By Bob Bahr
SKB staffer Anthony Cannata will admit that he is especially adept at fixing things. And his knowledge of computers is plain to see. But he is not a tech guy, actually. And SKBers who have benefited the most from his help know it. They know that Cannata is a marketing expert.
So what does this Cleveland man, who is the president of the ARC Creative Group, have to say to artists? Learn how to use the Internet.
Artists have somewhat reluctantly embraced the Internet. Many realized a few years ago that having a presence online was about as necessary as being in the phone book used to be. But their websites were often static, sales were low, and their presence dwindled. Facebook made it easy for artists to share their newest pieces, and Instagram is now perceived as the hottest place to be (it’s not). But Cannata looks at all this and has one thing to say: You have to put in the time and effort.
“Everyone’s issues are different, so it’s challenging to say what artists need,” says Cannata. “Their amount of knowledge of what happens online varies, too. But over and over I find myself reminding them that they have to work on this. You can’t do it once and be done. That idea of ‘if you build it, they will come’ is a field of dreams. You have to get people to come to your site. They will not come unless you bring them to it.”
Cannata stresses two ways to pull people to artist websites: email and Facebook. The approach using email consists of writing newsletters or preparing email blasts that offer chances to buy a piece, see the latest developments of a work in progress, or convey other news. Artists need to be vigilant if not slightly aggressive about gathering email addresses for these efforts. Cannata shows artists how to place an opt-in box in between a headline and a blogpost so visitors have to give up their email address to proceed. Artists can also gather email addresses in person.
The world is plugged in like never before, and Cannata likes to share his observation that collectors in galleries often Google an artist’s name while they are standing right in front of one of the artist’s pieces. The Internet is indispensable to artists in today’s world. But relationships are still built in the real world. “A website is not a replacement for shows,” says Cannata. “Collectors won’t find you. You have to go get them. You still need to be in galleries. You still have to get your name out there. You can’t just close your doors and paint and expect to sell. You are small business owners. You have to have exhibitions. You have to be seen.”
Facebook, according to Cannata, is where the collectors are. He will show stats that say the age group and income level that fits most art collectors are on Facebook in vastly bigger numbers than on Twitter or Instagram. However, he sees artists often use Facebook in misguided way. Cannata stresses that artists should start any online effort by posting to their personal website, then share the post to Facebook and other social media platforms. That way the potential collector comes to the artist’s site, and is positioned better to be sold on a piece. Cannata also emphasizes that each painting or sculpture should have its own URL, or web address. That lets the artist send visitors directly to the piece they want to see. Many websites group all the artist’s work on one page. When an artist draws attention to a piece on social media, then directs the visitor to a general page like that, it can be frustrating for the visitor who wants to see the piece in question. “Link the individual page with that painting from your website to Facebook, not the other way around,” Cannata says. “Most websites let you do that, if they are built properly. Post to Facebook from your website using the Share button.”
As you can see, Cannata can help people navigate the technical waters of having an online presence. But when people sign up for one of Cannata’s one-on-one sessions, they usually end up learning more about how to market themselves. “I can help these people,” he says. “I am not a tech guy. I have an instinct for fixing things, yes, but I am in marketing. Some think I will teach them Photoshop. These people don’t need that. They need to talk one-on-one with me. I check out their website, their online presence, and see if they are on the right track or off track. I help them not just with the big picture, but with customized solutions.”
He is also available as a consultant and a website builder. Contact him through this site. Ω