It’s hard to believe, but just five years ago I had no website or social media. My art business was based entirely on word of mouth. When I decided to start promoting my business online, I had no idea where to start. Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, DeviantArt, Twitter, and this blog — they all represented new opportunities, and I tried them all as part of a grand experiment.
Enough time has passed that I now have real data with which to analyze these platforms. I’ve made a lot of friends and attracted followers online, especially on Instagram, and I expected this following to translate into increased sales and attendance at art shows — but business has remained random, and art show attendees have never turned out because of social media. Invariably they come due to word of mouth or advertisements on third party websites. Furthermore, I can trace very few of my sales to my website or social media.
I try to make sound business decisions in my career based on real-life experience and hard data. I have to face the fact that the online platforms are not enhancing my business to the extent that I can justify their continuing expense. I’m not talking about having to pay for services, since all of the platforms aside from this blog are free to use. But the considerable hours that go into maintaining a social media presence represent unpaid labor. There is also lost income, since I could be allocating the time I spend on social media toward more profitable activities.
The experiment was worth the risk, because I answered important questions for myself; but I have already started to “clean house” in order to cut my losses. So far I have deleted Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, DeviantArt, and Twitter. I erased some of my old YouTube videos as well, most of which served as advertisements for workshops and exhibitions that have long since expired. For now, I’m keeping Instagram, Etsy, YouTube, and this blog — but I may ultimately decide to scale back even more. To be honest, there is a certain appeal to “going rogue” and getting back to underground art-making.
The lesson in all of this is look at your business strategies with detachment and reason. If something isn’t working for you, it may actually be working against you. Pull the plug on activities that suck your time and offer no commensurate reward. Most importantly, put your focus and energy on your art.