10 Tips for Artists who use Twitter (or are considering it)
What is Twitter? Twitter is a very popular social networking site.
For artists, it is also a great marketing tool.
When explaining Twitter to fellow artists I liken it to a room full of people at a massive party. You walk into the room and initially you might be overwhelmed. You start making the rounds, lurking and observing. You see people who look like they share common interests. You lurk a little closer, maybe joining a group of people in a conversation - but still just listening. If the conversation is interesting to you, then maybe you join in - engaging with that person or even a group. Eventually if things go well you exchange contact information and gain new friends, or clients, or benefit from professional connections. Conversations or people that aren't interesting to you are simply passed by.
But is it that simple? For artists accustomed to spending a great deal of time in the isolated playground of their own personal headspace - interacting on Twitter can be a challenge. I hope these tips will not only help to get you started on Twitter - but also help you enjoy it - and build your business.
1. What's in a name?
Although I do use a "handle" as my Twitter name I don't recommend this for artists looking to use Twitter for building their business. Unless you're well known by your handle professionally it will just cause confusion. (I started Twitter as a private account and then began using it for professional purposes. I was NOT known as skwerlgrrl professionally at the time. It was a private handle - but now that name is irrevocably tied to me professionally . Thank goodness I don't mind.) Simply use your professional artist name when making your Twitter account. This way people who are looking for you can find you easily. Also don't forget to fill out your Twitter profile. Include your website URL and a concise bio about you and your art. Here is an example.
2. Is Anybody Out There?
YES! You just have to find them! Start with your friends in the field. Ask via email, Facebook, and Myspace "Who's on Twitter?" Follow them and ask them to follow you! Then use Twitter Search to find more awesome people to follow. (Type in a keyword like "art" and look at the tweets that pop up. Click on the profiles to learn about that person and decide if you want to follow them or not. Chances are good that once you follow them, they'll consider following back.)
Spread the word! Add a line to your email signatures about your Twitter account. Tell your mailing list. Add your Twitter link to your other social networking accounts. There are even Twitter widgets that allow you to stream your updates on your website and other places.
3. Performance Anxiety
Cat got your tongue? Writer's block? Well that is a problem. Twitter is all about short, sweet & if you want any followers - INTERESTING. Now please don't feel pressured to have the wit and timing of a late night Comedy show host with every post. That's not necessary. What tweeters cherish above all is REAL CONNECTIONS.
There's a good chance you can learn to Tweet effectively. First tip - study the tweet patterns of people you follow that you find INTERESTING. What are they doing, saying, sharing? Emulate this pattern as it applies to your own life.
One person who is a very effective Tweeter is Neil Gaiman. Mr. Gaiman has almost One and a Half MILLION followers. This is partly because, well, he's Neil Gaiman. But also partly because he says things that are INTERESTING and he make REAL CONNECTIONS with his audience. Neil responds to fans who tweet at him, he posts interesting links, and allows his followers little glimpses into his work, his process and sometimes his personal life. Every tweet is his unique voice. Each post gives the reader a sense of his personality, and his sincerity.
I know what you're thinking. "Of course they do! He's a writer, so he's got a bit of a leg up in that department!" But um, actually NO. I've followed many writers on Twitter. All of them talented at writing books. Many of them a DEAD BORE on Twitter. Some of them even lose their minds and accidentally reveal themselves in ways that alienate their fans. So don't assume that anyone has an advantage over you when it comes to tweeting.
4. Joining the Conversation.
In the very beginning you'll feel like you're talking to yourself. And that may even be true for a while, until you build up followers. That's why its important to participate by following, and responding to others. Twitter is not just about what YOU have to say. Its about listening to others, and joining the conversation. So while it's important to give your followers interesting things to read, if all you ever do is talk about you - well nobody likes a narcissist.
Engage with those you follow. Comment on their tweets. Be interested in what they have to say. ReTweet (RT) their more important posts. If it's something they are selling or an event they promoting - help them out by retweeting their post. Most people will return the favor. Be sure to respond to those who tweet at you (use this link to easily see all responses to you).
Keep in mind that Twitter can move at a pretty fair clip. Many people miss posts directed at them. If you tweet at someone and they don't tweet back, DON'T take it personally. Always give the benefit of the doubt, and assume the best.
Oh and don't get to personal please. No one wants to know that you're out of toilet paper, or god forbid WHY)
5. Share Your Works in Progress.
As an artist you'll have images to share of art and maybe even photos of works in progress. People love photos! Share them! Tweet about your artistic process - upcoming projects - how you structure your work day - other artists who you admire/inspire you.
There are some people that hold a philosophy that artists shouldn't share works before they are complete. They think it takes the mystery out of the process, and diminishes the work. I disagree. I've shared works in progress, and even solicited opinions and suggestions from my followers. It's been nothing but entirely effective at raising my profile and my fan base.
What you share and how much you feel comfortable sharing will be up to you. But in my experience people who love art are always hungry for more. Sharing your work and what goes into making it doesn't destroy the mystery it only deepens the viewers relationship to you and your work. And that is after all, what you want.
6. Use Hashtags
Hashtags are basically easily searchable keywords on twitter. Seasoned Tweeters know all about hashtags, regularly use them, and even create new ones. But newbies to Twitter see these strange additions to posts and wonder what they are.
Anything can be a hashtag. People even make up hashtags as jokes sometimes. For the artist, remembering to use hashtags in your posts can be a very effective way of promoting your work to new and relevant followers. This is because many people regularly do searches on twitter for keywords that interest them. Some also use apps that notify them when certain keywords/hashtags are used.
Want to see a hashtag in action? Here's an example. Anyone doing a search for #Steampunk and #Art on the day of that tweet would come across it. I probably could've also added #SteampunkArt in another post to cover more bases. But I'll save that tweet for another day.
There are quite a few "events" that pop up on Twitter. Usually these start spontaneously and organically amidst a group of friends, or people with common interests. Generally these events spread and take on a life of their own, with thousands of people joining in on the fun.
One such event is Friday Night Art Dorks. Specifically for artists, this event started on a lark one evening when an artist noticed that a lot of his friends were also online, tweeting photos of works in progress. A funny hashtag was invented, and a regular Friday Night event for artists was born.
To join in such an event. Simply post something relevant to the conversation - and include in your post the hashtag for the event. Friday Night Art Dork's event hashtag is of course #FridayNightArtDorks . To follow the conversation in real time you'll use Twitter Search (or any Twitter searching utility you like) to hone in on that hashtag, and everyone using it.
8. Quality vs. Quantity
Remember when I said being an effective tweeter means being engaging and interesting? Well I really meant it. This approach will, in my experience, bring you QUALITY followers. You want as followers, people who are genuinely interested in you and your work. Sure new followers might just be checking you out at first. But if you remain positive, interact with others, share your work, and promote not only yourself, but also retweet the promotional efforts of others - the result will be a base of followers that are quality tweeters like yourself.
There is a rampant growth of junk tweeters on Twitter. These people are only interested in large numbers of followers. Many of them subscribe to services to increase their follower count. Still others use auto tweeting, services that pepper the twitter sphere with crap. I hate this. It's the antithesis of what I love about Twitter.
What you are looking for as an Artist promoting yourself on Twitter, is REAL interaction. REAL interaction results in REAL fans, which results in REAL sales. That simple. You just can't fake sincerity. And all things of quality take time to build. So don't freak out over low follower counts in the beginning of your Twitter journey. Enjoy Tweeting, have fun, the rest will come.
9. Shake Things Up!
Okay now you've been at it for a while. You've got your groove on, got some good followers, having some meaningful conversations, made some friends. What now? Well you're creative right? Think of something!
Start a collaborative creative project on Twitter. Start your own event, with your own theme and of course a hashtag and invite others to participate. Use Screenr to record yourself painting (for digital artists) and share it on Twitter. Twitter exciting updates and photos during an art exhibit or convention. Use UStream to stream live video of you creating art or talking about your process and inspiration. Use Twitter to not only inform people of your ideas and events but to invite them to participate with you in creating art.
Everyone likes to participate, so whatever you do - don't forget that aspect.
10. Don't take any of it personally.
Always remember this is the internet. A good percentage of the personalities you will encounter on Twitter - let alone anywhere on the interwebs - have about as much social grace as a pack of tween girls fighting over the last Team Edward shirt at Walmart.
Spammers will sometimes reply to Tweeters with totally bizarre and irrelevant replies. These are designed to befuddle you and get you curious enough to click on their link. Sometimes they are selling something - sometimes they might be directing you to a virus. If you get a bizarre reply from someone sketchy - don't reply - don't click a link - just ignore it. Or even better click on their profile link and then click "report for spam".
Then there are the angry trolls. Listen, if some knuckle dragger is giving you a hard time, don't engage, don't let it ruin your day, just block them and/or unfollow. Report them if necessary.
And lastly if someone has managed to really get under your skin - repeat this mantra from Dame Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
And all SHALL be well. And then you'll tweet about how totally well it is.