Social Media for Beginners: Professional Development Talk for VAAA/CARFAC

On November 18, I presented a professional development talk for artists on the topic of “Social Media for Beginners.” It was organized by Visual Arts Alberta/CARFAC and was held in Stony Plain at the Multicultural Heritage Centre. We covered a lot of information and I was asked to post my notes and video so that the participants could review what they had learned. The video is about an hour long – for some reason it stopped recording during the second part of my talk/first part of the Q&A, but most of the presentation is there.

Short Biographical Introduction

I am a freelance writer, photographer, and videographer who has also been working as a social media consultant for the past decade or so. I became interested in social media especially after starting to document Edmonton’s activist scene visually, and using social media as a platform to share my photos and videos. Some of you may be familiar with VAAA’s exhibit Art + Activism in 2016, which featured a number of my photos. Over the years, I have learned a lot about the use of social media for community organizing, for marketing, and for communications in general.

Why market using social media/online?

  • Broader audience
  • Audience is often self-selecting – reaching people who are truly interested in your work.
  • Can sometimes be a younger, more savvy audience.
  • Relevance – using social media today is like having a website was 10 years ago. It is essential to present yourself as active in your art.

Specific Media/Online Platforms and their Benefits & Pitfalls (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr/photo sharing sites, Blogs)


  • DO use hashtags – makes posts searchable
  • DON’T tag people in pictures they do not appear in. Good way to get de-friended. There are other ways to get people’s attention.
  • DO make a page for your art. Pages are always public. This way you don’t have to make things on your personal page public and have security concerns about strangers trolling your profile. Use your logo (if you have one) as your profile pictures. Use a compelling cover photo, such as one of your best pieces.
  • 1-2 posts per day, spread out by 1/2 to 1 hour (they can be pre-set to roll out at specific times).
  • Multimedia posts get better audience engagement. Add photos and videos whenever possible.


  • Hashtags are key. Otherwise you get lost in the noise.
  • Pictures no longer take away from the 140 characters, so post.
  • Engage – don’t just advertise
  • 3-5 tweets per day, maximum, on average. Space them out. They can be scheduled in advance.
  • Optimum tweeting time during business hours Mon.-Fri.
  • Between 5-8 p.m. people are coming home from work, occupied with getting fed, etc.
  • If you are going to post a lot, Twitter is the place to do it, like live-tweeting events.


  • Be descriptive – you have the room.
  • Hashtags. Hashtags. Hashtags.
  • Can be connected to Twitter and other social media platform for cross-posting ease.
  • 2-4 posts per day, spread out timewise.
  • Algorithm is such that fewer posts over a longer period do better.


Hootsuite allow you to cross-post between multiple social media platforms, making individual posts for each. This is ideal as it lets you work from your desktop (or phone) and write up your posts at once, instead of having to visit each platform individually, including all of your hashtags. You can time posts, and have your Instagram posts sent to your phone to post (Instagram only works on phones, not iPads or laptops). The only drawback is you can’t tag people in Tweets. There is a small fee to use it professionally and have up to 10 social profiles.

There are ways to “push” posts between platforms. You can set your Facebook statuses to also Tweet, and Instagram posts to appear on FB and Twitter. However: for key posts, post separately between your different platforms. FB, Twitter, and Instagram can have different audiences. Post “pushes” create links in Twitter that someone has to choose to click through on Someone may not click through on an Instagram link that appears in a tweet – and the photo does not otherwise appear – but they may notice a tweet with an actual photo in it.


The least “personal” of all social media sites, but it gives you an extra presence online and it is considered highly professional to have one. Good way to make professional connections.

Flickr/Photo Sharing Sites

  • Good way to upload and keep images organized in albums
  • Ideal for photographers
  • Almost can work like a virtual storage backup system without depending on the Cloud


WordPress – most intuitive, free. Allows you to set up a blog and a website at the same time. Easy to upload media and make galleries of images.

Blogger – was the go-to site before WordPress, still used

Tumblr – can be used like a photo blog; used more by the younger, hipster set, mostly images and memes

Social Media Marketing Best Practices (Including writing and photography tips for posts)

  • Reserve your user name, even if you are not going to use that platform immediately. You’re protecting your brand. (eg. Boyle McCauley News – we wanted on Instagram @bmcnews to match our Twitter and FB but it was already taken by the time we registered).
  • Put your best efforts forward – you can take good photos with an iPhone of visual art. Make sure the lighting is good, the images are straight, and never hesitate to edit your work afterwards. If your goal is to sell your work, then you want to post something that is sellable.
  • At the same time, you might want to also show other sides of your work – maybe shots of you working in your studio, images hanging in a gallery – variety builds engagement.
  • Interactions also builds engagement. Don’t just post with a sales pitch – get into conversations. Take part. This helps you get known in an online community.
  • If you’re not a naturally good writer, don’t worry. Keep your sentences short. Use spellcheck. You can write posts in a word processing program first and then copy/paste them into Facebook or Twitter.
  • Connect your website with your social media – include links to your social media from your website. WordPress makes this easy with social media “plug ins.”
  • Always try to include a link to your website from your social media posts. The goal is to get traffic to see your work, and sell your work, and promote your work for shows.

Copyright Issues and Protecting Your Work

Read the fine print: some platforms, when you post on them, make a claim to “own” your work. That they can use it for their own marketing purposes. The chances this would happen are slim, but if it’s real and it bothers you, then there are ways around that. Watermark your visual images – this is also a way to deter others from downloading them and re-posting them without credit. There can be opt-outs too, like with Facebook, you can opt out of having your image used in ads.

Make sure you know the copyright options – for example, on Flickr you can have your images be All Rights Reserved, or you can set them for Creative Commons where they can be used for non-profit purposes.

In my opinion, the benefits of marketing on social media outweigh the drawbacks.