Collector behavior at art fairs today is changing. According to the 2017 TEFAF Art Market Report: Online Focus, “Dealers who frequently exhibit at fairs now describe a phenomenon where prospective buyers will walk into the booth, take photographs of a work of art and its label with their mobile device, and walk out without saying a word.” Young or old, more and more collectors are researching works to buy online and expecting to communicate with galleries digitally—before, during, and after the fair.
As a result, embracing the digital is necessary for your gallery to engage fairgoers—and increase the return on your art fair investment. From online platforms to email and social media, read on for strategies you can use to promote your fair booth online.
Before the Fair
Make Your Fair Booth Available Online
When putting your fair booth online, one of the easiest steps you can take is joining an online platform. Not only will this help you attract early attention from collectors preparing to attend the fair in person, but you will also expand your reach to a new, global network of collectors exploring the fair remotely.
Previews allow you to pre-sell inventory in your fair booth directly to collectors who are ready to buy before the fair even opens its doors. In addition to the vernissage for VIPs, Artsy always offers preview days online to Artsy Confirmed Buyers (ACBs). Here’s how it works for Artsy gallery partners: A week before the fair begins, our Collector Relations team sends curated preview emails to ACBs with select works based on their interests and collecting history. In doing so, Artsy works to get you additional sales opportunities while you are on the ground networking with collectors at the fair.
Stage and Plan Your Emails
Email may be a great way to connect with collectors directly, but used incorrectly it has the potential to do more harm than good. The key to a strong email strategy for fairs is relevant and personal outreach—appeal to the specific interests of your collectors rather than overwhelming them with options. Many galleries keep records of past fair interest from collectors for this very reason.
When you email your network about upcoming fair participation, do so tactically—keep your emails concise, compelling, and to the point. Rachel Goss, who works to send out Artsy’s own emails, says “one mistake [she sees] galleries make is sending out an entire press release or artist bio before or during the fair.” Instead, she says, “a better strategy is to link to your website or an artist’s page on Artsy. This way, the collector can see the artist’s bio, exhibition history, and their available works without you having to crowd the email with every detail.”
And when it comes to invitations, personalization is paramount. Collectors receive multiple event invitations before and during a fair, so differentiate your gallery by sending emails directly from your personal account as opposed to through a mass email blast.
Finally, Rachel recommends linking to your fair booth profile online at the end of all your emails to your collector base and your leads. Linking to your online platform makes it easy for the recipient to inquire directly through email and will likely lead to more sales for your gallery.
At the Fair
Curate Your Social Media
A strategic social media plan for your online fair booth is essential. Fairs attract a diverse audience on social media, from art enthusiasts to entrepreneurs. As a result, a gallery’s social media activity during a fair can attract new collectors, engage existing collectors, and grow your awareness and followers online.
With so many options for social media promotion and so little time to dedicate to content production during the fair, what are the most impactful steps you can take to produce compelling and diverse content for your audience?
“Instagram all the way,” Mark Rosen, Artsy’s Social Media Manager, responded when asked about the best social media platform for galleries to use at an art fair. The master of live action shots, Instagram is the preferred tool for posting curated insider content and directing users to your fair booth online.
When it comes to curating content for fairs, Mark’s favorite Instagram feature is the album. Unlike a static post that displays a single photograph, creating an album allows your gallery to show the installation at your booth in its totality: close-ups, wide-angle views, and individual works. Towards the end of the fair, you can even create an album of works that haven’t sold to generate demand.
One of Instagram’s advantages is that it allows you to link to your online fair booth in your account bio. This feature is a clear call to action, enabling collectors to look at your profile easily—increasing the chances of them purchasing a work. Another Instagram perk is it recommends users with shared interests to discover your gallery’s profile through the Instagram Explore Page. This connects you with new collectors and gains you followers—think of this feature as the online version of “we met through mutual friends.”
Instagram is also a convenient way to turn a stressful task for your gallery into enticing content for your audience. Consider filming your booth installation using an app like Hyperlapse to share the footage on Instagram Stories. Finally, don’t forget to geotag and use the fair hashtags on any Instagram posts—this will expand your reach, gaining you followers and drawing attention from collectors you have yet to cross paths with.
Whereas Instagram is a great tool for quick, curated bursts of content, Facebook is the best for longer and more sophisticated content that you want to be shared broadly. Rather than disappearing after 24 hours like Instagram Stories, Facebook Live saves to your page, making it ideal for filming live action you want collectors to access throughout the duration of the fair. Also consider posting any press your artist has recently received or filming an interview during the fair.
When posting to Facebook, use a strong image and pair it with a catchy caption and a concise headline. Just like in your Instagram bio, be sure to link to your fair booth in your Facebook post so users can easily learn more about the artists you’re representing.
*To learn more about Facebook and Instagram and how to master the art of social media, check out our Social Media Toolkit.
After the Fair
After the fair ends, always send collectors who purchased a piece a personal note. If works that particular collectors were interested in sold during the fair, reach out with an email or phone call to offer them other similar works—you can even send similar works that weren’t displayed at the fair. Show collectors that you are invested in finding works that they will love. Even if they don’t end up purchasing a work, establishing these connections will help nurture a relationship that could turn into a sale in the future
Art fairs bring the art world together to facilitate unparalleled networking opportunities. In fact, a recent TEFAF Online Focus survey reported that dealers claim they meet 20-70% of new and prospective buyers through art fairs. Imagine how this number could grow for your gallery with an expanded presence online. Take the necessary steps to make your booth dynamic and equipped with the digital tools to engage collectors both online and offline—this is money, time, and resources well spent.
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