If you are a creative and are on social media and have a website, inevitably you have come across invites from companies, profiles and people offering “promotion” or “exposure.” But what does that mean exactly? Let’s break it down.

There are several ways to promote yourself on social media and the web generally. But unfortunately, creatives are often targets for what is called “paid promotion.” The idea is that you pay a fee – which can be one-time, monthly or annually – and your profile or website will be promoted more broadly across social media channels and on the web.

The invites often come in as comments on an Instagram post, or blind emails from parties or companies you are unfamiliar with. They claim that if you “collaborate” with them, or pay a fee to be featured on their website or magazine, you will receive extensive “exposure” to thousands of people. Dig a little deeper, and you will find that you often do not get what you pay for, and these paid services are generally not worth your time or money.

Here is what to look for:

  • Comments on Instagram posts, or messages that say some version of, “We love your work! Want to collaborate with us?” They will also invite you to use a specific hashtag to be “featured” on their profile. When you ask for clarification, they will say they charge a small fee or have cheap rates.
  • Messages from shady profile claiming that they can guarantee thousands of followers… which turn out to be bots.
  • Emails from companies or individuals you do not know, saying they like your profile or website, and offering their services for SEO and building your brand, usually with lots of guarantees!
  • Vanity galleries or art magazines or catalogs will reach out to you via email or social media, again saying how much they love your work and want to feature it in an exhibition or publication. When you inquire further, they will inform you of the fees, which can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  • Emails from a person saying they saw your work on their wife or husband’s computer, and inquiring about how much a work costs.

In general, we don’t recommend working with these companies, as they can lock you into contracts, charge exorbitant amounts for their services or deceive you in other ways.

So what can you do after you say, “Thanks, but no thanks”? Here are just a few of many options that can lead to legitimately building your brand and getting sales and clients:

  • Focus your efforts on building an email newsletter, sending it out weekly, monthly or quarterly.
  • Consistently post to your social media profiles, using hashtags that connect with your ideal client.
  • Update your website regularly by posting to your blog, adding in events and switching out photos for new ones.
  • Connect with media professionals, pitching them a story about your work or services.
  • Network with industry professionals and colleagues both online and IRL (in real life).

And, if you are looking to boost your brand beyond the above options, you can look into paid advertising via Google or Facebook, which works very differently, as you have control over the posts, the target market of your ads and the budget, and won’t be locked into any contracts or flooded with bots.

Remember, “exposure” dollars do not pay the bills! You have a lot of tools that you can use, however, so take full advantage. Promoting your brand, your work and your services takes time and effort, but it pays off with consistency and perseverance. And, if you are stumped or need help crafting a plan, reach out to us!