Branding is really nothing more than the process of building trust, then building upon that trust to reinforce the unique things you offer as an artist, such as your unique style; your voice; your acceptance by others, such as collectors; and your price and value perception. Everything you do contributes to your brand, in a positive or a negative way.
Facebook and Instagram can be great tools for building credibility as part of your branding, and many artists are relying on them heavily. One artist even told me he no longer needs to advertise because he has so many followers. But that's just his ego getting in the way: When I asked exactly who was following him, it was clear they were peers — other artists — and few if any collectors. People tend to gather with like-minded people, so artists tend to follow artists. Collector groups are much more difficult to find, and are more likely to be found on LinkedIn, which tends to attract professionals and serious interest groups, than on Facebook.
One giant mistake I'm seeing on Facebook is "Hey, look at me!" syndrome. I suppose if your followers are fellow artists, there is little harm in that. But if there are any collectors watching — directly, or indirectly, via other artists' followings — it can be dangerous. I'm seeing many an artist posting everything they paint when, fortunately or unfortunately, we all need to edit and show only our best work.
Even the best painters have dogs they should never show. Yet it's so tempting to say, "Hey look at me and what I'm capable of doing!" that we can forget to edit. I'm seeing a lot of "undercooked" work and, worse, a lot of paintings in progress. For artists, a progress shot is fine, but I'd be reluctant to let potential collectors see it. Has someone ever come up to you while you were painting on location, when a painting was only half done? It happens to me all the time, and I find myself explaining, "I'm just getting started, come back in a few hours," because they are judging a work at an uncooked stage.
I've overheard comments like, "It's not very good, it doesn't look right" at times when it's too soon for review. Most consumers don't understand that an unfinished painting is just that: unfinished. This is why I think showing unfinished works on Facebook and other social media has the potential to hurt your brand. That's also why editing is important. You wouldn't put every painting you do in a gallery. Why do it anywhere else?
Every touchpoint impacts the perception of your brand one way or another. Sometimes I'm tempted to post something after a drink or two, when my judgment is a little impaired, and I usually regret it in the morning. Again, if your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram have just friends and family, you probably won't do much damage. But if you have a big following, it's smart to make sure that everything you do is reinforcing your brand in a positive way.
Artists should seek things to post that will be positive reinforcements. Every time something great happens to you, post it. For instance, if you win an award, post it. If you get accepted to a new gallery, post it. That's why I like online art competitions. For a few bucks per entry, you have lots of opportunities to win or become a finalist. It's just another thing to talk about. Artists should enter every legitimate competition they can, to increase the odds of a win.
When you are hailed as a winner or finalist, that's a credibility builder you can talk about, and it also generates other publicity. For instance in our PleinAir Salon, where we present $15,000 to the winning artist, annual winners are also featured on the magazine's cover and in dozens and dozens of ads. That builds credibility. (By the way, today, July 31, is the last entry day for the current bimonthly contest. You can enter here.)
A good marketer is always inventing things to talk about to build credibility — things they can put online, put in their newsletter, and shout from the rooftops. A bad marketer just puts everything out there, good and bad – and that can have a negative impact on their brand. One artist I'm thinking of has gone backward in my mind because he's posting party photos, progress paintings, paintings that should never be released, and other things that are hurting his reputation. Visibility isn't always good.
P.T. Barnum is supposed to have said there's no such thing as bad publicity. That may be true if you're running a circus, but I'm not sure it's best for your art career.
PS: I'm getting cramps from signing big checks for large amounts of cash. Today you have a chance to become a winner or finalist and possibly put $15,000 cash in your pocket if you win our annual PleinAir salon. Tonight at midnight Pacific Time is your deadline to enter. All it takes is an upload of one great painting, or several. Many artists have found that repeating entries month to month benefits them because if they're not picked by one judge, they might be picked by another. To enter, visit www.pleinairsalon.com and start thinking about how you'll use that $15,000 cash prize and how your career will soar when you're on the cover of PleinAir magazine. Enter here now.