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The Role of Social Media Sites in Small Business Marketing (Part 1)

Blue Hair 2015
“Blue Hair”, 2015, oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″ Currently at 15th Street Gallery SLC, UT

Rather than writing a “How-To” about social media best practices, this post is a “How-Is,” or the first in a series of case studies about how social media is actually being used by small businesses — in this case, a professional artist.

While advertising is usually seen by consumers as unpleasantly disruptive to the flow of their lives, the following interview with artist, Jeffrey Hale, makes it clear that marketing efforts can also be disruptive to small businesses. In Hale’s case, there is a tension between what is required to create compelling paintings and his need to market himself. But there is also a real desire to connect with real people. He also expresses a tension between the virtual reality of the Internet, that allows more people to view his artwork, and the necessity to view artwork in person in order to experience it fully. These tensions beg the following questions: How can technology make advertising less disruptive for small businesses? How can our efforts to communicate via social media become more authentic? Or are we expecting too much of technology?

Jeffrey Hale is a professional artist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He paints in a style that utilizes elements of abstraction, expressionism, and minimalism, with the human figure as his primary subject matter. After pursuing art as a side-career for 10 years, the stars aligned in 2003 and he made the leap of faith into becoming a full-time artist. Hale’s art is collected throughout the United States, Prague, and Vienna.

Q: Which social media sites do you use for your business? How do you use each one?

JH: I use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook primarily. Instagram is a great place to show short process video clips and keep my audience engaged on that level. I focus most efforts on IG and push it to FB. I use Facebook to share bits of my personal life and try to connect on a “human level” with my audiences. I recently have started advertising campaigns for my business page on FB, but have not seen a noticeable difference in website traffic. It feels redundant. Occasionally I utilize Pinterest.

My website serves as a way to simplify my marketing work. With it I can send out emails and newsletters or blog posts to all of the social media outlets. Also, you can purchase my work directly from the site.

Abbey 2015
“Abbey” (Understanding White) , 2015, oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″ Currently at 15th Street Gallery.

Q: How do social media sites help or hamper your business?

JH: I’ve recently hired a studio assistant because social media (among other tasks) takes me away from valuable time to paint. For my career I need large amounts of uninterrupted time to research, pore over plates in art books or go wandering into galleries. Sometimes a simple stroll on the sidewalk awakens my senses. Distancing myself from the “grasp” of the computer’s glow including staying off of social media helps me stay grounded in reality. So, not getting sucked into social media simplifies my workflow, but it is absolutely necessary to connect to my market which includes international sales.

Q: What do you wish social media sites could do that they don’t do at the present time?

JH: Have a more direct way to connect in a real way with people.

Q: What challenges and opportunities do you foresee for the fine arts as society goes deeper and deeper into cyberspace?

JH: I see this challenge already… Getting real people to see real paintings. Texture and glazing are huge elements in my work. Digital representations cannot do the work justice in terms of color, emotional impact and tactile elements. I’m selling an old process in a new media. It is getting better and I believe the benefits outweigh the negative aspects.  People connect through the web. It’s a fact. Although, I enjoy old fashioned hobnobbing.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of visiting the galleries, studios and museums. As hand-crafted arts become more rare it seems that would drive their value up.

Q: Any other thoughts about how social media affects your business?

JH: Marketing is a necessary evil, but it is through social media that I can grow my business.

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