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How to Utilise Social Media in an Art Gallery

My partner dragged me along to an art fair about six months ago, and by chance I had the opportunity to meet one of the most interesting, charismatic and dynamic person I’ve ever met; Rebecca Hossack. Let’s just say you really have to meet her to fully experience the energy reserves she possesses and her passion for people, philanthropy and art.

Anyway, at this exhibition I whipped my phone out and started Instagramming some of the work on display. I wanted to mention the gallery and tag it on Twitter and Instagram, so not realising who she was, I asked Rebecca if she had the Twitter handle and Instagram username to hand.

Another exhibition at #Art14_London

A very tall sculpture of the Facebook logo at #Art14_London – the most recent art fair I attended.

What followed next was a pleasure and a shock –  she became so enthusiastic about my line of work, what I knew, how she and her employees could and should be using social media, and so on. I found out that her gallery wasn’t on Pinterest (shock horror!) and their while their Twitter feed was reasonably active with a decent number of followers, it was mainly a series of ReTweets. The potential for social media making a difference to the gallery’s marketing and communications strategy was immediately obvious.

I think that art galleries have a lot of room for improvement in the following four areas:

  1. Utilising social media to educate their prospective customers about artworks and artists,
  2. Driving traffic to their websites,
  3. Engaging with artists and individuals or groups with the same values as them
  4. Complimenting the physical element provided by their gallery space with a parallel stream of attention paid to ensure the gallery’s message and content are spread to as wide an audience as possible.

Below are some tips for those willing to experiment and jump ahead of the others in the art world. These are brief points, and I’m fully aware that there will be more, especially as the platforms and tools develop and you find out innovational new was to use them. Let me know if you have any measurable success!

1. If you haven’t already, set up a Pinterest business page! Even if you haven’t, READ BELOW.

  • WHY? Because 70% of people use Pinterest as a means of getting advice on how to spend their money. If this isn’t enough, the social network are overwhelmingly middle class females. No brainer!
  • These are not hard to set up and are essential for those galleries that want to integrate lovely looking Pinterest boards showcasing all their art with their website seamlessly.
  • Verify your website from your Pinterest page – check out Jeff Bullas’ guide. It’s relatively easy but you will probably need your website developer to make sure everything is done correctly. This is really helpful as it clearly associates your Pinterest page with your website.
  • If you are ok with having little red ‘Pin It’ buttons all over your website – DO IT. You will need your website admin to help you with this, just like when you verify your website with Pinterest (above point).
  • Make sure the Pins that correspond to art featured on your website are properly optimised for search! When you Pin images you can write a little description. Use key words, the artist’s name and the price. This is crucial if you are to be found by people searching, but also as the page becomes more popular your boards are likely to become recommended to people searching for keywords that you have used in your descriptions. Jeff Bullas wrote a decent blog on optimising Pinterest pages – as has Krista Bunskoek from Wishpond.

2. Use hashtags to engage with guests at art fairs and events.

  • While at various art fairs (which I really did start to enjoy), I noticed that it wasn’t just me snapping away and Tweeting photos.What really excited me was that people were doing the same, all over the place. To see these images and who was taking them in real time, all you had to do was tap in the event’s hashtag (#Art14_London), and check out the images and Tweets that came up.
  • As an exhibitor at an art fair, you can really take advantage of this. Having that kind of data is potential gold dust – it’s basically a current list of who is at the event and active on social media. Once you see someone has Instagrammed a picture, Tweet about/comment on that user’s post, massage their ego a little bit, strike up a conversation online and then eventually ask them to come to your stand and have a chat with you or one of your sales team!
  • When interacting with people you don’t know on Twitter and Instagram (the two main visual networks that people tend to post photos on and that are easily trackable using hashtags), it is key to ensure that you ask them a question about their initial post. Agree or constructively disagree (or just discuss!) their viewpoint, say you love the image, and then talk about what your exhibition stand has to offer.
  • So, above I have outlined a way of driving real people (traffic) to your exhibition stand at an art fair – all for free. The more people that come to your stand, the more chances you have to make that sale.
Google+ logo

The benefits of Google+ are almost entirely related to increasing Google rankings, particularly if your Google Business Page has been verified as belonging to your website.

3. Make sure you’ve got a Google+ business page and EDUCATE your prospective customers!

  • While Facebook has got a great deal more active users and perhaps a more relevant user base than Google+, the benefits in terms of SEO are huge.
  • The primary purpose of using social media as part of a communications strategy in an art gallery is to channel traffic to your website. So, when you create a new Pinterest board for the launch of a new artist your gallery is promoting/exhibiting, it is very wise to post that board on Google+, making sure to use hashtags and the link to the board, as well as a few sentences describing the artist, and the exhibition.
Posting Pinterest Boards to Google+

Here you can see what you must include in your Google+ posts to get the best SEO. I have included a link (obviously!), but more importantly a short summary and a skateboarding hashtag. Google is more easily able to categorise the content.

What the Google+ post will look like on the page

What the Google+ post will look like on the page.

Personally, from what I’ve seen and heard, social media is terribly underused in the Art world (world sounds more correct than industry – maybe I’m wrong!) Perhaps it’s because a great deal of art gallery owners and collectors are averse to tainting their brand with social networks which they associate with teenagers and unwanted technological tomfoolery. I think this is naive – social media provides galleries with tools that can connect you with a vast number of people who you would otherwise not have met or spoken to.

Olsoweir