Social Media For Artists and Creatives – Twitter

I must admit that about two years ago when a friend encouraged me to get started with Twitter, I didn’t get it. What is this new thing where you write short 140 character messages, to who and why? I really didn’t get it – text messages are for kids – right? After much more encouragement I set up an account and really didn’t know what to do or why I was there.

Being an early adopter both its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are that everyone is trying to figure out how to use it and there is a whole lot of bad advice by so called “experts”. The advantage is that you are forced to figure out what works and why.

I find that many artists and other creative people are now just starting to use Twitter to help grow their creative businesses. One of the first assignments for my Artrepreneurship students at the Center for Innovation is to make friends with me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. I am surprised by how many of the students have not yet begun to participate in the world of social media.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

Have A Strategy

Before you get started with Twitter you need a strategy with regard to why you are using this form of social media, what you hope to accomplish and how you are going to execute it. Social media is just like any other marketing tool such as advertising, public relations or direct marketing – you need a strategy.

Some reasons why you should be on Twitter might be:

  • Connect with your existing friends and business contacts.
  • Develop new contacts that share a common interest or who are potential customers or influencers.
  • Learn new ideas and techniques from the people you follow.
  • Use Twitter as a “soft” introduction to people you want to meet in both the virtual and real worlds.
  • Ask questions and seek advice.
  • Tell your followers about new projects you are working on or new things and ideas you find interesting.
  • Direct your followers to your website or blog.

Getting Started

  • Before you create your Twitter account I suggest you create your profile on paper first. A little planning will go a long way to make your Twitter experience successful.
  • Create your profile
  • Your profile is how the Twitter world will first see you so do it right.
  • Choose an industrial strength password that includes lower upper and lower case characters along with a few numbers.
  • Create a user name. I suggest that your user name tell who you are and what you do. Be creative as your username is limited to 15 characters.
  • Use a good profile picture – if you don’t have one then get one. If you can show what you do in your profile picture – go for it. I am not big on logos but images of your artistic creations might work fine.
  • Fill in your location – locations like “The World” or “Anywhere You Are” may be cute but to me they are not professional.
  • Include your web address or blog URL. No website says you are not professional and begs the question – “Are you really in business”
  • Your Bio is perhaps the most important thing you create when developing your profile. As with most things Twitter you only have 140 characters to tell your story. You need to be concise, tell what you do and give people a reason to follow you.
  • The information you put in your profile – name, web address, and bio become the basis for searching people on Twitter, so do it right!

Following others on Twitter

  • OK – you are now ready to get started on choosing who to follow
  • Develop a list of the type of people, companies or organization you want to follow. These could be your target market groups or subjects (ideas or organizations) that interest you.
  • Use the Twitter “Find People” on Twitter menu selection or a program like to search for those you want to follow.
  • Before you press the “Follow” button on a potential person or organization take a moment to read their profile and some of their Tweets and visit their website to see if there is a fit.
  • Tell your business contacts and people you meet in person that you are on Twitter and “invite” them to connect with you.
  • Check out who the follows the people you follow and the people that follow them for ideas on who to follow.

Choosing who you should follow back

  • As you use Twitter you will slowly begin to gain followers. You need to choose who to follow back.
  • As with the people you choose to follow you need to take a moment to read their profile, some of their Tweets and visit their website to see if their is a fit.
  • I suggest you stay away programs or services that promise you “more followers” You may get a lot of computer programs following you with a bunch of stuff to sell that you don’t want. Let them follow you as this will allow you to follow more people and they will eventually go away.
  • Here is a good article by Guy Kawasaki “How I Tweet” for some great ideas on using Twitter and following back.

Tweeting – Here is where the fun (and work) starts!

  • You are limited to 140 characters in your tweets so the marketing adage “You can’t put 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag” has never been truer.
  • Another marketing adage “You can’t bore people into buying from you” also has never been truer.
  • Watch your language and don’t be snarky! Once you post a tweet you can’t recall it – think before tweeting.
  • Tell your followers about your work that is finished or in progress. You can post pictures of your art with programs such as Twitpic.
  • Tell your followers about upcoming events or shows that you are having.
  • Comment on what others are doing by including the “@” symbol next to their user name in your tweets.
  • Tell others of items of interest by including a link to an article or website. If the link is long use services like
  • As you tweet you will be telling a story about your brand, your work and your experience.
  • Engage with your followers and build a relationship with them both online and in person.
  • Ask questions.
  • One of my students coined the phrase – “You don’t want to be that guy”. Think about it!
  • If you are having a bad day then take a day off of Twitter – nobody likes a grump.
  • Have fun!

As I said at the beginning of this article when I first started using Twitter I didn’t get it. Twitter has become an important part of my overall marketing, brand and social media strategies. And yes, I have met great people on Twitter, some later in person and I have used it to build my business – you can too!

If you have any questions on Twitter I will try to answer them or point you in the right direction. If you have some tips or experiences that you would like to share please post them in the comments section. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @neilmckenzphoto. Happy Tweeting!

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About Neil McKenzie

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations. He is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver. Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto