Artists pour their lives into their craft. They spend endless hours honing and sharpening skills that are particular and specific. Once their work is presented to the public through social media, they’re snubbed and receive little attention or appreciation for the time and effort they spent creating their masterpiece.
AAAAAND I don’t give a shit. Cry me a river then drown in it. Artists will continually blame the algorithms, their lack of fame, or even worse, the general public for the lack of attention and interaction their art gets. They’ll point to share pages or influencers who post someone’s art and get thousands of likes, while the original post has ten. They’ll point to artists who create inferior quality art and have droves of fawning fans as evidence that the general public has fallen into a stupor of unappreciative malaise.
Now, on the above points, I want to be abundantly clear: I do all of that. Yeah, that’s me. I love to bitch about those things, because they’re all true and I’m a grumpy old complaining ass son of a bitch. But there’s a difference when I’m doing it, and that’s the fact that I don’t let it upset me. More specifically, I understand my role in each of those scenarios and how to change my outcome. So let’s talk.
It’s the algorithms
You’re right, it is the algorithms. It’s also the fact you have 27 followers. But let’s blame the algorithms. The algorithms, those magical lines of code that make decisions about what people do or don’t want to see.
Now you have to first understand that the algorithms gather information based on previous search history, what pictures have been liked, commented on, and shared, and what accounts are more active and likely to stay active. If someone hasn’t interacted with content like the art you post, there’s less of a chance they’ll see it. This is actually reasonable. Without algorithms affecting what’s seen, we would all be bombarded with whatever is posted most often, not what we want to see the most. Imagine 30 posts from Applebee’s every day because you liked their page to get a free Appletini. Algorithms flush that nonsense and free up your feed. So they’re actually good.
Now if the algorithms aren’t showing your work, don’t be shocked. That’s every single user. Nobody’s posts reach all of their followers, not even the most popular profiles. If you’re looking at this from a shitty perspective, then you’ll get mad that the free service you use won’t expose you to more people for your profit and not theirs. To be frank, that’s a childish and stupid perspective. But look at it in a different way, and there’s advantages.
For one, you can post as often as you want and not bombard anyone. You can’t over post. It’s impossible. The algorithm will not allow you to spam anyone’s feed. So post ten times a day. Have at it. If anything, the more you post, the more chance people will see your work.
It also means that the people most likely to interact with your posts will be more likely to see it. Kind of like “we saw you eat a Milky Way, would you like to try a Snickers?” Why yes, Instagram. Yes I would.
Lack of fame
Okay, I’m just glossing over this one because it’s real fuckin stupid. If you’re not famous but you want to be, then work harder to be famous. FACK.
The general public are unappreciative bastards
Alright, so I actually won’t argue against this too much, but I’ll put it into proper perspective. The general public aren’t artists, and have never studied art. The vast majority of them approach art from pure aesthetics. If it doesn’t catch their eye, they don’t think it’s good.
That means that the intricacies of brush movement mean as much as a hobo’s ballsack to the general public. If it doesn’t look cool, fuck you. Technical proficiency has very little to do with public perception of your work, unless the piece is eye catching in a dynamic way, or the level of proficiency is so insane that even the muggles can see your wizardry. That’s probably not the case though, and you should admit it now.
Public opinion is fickle, and it shifts easily. It’s influenced by media and pop culture, and if your work isn’t in line with that, then you will have a steeper climb for recognition. There’s nothing wrong with that. You have to understand that you cannot shape public opinion on art, and if you want attention, you will either conform to public opinion or work twice as hard for the same attention.
So what do you do for exposure and growth?
So this first part is gonna make you go like WHAAAAAT? and I’ll be all like OH YEAH and you’ll be like NOOOO and I’ll be all like UH HUH
Likes and followers don’t matter.
That’s rule one, and bash it into your skull. Those numbers don’t matter. Do people with a million followers sell a product to a million people? Probably not. Probably only a very small fraction of that. And those sales are probably by sheer volume. But you can control that narrative for yourself.
What’s the first word in social media? Social. That means you should be interacting with people. Respond to comments, respond to messages. Join threads on other posts. Be helpful. This is online relationship building, and it’s no different than sitting down and having coffee with someone. Don’t try to sell to people. The stronger the relationships you build, the more likelihood they will look to you when they do want to make a purchase.
Submit everywhere and often. Every single page that shares art, every blog, all of it. If there’s a place you can submit your work, do it. Submit to galleries. Submit to fuckin art fairs. Do all of it.
Use lots of hashtags. Don’t repeat too often and try to spread them out, but make sure you use hashtags with everything. You can use up to 30, so I suggest using close to if not that many in the first comment on your post. If you put them in the caption, it just looks messy. Hashtags are a slow burn way to draw attention to your work, but it’s effective, and a lot of share pages use specific tags as submissions.
Keep fucking working. Understand that you’re not entitled to attention, sales, or accolades. You don’t receive those things just from being good at what you do, and if that’s what you’re relying on, then you probably won’t go far. In the end, an art career requires that you market yourself like a product, and brand yourself like a company. You have to be able to sell yourself without looking like you’re selling yourself.
And if you think selling yourself is dirty or shallow, then don’t quit your job at Starbucks. People always need lattes.