Here are my top ten reasons an artist NEEDS social media (and I shall try not to gush - too much!)
1. Social media was made for the individual.
Being an artist puts you at an advantage to brands or companies, because people want to follow a personality. So many brands and companies struggle with this - after all, who wants to follow a faceless corporation on their personal accounts such as Facebook or Twitter? There are people out there who are looking for individuals to follow and support - you could be one of them.
2. Social media is a way of sending your work into the world, without spending a single penny.
Promotion can be an expensive business, what with printing costs for portfolios, postcards, business cards and samples. With social media, your work can travel by social media word of mouth - which is free!
3. Social media is the easiest way to improve your appearance in search engine results.
Have you heard of Google+? If not, listen up. It's the social networking site owned by Google, which means your Google+ profile will be prioritised in search results.
Blogging also falls into this; if you post regular, appropriate content and have a large blog following, your posts will be appearing high in search results - meaning a commissioner has more chance of coming across your work.
4. Social media provides a great place for artists to meet.
The thing that had me hooked on Twitter from the word go, was the amazing creative community I found within its pages, one with which I've since grown a part of. Being a creative can be extremely lonely, and social media can be a great comfort - especially at 2am when working to a deadline, you're guaranteed to find another freelancer doing exactly the same!
I have learnt so much from following artists through social media, and have some lovely online friendships; social media provides a great platform for artists to support each other and discuss similar interests.
5. Social media can provide leads for a job.
Twitter search is an amazing thing. Want to know what people are saying about 'cheese' (?!) for example? Search 'cheese' in Twitter search and you'll get the very latest tweets from around the world on the subject. Searching for illustration jobs works in much the same way.
Similarly, you could send a tweet advertising your portrait skills, which could then be retweeted and seen by a commissioner, or buyer of art. Wouldn't that be swell.
6. The more you put into social media, the more you get out of it.
Building a following takes time and passion. However, if you are genuine, passionate, consistent and interesting you could see your audience numbers grow at a satisfying rate. It's important to give followers and potential followers a reason to keep coming back, so post content regularly and find your niche within your market- for me, I feel writing about illustration/art is my niche as an illustrator and I make sure I put a whole lot of effort into it!
7. Social media wants you to be creative.
Guess what, being an artist is in your favour again. Sometimes there can be a lot of 'noise' with social media, and you can feel like you're just shouting your message over the top of everyone else. Instead, focus on how you can get peoples attention by doing things a little differently.
8. Social media can make you money.
Did you know that blogging can be a job? This really is something that takes time, effort and knowing your niche (that again), but when you have a large enough following, and your blog is getting impressive hits - advertising is your friend. Every time someone goes to your blog and clicks off to an ad on your page, you make a little money. This is the same for YouTube too. If you are able to capture YouTube audiences with your videos and gain enough subscribers and views, you could become a YouTube partner and earn money through advertising.
9. Social media doesn't have to be time consuming.
What I mean by this is that it doesn't have to consist of hours at a time spent online, instead it's something that can be dipped in and out of. If you have a smart phone, this can even be something you do on the move.
10. Social media is fun.
It's something that is beneficial to you as an artist for all the reasons above, but it's also not a chore. It's about being yourself, communicating your message and, well, socialising. Whats more, it works best when you're sincere but light-hearted too, so have fun with it - be quirky, be different - and see where it can take you.