– Here we are. All right, Ashley, so Ashley I came across your story. You’re a painter and you have had great success using Instagram to market and sell your work. And so that’s what we’re gonna talk a little bit about. Before we dive into that, can you just give me a highlight, like for those who don’t know you, just a little bit of background on where you came from and how you arrived to where you are today?
– Well, again, my name is Ashley Longshore, Instagram handle, @ashleylongshoreart. I have been a professional artist for 23 years. I’m a self-taught artist and my whole career and my marketing for as long as I can remember has revolved around using technology and using methods of getting my name out there that aren’t costing me money. You know, I feel like the world has changed so much in the art world and we don’t have to depend on, number one, galleries and giving up 50%. Number two, running full-page ads in magazines to get our names out there. Now there’s a much bigger, larger audience and we’ve got so many tools to do that, free. So that’s been a big part of my career and I’m trying to teach other artists, you know it only takes a few minutes a day to put yourself out there. You just have to be brave enough to make that step and allow the world to embrace you.
– So that’s how I built my own career and ended up doing huge collaborations with companies like Anthropology, the fashion house, Chloe. I’ve got a huge global collaboration I’m working on right now with a Japanese cosmetics company that I’m very excited about. And actually got another big collaboration this morning, so a lot of these things are happening just from putting myself out there and just being brave and just seeing what the world thinks of me, and it’s worked.
– Okay, so we’re gonna go into a little bit of those specific mechanics of how you would suggest artists go about ‘putting themselves out there’. And I just want affirm what you’re saying, so you know a lot of what a happens, you know I used to work in the music industry and MP3s came along and disrupted the entire music industry.
– [Ashley] Right.
– And actually, so some musicians really got taken out and some started to thrive and then it happened with publishing. And then some authors who were really locked into the publishing houses, they had a hard time and they struggled quite a bit. And then authors did what you did, started to build their own platform and really had some great success. And now it’s time for visual artists to catch up. So you’re a great, shining example of you know, keeping up with technology and I want to say one thing about it, it’s not every freakin’ channel and every piece of technology that you have to master
– No, no, no, not at all. And it’s amazing now how you can link up, like now when I post things on Instagram I’ll just link it in with my Facebook, I’ll link it in with my Twitter sometimes, I’m not a big fan of Twitter, I’ve just never really gotten into it. But yes, you don’t have to do everything, you don’t have to be on everything and you don’t have to spend hours a day doing this. One thing that’s important to me is that people will say, “Oh Ashley, did you see this online? “Did you see that online?” and I’m like, no, because a lot of times I’m posting what I’m doing and then I’m back on my easel, I’m back meeting with clients. So the idea isn’t that you’re on social media all day long. Make your post, go home, get in bed, have a glass of wine and then scroll through and look at what everybody else is doing. But you know during the workday you need to be working.
– Right, so let’s take this, so what are three things, let’s just say you’re talking to an artist and let’s just say he or she is going use Instagram as their primary channel and like you said you can also link your content to other channels.
– [Ashley] Right.
– Let’s just say we’re gonna start with Instagram and let’s just say this is intimidating to them or maybe they’ve done it, they’re not quite sure what to do. What are three things that they should know about this whole thing called social media, online marketing? What are three things they should know? And then we’re gonna do a little bit of three things they should actually do. But what are three things they should know?
– Well, I think what they should know is is that their channel is their channel. So your Instagram or your Facebook is your, this is your life, this is not the six o’clock news, this is not CNN. You can say and do whatever you want. This is a platform for you to show what inspires you, for you to show your process, for you to put, you know, things on there that make you laugh. You know that’s really how I use mine Instagram is that I really try to capture my personality on there and things that I’m interested in and thoughts that I’m having and I tie that in with my artwork, so they’re all sort of cohesive. So I think you know what you need to know is there are really no rules here and you can be as creative with your feed as you are with your artwork.
– That’s an excellent point. Yeah, it’s another mode of expression, right? It’s just that simple.
– Oh, yeah, absolutely. Don’t be to, you know you don’t have to take this thing too seriously. The thing of it is, if you put yourself out there and somebody doesn’t like you, all they have to do is un-follow you. Okay, or you know I’m speaking in terms of Instagram, ’cause I think it’s so easy. They just un-follow you, like if you’ve got someone on your feed, they’re boring you to tears, they’re posting pictures of babies and food, you’re over it, you un-follow ’em, it’s very easy. If somebody says something nasty on your feed, you may be worried about that, you just block ’em, you know? I mean it’s really, it’s simple, it’s harmless, and the bottom line is there’s no harm that can come of it. Putting yourself out there in this way. This is a platform for images, so if you are–
– Who’s gonna die?
– What was that?
– No one’s gonna die.
– Yeah, I mean this is, and just let me say this, if you are a struggling artist and you’re trying to pay your rent this is free. So there’s nothing that can come out of this that is gonna do anything, not gonna do anything but get your name out there more, you know? I think too, a lot of people don’t understand hashtags. So when you’re starting out with Instagram, you know don’t go crazy with hashtags, I usually don’t do more than three or four. Also if there’s somebody that you really love and you start putting @this and @that, that can get a little aggravating. So you know don’t worry about hashtags in the beginning. Maybe always hashtag your name with what your posting, that way when someone is looking you up or trying to find you, they can find your hashtags and then go directly to you. That’s something that I do. But don’t be intimidated, that’s the main thing, don’t be intimidated by social media.
– Okay, so one of the things, so we talked about the three things that people should know is that first of all, no harm’s gonna come. No planes are gonna crash, no people are gonna die,
– [Ashley] Right
– And you can block people, you’re allowed to do that ’cause it belongs to you. I think another thing I heard you say about what they should know is just have fun and use it as a vehicle of expression, just like you do any other form of art, right?
– [Ashley] Right.
– And then the other thing that you suggested that people should know is don’t go crazy with hashtags, keep it to three or four, and always include your name.
– And don’t be intimidated by hashtags, if you just keep it simple, don’t worry about all that, you’ll catch on to all that.
– Okay, so just put your toe in the water, is what I’m hearing you say, just start.
– Yeah, like a lot of times I’ll post something and I’ll say, “On the easel.” Or “in the sketchbook.” you know people that are not artists are fascinated by that whole process. So you could post an image of yourself drawing or erasing something, I mean now with technology you can do a little video. You can do something in slow motion and so it’s so easy and it’s so creative and it’s such a wonderful marketing tool.
– So the other thing you should know is it’s easy and it’s free and it works.
– That’s right. You’d be a fool not to utilize this social media.
– Okay, all right. So let’s pretend we’re talking someone who hasn’t done this yet. All right, they haven’t maybe they’ve tiptoed or maybe they haven’t even started, what are three things they should do before, either before they do it or as they’re doing it? What should they actually do?
– Three things that they should do to get started with their Instagram?
– Yeah, we’re gonna focus on Instagram ’cause that what we’re talking about here, but yeah pretend they don’t know, you’re talking to your grandma, you’re talking to someone who just doesn’t use this?
– Post things that you love.
– Post things that you love.
– That’s the answer, if you’re trying to get people to follow you and for people to understand you, post images that you love. If it’s of a New York City skyline, you post that. If it’s San Francisco, the bridge that’s all lit up with the LED lights, you shoot a little video, you say, “God look at this bridge, it’s so beautiful.” you know if it’s a picture of something another artist has done that inspires you, post that. Maybe start off that way so it’s not so intimidating and work up into putting your own artwork up there.
– So I like that. I mean this speaks a lot to just being you, like that’s how you’re gonna be successful is just be yourself, you can’t be anybody else. So what you are uniquely drawn to is a place to start.
– Listen if purple is your favorite color, post something that’s the color purple and say, “Isn’t this just divine? “I don’t know why but I’m fascinated by this color.” I mean it could be something as simple as that, it could be a picture of Mick Jagger.
– It could be anything in the world, the world is your oyster here.
– So when we look at the basic mechanics, I’m assuming no one knows if they haven’t done this before, but sometimes you’re left with the impression, you addressed this a bit earlier, they gotta be doing this all day long. So let’s talk about, when we talk about the three things they should do, how often should they do this?
– I mean I think you could, I mean when I have feeds that I really love I get aggravated if they’re not posting a lot. Because I’m into it, I’m inspired by it, I love it, it makes me laugh or they’re funny. I think that could be a personal thing, you may want to make one good post a day, in the beginning. And then you may want to work up where you have more followers and you’re getting more reaction on there. And then maybe once you’re having that you wanna post more than once a day or maybe you’re like super inspired and you have a bunch of images in your phone and you can’t wait to post them, maybe wait a few hours in between posts. You know but the people that are responding to you, number one, most of my collectors are on social media now. You know they’re gonna want to follow you out of the get-go, ’cause they love you as an artist. Two, your friends and family are on there, they’re gonna be a fan of what you’re doing and hopefully supportive of your art career. They’re gonna give you some love on there and you just really find that whole exchange it’s awesome, it’s fun.
– So it sounds like what you’re saying is find your own pace, but just keep a pace.
– [Ashley] Right.
– Okay, is there anything else they should do or not do?
– I mean if we’re just talking about using social media to further your art career you wanna put yourself out there as an artist and that’s what this is all about. Using social media eliminates the gallery and at the end of the day what I hope for all artists is that they stop giving up 50% to galleries.
– Yeah, 100% and that’s been the crux of my career, if I keep 100% of my profit margins, I can have my own team, I can hire my own publicist. I have a lot more capital to go out into the world and be creative and be inspired. So when we’re talking about using social media, this is about at the end of the day you having a broader reach and the world being very small. I mean for me when I make certain posts on Instagram that relate directly back to my website I pull up my Google analytics and I watch, I watch what page they’re on, I watch where they are in the world, I watch they’re in Japan, they’re in China, they’re all over Europe, London’s firing up, Canada. I mean it’s amazing when you really look at the science of what we’re doing here, as far as marketing, which is free how small the world is and how great your reach is. And that is the thing about artists, we just want to be loved, accepted and understand. And what that translates into is dollar bills, Benjamin Franklins, so by putting yourself out there you have nothing to loose, just go for it, don’t over think it. Like you’re wanting me to give these specific steps, I don’t think that there are any. You get the account, start putting pictures, look at how other people are doing they’re feeds.
– Well now I think that’s a valid way to talk about this, because everyone, it’s like paint right, like how you use paint is way the hell different than the way I use paint.
– We both use paint.
– Yeah, so like you go in and you start, let’s say you want to start let’s just say Karl Lagerfeld or somebody and go you in and you look at you know the users for Karl Lagerfeld and you God, I really love that feed, I love how there’s pictures of flowers, I love how there’s pictures of Paris, I love how they’re showing shoes. I love all the accessories, I love these other painters on there. Maybe you say, God I love the way that feed looks, I kinda want my feed to look that way. I mean I find myself looking at my images and going, oh, there’s too much black and white, I want a pop of color.
– So I mean you can really be as creative as want, it’s a sales tool.
– You can treat it as a yes, you can treat it as a catalog, like or as a canvas itself, like a whole montage of images.
– And you get really creatively inspired by it, so I think what you know the big takeaway here is that this is really built for creative visual artists.
– Yeah, and there are no rules, there are no steps, really, other than to just do it. When as an artist, when we wake up and we are doing our craft, we don’t go, okay, here’s this step and that step, we just do it. You follow the art and you do it and using social media is the exact same way, just go do it.
– That’s awesome, that is awesome. I think that’s great advice and the mechanics are not that complicated and there’s plenty of instruction if you’re hung up on that. But I think your advice is spot on. So if you can give other visual artists one piece of parting advice, like if you look back on your life, right, let’s just pretend you’re looking back on your life, you’ve lived this fabulous life, been a successful and impactful artist, and you, someone brand new comes in and says, give me your wisdom, what would you say to that person? What’s one piece of parting advice?
– My wisdom for that would be that although it may seem as though I’m a successful artist now and I do have success, but I have a lot of goals that I’ve yet to reach. What every artist out there needs to know is is that there was a decade of my career when it was just struggling, it was struggling and it was working and understanding this business, understanding who my collector is. You know maybe not being able to pay my rent and realizing okay, somebody wants to see my artwork, I’m gonna take every painting I’ve got. I mean there were times when somebody would want to see a painting and I would take 50 over there because I knew if I take 50 I could probably sell something. So so much of my success that I’m having right now is based around the fact that number one, so many galleries told me that I was not marketable. Which is hilarious now that I was named one of the leading female entrepreneurs of the South by Forbes magazine.
– Love it.
– You know I get the last laugh and these are all people that not only would have taken 50% from me, but looked me right in the eyes and told me I wasn’t marketable. So I’ve got the last laugh on them now. But my greatest advice is that this entire– this entire career I can compare to planting a garden. When you are first starting, if you’re first starting with Instagram, when you plant seeds in your garden you’re not gonna get fruit the next day. We have to tend the soil, we have to keep the rabbits out of there, we have to make sure that we’re not distracted and we have to make sure that the water is right, the sun is right, the environment is right. We have to tend our garden, so that eventually we do have the fruit, the fruits of our labors. Then I can tell you this from where I am right now once you have the fruit, you’ve got monkeys and all kinds of things trying to get the fruit. Full circle, the goals that you set for yourself as an artist out there, you will go through this circle of achieving that goal and then you will make another goal and this circle will never stop.
– That’s right.
– I want all of these artists to look at their career as a garden, or like fishing, how many lines do you have in the water? You know the basis of being an artist is not different than being an entrepreneur at all. Entrepreneurs fail as much as they succeed.
– Well actually I insist that artists, yeah, just to this point, I insist that artists don’t refer to themselves as having a career, because they don’t, they don’t have a W2, they don’t have a career. They have a business and you’re very much treating, you are very much an entrepreneur. Forbes doesn’t highlight you because you got a career, they highlight you because you have a damn business and it’s profitable.
– That’s right, that’s right.
– Right, this is so, so true and I love the fact that you’re talking about you gotta do this, it’s an iterative process, right? You start with the goal, you go around, and then you meet the goal and guess what? You gotta do it all over again, with a whole new set of obstacles and whole new set of criteria.
– That’s right and the cool thing about social media is is that once you start to collect some great collectors and make sure and let them know that you’re on social media then they will tag their friends, they’ll go, “Oh my God, have you followed this artist? “This artist is really cool.” You know and the next thing you know you don’t know who’s looking at your feed and then you know like for me, I get emails all the time from people and I’m like, oh my God, I had no idea that person was even following me and then these massive opportunities are happening. And it strictly is from putting myself out there.
– Take the step, you have nothing to loose, the social media is the greatest tool. I preach, this is the time of the artist, this is the time to maintain control of your career and 100% of your profit margins. Screw the gallery, you do not need them anymore. And I will tell you this, if you do use a gallery you make sure if they are taking 50% from you that you position yourself as a business person. You say okay, well if you’re taking 50% from me, what full-page ads are you running for me? Where are gonna be promoting me? What work are you doing, what collectors, what VIP appointments are you bringing me to? Are you gonna let me know who my collectors are? You have the leverage to negotiate if someone sees you as being marketable out there.
– And if they don’t, then you go do it yourself.
– You know in a way, Ashley, it seems like the biggest favor those galleries did for you was tell you no.
– Well, I’ve got galleries all over me right now.
– Well, I mean initially when you started, when you were talking about your story when you just first started. You got no, no, no, I mean in a way that turns out, looks like that was a big fat favor, because–
– Hey, I love proving somebody wrong, I love it and I don’t want to call it revenge but living well is the best revenge and you know being written up in you know huge magazines and being recognized by Forbes. I just was put in my alumni hall-of-fame for my boarding school. I mean it’s insane, I’m not even forty yet. And it’s all just been from putting myself out there and proving those people wrong, 100%.
– Yeah, right. Well wonderful. I want to thank you very much for your time.
– You’re welcome.
– We’re gonna put this out into the blog, I’m gonna actually share this with you, the reporting and we’re gonna put this out on Artists Who Thrive.
– [Ashley] Great.
– And on Facebook channels, so people our Facebook page, so every body can see it.
– I congratulate you for your success and I’m not surprised based on the things that you talked about and how you talked about it. I’m not surprised at all.
– Thank you so much.
– I would lay money down there’s gonna be a lot more success to come in your world.
– You know what it’s all about hard work. I’m up at 06:00 a.m. and I work till about nine o’clock every night and so that, whether you’re American or not, if you’re a successful artist, if you’re successful at anything that you do, you work, you work.
– That’s right, there’s no way around it. And you gotta remain relentless.
– [Ashley] That’s right.
– On that note, thank you so much Ashley.
– Thank you.
– Have a wonderful day.
– [Ashley] Thank you, bye, bye.