Everything Zaria Forman does seems grand. She paints monumental pastels of icebergs. She’s just returned from a resource-gathering trip to Greenland with a NASA team. She’s done a TED talk and spoken at Harvard. In a highly competitive world, Zaria is making it as an artist in a big way. So I decided to see what I could learn from her by studying the way she’s promoting herself, particularly with social media. It’s reverse engineering of an art career. Here are the takeaways I came up with:
Use social media, but go all in on one or two platforms. Zaria Forman cannot be found on several of the major social media platforms, but she’s got more than 109,000 followers on Facebook and 134,000 followers on Instagram. This is a smart tactic. Instead of spreading herself too thin, she’s focused on the two platforms where she’s most likely to connect with her target audience. And, because these two platforms are so similar, she’s able to post the same posts to both, which saves time. Facebook is a no-brainer—it’s a great choice for every artist because there are so many users—but why Instagram? This is a platform that has historically been used by mostly women in the under 30 age bracket, so why does this work for her? I have two theories: One is that she’s 35 herself, so she pretty much fits the demographic and relates well to Instagram users, and the other, more important theory is that her art has a powerful message about climate change, which is something I think is resonating even more strongly with younger generations than it is with Baby Boomers.
Social media content should be varied, fascinating, and consistent. Just skim through her Facebook and Instagram feeds and you’ll discover that Zaria posts something almost every day. Her messages are not the least bit promotional or sales-y. She’s simply sharing many facets of her life as an artist. Many posts are static pictures, but quite often she posts short videos shot with her phone, too. Sometimes she shows herself at work, sometimes it’s the work itself, and sometimes she shares very personal thoughts about her family, life, music, politics, the environment, and whatever else relates to her art. What I really appreciate is that every post includes a brief written statement that lets us know what she’s thinking about, interested in, and excited about. She's unafraid to share her feelings, everything from humor to sadness. In other words, she’s expressing her brand through words and pictures. For her, social media is not about selling. It is a means to building authentic, meaningful relationships with her fans and followers.
Make social media one tactic in a larger self-promotion plan. I feel that Zaria is doing everything right with her social media practice, and that’s not all she does well. She’s represented by five galleries and also makes prints available through online galleries, which means that she’s turned the sales aspect of her art career over to the masters. But—and this is really important—she is continuing to promote herself by taking the actions that attract people’s attention, that allow fans to get to know her, and that ultimately convince people to collect her work through galleries. Let me give you just a couple of examples of how Zaria promotes herself in ways that lead to sales: She networks with people, gives lectures, and seeks out media coverage. This screenshot of Zaria’s website below shows only a tiny fraction of the 75+ links to media coverage she’s received. Wow! This didn’t happen by accident. While she may now have journalists and organizations like TED coming to her, in the beginning I’m sure she actively networked with people and asked for this media coverage.
Yes, of course, it helps that Zaria has a “platform,” if you will, a message behind her artwork about saving the environment that resonates with a lot of people. But even if you don’t have that component to your art and can’t identify one you could use, you can still emulate Zaria’s approach to self-promotion and social media marketing. Even a smaller scale effort will produce good results!
What other lessons can you gain from studying this artist? Let’s connect!
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