Should Artists Use Social Media? - Follow up for my Gold Arts Award Debate

Should Artists use Social Media?

Many creative people including artists, musicians, film-makers and photographers are using social media every day to share, promote, network and advertise their talents. We’ve all heard of artists who started out on a social media site and became famous e.g. Lily Allen used to post on MySpace; Dan Howell and Phil Lester are YouTubers who now present a show on Radio 1.

For my debate, I decided to research the pros and cons of artists using social media sites for different purposes.

During my research, I used:

  • Online blogs such as Fine Art Tips with Lori McNee an artist and business woman who gives online advice to other artists. Her advice includes how to use social media to the best advantage by linking it to other sites. She points out how linking her website to Twitter and Facebook has increased her ‘online traffic.’
  • I also used another blog called which listed many social media sites and was very informative regarding the pros and cons of social media. It also recommended different sites for different types of artists.
  • An online article from the New York Times about two sisters who use social media to promote their jewellery business and now have many famous clients.
  • Finally, I used the December 2013 issue of ‘Company’ magazine which featured interviews with popular YouTubers including Emma Blackery and Carrie Fletcher about how they have found success.

I decided to ask two artists who I know quite well if they would be my case studies.

I interviewed Nikki Charlesworth, a young, up and coming textile artist who yarn bombed The Left Lion in Nottingham’s Market Square. She told me about how she uses Facebook to share her artwork with family and friends and Etsy (an online shop) to promote her artwork.

My second case study was Ben ‘Trekkah’ Bowtec, a musician, producer and guitarist with The Afterdark Movement. I looked at the different social media sites that his band uses to see how well they work for him. The band currently uses Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram and Youtube and has from 150-2170 users and subscribers depending on which site you look at.

It may seem obvious that social media would be good for modern day artists…it’s free, has millions of users and followers and I mean what’s not to like? But during my research, I was amazed to find some pitfalls to social media that a lot of people seem to be unaware of…

I won’t lie, I love social media myself! I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BlogSpot, Pinterest, KIK, Flickr, Tumblr and Youtube. I use all these social networks for my art and to connect with other artists. However, after researching my debate, I think artists really need to be careful what they post and which social media sites they post their work on. 

Now did you know that some sites e.g. Facebook reserve the right to use images you’ve uploaded in advertising? Instagram also claimed the right to do this until recently, when it changed its terms and conditions. Some sites e.g. Flickr do protect your content but I really believe that because terms and conditions vary so much from site to site, you really have to check out the small print when signing up.

These days, I also make a point of watermarking as much of my work as possible before sharing online as I have had my work edited/used in the past by people who have not credited me for it!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of sharing my work with lots of people; networking with other artists and receiving constructive feedback on my work.

Sadly, there is also the added pitfall of people making nasty comments about the work that you’ve put lots of time and effort into but I suppose you have to be prepared for the odd troll under the bridge!

I asked my fellow Arts Awards students to decide whether social media really is a good thing for artists or if they should avoid it. Here were their responses:

Before the debate
Fors: 8 (88.9%)  -  Againsts: 0 - Undecided: 1 (11.1%)
After the debate:
Fors: 5 (55.6%) - Againsts: 2 (22.2%) - Undecided: 2 (22.2%)
Participants felt the downsides to using social media were: cyber bullying, viruses, people who feel they can say anything they want because they have no identity.

" I think the positives outweigh the negatives."

"...I might be more careful but you can never pull me away from the internet!"