During the pandemic, my partner and I fell down a TikTok rabbit hole and have, unfortunately, stayed there. Part of me is hoping that stating publicly that at least one evening a week ends with the two of us sitting side by side in our bed sharing videos of corgis will shame me into giving up the habit. But it probably won’t. Corgis are really cute.
It’s no revelation that social media is obviously addictive and probably evil. I’ve felt this way since I joined Facebook in 2007 and proceeded to spend way too many hours of my life posting such fill-in-the-prompt bon mots as “Suzy is hungry” and “Suzy wonders how we put a man on the moon fifty+ years ago and can’t get consistent Wi-Fi on Amtrak.” In the years since I first posted these tidbits of wisdom for people I went to high school with (and have not talked to since), social media has grown. There are new, specialized platforms on which to be yourself—or a distant-from-everyday-life version of yourself. Social media can be an escape or entertainment, but for many it’s also a place to conduct business. Social media strategy is now an important pillar of most businesses’ everyday operations, including art businesses.
In December 2021, as part of my personal project to revamp all aspects of my art business, and with the financial assistance of a professional development grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, I sat down with Hannah Westfall of Westfall Digital Strategies to do a social media audit, a service that the Washington, DC-based consultant offers for small businesses of all kinds. I selected Westfall from the digital marketing consultants I contacted in the DMV area because of her experience working with visual artists. In her estimation, the social media marketing needs of artists are distinct from those of other businesses. “Artwork is its own industry; the client base is different,” she says. “Artwork is thought of as a luxury for most people. So it’s important to build up an audience that cares about you.”
Talking with Westfall, I came to understand that she and I agree that to succeed on social media as an artist, you must sell yourself as well as whatever you’re making. Every artist I follow on social media with a solid audience of engaged followers posts a hybrid of the personal and the professional, showcasing curated elements of their lives alongside their studio work. Westfall explains that regardless of the custom blend you come up with for yourself, “the key thing is consistency. If you can find a way to be consistent with your quality and your timing, that is going to help you so much more than forcing yourself to post.”