An Introduction to FineArtAmerica Groups
Joining or even running a Group on Fine Art America can be a great way to promote your work and get involved with similar-minded artists. Richard Reeve provides his brief perspective on how these groups run and describes his �typical day� as a Group Administrator.
What are FAA Groups?
My favorite place for displaying art is the online site fineartamerica.com (and it�s sister sites such as pixels.com), for which I will use the abbreviation FAA throughout this article. FAA is a particularly useful print on demand (POD) site as it has all the tools that we naive marketeers can find useful for selling our art, with very little technical knowledge required. Having said that, there are several ways that this site can be used to get more people to see your art, and one of them is to participate in FAA Groups, either as a member or an administrator.
In my opinion FAA Groups exist for two main reasons: firstly, for like-minded people to get together and share images, discussions and critiques around a common theme, and secondly, to promote the work of the group members to a wider audience.
What Sort of Groups are there?
FAA has thousands of different groups on the site, covering a huge variety of topics and themes. Some are very much into the promotion purpose and have extremely broad subject matter for images that will be appropriate to submit, if any at all. Others offer niche themes where one can receive critique and discussion on individual artwork. There are many that fit across this spectrum of aims. At time of writing I administer a couple of Groups: Quintessentially British, an active group promoting images of �Britishness�, and a much more niche group specifically devoted to the work of Analog Photographers - Recesky Holga and Diana cameras. But there are many general groups, depending on your tastes, and any FAA member can join any of them with a simple button click.
Who benefits and how?
You should already be able to see that there are potential benefits of such Groups to any FAA member. I consider Groups to be mini-communities that exist within FAA and help each other out one way or another, in addition to the main discussion boards. The most significant benefit is that you get another place to display your work on the internet. And every time your image is displayed on the internet it increases your chances of getting it in front of a potential buyer which can�t be a bad thing, can it?
What are the downsides?
To be honest, there are very few, if any, downsides to joining multiple groups on FAA. In fact, the only one I can really point to is that you may receive a significant amount of email from your Group Administrator(s) telling you what is going on and asking for member�s comments and input. Otherwise you have very little to lose other than a few seconds of time when you read the group requirements and consider which of your images meet them before submitting your images for acceptance.
Why manage a FAA Group?
Now to the $64,000 question; �what�s in it for the Group Administrators�? To be honest, I think this is a difficult question to answer. Personally, aside from the additional exposure that my images also have as being a member of my groups, I feel a sense of achievement at having brought together a group of like-minded artists, albeit virtually. In the end though, all group participants and, to be honest, even non-participants gain some value as every time any group image, discussion, or contest is posted on the web the whole FAA site gets another (small) boost on the internet searches.
A �typical day� in the life of one FAA Group administrator
Up at 6am to fix breakfast and have the first cup of tea of the day, followed by a quick peek through emails and logging onto FAA for the first time. I tend to go straight to my group discussion board to see if there has been any activity from the group members and post responses as appropriate, if they are short. Otherwise, if there are specific actions for me I may leave these for later in the day when I have more time. Next, a quick look to see how many new images have been added and finally, I check to see where the group is standing in the �most active� ratings. FAA has a way of sorting the groups by how active they are, and my goal is always to try to keep the group on the first page of the �very high� rankings and, if possible, in the top half. I do this to try and increase exposure for everyone�s work.
If there haven�t been too many images added overnight I will process them at this point, as described below, otherwise I leave them for the evening.
My next look at the group comes around 6pm when I get back from work, and I will spend time over the next few hours checking the discussions, following up on any actions such as featuring images on the group home page, commenting, and liking (favoriting) images and then going through the images submitted during the day so that I can add them to the group. I am always amazed by two things at this point; the diversity of images that the group takes and the fact that some members insist on submitting images that don�t meet the group�s aims. This is one of the things that causes me the most annoyance, as the groups aims are very clear, and I have no qualms in rejecting these images immediately. One of the other activities I make a point of doing is pinning those images of group members who allow it, to the Pinterest sites Quintessentially British and Recesky Shots in order to potentially draw in an audience. It�s a bit of an obsession, but I always include the title and artist name with � sign.
The main administrative activity for me though is trying to keep the balance of a highly active group, but without bombarding the members with too many emails and messages. After image promotion I tend to concentrate on the group�s discussion boards, offering activities to stimulate conversation, such as commenting exercises, image critiquing, setting up mini-portfolios, discussions for contests, offers for features, news about free software, marketing tips, games, and just about anything I can think of. Some of these work, but many seem to fall on deaf ears, which is a shame. I use bulk emails only rarely to notify members of what is going on, such as when we are having a contest or member participation has waned.
In all, I probably spend around an hour per day managing one Group, and more at the weekends when I have a little more time to deal with the longer term �strategy� and maintenance of the group, such that it is. Although it is time consuming, I do find the exercise forces me to look and comment on new images, and running a group has certainly made me think a lot more about promoting art for myself and others, which s a good thing overall.
How can you help as a Group Member?
I recognize that we are all busy, either with full-time or part-time promotion of our art, but just entering one message into a discussion board of the group each time you add an image or group of images goes a really long way to thanking not only the administrator but also benefiting the group as whole.
If you want to increase your exposure (pun intended) on fineartamerica.com / pixels.com then joining one or more group is a good way to do this. But it�s not just about submitting your images and standing back, it also requires some participation to support the administrators that give up their time to manage these groups on your behalf and make it all worthwhile.
Richard currently manages two groups on Fine Art America: Analog Photographers - Recesky, Holga and Diana groups. When not promoting the work of group members his own images can be seen at www.reevephotos.com
This article first appeared in Eye on Fine Art Photography, May 2014