Stickiness and Devaluation

More doubts about social media.

by Joel Pedersen
August 7th, 2023 8:52AM

If you've been trying to use social media to sell artwork, after a while you've likely noticed a stickiness to it: a tendency for people not to navigate away from it. As far as I can tell this has gotten worse over time, at least as evidenced by my own experience selling my ceramics on this site which I ended up stopping a year ago because traffic (and sales) just seemed to drop year after year. Now, I am aware that a part of this could be that people grew bored of my work, but, listening to other sellers similar experiences, I doubt it.

This seems to be an issue with all platforms, whether they're corporate or not, and I wonder how much of it has to do with the notion that social media activity is viewed as it's own activity, rather than what it used to be, which was a hub to share links to other places to check out on the web. So over time all the content tended to move toward the platform, and with all the content centrally scroll-able there, well, why leave? With more and more content, at one's fingertips, I wonder too about the perceived value of an image. It seems to me that with a near constant deluge of visual stimulation, any individual image has an ever decreasing value, and one needs value to overcome the inertia of the scroll to convince a person to leave the walled community of the social network.

Here I am, trying to sell paintings. My thinking is that physical products have more value. The original of a painting has a higher perceived value than a print, which has a higher perceived value than the digital image delivered to your phone (which at this point is practically nothing). Given that the product is nonetheless an image, is there a contagion to the devaluation? I think there might be, but if there is, how do I combat that? Many artists cultivate themselves as part of the 'brand' of their products, to share a great deal about themselves, knowingly or not, associating their person with the product. I know this is smart because people value interpersonal connection, and that connection imbues the object they purchase with additional value. I like connecting with people, but I don't really like doing much of it via social media. I prefer to connect through other methods.

So I'm flummoxed. Despite the fact that social media provides an individual artist the means to get their work out there, I feel that social media is doing more harm than good. Social media seems to grab people and hang onto them, limiting them from visiting things outside of the platform; given the fact that most artists share their content directly to the platform, there is little incentive to leave to go visit their site; and, since there there is an endless stream of visual entertainment provided for nothing, it devalues image-based artwork generally. Finally, to overcome these effects you must be willing to become the 'brand', and the only way to do this in social media is to publish yourself, which I am not inclined to do.