Artist Interview: abstract artist Randall Marmet
Randall is a visual artist who paints abstract works. He’s based in Tennessee in the USA. He’s been using the Internet to sell work for many years.
In the late eighties, my main tool was email. Now everybody brags about email, how important it is and it is true, definitely true. Back then I didn’t know how important. It was just about all we had. We didn’t have any social media back then. So you had your website and I used email.
In his automotive graphic business, Randall explored A/B testing and customer feedback right from the beginning.
What I would do is; I would design up some new things. I had about twenty-five people making the stuff. Then we would do an email. We would let our customers choose if they like a, b or c for the next release. We found out what our customers wanted then we made it for them and then they bought it and there was a nice system; we worked email pretty heavy. It developed that way by chance because I have always felt that if you are going to sell something to your customers, you have to listen to them. It’s a natural progression to ask questions and find out what they want and then if you make what they want you can expect them to buy it.
Now Randall has sold that business and sells abstract art online. He has built his Twitter following to over sixty thousand people. This is how he has grown his following…
When I first started, one of the best things I did was I would go to other art sites and I would find people who retweeted abstract art. If they re-tweeted a piece of abstract art online then I felt like they must have really felt strongly about it because you don’t retweet just anything. I would follow those people who retweeted that piece of artwork. About thirty percent of those people would follow back because obviously they like abstract art so that was not a big stretch for them. I would have my artwork on my twitter feed of course when they would follow me, that gave them a chance to look at it and then they would retweet my artwork which is where your traffic comes from. In my mind, I use to say, “I am building an army of retweeters”. Retweets are everything and if I do my work right I can have two hundred to three hundred retweets in a day. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
Randall regularly works on his Twitter account, following people who are interested in abstract art.
I do that faithfully every day. I follow about as many people as I can that are interested in art. Not so much targeted retweeters now, because it’s just too much for me to do every day. I target people who are followers of other artwork. If someone shows an interest in art, then I follow them and I’ll get a percentage of those followers back and those that don’t, they probably didn’t like my artwork, which is fine. You can’t expect everyone to like your artwork.
Does it pay off? Does Randall get many people following him back?
I generally get between three and four hundred a day. Those numbers, they always sound real good, but on the internet, it sure takes a lot of traffic to boil down to a sale. The internet seems to be something that’s hard to get wrapped around exactly to establish those kinds of numbers. The only thing I can say to it is, the more, the better.
Apart from sales, what other benefit is there to having such a large following?
It helped me develop my style because now whenever I put a piece up on Twitter, I can tell in about fifteen minutes whether that was a good painting or not, whether it is going to be accepted well. I get an instant response and either that response tells me that I am on track or I might have missed my target with that one. It’s been an excellent tool for me to develop my style to see what other people see in my artwork because I never see the same thing.
Randall has developed a system for inviting people to sign up for his email list.
I use Hootsuite, I use ManageFlitter, Social Oomph, plus Buffer; you have to use Buffer. Social Oomph is important to me because Social Oomph will allow you to do a direct message to your customers every time somebody follows you. If they follow you, you send them a direct message and I offer my free newsletter. That’s how I get a lot of sign-ups right there. That runs through MailChimp. I do offer some free lessons if somebody wants them. That has gotten me some but has not really been the big thing. I just make it simple. I say if you are an art lover and you would like to see more abstract art in your inbox, sign up here. I have found that sometimes if I push too hard, my email list gets weaker. In other words, my rate of return and my open or click through is not as strong.
It must be difficult to maintain an interesting Twitter feed that will keep people engaged with what you are doing.
Buffer is basically a scheduler. It does it so effortlessly and it reports on how well your tweets did in the previous days so you get a lot of information right away about what you should be doing. I have recently morphed into doing a lot of videos and if you use Buffer, Twitter will allow you to tweet a thirty second or twenty-nine-second video. If you do twenty-nine seconds or less it will autoplay as soon as it comes up on somebody’s phone, so they don’t have to click on it.
Randall has experimented with ways to get the best response out of his Twitter followers.
If you use something like ManageFlitter, it has some interesting software for analytics that will tell you, based on your followers, what’s the best time of the day to put out a tweet.
So that’s when to tweet. What does Randall put in his tweets to elicit feedback?
In my case, video is head and shoulders above everything else. I can sometimes get engagement rates of six, seven and eight percent which is a unicorn in this world. Average engagement is one and a half or one percent. I get a lot of those, don’t get me wrong. I can’t hit it right every time, but if you really target things down and you really watch what you are doing you can have seven or eight percent engagement rate. If I do that with my followers that I have now, I can attain half a million to six hundred thousand impressions a month on Twitter.
Randall also uses hashtags to cut through the noise.
Go to a website hashtagify.me. That’s the one I use a lot. It will help you search for the right hashtags because if you don’t do the exact right hashtag, then you shouldn’t do them at all. The stats are, you should never have more than two hashtags in a tweet. You will see people load them up with ten or fifteen hashtags. They are just spinning their wheels because it makes a tweet boring. I use one hashtag, maybe two and I hit the same one every time. The only one that’s of any value to me is abstract art. I don’t want to use art because then I get millions of people that wanted to see art and they are half disappointed that they didn’t see what they wanted, but if they are looking for abstract art and they hit that hashtag, they are going to see my stuff. Those people are happier, they found what they were looking for. If your searchers aren’t happy, it’s not going to do you any good. I want them to be happy and then click through and come to my website of course; that’s the ultimate goal.
Of course, there aren’t any magic bullets for social media. It takes time to learn and time to plan and execute a social media strategy.
I have found from experience and I think it’s pretty true with what I read online, that in the beginning you don’t get to spend that much time painting. I painted and painted for a few years and then when I finally decide to start promoting it, I found out that there is so much work to do to get the stuff all tied together and find the programs that will work for you. I still spend an hour and a half every day just on social media because I feel obligated to respond to people who are responding to my art. I don’t know if they are ever going to buy anything or not but if they say they like my art I want to thank them, connect with them because those people also, whether they buy anything or not, they are going to retweet for you. I am fortunate to have my wife help me with social media now. I find that sometimes I have to take an entire week off away from all that to get back into painting again. I’ll go in and I’ll paint for a whole week. Its uplifting for me to go do that. To be honest with you, I wish I could just paint all the time, but that’s not the world we live in.