The Circles of Art Marketing - Part V (Clint Watson)

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The Circles of Art Marketing - Part V

Building Awareness of your art and encouraging fans to join your audience

So far, this article series has been exclusively for paid Sovereign Artist members. We're opening today's issue to all members, including free subscribers and Fine Art Views readers, because we feel it provides a lot of great information about our marketing philosophy at The Sovereign Artist, especially regarding social media.

If you are a free subscriber and would like to get access to the entire series, you we encourage you to become a full Sovereign Artist Club member for less than $1.50/week.

Join the Sovereign Artist Club

On to today's update.....

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This article series is designed to give artists a strong framework to anchor their online art marketing efforts. If you follow this framework, your goals for social media, for email, for your website, for each thing that you do online will become crystal clear. It will help you stop floundering or guessing or trying "a little of this and a little of that" and get you on the right track to convert followers into fans and fans into customers.

If you are just joining us, I suggest you catch up on the earlier articles in this series:

  1. An Overview of the Circles of Art Marketing

  2. How to Turn Your Art into a Salable Product

  3. Your Inner Circle

  4. Building and Nurturing Your Audience

OK, let's dive into today's topic which is the Awareness circle...

The goal at the awareness stage is to get your followers to join your audience.

And by "join your audience" I mean, they agree to be on your list - a mailing list, an email list, or a list of people you contact by text message. Some kind of "house list." As the old direct mail guys say, "The money is in the list."

That list is and will become your biggest marketing asset and if there is only one thing you take aware from this entire article series it's this - build a list of customers, fans, prospective customers and anyone else who agrees to support you and gives you permission to contact them.

This is a list of your collectors, prospective collectors, fans and supporters. You're going to be building and refining this list for the rest of your life or, at least, for the rest of your career.

As people on this list purchase from you, they become collectors and join your "Inner Circle" (which we covered two weeks ago). At that point, they are most likely going to buy from you more than once. As people purchase from you, make sure you have add to the information you already have and collector their name, their address, their email address, what piece they purchased, how much they paid, and maybe even their birthday.

So if it's not clear, let me make it explicit: You are going to have two (somewhat overlapping) list:

1. Your audience - which is your big email/mailing list (and anyone can join this list).

2. Your inner circle - made up of collectors, students and your most loyal supporters.

People on the second list will also be on the first one, but not visa-versa.

Building Awareness

Before people can join your audience, you must make them aware of you. The rise of technology and the network has given artists and unprecedented number of ways to build awareness:

1. Social Media

2. Advertising (both online and off)

3. Promotional Swaps

4. Contests

5. Targeted communities

6. Shows, Festivals, Open studio events

7. Other

Social Media

Social media is the most accessible tool and by far, for the Sovereign Artist Era, the most important. So we are going to spend most of the rest of this section on explaining how to utilize social media to its fullest advantage. Obviously, if you are a paid Sovereign Artist Club member, you know that we provide a lot of articles and videos dedicated to this topic.

Like all technologies, social media brings with it both good and bad. If you stay away from the politics, bickering, and filter bubbles, social media is the most amazing tool ever invented for artists to build awareness. You are blessed, unlike artists of all previous generations, to be able to build awareness of your art without leaving your home and, with a smartphone, without even leaving your sofa. People used to go to gallery openings and now they scroll Instagram. And, any artist from the year 2,000 or prior would be incredulous that artists now have this tool and yet they still complain that they "can't sell their art."

The reason many artists fail to build real awareness on social media is that they are not utilizing it correctly. They simply post whatever they feel like (including politics and food porn) and then hope people somehow magically discover them. And, when a few people do discover them, most artists don't take the steps necessary to move people from awareness of the on social media into their audience of their email list. Unless you are incredibly lucky, that won't work. No general goes into battle without a detailed plan and you should not try to just "wing it" on social media. We'll show you, in a detailed step-by-step way, how to make social media work for you. If you don't put in the actual work after having the plan, well, that's on you.

The goal of your social media posting is to do so in such a way that you get your posts, your art, and your information to spread far and wide across the network. Achieving that goal, without a plan, is rare.

Rarity in the 21st Century

When marketing art online, the way to think about rarity is quite different than you are used to thinking about rarity in the physical world.

What does "rarity" mean, online, for artists? And how can you use that knowledge to sell your artworks?

You probably think of "rare" as something that is quite limited, one-of-a-kind, and something few people ever get the chance to see or own. And that is a true and timeless definition of rare.

But there is another, more relevant definition of rare in the 21st century digital age.

Online, paradoxically, an image that spreads very widely across social media or the internet is a rare image.

This is true because very few images spread widely.

If you can master getting your artwork images to spread far and wide, not only will that be a rare skill, but this can be utilized to create value in art images that are not in the traditional sense rare.

In other words, an image's ability to cause itself to be replicated has become a counterintuitive, digital definition of rarity.

This is the point I was trying to make in this tweet:

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Like all marketing, online art marketing requires you to create the demand FIRST.

If you haven't already created any demand for your art, then simply minting NFTs in a marketplace or posting your art on your website is likely going to be a waste of time.

If you have a social media following, and are able to create a meme, or get images of your art to spread virally, at least to your following, then you have a chance of creating demand, moving people into your audience and selling them something you offer.

The short playbook is this:

Post your art, get it to spread, get people to be interested in the image and your story, move them into your audience, get them more interested in you through emails and other means that nurture your growing relationship, and then (and only then), offer them art for sale.

If you haven't shortcutted the process, then everyone who originally saw your image is a potential buyer.

There are four primary ways you're going to accomplish this:

1. Post about your art, and only your art

This is how your account will come to be known for something and you won't confuse people and cause them to stop following you because you rant about politics or post pictures of your colorful lunch salad.

2. Follow other accounts related to the category you work in

This encourages people in your same category to follow you back (gaining you followers) but, more importantly, trains the platform's algorithm to show you more and more related content so you will find other accounts to follow and connect with as well as classifying your account in a category that it can show to other people.

3. Work with a group of colleagues to cross promote one another

Most artists skip this step and, in many ways, this is the most important step. You need six friends, who are artists, preferably whose works somewhat appeal to similar collectors. You are going to ask them to repost your best posts, spreading your content wider (and if you do it right, viral) and they are going to do the same for you.

4. Reach out to people who like and comment on your posts personally

This will impress people, make them realize you are a real person, and most of them will want to connect with you and join your audience. We'll explain how that works in detail in the next section.

The first item is self-explanatory. Post about your art. That's it. If you want to post about other topics, create a different account for your non-art related topics.

Items two and three we're going to cover in detail in the next part of the book, "The Circles of Art Marketing in Practice." So we'll skip those for now.

The fourth item, personal outreach, is something you can start easily, right away, today and I'll explain how that works below.

From Awareness to Audience with Personal Outreach

What if I told you "Likes" on your posts, if you do a little more work than just scrolling by, were actually marketing leads that can grow your email list?

We covered how this works in depth in the following article:

How to Turn Social Media Likes into Subscribers.


Advertising has a kind of bad reputation, and there are a lot of bad ads in the world, but utilized correctly, advertising can be extremely effective. There are several different types of ads you can utilize.

  1. Print Ads

  2. Social Media Ads

  3. Other online ads

  4. Direct promotion swaps with other artists


There are some online art coaches who are quite critical of art contests. They are usually expensive to enter, difficult to win, entail a lot of expense in shipping pieces back and forth, and often are more trouble than they are worth. I have mixed feelings on this. For the most part, I agree, but they can have their place early in an artist's career to help build some resume material.

However, this book is about digital marketing and there are also online contests. In fact, I started one years ago called The BoldBrush Contest. We run two versions of the BoldBrush Contest - one on Instagram and one on the web. The contest is completely digital and, in the last few years as we realized that we were entering The Sovereign Artist Era, we made a huge change - we made the BoldBrush Contest Free for all artists.

It's a no brainer for you to enter a free contest, that might recognize your work, that might feature you online, that might payoff in an award. Why would you ever not take advantage of that? Guess what happens if you are recognized with an award, an accolade or, even just entering? What happens is, you now have material for a social media post. You can post when you enter and ask followers to vote for your artwork. You can post when you are recognized and get social proof that other people (in this case BoldBrush) have recognized your work. In other words, it's news that you can post on your social media accounts, which will turn into "Like's" which, if you follow our advice about personal outreach, will turn into new audience members on your email list, who, if you follow our systems, will turn into collectors.

We live in a world where galleries are dying, there are fewer and fewer curators. It's easier for artists to promote themselves, but a bit harder to get external validation of your art. A free contest provides an easy way to possibly get some external validation in a world where that can be difficult. So don't throw out the baby with the bathwater because historically art contests have been difficult and expensive.

With that in mind, I recommend you enter the BoldBrush Contest every month and, if you find other online free, or inexpensive contests, you should enter those too. There are even Instagram accounts that feature nothing but artists that are recognized in online art contests. Here's an example of one:

Targeted communities

Targeted communities are a special type of forum. Think of them as somewhat like social media, but much more focused around a particular topic or theme. Whether or not there are targeted communities you can join will depend upon the category of art you work in. As an example, let's say you are a painter who paints computers, tech-related art or even perhaps you make your art out of old computer chips and boards. I'm a member of a community called "Hacker News." And it's all about computers, software, programming, and tech companies. It is much smaller than a generalized social network, however, in a targeted community, everyone in the community will be interested in your niche (although they will not all be buyers of art). Being active in these communities can be extremely lucrative if you can find one. They also can become "side channels" to communicate with some of the same people you interact with on the big social media sites. One thing to be careful of is that most communities like this have rules about overly promotional posts, so you can't simply show up and start posting art. But if you are considerate about how you approach them, they can work wonders for your audience growth.

Shows & Festivals

Shows and festivals are beyond the scope of this book, which is about digital first marketing. Many other books have been written that cover the basics of showing your art in festivals, the proper way to design a booth, etc. So we'll leave those topics to the experts. They are mentioned here though because, if you can do them, nothing beats meeting people face-to-face and showing them your art. A show can be a great way to expand your audience rapidly.


The are many other ways to build awareness and each artist has to figure out what unique mix of activities, venues and personality traits work together to work for building out your follower base and generating awareness of your art.

One thing we try hard to do at FASO and BoldBrush is to build additional channels and tools that help our customers build awareness, which leads to building an audience. We try to amplify what you, the artist, is doing. As such, we've created a bunch of channels that are available only to our customers, from the BoldBrush contest to the DailyArtStream. Here is an updated graphic of the Awareness art marketing circle with our channels added to the outer circle.

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If you want to take advantage of these channels, you can join FASO here.

Until next time, please remember that Fortune Favors the Bold Brush.


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Clint Watson

BoldBrush & FASO Founder / Art Fanatic

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