I’ve been doing a huge declutter around my house over the last couple of weeks. You watch an episode of Hoarders and you start to see a little of yourself in those people. Not enough for professional help, but heading in that general direction. One problem is that I’ve been painting artwork for years and it’s just been piling up. I’m way more interested in creating art than selling it. Back in the 1990s I made some good money selling art on eBay. But then I took some time off when I moved to Los Angeles, and the following I had developed disappeared. I decided that it was more important at this point to move art out of my house than to worry about “Am I getting what I think this painting is worth?” Yes. As long as I cover shipping related fees and roughly what I paid for supplies. I started bundling a couple smaller paintings into groups thinking there are people out there who might like a small art collection so the style matches throughout their homes. It just needs to move from here to appreciative homes.
Because I’m pretty much an expert at Twitter at this point, I figured that was the medium I should focus my energy on. If you buy ad space in art magazines, it will cost you a small fortune. Then your ad won’t hit the stands for a few weeks. Then you just have to hope for the best. And forget test marketing several magazines, that would cost you thousands. I had been eying Twitter users who sell sponsored Tweets on eBay. You basically give them a sentence and link in 140 characters or less and they post it to their followers. Generally, the cost to buy sponsored Tweets ranges from a low of 99 cents to a high of around $25. I decided to budget myself $50 and picked 5 Twitter users. I checked out their Twitter accounts in advance to make sure they looked fairly legit. Probably two of these Twitter users were artists or graphic designers. (for artsy targeting) A few were people I thought might have “trendy” type followers who like art. And one seller was willing to post a Tweet to a MILLION of his followers. Now there’s no way to confirm there are actually a million active users getting these Tweets. And keep in mind, the people that see your Tweet are the ones who happen to be sitting at their computer the moment your Tweet is released. For my ad buys, the number of followers ranged from around a thousand, to 77,000, to a million.
Now before I go any further, I should explain why I decided to “self promote” my artwork. eBay is so loaded up with art sellers (a search for “original art” brings up 50,000 items for sale. Your potential buyers will probably never see your stuff.) There’s maybe a one in a 5 thousand chance someone will buy your art. And even then, it’s at rock bottom prices. There is a market for major established artists, but again, it’s a buyer’s market and they’re selling at maybe 1/5th or less what a gallery is selling. There is also a market for DEAD artists who paint landscapes or Old Dutch master styles. Things aren’t selling for what they’re actually worth, but this dead artist market seems to be fairly solid. The main problem with this is that most artists trying to sell their artwork are still alive.
What generally happens when you list art on eBay for the first time is that it sits there. You might get 1-4 views throughout the entire duration of the auction. Most of the hits you get will happen at around two times, right when you list the auction (people looking through newly listed), and right when things are about to sell (because the closer to the end of the auction, the higher up your art shows in a search). Therefore, I’ve gone from using a standard 7 or 10 day auction to a 3-day auction. I’m also experimenting with a 1-day auction. Once you’ve listed it, it’s a simple matter of hitting a relist button if your item doesn’t sell. This allows your item to end up at the front of the line, and the end of the line, more than twice as much as a 7 day auction. My theory is that if an auction just sits there for 10 days, it’s just sitting around getting not seen for a longer time. Buyers also get annoyed when they pull up an auction and realize they have to wait around for a week or 10 days before they can find out if they win an item. This shortens that to something more manageable.
So the problem I was dealing with, if nobody clicks an auction, then nobody will see the art, and nobody will buy it. The main goal at this point is to rebuild my following and start moving artwork into the homes of collectors. Otherwise, I’m just living in an art storage unit. To drive traffic to my auctions, I set up a page on a website I’ve sort of abandoned, but because it was so lively for a few years, it still gets tons of daily hits. Nothing wrong with using good SEO you already have. Here’s that page. Once on this page, it shows some basic art styles, links to my eBay auctions and gives a brief artist profile.
At this point I’m only two days into my Twitter campaign. So I don’t know if anything will sell. But this is a marathon, not a sprint.
While I was organizing my Twitter buys, I decided to look for other sources of sponsored Tweets. I found BuySellAds.com. (I did 13 sponsored Tweets total, from 13 different Twitter users. 6 from eBay sellers, 7 from BuySellAds) This was interesting because it allows a person to do specific targeting to Twitter audiences, and it tracks the clicks. So I selected 7 Twitter users to test out the response on them as well. I probably spent about $200 on sponsored Tweets for my first “campaign.” But I’m in marketing and advertising, and successful businesses I work with will spend anywhere from $5000 to $30,000 a year or more on marketing. And this is pretty much mandatory spending to keep their businesses operating on full throttle. If they stop advertising, they have no clients. So for me to build a following, I need to be willing to invest in my promotion. Sure I could start randomly walking into galleries. But the nearest gallery is 100 miles away and they don’t have a clue who I am. I would rather start building this on my own, then seeing where it takes me. Rather than throwing myself at the mercy and good gestures of complete strangers.
Now when you do a sponsored Tweet, most of the activity will happen within a few hours. 24 hours later, your campaign is basically over. One thing I didn’t like about BuySellAds is that all 7 of my Tweets went out at the exact same time. When you buy sponsored Tweets on eBay, it’s at the discretion of the seller. One guy had sent out my Tweet within 10 minutes of buying it. But all 6 had Tweeted within 24 hours.
After seeing what happened, I have some data (see the BuySellAds chart), and some general impressions. I got maybe a 1400 hits to my website from all of these Tweets over two days. Not impressive. But the real test would be to examine all of the sponsored Tweets to see which ones had the most bang for the buck. This would allow me to repeat my marketing campaign and only spend money on the best results. Let me drop in this chart, then you can scroll below it for analysis.
810 clicks total, from 7 Tweets. First let me explain why I selected these Twitter users. The top 4 users were all art/design/visual related websites that also Tweet. I generally decided that even though people interested in the arts is a good target market, I don’t want to continue with this. For $10, I’m getting anywhere from 41 to 92 clicks. (11 cents per click on the high side, 24 cents per click on the low side). I also have a concern that the people clicking are mostly other artists looking to see what another artist is doing. Whereas, my actual market should include art BUYERS (not sellers). I should note that when all 7 of these Tweets went out, there wasn’t much of an increase in hits to my eBay listings. In other words, most people who clicked went to my website. Then possibly clicked over to view the overall collection of art I had on eBay, but didn’t click on individual pieces. That’s a big problem. When selecting people to Tweet, I decided to go with one kind of “major” high profile Twitter account, Lifehack. I wanted to see if it made a difference if I hit a more major player, even if it wasn’t particularly targeted towards the art market. What I discovered is that each click cost 46 cents when all was said and done. This is more than twice as much per click as compared to the best targeted clicks for an art specific audience. In other words, the worst waste of money. I spent 8 times as much money for a Tweet through LifeHack to only get twice the results of the art targeted Tweets.
I decided to throw in two wild cards, RealityPod and Weird Asia News. I thought RealityPod would hit urban hipsters who like to shop. But for $15, the response was comparable to the $10 spent on some of the art market targets. I picked Weird Asia News because for $25, your Tweet hits 106,000 followers. I then angled my Tweet to say something along the lines of “This artist wants to be huge in Asia!” As you can see from the chart, this Tweet had 267 clicks. (9 cents per click) This ended up being the best bang for the buck on BuySellAds. So after seeing the results, I’ve decided to ditch everyone on BuySellAds.com except for Weird Asia News.
Now back to those sponsored Tweets I got on eBay. I didn’t notice much activity as far as hits on my eBay listings in general except when the Tweet went out for the guy who posted to his million followers. Then suddenly my auctions that were getting 1-2 hits were now getting 20-90 hits. So from my overall campaign, this $7 sponsored Tweet did far more to drive traffic to my listings that everything else combined. Keep in mind, it was not targeted marketing. It was MASS marketing. Hit a huge number of people and have your message hammer across Twitter. Even if there aren’t a million active Twitter followers, there your Tweet sits in Twitter searches everywhere next to the hashtag #artist.
Some of this is an exact science and some is speculation. But for my new art marketing plan, I would probably have a monthly Tweet through Weird Asia News and continue building recognition over time. I could specifically create marketing that appeals to Asian buyers. Then I would do a weekly or twice a week $7 Tweet to the million followers. So for about $50-80 a month, I have a campaign that gets the most eyes in front of my eBay listings as possible, for the least expense. This new campaign could be expected to generate 4 times the response for 1/4 of the cost of the original campaign. This is the reason for testing and analyzing your marketing. If I wanted to continue spending about $200 a month on advertising, I could possibly get upwards of 16 times the response on my second campaign as the first. Just by eliminating 11 of the least performing of my 13 ad sources and using the two best sources. That’s not to say you shouldn’t continue experimenting over time. And if one of these sources stops delivering the same response, then it’s time to re-evaluate. The wording of various Tweets should be changed and tested. You may find that a really offbeat Tweet doubles your traffic because it catches attention.
You pretty much can’t just sell art on eBay these days, unless you’ve got magic in a bottle. Or extreme patience. You have to sell and market outside of eBay, then use eBay as the “cashier.” It’s free for a basic listing with photos. Then eBay takes a percentage of your sales. So you don’t have to spend money on listings unless you actually have a sale.
What I will need to do is continue my marketing plan and update everyone as I go. I chose Twitter because it’s fairly cheap and immediate. You could be the most talented artist in the world, but if no one sees your work, no one buys your work. Also keep in mind, the money you spend to advertise your business, regardless of what business it is (some people may be reading this for an analysis of sponsored Tweets in general), is tax deductible. Repetition over time is also key. People may need to see your name and click on your website 5-8 times before they have that recognition and want to make a purchase. I’m thinking most artists couldn’t sell a painting using this technique during the first week or two. But you would continue investing in your PR over time, then bringing in buyers one at a time. Once you have a following, then your art prices begin to increase because you have multiple people interested in your work.
One thing I also mentioned in most of my Tweets was for people to ReTweet my Tweet to their own followers. This expands your Twitter reach. I think I had about 19 people reTweet the various messages on Twitter. In other words, free advertising.
My art is listed for sale currently at this link.