With the rapidly expanding emergence of social media over the last several years, I think the majority of artists--like most people--have looked upon the phenomenon with anything from mild curiosity to enthusiastic interest. Many of us have jumped on the bandwagon to one degree or another, thoroughly enjoying connecting with other artists in virtual communities. It's been novel and fun and exciting.
|Inspiration Lies On Top by Hyeseung Marriage-Song, oil on canvas, 24 x 27, 2009.
But as the novelty wears off, I think artists will start to expect more from their virtual communities. Based on what the experts foresee happening in the overall online world, I'm going to make three predictions for artists participating in the virtual world of the future.
1. Virtual communities that involve both artists and collectors will open and grow significantly.
Up until now, art collectors have kept a low profile in online communities. There are plenty of communities of artists online, especially in Facebook, and the artists have been very smart to build their individual brand profiles by posting and sharing thousands of examples of their work. But the collectors have been reluctant to reveal themselves within these communities, perhaps for fear of being bombarded with too much art from too many artists. But I think this attitude is changing.
Digital marketing expert Alex Hisaka writes: "While conventional wisdom holds that people don't want businesses to encroach on their personal lives, that's far from the truth. Many customers today are utilizing multiple outlets, not just Facebook and Twitter, to ask questions, give feedback and share and connect with others." While this trend has emerged sooner in other industries, I think it will eventually come to affect the online art business communities as well. Bottom line, I believe collectors will start to reveal themselves because they trust they will attract only the artists with whom they want to connect, which will offer tremendous benefits to both sides.
2. Artists' communities will become business networking tools, not just social networking opportunities.
At first, artists started connecting with each other simply because being an artist is often a lonely journey. We were just excited to meet others like us. Very rapidly, and aided by other players such as art materials manufacturers and others, the social networking evolved into forums for sharing ideas, information, and resources. It's all great, but I expect this trend toward more productive uses of social media will continue to evolve even deeper into the professional realm, with artists using their social networks to set up shows, recommend artists for commissions, find partners for collaboration, and so on.
As much as we've all been enjoying social media, I think many of us have come to realize that it can be a big time suck if you're not using your tools and connections wisely, for a purpose. CrushIQ CEO Tim Moore states: "It's clear that a fresh paradigm is next to emerge that will simplify our online activity, have richer content and control, be more meaningful to our interests and lives. I don't see larger being the answer." So those artists who are already using their social networks to land real art business selling art will turn out to be leaders in a growing trend.
3. Artists' communities will start producing art via the web.
I know I mentioned this in an earlier post, but artists are already starting to use technology and social media to produce and promote artistic creations, like the Creators Project. This is not surprising to me because artists are always finding ways to take things created for one purpose and turn them to their own purposes--it's the heart of the creative spirit.
What makes it all possible is that mobile technologies, social media, and mobile apps are rapidly becoming ubiquitous in our lives. Groundswell author Charlene Li notes: "What is interesting about the future of social media is how behavior is evolving. Users are learning, adapting and growing more aware of their surroundings. Photos and video are playing more dominant roles in how we communicate." With so many artists carrying smartphones--a.k.a. art materials--in their pockets, it will just be that much easier to collaborate.
So what do you see in the crystal ball? What trends are you predicting for the future as more and more artists get involved in online communities?