Social Media Marketing For Artists (Part 3): How to Create an Artistic Niche for Yourself

This is Part Three of a Four-Part series on social media for artists.  (If you want to start at the beginning, see Part One.)

This post is not simply about social media – it’s about basic marketing.  Branding yourself means having a consistent image and sticking with it, and that includes the work you produce.  If you look at the work of any of the top artists in the world, you will notice that each has a recognizable style. It might be the subjects they paint, the artistic style, their palette, or any combination of things that makes their work recognizable. This recognition adds importance and value to the art, as collectors want art that is reflective of an artist’s body of work, and galleries prefer to exhibit a range of diverse artists, rather than a diverse range by one artist.

While I will generally be using the art of painting as an example, the same applies to any medium, be it clay, stone, photography, music, or film.

Using Basic Business Skills to Create a Successful Art Career

The three basic building blocks of business marketing are:

  1. Identify an underserved market.
  2. Develop a product to serve that market.
  3. Make that product desirable to the market.And I’ll add one more of my own:
  4. Be the only person in that market that they remember.

These building blocks are exactly what you need to build a following for your art.

1.      Identify an Underserved Market

This is going to take some legwork, because what you first need to do is research the market you’re in.  What is the artwork that collectors are searching for in your local area?  (For filmmakers, what kind of films are being made?  Is there a glut of a certain kind of film?  Cough-cough-horror-cough.)  What kind of art is currently available for purchase?  What art is available at local craft fairs and farmer’s markets where art is for sale?  If artists in your area are painting local seascapes and mountain ranges, is there more supply than demand?  Are they making a living?  If the market is too full of the same thing, the result is limited sales and since gallery space is limited, more competition.

For filmmakers, what films are distributors most interested in buying right now?  You don’t know?  Seems a good thing to find out, don’t you think?  If there’s a difference between what filmmakers are making and what distributors are buying, that may be your new niche.

2. Develop a Product to Serve that Market.

Is there something unique about your region that no local artists are depicting?  Is there something unique about you in relationship to your area, such as being a member of a local Native American tribe?  Or being a Seattle native transplanted to Florida?  A former coalminer turned sculptor?  Your unique perspective gives you the opportunity to develop a line of artwork that is unique and highly brandable.

There are always plenty of underdeveloped niches in any market, so choose one that you know you can do well and enjoy doing.

3. Make that Product Available and Desirable to that Market.

So, you’ve found your niche.  Now you need to find your potential clients.

Let’s say that you have decided to create paintings that depict technology interfacing with reality, just as an example.  Where are the clients for work like that?  Well, Silicon Valley has a lot of office space that needs artwork, and what better artwork than yours?  People who have made their money in technology would be interested as well.  People who love science fiction also like art that mixes science with fiction.

Are there technology conventions where you can set up a display?  Galleries in tech corridors like Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles?

You may find that the paintings you sell in these venues can also be samples for selling commissioned work as well.  If they like your style, people will want more of it.

Commissioned paintings make great corporate gifts on the occasion of retirement or other celebrations.  It’s the marketing part of your job to remind people that your art makes a great gift.

The only disadvantage in niche marketing, really, is the same disadvantage as writing haiku.  It is deliberately limiting.  If your personality is such that you cannot bear placing a limit on your art, or if your interests change rapidly from year to year, you are going to struggle with the niche strategy.

Like haiku, it is important to be able to appreciate the limits created by niche marketing and be comfortable staying inside them for many years.  It will take time to build up your clientele and your brand recognition.  If you decide two years from now that you want to paint wild horses, you’d better make sure that you can happily paint how technology interfaces with wild horses, otherwise your client base will disappear.

4. Be the Only Person In That Market, Or The Only One They Remember

One of the ways of branding yourself is by identifying yourself as something unique.  As a painter who paints art about technology, when someone asks what you do, say you’re a technology artist.  They will likely ask a follow-up question, which is more likely to cement you in their mind.  Everyone knows what an artist is.  No-one knows what a technology artist is, but now that your new friends knows one, she will tell all of her friends about you.  You hope!

Some of the advantages of niche marketing are that it allows you to specialize in a particular subject or media, to hone your artistic talent within that niche, and to become known as a specialist in that area, which is more likely to bring bigger commissions and more notoriety.

Niche marketing can turn you from a file clerk with an art hobby, into a fulltime self-supporting artist, but it does require an element of discipline.  By concentrating your marketing efforts to more effectively reach a specific audience for your work, you can increase your sales while gaining recognition as an expert within that field.

If you missed the earlier part of this series, you can link to them here:

Part One: How To Communicate as an Artist Brand
Part Two: Effective Social Media

Part Four will appear later this week, where we will cover the basic building blocks of your social media empire in the Marketing Strategy Starter Kit.

Megan J WilsonMegan J. Wilson is a professional ghostblogger, commercial freelance writer and social marketing consultant.  She also blogs at Dirt Totem Productions, where she is an avid cheerleader for social media marketing for independent films.