Online social networks

Online social networks Edward Chell, Motorway Twitter Poem from Joe Moran, 2011

New to social media and don't know where to begin? Here's a handy guide from Artquest to help get you started

Online social networks can be an excellent way to attract large numbers of people to your work, but come with some strings attached.

Maintaining any social network takes time, and each one has its own quirks and etiquette to negotiate when you first start. Most are designed for two-way communication, so just pushing information out about your work probably won't engage people for too long - you need to spend time interacting with people and posting other people's content that interests you. Audiences on social networks are also bombarded with information, much of it from their real life friends, and content pushed toward them from unknown sources is likely to be ignored.

With any social network, start slowly. Test it out for a while and see if it suits your way of interacting with the world; it's better to have no Facebook profile if you don't update it than an empty one with no followers or news.

Carefully check the terms and conditions of the social networks you are interested in before posting images of your work. Most have licensing agreements built into their terms of service, so you are signing over some limited rights for your content to be reused without your further permission.

That all being said, the rewards can be significant in terms of exposure. Here we present a short overview of some of the main social networks, drawn from our experience and those of artists we've worked with.


Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called "tweets". Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.

Users can send tweets to their network or open messages to each other, both of which anyone can view, or they can send direct messages that are only seen by the recipient. Hashtags, first invented for Twitter but now widely used across other social networking sites, are sued to refine and join content for a particular subject.

Some of the most popular uses of Twitter are to:

  • Share knowledge, information or wit
  • Keep up-to-date with specific topics or news
  • Hear about people or organisations that interest you
  • Directly contact people you might not know personally
  • Update your followers about events or current activities you are engaged with more regularly than an email mailing list
  • Share pictures, videos and links

Twitter is predominantly about engagement and interaction, not just spreading information. People get followers by engaging an audience, 'retweeting' messages sent by others and being generous with their network, and sending interesting or time-sensitive information.

Twitter also has analytics so you can monitor which of your tweets have the most impact.


One of the oldest online social networks with over 1.3 billion active users in July 2014. After registering to use the site, users may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles.

Facebook profiles can be filtered into different types of friends, so you can maintain separation between professional and personal posts. Some artists (and especially organisations) maintain a Facebook Page, instead of a profile, which allows any other user to follow them without having to be accepted as a friend, and provides further separation between personal and professional posts. Some even use Facebook as their only or main web presence, and don't have a website as well.

Facebook users can also get information about talks, opportunities, events and exhibitions by following Pages or accounts, but many artists choose not to post images of the work here due to licensing concerns.

Facebook Pages also come with useful and detailed statistics, so you can understand your audience and create targets for their activity.

Hootsuite can also maintain Facebook Pages and profiles alongside Twitter, bringing both of these accounts into one place.


A blog is a discussion or informational site consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Many artists use them for longer pieces of text as they don't have the same post length limitations of Facebook and Twitter. Although many blogs are gathered into specific service communities, like Blogger, Wordpress or a-n's artist blogs, they often rely on Twitter and Facebook to further promote content.

As posts are longer, more effort and momentum tends to be required to keep them up. To draw attention to the difficulty of maintaining a blog long-term, artist Cory Archangel produced a blog listing blog posts written to apologise for not blogging.

Many artists integrate a blog into their website for news or social content to keep this separate from a portfolio or artists statement, and ensure their content is not hosted on social platforms that may impose automatic licensing on their images.

Published July, 2015

Online social networks by Artquest is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0