Social networks and the artist

There are a lot of social networks out there, and often as an artist it can be difficult to choose which ones would be best. There’s something to be said for really needing to be doing art all the time, but I don’t think that’s quite fair.

In my situation, as it is from many others (that I’ve heard), I not only need to be finishing work on current projects but I need to be looking for the next gig in line too. Submissions are a great place to keep things going of course, but being on the social networks can help in many ways too.

There are plenty of gallery sites, like Deviant Art, Blue Canvas, and so on, but I’m talking strictly social networking sites today. Networks that have many other people on there than just artists.

The sites that I have listed below are just a few of them, and each one has it’s own unique point to it. They are just how I see things though, my experiences, and as the man says, your mileage may vary. So, without further adieu, here they are, in no particular order.

Facebook can be a good thing for an artist, as it has quite a lot of people on it so there’s lots of exposure. They really vary in the type of person on there, since the service is so broad, so you end up with a good slice of everyone. They toy with their software so much that, by the time I’ve written this, I’m sure no less than 23 things have changed. But their image capabilities are ok at least. They are meant to show photos from individuals, of things people have done or places they’ve been, that kind of thing. It’s ok for art, and when you post a new piece in there it lets everyone know with a little thumbnail.

It does have some posting inconsistencies, as sometimes Facebook will mark your status and sometimes not. Facebook also suffers from, as many an artist has called them, “douchebags”, that will tag you in their photo on their own shitty looking art. You end up with little control over that, and you end up advertising for someone else with little choice. Lots of exposure, which can be good, can also be very diluted. On your wall too, you have the problem of either allowing or not allowing others to comment. If you allow them to, often your marketing posts are shoved down so quickly no one sees them. If you don’t allow them, people will sometimes skip your information because they don’t feel you’re there to communicate back and forth, only spew at them.

Twitter can be a great marketing tool, though it’s a challenge sometimes to use it visually. Everything pops up as simple text or links, so you lose a bit of the idea that people might see a nice thumbnail and click on it. You have to rely on the way you word your tweets, or on the idea that people will follow whatever you write, and it can be a gamble to get them to look.

Twitter offers a spontaneity that Facebook doesn’t really have . You only have 140 characters, so comments tend to be much more constructive and on point. It becomes very easy to pass quick sketches, full ideas, and final art across to a lot of people, and get comments from anyone. You also control where your art is located as far as servers, making it easier to control where your art pops up online.

Twitter really is a great tool for quick promotion, but also for learning as well. People as varied as your next door neighbor up to an art director at a big publishing house tweet great information all the time, and in many ways people are more open to posting on it. Since you don’t have to be friends with everyone mutually, it becomes a broadcast system to say what you want, when you want. That openness really helps when a big AD is throwing out tips, because chances are you aren’t their “friend” on other services.

Google + (or “Google Plus” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) is the new kid on the block, and so far it seems to have learned quite a few lessons from the other, older services. I like that anyone can follow, and I don’t have to follow them back. I like that I have granular controls (read: lots and lots) over the way my information is given out, and who it’s given to. I like that I can separate friends into categories that only I know, which helps for lots of reasons (not the least of which remembering what they do in their lives).

Images seemed very easy to work with, including multiple uploads at once and captions. I’m still looking at that part of it, so maybe a recap in a few weeks on that.

Being able to follow anyone, and not necessarily having to friend them back, might end up making Google + the real leader in social networking. Publishers and art directors might still be open to posting whatever they want as they do on Twitter, but be able to have longer posts and not have to follow anyone back.

I have to admit, I just don’t know what to do with my LinkedIn. I mean, the service itself seems to work fine, and the images and feed connections seem to be good. It’s certainly a more professional service, and that can be great in light of the laid-back nature of the other services. But I just don’t really have much in the way of social interaction on it. It can be a resource to look up things, find out about companies and creators, but so far it’s not a daily choice for me.

I also haven’t had any gigs or discussions about art gigs (or day jobs even) through it, which is totally unlike all of the other services.

Last, and certainly least, MySpace. As of this writing, MySpace really is dead. In many ways it was a precursor to the ways that Facebook especially deals with images. But you always had to have a plugin, or have to go to other pages to see art, and it just seemed cumbersome. It also is a good thing to watch for the fact that all of these services eventually fall apart, and how our content and work is treated during the fall.

It’s not a bad idea just to pull everything you can off those services while you can. That may or may not save things, as these networks often do dubious things. But at least you tried.

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Russell Dickerson

Russell Dickerson

Russell Dickerson has been a lot of things over many years. Author, artist, designer, winner of awards and recognition, pursuer of the truth, leader of the earth after armageddon.

  • This is pretty fantastic. I cannot agree more about LinkedIn.

    Google+ is going to change a few things, I expect.