Saturday, November 29, 2014

Change in Facebook Pages Rules will affect artists marketing their art

There's a major change coming for those who use Facebook to promote their art. Facebook is changing the rules and changing the way specific types of posts will show up in the news feed. I'm certainly going to be having a rethink of how I promote other people via my Facebook Page.

This is a RECOMMENDED READ for all those who have a Facebook Page and use it to market their art and/or exhibitions.

The announcement

Some numbers about Facebook and Facebook Pages

It's now very difficult to ignore Facebook when it comes to marketing art or the importance of mobile devices for accessing Facebook.
  • In October nearly a billion people visited Facebook Pages (as opposed to Facebook accounts)
  • More than 750 million (75+%) of those visits happened on mobile devices.
  • Facebook is on three of every four smartphones
  • More than half of the people on Facebook visit every day

Summary of the changes in January 2015

This is a summary of the upcoming changes to what's allowed on Facebook Pages and what this means for artists.

  • PLANNED ACTION: The Facebook Newsfeed will introduce new controls for promotional posts to Facebook Pages.  Facebook aims to make Facebook Pages more engaging and enjoyable for consumers
    • new controls will be introduced to eliminate promotional posts (e.g. buy my art) from people's Facebook Page feeds
    • the change will be rolled out in January 2015 - which I guess means it will probably happen country by country or server by server
Pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.
  • BACKGROUND:  Facebook has identified a number of traits which make certain posts on Facebook Pages appear too promotional. These are:
    • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
    • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
    • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads
    • this is the website for Facebook Business ie people wanting to use Facebook to connect with customers
    • my advice is to read what they say so you get no nasty surprises!
What this effectively means is that all those who have been using Facebook pretty much like their blog and alerting people to new paintings or prints being available will find that their Facebook Feed will be effectively "buried" in future IF it is deemed to be too promotional.

I'd also advise people to NEVER EVER 
  • share a link to anything remotely promoting an event or product without adding in your own words i.e. don't just share it without offering an opinion using words which are NOT in the original post.
  • do not ask people to like your page in order to enter any competition for your artwork
I'm thinking through what might be the inevitable next steps.....

For those who are using their personal accounts to share their art in an overt way, you need to be aware that this already breaches what the personal account is supposed to be used for. I would NOT recommend you do this on your account.

By all means share your art - but I'd strongly advise you don't say a word about any commercial aspect of it.  Otherwise you too could find your account buried.

Do make sure your website is available via your "About" profile page.  Make sure that tells people how they can buy your art.  In other words create interest on Facebook and engage people - but do NOT try selling your art. Instead make them look for wherever you do sell it.

For those who are moderating Facebook Groups, it's vital that you keep on top of spam.
  • Spam is likely to be seen as something that must NOT happen on Facebook in the near future - to a greater extent than at present.
  • You might want to think about the wisdom of having an open access group - as opposed to a closed group where you moderate access.  
  • Members of all Facebook Groups will be help to make sure their Group stays in a healthy state by reporting any spam to the Moderators as soon as you see it.

2015 - the year of the Advertising Wars

To understand why Facebook is doing what it's doing one needs to look a bit wider into the wider world of global advertising.  It also helps to understand the wider perspective when thinking about how to tackle the problem of marketing as an individual in an increasingly complex online world.

For example, let's think of some of the big companies who influence where we promote our art
  • we tend to think of Google as a search company when actually it's an advertising company! Google's advertising revenues represent more than 90 percent of its total income. Google's annual report states
"We generate revenue primarily by delivering relevant, cost-effective online advertising."
  • Facebook is huge - but there's always been a query about how well it's monetised and that has been reflected in its share price.  Effective monetisation means closing off the ways of advertising for free (hence the announcement).
Plus both Google and Facebook have to look to the new competition......
  • Apple is a hardware company that has become very successful at generating income via new forms of software (iTunes and Apps) and is now signalling that it's looking much more closely at pushing advertising.

Here's an early prediction for 2015 - this is going to be the year of the advertising wars! 

What has happened so far

In terms of advertising generally
  • Traditional advertising media does not work as effectively as online advertising that can be programmed. For example it's incapable of distinguishing between advertisers who want to generate traffic from prospective purchasers now and those who want to increase awareness of a brand amongst those not yet ready to buy - but who might buy in the future.
    • As a result: advertising has been moving out of print and online
    • the key new trend is programmatic advertising i.e. adverts that automatically respond to events/news
  • Americans now spend more time engaging with mobile devices than TV 
    • As a result, advertising has been moving off TV and going online
  • The ad industry is estimated to be worth $20 billion industry in 2016 
    • BUT it's estimated that $1bn of ad spend is wasted on fraudulent advertising.
In terms of Google
  • Google has withdrawn open access to its Keyword Planner - it's now only available to those with Google AdWords account for advertisers with a site and budget identified.  That means we can't get a sense of which keywords work well for our sites
    • BUT Google has already introduced semantic search which means that keywords are in any case much less important
  • GOOGLE will continue to hammer all those sites that provide an alternative to Google advertising (e.g. article websites). 
    • The recent changes in the Google algorithm (Panda etc) probably has little to do with search and everything to do with advertising. If it is then that's anti-competitive behaviour and more than a few have been commenting on this in recent times! 
    • Several article sites were wiped out/closed down in 2014 as a result of being starved of traffic and advertising income - and I expect more to come. Such sites included ones where some artists promoted their art. 

My forecast of what will happen in 2015

  • More purchasing will move online - underlining (if needed) the importance of online advertising
  • More consumption will be via mobile devices. There has been and will continue to be explosive growth in mobile advertising and hence places they can deliver this become even more important. 
  • Digital videos will become more important as vehicles for advertising( eg which show people how a painting is made or art materials are used)  So if making a video do think about the scope for earning some extra income from advertising.  Or think about the scope for digital videos to point to your website and where the painting is now for sale.....
  • APPLE will begin to become a stronger player in the advertising marketplace - it's getting into programmatic advertising - see Why Apple Is Suddenly Poised To Take On Facebook
  • FACEBOOK will become more aggressive around monetisation and.....
    • become a "pay to play" marketplace 
    • try to become more dominant in the video marketplace - where they get 100% of the advertising revenues as opposed to sharing them with the creator as happens on YouTube
  • GOOGLE will continue with more of the same ie
    • restrict access to its tools to those who pay
    • hammer article websites which are not well controlled
  • There will be an increase in native advertising ie content which effectively advertises and looks as if it belongs in the context in which it is seen - but it's actually sponsored. One example would be an advertorial. You think it's editorial in an online magazine - until you spot the "sponsored by...." line
  • Analytics (ie reviewing our statistics for where traffic is coming from - and what it does when it visits our sites) is going to become more and more important to those wanting to generate income by promoting artwork online

Here's my "blue sky" wishful thinking.....

If somebody came up with the art equivalent of iTunes artists might enjoy the same success as musicians and app developers. However as things stand at the moment the online marketplace for art has not really grasped the opportunities which exist for both artists and advertisers.


  1. Thank you for your in depth analysis on what will happen on Facebook. You put a lot of work into this and I appreciate it. Of course I got FB's messages every other day now but just disregarded it. I don't have a business page but I will be even more careful about promoting my art. Thank you so much!

  2. Yikes! BTW I love your blog and have followed for years. This just stinks for us artists, no matter what level we play at or aspire to. We are banshees of one, in most cases. Facebook creators and its organization well they are paid well enough and should leave us alone. If not, I am certain that someone else will create new internet media venue to us. Thank you and keep us posted!

  3. Awesome post thank you. On the upside, we will see a lot less spam which I am thankful for. I assume new rules won't be applied retrospectively but hence forth?

  4. Katherine, thank you for your detail explanation of the Facebook changes and more importantly the reasons for them. Lots to think about.

  5. Hi Katharine, Thank you for the analysis. I have started to see grumblings on Facebook and I wanted to know what it was about.

    I'm the Admin for the Northwest Watercolor Society and my own Art Page. What has worked for me has been to see Facebook as a place to engage, inform and build an audience. I don't sell directly. I try to share.

    It has been difficult developing the audience without advertising. But, quality and consistency seems to help. I don't see anything that will change what I'm doing, at least for the time being. We'll see how I feel about this come March!

    Again, thanks!

  6. Thanks for the analysis of these changes, and links to further info. I doubt I'd ever pay for presence on a site that is full of ads and where our data is bought and sold. When FB started filtering posts, I simply used FB less. I still find it useful for networking, because many of the art community members I network with are on FB. I doubt they will pay, either. So, if we all migrate, so be it. I will be checking out Twitter again, soon. It's not like these giant social media co's are bleeding money. Their owners are billionaires. Do they really "need" to gouge independent artists and others for more money? This isn't need, it's greed. And that's why I haven't paid and won't be paying, to promote FB posts. We've been the product here from the start.

  7. I've been advising my artist clients that if they don't have money for advertising that Facebook is no longer a good platform. Instagram is still free and is seeing great results for many of my clients.

    If you do have an advertising budget, FB can be tremendously useful. I'm seeing artists make huge returns with FB's ad platform. You just have to learn how to use it.

  8. That's interesting. My experience is I've come across quite a few artists who are fairly experienced at selling their art online and their experience of Facebook adverts has, in general, not been positive. In fact I'd go so far as to say quite a few would regard them as a complete waste of money.

  9. Thanks SOO much for the lowdown on whats going on with FB...I was hearing things but had not looked into it yet. I already do this..."In other words create interest on Facebook and engage people - but do NOT try selling your art." So I feel I am safe from being buried!

  10. This is a bad idea. Shame on facebook. Do you know how many artists are involved with FB. How many starving artists who love FB because of the freedom it gives us? Artists will find another place to show their items. This is a terrible idea.


    This does NOT mean artists can't use Facebook.

    What it means is artists can't use Facebook for free advertising in a direct and overt manner.

  12. How about posting a photo of a piece of art with a link to Etsy or a website where it can be purchased, will that be penalised?

  13. My guess is that if you post a link to a commercial site you run the risk of being penalised. It may be that a link to a website will not.

    I'd just be judicious - we're going to find out more about how this change of rules is to be interpreted soon enough

  14. Charge others for us your your product and then charge your product (us) to exist to allow you to continue to charge others. In essence we have to pay Facebook to be the product that they sell to generate advertising revenue.......

  15. Hi Katherine, I've been visiting your blog for many years and it's fab, keep up the good work! Read your post, followed the links to the fb info but I can't seem to see what is to be made of blog posts as links on a page. Is that considered spammy to fb too? I always add my blog links on the page as well as have a tab on there, I had included my ebay links etc but I guess this is now to be avoided as they are sales sites and fb want these put out as adverts but blogs are not in the same vein, what would you advise?

  16. Basically if the content is the same as what you'd be saying in a Facebook advert designed to generate traffic for your sites then you might want to think twice about it.

    Think about the difference between raising awareness and selling art

  17. All great info. I whole-heartedly agree that overt selling on Facebook is penalized, and probably doesn't work well with users/patrons, anyway. By the same token, the reason paid content isn't working right on FB is that their algorithms for finding your audience are nowhere near related to reality. Like you said, Katherine, money wasted.

    I don't maintain a page on FB for these reasons, and will be watching very closely how they orient my organic posts. I have experienced some metering or squelching of posts that are in no way overtly selling my work. OTOH, I have been selling very well through social media by just posting frequently.

    I'm interested in the direction of video for the painter who doesn't have a media-studio at his disposal. Also, I noticed a new device which is a monitor that will hang on the wall and be your decoration that replaces old school pictures. Maybe an app is in order for the individual artists who participates in online posting.

  18. Thanks for the informitive post. A lot of business pages have an Etsy app which shows their Etsy shop on their Facebook page, do you think this will still be allowed?
    How about Shopify which provides a shop checkout on FB?
    I can't find any info anywhere about these so would appreciate any that you have.

  19. In general, Facebook has already made it clear that it does NOT like mechanical posting to Facebook. Hence if you automate any posts by any means it's much less likely that they will get seen than if you take the trouble to post them manually and add in a comment on why you're posting them.

  20. Katherine, Arthur here, and it is just as I had said it would be so it was nor rumor after all. Did you also see that Blogspot and the "Open ID" will be comong to an end in April of 2015? The creatives are going to be hit from all sides. I would especially let the members of BlogFrog know about this as they are huge stay at homecare sites who make their living from this. Very sad of what is going to happen

  21. To piggy back on this Arthur's comment about blogspot is that something you have heard also ?
    Btw I just wanted to thank you for such strong diligence in all your post. Each are so valuable and well done.

  22. No - I've not heard the same thing about blogspot - but I have sent Arthur and email to see if I can find out what it is he's seen

  23. Thanks for this information. As a board member in a cooperative gallery this is disappointing and frustrating.

    At least we still have tools to connect and distribute information so that we can help each other rise above and find new ways to get our art seen.

  24. Can I still make an announcement on my Facebook business page about an upcoming class? I'm not selling exactly, just letting people know that I have new classes on my schedule.

  25. I'd just be careful about the words you use.