Many artists tend to build a community in social media with other artists but struggle to build a following of buyers. The problem might be that they are not targeting buyers.
In the world of selling art, there are different categories of buyers; Collectors, Private Buyers, Gallery Buyers, and Art Patrons.
As a marketing guy at heart, I always start with a clear picture of who my ideal buyer is in order to clearly define my target market so that I can use the most effective method to find, engage, and convert interest into sales.
For the purpose of this article, I'll use the term Buyer as my umbrella term representing all categories of contemporary art buyers. One-off Buyers Perhaps the largest market for emerging artists in terms of buyers is the one-off or occasional buyer. This is someone who may only buy one or two pieces of art in her lifetime. I'm going to speculate that these buyers do not have a real plan in mind when they buy art, in fact, they may not be hunting for a particular form of art. In reality, this buyer is not easily found, you must be found/discovered by them. However, as the trend for selling art online increases, the one-offs may represent huge market potential. To be found by these buyers requires rather broad exposure through a mix o multiple channels like brick-and-mortar galleries, online galleries, social media, NFT marketplaces, and your own SEO-optimized website. Finally, being found by this buyer requires a commitment to consistently posting your work through photos, videos, and written content. Actually, regardless of which Buyer you're targeting, the quality and frequency of posting your content are foundational. Collectors I think dedicating time and energy to targeting art collectors may have the greatest potential for sales. Many collectors seek emerging artists and can be receptive if you seek to build a relationship. Typically one collector can convert to multiple sales. The other positive aspect of Collectors is it is possible to target them through social media; however, the challenge is the time it takes to find Collectors. Patrons Finding a patron can be a fantastic way to get financial support while you focus on your art, and it's a real possibility. In fact, one of our member artists has a patron. Although getting in on the ground floor of an emerging artist’s career can be a lucrative financial investment, it is universally accepted that the primary motivation for patronization has to be passion; not profits. When collectors want to get involved with young artists or emerging artists it’s because they have a real interest in and love for the work that the artist is making. Finding an art Parton is similar to finding collectors. It takes time and consistent outreach and engagement to nurture relationships. Targeting Methods This is the real meat of this article. As mentioned in other communications, far too many artists focus on vanity metrics like the number of Followers, Likes, and comments. If you're on social media as a channel to sell your art, these metrics are of little value if buyers are not well-represented in your Followers. Don't get me wrong, if you've achieved over 10,000 followers through organic growth it means that you have wide exposure to people who are interested in your art. You have likely been posting regularly and consistently about your art and about yourself as an artist. As noted previously, the Instagram algorithm will ensure that you get into streams of IG users interested in your art. While it's possible to gain Buyers as followers, we're going to explore how you can target buyers and implement an Outbound engagement program to build relationships with people interested in buying art, and more specifically, buying your art. Centers of Contemporary Art Influence Finding centers of influence in contemporary art is one way to find art collectors and patrons. Art collectors follow art publications, art critics, art curators, art advisors, museums, and art galleries (generally in larger art markets). This is an arduous process, but it is one of the only ways you can find art collectors. The best way to take on this task is to build it into your sales strategy and take small steps every day. To make this process of hunting for art collectors and patrons manageable, it's a good idea to zero in on narrow searches and expands outward. For example, find galleries in the largest art market closest to where you live that feature art like yours. This step alone takes time, but you will likely find several galleries in a large market. By the way, be sure to look in your local art market too. I also like searching for and following people that influence collectors, like advisors, curators, and critics. First, when you follow these influencers you are getting exposed to their world and you'll find it very educational...learning more about the world of art will improve your ability to compete. Start following these categories and others that are following the advisors, curators, etcetera. The next step is critical, get engaged. Start Engaging Let's say you discover an art advisor and when you search through her posts you see art similar to yours. After you follow send a DM. But, and this is very important, don't promote your work immediately. Comment about the collection she's been posting and say why you relate to it. This is at most two to three sentences. Then leave it there. Next, google the advisor, and do some research. Next time you reach out say something about an article you read about her or one that she's written. By this time, it's quite possible she may take a look at your posts. My view is that you are much better off with a pic of your work than your face in your bio. This could be just enough exposure to prompt the influencer to take a look. It is also extremely important that you've been consistently making and posting your work. Remember, you want to be discovered by collectors and patrons who are on the search for emerging artists. The process I've described works in your hunt and engagement with all centers of influence. But, it will take time and repeated outreach to start getting noticed. Since Instagram does not help you manage your connections on IG, you'll need to start building your influencer list in a spreadsheet or CRM so you'll be sure to keep nurturing key influencers. In conclusion, remember you are seeking out contacts that either have the potential to buy your work or may have followers that can be potential buyers. You're better off having fewer followers, and follower fewer more targeted IG users than just hoping that building a list of non-targeted followers will result in sales.