I came to the Facebook party a little late, signing on last Fall. My original purpose was to communicate with my 18 year old niece, but I quickly learned what a networking tool this could be if utilized properly.
Now, you may be saying you want to keep your page private, and that is up to you. But, if you want to network, I say - go for it. Just don't post anything you wouldn't want your mother to see (remember prospective Employers are beginning to search Facebook) If you want to utilize Facebook for networking, don't post pictures of you and the gang raising your glass for any and everything under the sun.
Who do you friend? That is up to you. I started out "friending" only those people I know. But, I took a blogging class from Alyson Stanfield, The Art Biz Coach and I met fellow artists around the world. At that point I started "friending" people if I only had one friend in common. Interestingly, these requests always came from fellow artists. Connecting with other artists was enlightening - reading their approaches to art and exhibiting. As we talked more - gallery owners joined in.
I have a day job in advertising, I buy time on television and radio (I know - I buy air). The old model in advertising is someone needs to see your advertisement three times minumum to remember it. I think this works here too. If you are marketing yourself as a brand (which you should be) the more your name is out there, the more it validates your life as an artist. (I find this helpful not being a full time artist)
But, to really network as artists, we have to do it together. If my artist friend "B" has an upcoming event, or even a new piece of work and they post it on their wall, then I will take that posting and "share" it back to my profile page. That is 250+ new eyes that will see the posting. Kind of like the old commercial, tell a friend, who tells a friend, who tells a friend - and it goes on and on. If only 5 people with 200 friends repost an event or a new work, that could be 1000 NEW sets of eyes!
You may be thinking isn't this a little invasive? Not really. People post their breakfast habits, their life in lines at the grocery store etc. Don't you think seeing someone posting an art event or a new art project is more interesting to even the average reader. And, how interesting is it to someone interested in art, someone you didn't suspect has an interest in art. And, you never know. A friend of a friend might be looking for exactly that piece of art.
BUT - and it is a BIG BUT - give, and you will receive! If you, as an artist, share and also repost other artists work and shows, then hopefully they will repost you. It is a reciprocal world on the internet. I'll post it once to help you, twice to help you again, but if you haven't reciprocated and posted my work, I probably won't continue reposting it. (you know the saying, fool me once, fool me twice)
So, can artists really network on Facebook? Absolutely!!! But, you have to remember, we are all in this together and it works best if we support each other and promote each other. Many artists work alone and the value of social networking is immeasurable.
As my friend Don Browning stated, "we have been given a key to unlock a door". What we do once that door is opened is up to the individual artist. You can hover at the entrance, or you can march down the hall, and occasionally look at all the rooms available to you.
Your thoughts and experience? What has worked and hasn't? I'd love to hear them