000 and Facebook recommends that you should only add a person as a friend if you know them personally. Additionally, there has to be a mutual relationship between you and your friends in order for information to be shared. In other words, you have to approve friendships with people before they can see your products and business information. With a huge number of Facebook “lurkers,” or non-interacting members, requiring a friendship to view your product essentially excludes a large percentage of possible clients unless you make all your posts public. In 2012, Facebook began to allow people to subscribe to a profile’s public posts. While this gets around the 5000 friend limitations, this feature was really designed for users to keep abreast of the activities of celebrities, journalists, and other public figures without requiring a mutual friendship. It wasn’t designed to sell products.

An additional, and probably the most important, downside to marketing through a Facebook profile, is that profiles are excluded from being publicly searched by Google which can severely limit the potential number of people who can view your profile and therefore, the products you are selling. Remember that you are trying to get your products, services, storefront, or artwork in front of as many people as possible in order to statistically increase the potential of sales.

Another even stronger reason to avoid using a Facebook profile to promote or market products or services is that it is actually a breach of the Facebook Terms of Service and it is quite possible an account could be suspended if Facebook deemed it necessary. According to Facebook, “You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.

As mentioned above, Facebook specifically created another online presence for businesses to utilize and there are some very good reasons to use it instead of your profile as your main selling vehicle. This tool is known as the Facebook Business Page and was designed specifically for businesses, artists, and musicians to connect with their fans without requiring a mutual relationship approval. Users can simply “Like” the Business Page in order to receive updates in their news feed.

The Business Page

Facebook created a specific type of presence for businesses, musicians, and artists to utilize for networking and interacting with customers and fans because these entities often have thousands of fans with which they need to interact. Can you imagine a large corporation with potentially millions of fans of a product having to approve every relationship in order to market promotions, coupons, or advancements? Although many of us may never reach this level of fame, Facebook Business Pages have been designed to allow the incorporation of many tools to help one sell their products and to network with other users in the same manner as many large corporations.

The Facebook Business Page allows for multiple people with profiles to be administrators of the same account which can be useful if you have multiple aspects of a business which need to be updated by several people. You may have one administrator posting weekly coupons and another posting interesting Research and Development (R&D) information while still another is handling polls, lotteries, and product trivia. The possibilities are virtually limitless.

According to Facebook, “Personal accounts are optimized to work for individual people instead of businesses, brands and organizations. Facebook Pages allow artists, businesses, and brands to showcase their work and interact with fans. These Pages come pre-installed with custom functionality designed for each category. Developers also build an array of apps for Page admins to add to their Pages. Unlike with friends for personal accounts, there’s no limit to the number of people who can like a Facebook Page.

The Facebook Business Page has many advantages over the Profile for marketing and, as mentioned above, one of the most important is the lack of a 5000 follower limit. Additionally, a Page’s administrator needs not approve friendships before people are allowed to view a Page’s information. Users can easily “Like” a Page by clicking a button which instantly allows updates to be included in their news feed. Facebook has designed this to be as simple as possible. Additionally, because Business Pages are public, they can be crawled by search engines such as Google or Bing which can cause a greater web presence for you or your product. This can ultimately result in more traffic to your Facebook Page and more traffic to the central node of your marketing network. These pages show near the top of major search engine results which is an even stronger endorsement for why you need to have a Business Page to market your artwork and company.

The downside to the Facebook Business Page, however, is that it often requires a bit more effort to build a fan base as one needs to establish a clear foothold within the Facebook community. Getting it to work well takes time, dedication, and planning. One should not expect to create a Business Page and then instantaneously have a huge following. If you create great content, make it easy to share, and make people aware of its presence, over time your network will grow. Luckily, there are some important and productive things one can do in order to entice more fans over a shorter amount of time.

Facebook Page Marketing

Facebook Business Pages have been designed to be virtually a stand-alone entity. Facebook does not really want to encourage people to navigate away from their service because they are continually serving demographically targeted advertisements to viewers. Because of this, however, Facebook has created some remarkable tools for one to utilize in order to market products that can be integrated into each Business Page. Although the Page can generate some traffic to your central storefront, don’t expect a Facebook Business Page to be your main traffic generator. It is effective in directing some traffic to the central node of your Internet-based marketing approach, but the bulk of Facebook’s usefulness is internal to its community. Because it is such a great vehicle for selling products and because it has such a large community of users, it is important to develop a base of followers to which one can market.

Begin by creating a unique Facebook identity. The name for your business page should be considered carefully when initially creating it. It helps if this name is something unique and easily associated with you and your products or brand. Unfortunately, with the sheer number of members using the Facebook service, it is sometimes necessary to be creative in order to find something which hasn’t already been used. Be careful in your selection as the only way to undo this is to delete your account which would cause you to lose and have to reestablish connections with everyone with whom you have networked. Once a Page has 200 followers or more, Facebook does not allow the Page’s name to be altered without much pain and grief.

Once an appropriate Business Page name has been established, it is necessary to make full use of the information section available for the Business Page. This is where you should make it clear what your company does, what the product is, and any other interesting details that set you apart from the competition. Let people know who you are and be sure to include links to your other social-network presences as well as your main storefront. Often, users of one social-networking service will be using others and will want to connect with you through their other Internet presences. This will allow you to access a follower’s network across multiple venues and can greatly increase your product’s visibility.

Include a link to your Facebook Business Page from your profile. Don’t make users hunt to find your business. Additionally, Facebook will automatically make a link to your Facebook Business Page from your profile if you indicate your current occupation is your Business Page. For example, I have set the occupation on my Facebook profile as Ken Powers so at the top of my Profile, Ken Powers is listed as where I work and this is automatically a link to my artist Business Page which is located at http://www.facebook.com/powersfineart.

Custom Apps

One of the interesting features of the Facebook Business Page that once existed for profiles but was removed in 2011, is the ability to add custom apps. The apps exist under the cover image on the Facebook Page and are important because they allow you to create a much richer user experience and control the content that your followers see when they visit your Page. Facebook removed custom apps from profiles in order to encourage usage of the Business Pages for product promotion.

The ability to have custom apps has opened the door to allow anything from third-party selling tools to custom-coded applications and embedded HTML pages utilizing inline frames. Essentially, if you are not using a third-party application tab, you can use HTML inline frames to display an externally hosted HTML page within your Facebook Business Page. Although the actual creation of these pages is beyond the scope of this article, there are many tutorials available online that can walk you through the process. Additionally, there are even services that can create and host the embedded external pages.

Facebook also has the ability to have a custom image associated with each custom app. So now if you want to send someone to a custom page, you can use an image to create a call to action. Simply open the app and hit edit settings and then upload a 111 x 74 pixel image that you want to represent the app. You can rearrange the order of the app tabs to make the four most important ones stand out.

Although the custom app options are virtually limitless, after Facebook converted the Business Pages to their current timeline format, I reduced the number of apps I was using and am currently only utilizing a Fine Art America.com designed custom print sales app. This is a great feature and allows viewers of my Facebook art Business Page to directly purchase prints without leaving the Page. In the future, I plan to add an app that displays current promotions and one that encourages followers to sign up for my mailing list. As I said before, the possibilities are endless.

Profile Pictures and Cover Images

Choosing an image/avatar to represent your new Business Page can be a difficult decision. Not only does it need to be professional, but it also needs to clearly represent you, your company, and your product. One might think it is as simple as uploading a picture of yourself and moving on. However, Facebook actually permits you to accomplish considerably more customization.

There is much debate about whether one should use a head-shot for your avatar in order to establish a face with your business or a product shot since this is an advertisement that accompanies every post that is made when you comment on other Pages as your Business Page. Personally, as an artist, I believe that by using an image of my artwork as my avatar, every time I comment on a post on another Business Page, I am leaving footprints that lead back to my work. The posts are essentially miniature advertisements and the possibility exists that these could lead to future sales.

In 2012, Facebook decided to roll out their timeline feature for Business Pages. It was very successful for profiles and it was only inevitable that Business Pages would eventually adopt it as well. One of the key aspects of the timeline is the addition of the Page Cover Image. The introduction of this image allows for a much larger amount of screen space to be used for brand identification than was ever previously available. Where businesses were once limited to only a small avatar, they are now given an 851 x 315 pixel area of screen real estate with which to promote their brand or product. This is a huge leap forward in creating a business presence through the Facebook service.

As a business promoter, it is a smart idea to investigate what people who are in a similar industry are putting in their profile pictures and cover images in order to see what possibilities exist. Try to incorporate some original concepts and see if modifications you make create spikes in “Likes” or “Unlikes” of your Business Page by viewing the available Analytics Tools that Facebook has to offer. These tools provide an incredible amount of information and are only getting better and better.

Once you have chosen the images that appropriately represent you, your company, and products or services, it is time to get busy creating useful content for your Facebook fans to read and to engage in conversation.

Provide Great Content

Before you begin developing a following with any social-networking service, you need to realize that people won’t be coming back to visit your Page or read your posts unless you have something to offer them. Believe it or not, content is the key to success and great content keeps users returning to see what you are going to unveil next. Constant meaningless posts will encourage fans to leave you quickly. In fact, according to a study by ExactTarget, 55% of Facebook users admit to “UnLiking” or “Hiding” Business Pages from their feeds for one of the following three reasons related to over-posting:

  • Their news feed became cluttered with “Thank-You” notes and “Welcome” messages by the Business Page to new Fans.
  • A Business Page had been sending a large series of posts over a very short amount of time.
  • A Business Page posted too many times during the course of a single day.

Obviously this study makes it clear that one needs to consider very carefully how often and when to post Facebook updates. With followers of a page living in an age where time is a valuable commodity, people desire to quickly access their account, briefly peruse the updates of their friends, and move on to the rest of the business of the day. For this reason, it is important to consider very carefully the quality of the information that you are presenting to those who are Fans of your Business Page.

One very nice feature that Facebook has implemented for its Business Pages is the ability to schedule posts. This feature allows one to avoid bombarding followers’ newsfeeds with posts that may eventually be considered spam. By clicking on the small clock icon in the bottom left corner of a new post, you can set exactly when a specific post will be revealed to followers. This is great if you have multiple post ideas but don’t desire to clog newsfeeds by posting them all at one time.

It is critical for one to realize that everything posted on a Business Page will show up in the news feeds of everyone who “Likes” the Page. For this reason, many of the rules for composing useful Tweets for Twitter apply to the Facebook realm as well. Maintaining a courteous and professional relationship with those who follow your Page will cause your network to continue to grow and flourish. After all, the entire reason you are utilizing social-networking to market your artwork is to reach as many people as possible and to receive real-time feed-back. For this reason, one’s posts to any social-network need to be designed to attract followers, not to drive them away.

Encouraging interaction with your followers by asking questions and creating dialog can be key to developing follower loyalty. It can also aid in enticing followers to share links to your page and products which can cause an increase in followership. If your content is so great that it causes people to share it with their friends, you are bound to have them repeatedly coming back for more. Avoid spamming your followers. Include more in your posts than continual product promotion. If a person is bombarded by continual promotional information with no useful content, they are going to quickly “unlike” your Business Page. Individuals are inundated with continual spam in their e-mail accounts already. Don’t subject them to more in their Facebook news feed.

Include images as often as possible when you are composing posts. When you post links on Facebook, you are usually presented with a thumbnail option for the resulting site. When people are following as many as 500 pages, it is easy for your post to get lost in the convoluted blur of their news feed. Having an image makes the post stand out and will definitely encourage more interaction from fans. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, they mean it. At the very least, having a picture will draw attention to your content.

If you are unsure if your updates are creating the proper results, then realize that Facebook offers some of the most amazing tools in the social-networking world to analyze your successes and failures. Look at these Analytics Tools and search for trends. If you see a large jump or drop in followers or interactions during a specific time-period, look at the posts you have made and adjust accordingly. If something you have posted causes a sudden loss of fans, then you need to avoid that type of post in the future. Give your fans and followers what they want. We are using Facebook to network with like-minded individuals who enjoy what we have to offer them. It is this spirit of communication and connection that will cause your network to grow instead of dwindling or remaining stagnant.

Use Facebook as Your Page

Approximately March of 2011, Facebook introduced a new feature that allows a Business Page’s administrator to utilize Facebook as their Business Page and not their Profile. What is great about this is that one can now make comments on other Pages, “Like” other Pages, and interact with other Pages as one’s business. When another Page’s administrator or fan looks at who “Liked” their latest post and they see your business, artist, or musician Page name, this is a link back to your Business Page. Viewers of these other Page’s will see your Page’s interaction and may be enticed to click the link to see who you are. This is a very effective way to network with other businesses as your brand and it can create fantastic cross-promotional opportunities.

Although “Liking” another Page’s post may indicate that you are interested in their content and what they have to say, there is not a substitute for an actual comment, dialog, and interaction with the Page’s administrator and fans in order to draw followers to your Business Page.

Be wary of posting links to your business’ Page directly on another Business Page’s wall. Although many Page’s, like mine, encourage it, some administrators frown upon it. There are much better approaches and this type of brazen attempt to hijack followers can often be considered poor protocol. Often posts of this type will get deleted by the administrator of the Page and, quite frankly, they could be construed as unprofessional and a form of spam. There are much better approaches to enticing fans from another Business Page to follow your business which don’t create tension and are actually mutually beneficial. Cross-promotional techniques are much more effective and not only help you expand your customer network but also your inter-industry network which can often be even more important in the long-term. I have said it before and I will say it again, never forget the importance of maintaining a professional persona when it comes to presenting yourself, products, and business to potential Internet-based clients and comrades.

Product Specific Content

Facebook offers so many great ways to present information about one’s products or services and it is important to take advantage of them in order to present useful content to followers. You can use the video tab to advance interesting presentations about your products, business, artwork, or music and you can keep fans abreast of upcoming activities through the use of the events tab. Additionally, there are many third-party applications available to present your products to your fans. A couple great examples are Reverbnation, for musicians, which allows music to be played and songs to be sold as well as the Fine Art America Shop Application which allows artwork displayed in the Print on Demand service, Fine Art America, to be displayed and prints to be sold. These are just two examples but there are literally thousands of others from which to pick depending upon what you wish to accomplish.

One of the most important built-in Facebook tabs for product promotion, however, is the Photo tab. This is a great area to create albums of images specific to photographs of various aspects of your products and business. I use mine to create albums of artwork which pertain to each series I am painting. I also like to include credit line information for each piece that stays with the artwork when it is viewed. This includes a Copyright notice, the size of the work, and the materials used. Since Facebook doesn’t provide titles for the images, adding this information is critical for potential sales.

Facebook Advertisements

Facebook provides some incredible tools for serving demographically targeted advertisements to its constituents. By being able to utilize some pretty powerful targeting parameters, you can create ads aimed at specific geographic areas, age groups, and even college majors. The company also lets users “Like” ads or close ads they don’t like. This means that Facebook is continually delivering increasingly better-targeted ads to their users. The advertisements are placed to the right of a user’s news feed and are very unobtrusive. If you choose to utilize this tool, you can select how long you want the ad to run, the text presented, and even how you wish to pay for it.

One can choose to pay per 1000 impressions or per actual ad click. You essentially bid how much you would like to pay for the ad and if you win the automated auction for the specific time, your ad will be shown. The downside is that this can get fairly expensive to continually utilize. Although Facebook ads may be a great way to jump-start the growth of a Page, organic growth is more likely to create a more engaged fan base. Ads are a feature that may work better for some product types than others. However, it may be the perfect thing to notify local people of an upcoming event you are hosting or in which you are participating. Serving ads for notification of a new product release or an amazingly discounted promotion may be just the thing to push your business’ social-network presence over the top.

Promoting Posts

A recent addition to the Facebook Business Page is the ability to monetarily promote a Page’s post in order to reach more viewers. The feature is only available to Pages which have 400 to 100,000 “Likes” and could prove to be the boost in viewership that is needed to really promote a special event or product release.

As I am sure you are aware, even though you may “Like” a Business Page and desire to receive updates from it, Facebook only shows posts which it deems most relevant within the Top Stories of your newsfeed. The service determines whether something is a Top Story based upon a lot of factors, including your relationship to the person who posted the story, how many comments and “Likes” it got, what type of story it is, etc… There is a ton of activity on Facebook and a user may miss posts when they are away from the service or are following so many Pages and friends that their news feed has too much activity to show it all. According to Facebook, a Business Page’s post is statistically only seen by 16% of its Fans. Because of this, the social-network has created a feature designed to allow you to buy more visibility by utilizing a “Promoted Post.”

According to Facebook, “Promoted Posts help increase the people you reach for any eligible post. It’s an easy and fast way to reach more of the people that “Like” your page and your friends.” A Business Page can now pay $5 or more to get more people who like the Page to see a post. Posts that use this type of promotion will be labeled as “Sponsored” in users’ news feeds.

While there have been many mixed reviews of the “Promoted Post” feature throughout the Internet community, it may be just the tool you need to reach more viewers and to increase sales. Regardless of whether one believes the feature is an unfair way for Facebook to further monetize its Business Pages, it is important to realize that this feature is a Facebook reality and it is here to stay. It is up to the individual marketer to decide whether it is a tool they wish to implement.

As can be seen from the above information, there is a wealth of opportunity for promoting artwork through Facebook and although the service is continually changing, it is well worth experimenting with its features for marketing purposes.

The next article in this series will discuss Pinterest and why it is an important marketing tool for the visual artist.

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Comments (4)
  • Enzie Shahmiri Portraits and Fine Art February 16, 2014

    A wonderful article Ken! I found that the biggest problem with Facebook is how the algorithm chooses for you what you get to see and what not. To combat this one has to diligently stay in touch with a large friend and fan base in order to establish on-going connections to be shown in feeds.

    • Ken Powers February 16, 2014

      Thank you Enzie!

      The Facebook algorithms are constantly changing and it is hard to keep abreast of what is effective. I used to showcase three artists every week on my Page in order to help gain them additional exposure but I had to stop doing it because analytics showed that only 1% of my Followers even saw the posts. That is pretty sad. Unfortunately, the algorithms also through the Pareto principle out the window as well. Posts dealing directly with my artwork reach about 25% of my followers, posts dealing with my marketing articles reach about the same number, posts promoting articles from other sources only reach about 5% of my followers, etc… It is a very interesting time for Facebook posts and figuring out how to get the best reach without monetary means.

      Thanks again for your kind words and great comment to help jump-start this Facebook dialog! 🙂

  • Judy Mudd February 19, 2014

    Thank you for this helpful article. I can see many things I need to work on on my FB page, including considering ads and monetary post promotion to increase my following. I did not know that only a portion of “likes” receive my posts. I noticed that I did not get all of the posts from those that I had liked but thought it had more to do with their posts or settings. Now I know it is a built-in FB setting that I cannot control, only work around.. Thank you for your research and sharing of this wealth of information.

    • Ken Powers February 19, 2014

      Thank you for your kind comment Judy!

      Yes, the Facebook algorithms that determine what you see in your news-feed can be helpful but they also can make it so many of the people that “Like” your Page frequently miss your content. It is definitely something that marketers need to learn how to work around. Of course, you can always pay to promote your posts if it is something important you don’t want your readers to miss. I have done that in a few instances just to ensure that more people see the important information. Sometimes it is worth it, sometimes it is not and it is up to the individual marketer to determine if it is necessary.

      Thanks again! 🙂

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