Social media is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it offers vast opportunities for artists to showcase their work to a global audience.
On the other, the business models of these platforms raise ethical concerns.
The core of these platforms' operations lies in advertising and data collection. When we engage with these “free” services, we seldom pause to consider how our information contributes to their revenue.
It's crucial to recognize this dynamic as we venture into selling art online. This awareness doesn't mean we must avoid social media altogether.
Instead, we can approach it with a strategy that protects our interests and leverages these platforms to our advantage.
I quit Instagram and Facebook a long time ago
I stepped away from Facebook and Instagram some time ago, making a deliberate pivot in how I connect with my audience and share my art.
This decision wasn't taken lightly but was informed by a desire to control my digital footprint and ensure my art business thrived on terms that respected both my values and my audience's privacy.
My website and email list have become the cornerstones of my art business, much like how others might use social media platforms.
My site is more than just a digital gallery; it's a personal space where I share snapshots of my work, musings, and inspirations, similar to how I would post on Instagram or Facebook.
If I have a bunch of sketchbook drawings I like, I'll make a post on my blog for each one. I don't care about SEO or only posting perfect things. I want to share my process, thoughts, and ongoing journey as an artist.
However, the key to truly connecting with my audience isn't just about sharing content; it's about fostering familiarity and trust.
The power of email in cultivating relationships
I've discovered that real connections and art sales don't necessarily materialize from someone simply landing on a social media profile or even a website.
It's about building a relationship over time.
My email list is instrumental in this process, allowing me to communicate directly with people who've explicitly expressed interest in my work.
Through my weekly newsletter, The Sketchbook Dispatches, I've cultivated a space where familiarity grows, bridging the gap between casual observer and committed supporter.
All by simply sharing my process, thoughts, and what I worked on earlier in the week.
The cornerstone of my strategy is the email list—comprised of individuals who've signaled their genuine interest in my art.
This direct line of communication has proven to be the most effective and meaningful way to engage with my audience, showing the power of personal connection through something as simple as an email.
By prioritizing direct communication through email, I've not only safeguarded my autonomy but also ensured that my art business remains resilient and true to my vision, independent of the ever-changing social media landscape.
Investing in direct connections: My ConvertKit strategy
In my art business, choosing to invest in a newsletter service like ConvertKit has been a pivotal decision.
The expense, though significant (based on your subscriber count) facilitates a crucial, direct link to my audience, safeguarding both our privacies.
This investment in ConvertKit is more than a business expense; it's a cornerstone of my relationship with my audience. The platform's business model, which does not hinge on advertising or data selling, aligns with my ethical standards. This ensures that my communications are direct and my subscribers' data also remains private.
Also, on social media you can expect only 3-5% of your audience to see your posts. With email, you can expect 40-50% of your audience to see your emails. Much better than the Algorithmic restrictions on social media right?
By leveraging ConvertKit, I effectively monetize my art and content, covering the service costs and generating profit. The most beneficial aspect of ConvertKit is the automation features. Which means you can send out pre-written emails on a schedule to new subscribers. Allowing you to build familiarity and trust by simply telling your story over a handful of emails.
For artists, ConvertKit offers a robust platform to engage with their audience.
It supports ethical business operations and fosters a profitable environment, free from the compromises often seen in social media. This is how I maintain a thriving art business, rooted in genuine connections and mutual respect.
I've been following Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit, for years. Since he launched his first book, Authority. He is the person who made me realize the power of teaching online.
My strategic shift to newsletters
My preference for newsletters over social media is a deliberate choice.
Despite the ubiquity of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, you won't find me there.
YouTube is the exception, which is more of a search engine than a social media platform. YouTube is how I now grow my newsletter. I post videos and link back to a focused place on my website where I offer an incentive to join my email list.
My decision was driven by the desire for a higher return on investment and more control over my connections with my audience.
Newsletters empower me to own my platform. Unlike social media, where the platform dictates terms, newsletters offer freedom and flexibility. If ever I decide to move away from my current service provider, I can easily transfer my subscriber list to another platform. This autonomy is crucial for maintaining direct, meaningful connections without intermediaries.
Social media platforms, on the other hand, restrict access to and control over your audience. They monetize your connections, often charging you to reach your own followers. This lack of portability and ownership over your data and social connections poses a significant risk to the sustainability of your online presence.
By investing in newsletters, I ensure that my efforts and investments are building something I control. This approach not only safeguards my connections but also aligns with a more ethical and transparent way of doing business online.
The power of direct communication
Email's resilience as a communication tool underscores its value, especially for artists and creators. Unlike social media, where algorithms dictate visibility, email ensures a direct line from sender to recipient.
This independence from any one company's control is a fundamental advantage.
Email stands at the heart of my preference for authentic engagement with my audience.
Each newsletter I send is more than a broadcast; it's an invitation to dialogue.
I treat my newsletters as a letter I would write a best friend. I also personally commit time to respond to thoughtful replies, ensuring that each interaction is a genuine exchange.
This commitment to personal responses underlines the unique value of email communication. Unlike the fleeting interactions on social media. Fostering meaningful conversations without the pressure of immediate response. This approach honors the time and attention of both parties, setting email apart as my preferred medium for deepening connections with my audience.
Moreover, email's longevity is proof to its effectiveness and endurance.
Declared obsolete many times, it continues to thrive as a critical communication standard. It's one of the internet's few remaining open platforms, free from the control of any single entity. This openness ensures that email will remain a vital part of our digital lives, offering a reliable and accessible channel for connecting with our audience.
All in all, email and newsletters not only offer a platform for direct, meaningful communication but also represents digital freedom and personal control. This makes them invaluable tools for artists like you and me who are looking to build and maintain authentic connections with their audience.