Interview with celebrated artist Michael Bell on his weekly section MBELLART on Yareah Magazine: Twitter and more Twitter. By Isabel del Rio.
I.R.- Hi Michael. Time ago we talked about social networks but this week, I’d like to talk specifically about Twitter. 73,611 followers is not bad for a painter. Museo del Prado has 223,933 and MoMA learning 18,000 (of course, numbers are different with teen icons). How could you get so many followers?
M.B.- I’ve been at this game a long time Isabel, so my followers have come from many places. A great majority come through my cameo appearances and unveilings for celebrity friends on television shows like “The Sopranos”, “House of Cards”, “the Amazing Race”, “Mob Wives”, “The Capones.” Being on TV will definitely boost your twitter. I also did a radio show for a couple years with John Fiore of the Sopranos and Dominic Capone called MBELLART Live, which had a listenership of over 60K, which added thousands of followers to my Social Networks. Other followers come from my art gallery exhibitions, some through charitable unveilings and auctions, some through the fan bases of “real-time” celebrity friends that share my @mbellart handle with their fans on twitter, some from ReTweets of my posts, and some from marketing agencies publicizing my events further that have their own “lists” they’ve included me on, which includes some paid followers.
I.R.- Why is Twitter so important? Has Twitter helped your artwork? In what ways?
M.B.- In two words: It’s not. And it hasn’t.
Nothing online replaces the sales generated at a brick and mortar gallery. Nothing replaces having an actual Official Website. It simply helps spread the word on when my shows are, what my opinions on certain things are, and it’s a marketing tool. It’s quick, easy to read since you’re limited in post-length, easy for others to Re-Tweet for the on-the-go hustler who doesn’t have the time to read through lengthy Facebook posts. It also helps build relationships with people who only use Twitter and don’t use Facebook, like my friend John Gotti for example.
I.R.- In your opinion, which are the differences between Twitter and other social networks?
M.B.- The speed at which you can trend something. Brenda Venus (@bvenus on twitter), is another friend of mine with a huge Twitter following that I recently had this same conversation with recently – about the quality of Facebook friends vs. Twitter followers. We’ve come to the conclusion it’s important to have both because of the different readership styles, but as for quality I’ve personally generated more business through Facebook than Twitter.
M.B.- Brenda was the famous writer Henry Miller’s muse – the guy who wrote the now infamous Tropic of Cancer that has been described as “notorious for its candid sexuality” and as responsible for the “free speech that we now take for granted in literature.” Its publication in 1961 led to the obscenity trials that tested American laws on pornography in the early 1960s and was widely regarded as an important masterpiece of20th Century Literature. Brenda also writes, paints and makes films.
I.R.- Which Social Network do you prefer?
M.B.- I prefer Facebook, since I like the ability to create an “Event” and Invite my friends lists to my events. It helps spread the word rapidly, and my Facebook friends seem to talk more to me on there than on Twitter, despite the large amount of followers I have, but I’ve been getting better at “Tweeting” and “Instagramming.” I’m also on YouTube @mbellart, my Instagram is @mbellart which has made it easy for me to share photographs in two places at once with one click. Twitter has since disallowed the photo-sharing with Instagram and only “links” your Instagram photos. I’m also on Linked-In , Google Plus, and I have a Facebook Fan Page with around 11K followers.
M.B.- So Social-Network-wise…I’m out there. But like I said, nothing replaces the Brick and Mortar Gallery experience of seeing a work of art in person, experiencing it for what it was meant to be experienced as, much the same as there is no replicating the experience behind an “actual relationship” with someone you personally know and actually spend real quality time with, as opposed to a just a following. I do like getting feedback from people online about my work, especially from people that don’t know me personally and might be biased one way or another. But nothing replaces what’s “real life.” And, in life, you need a good balance between the two worlds. I’m learning this more and more.
I.R.- Nice week, Michael
M.B.- Have a nice week, Isabel. Hi to Martin from me.