The Importance of Fans

Are you keeping track of your fans. I am not simply talking about general social media type friends, fans or whatever they will be called next. I am talking about creating a list of people who are excited about you as an artist and your work. As artists we should have two primary goals. One is to create art and the other is to acquire fans of our art. I have talked previously about the importance of finding buyers but one important step in creating buyers is to turn those people into fans of your art.
Generally successful artists have built up a fan base. Not everyone of those fans is a customer or client but they all are people which appreciate the artists craft. I have a good friend who is a photographer who does pretty well in his field but what has helped his business stay successful during some of the more leaner years is the number of people which truly appreciated him and his work. Only a small percentage of his actual fans become clients but in the rare instance he does advertise he can count on an incredibly receptive audience.
Back when I was more focused on my own art and selling my work as prints I had an easy method of acquiring buyers. This was before Facebook so I heavily relied on e-mail. On my website’s main page I always posted the latest work I had done. Along with that I prominently would encourage people to sign up to be notified by e-mail when I posted a new image.  It took a few years but eventually I had a fanbase/email list of close to 20,000 people. The majority simply wanted to see what was new but the small number that converted to actual sales actually helped provide the capital for later ventures.
Managing a fan base does not have to be difficult and works hand in hand with your marketing. It may entail just using social media like Facebook or LinkedIn but it might be something more sophisticated like collecting email addresses on your website. I am always amazed at how often artists with websites don’t do this or make it difficult for their site visitors to become a fan. If you wonder if you fit this category, look at your website and try to put yourself in the shoes of a visitor. Is there anything to prompt them to become one of your fans? If you think so, is it obvious? There are services like MailChimp and Constant Contact which should make setting this up a breeze for your webmaster or even yourself if you have basic website development skills. Don’t say “Become my fan” or anything as blatant as that but ask people signup to see what’s new when you have it available for them to see. The important thing is to avoid selling yourself short by not doing what you should have. Just as important is to not get discouraged by the rate of growth. Unless you get some incredible media attention you won’t get thousands or even hundreds or more fans overnight. It takes time. Using my own example, when I sent out my first email I only had a few people on my list but I looked at it as a long term venture so I was persistent. I did not dwell on how many people I had on the list. As a matter of fact I don’t think I even checked again until I started realizing it was generating sales months later. 
Today artists still rely on e-mail like I had. Granted e-mail is not as ideal a format as it once was for marketing but it still works. But many will also use Facebook and Instagram but be open to new formats since who knows how long before the masses flock to some other platform for “friending” and “sharing”. 
Consider creating an offline fanbase and how you will communicate with those people. Ask yourself what you can do to attract new fans. One photographer who uses FinerWorks goes to the extreme of putting some prints on display in a mall at an unattended booth with a box where people can request to see more of her photos and be notfied when she changes out images in the booth. They fill out a card and drop it in the box. I think she also offers a free portrait session to a winner once a month. Once a week she gathers those leads and enters that information into an excel spreadsheet she created. From there she corresponds with them via e-mail and regular mail. My advice, do what you can to collect the information you need to communicate with potential fans. Likely you will want to collect an e-mail address but don’t overlook gathering other information like birthdays, addresses and other personal information.  If you choose to send them a card wishing them happy birthday with your latest work printed on the front, not only will you make them feel good that you thought about them but you have a much greater potential to turn them into a buyer. With offline fan gathering they have had some direct interaction with you, seen your work as originals or prints so are likely going to be even more interested than someone simply becoming a fan because they came across your web site.
The point is give your fans something as often as reasonably possible in venues they are comfortable with. Some don’t like e-mail, facebook or anything to do with the Internet but love a card in the mail. Some prefer the opposite. Some will become buyers and some won’t but you will always have an eager market to promote your work.
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