What is Social Bookmarking/Sharing?
In its simplest form, social bookmarking or sharing is the act of taking a link and putting it on another website for your friends to see.
In addition to the big sites that everybody knows like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Stumbleupon, there are hundreds of smaller sites that fit specific niches. Some of these may be interesting to you, depending on your style of art. Here's a handy list of 125 social bookmarking sites.
How to Promote Art with Social Bookmarking
Really any increase in traffic is a good thing, so adding these buttons to your site will give you an opportunity to have people referred to your site. There are a few things you can do, however, to give your work a better shot at getting in front of the right audience.
Don't Forget Your Art Gallery on Your Site. You do have your own website right? If you do, are you adding Like, +1, and Tweet buttons to each of your individual images? Each of your pieces of art should have its own page with a description and purchase info, along with these social sharing buttons. Check out How to Make Your Images Found Online.
Promote to the Right Audience. While it's great to share your art on Deviant Art and Flickr, there are other social bookmarking sites that may be more productive for you. Find some sites where your target collector is hanging out. If your ideal client is 35 - 45, high income, and is really into technology, then Twitter or Digg might be good places. If your target audience is mothers over 40 then you might check out CafeMom.com. There are endless sites that you can specialize in. There are social sites for just about any demographic.
Make the sales pitch. Just by putting these buttons on your site you are making that invitation. You can take that one step further however, by asking your readers to bookmark a blog post or a particular piece of art. You can email friends and ask them to bookmark something for you. You can also ask your followers on Twitter, Facebook, or other popular networks to bookmark your stuff.
Monkey See, Monkey Do. If you are an active contributor in a community, people will begin to know, like, and trust you. They'll be more likely to retweet, bookmark or Pin your stuff if they know you. Comment on other people's content. Share really good things you find. As you make friends you'll see more success.
I don't have time for this!
Believe me, I understand the need to focus on your work. You can be an active social media participant without too much effort. Schedule 15 - 20 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon. Don't let anything distract you. As you do this, you'll eventually build up a respectable following and see some great traffic to your site. Remember what I said about Facebook? They are sending more traffic out than Google! This is the trend of the Web. This is how information gets shared. If you aren't participating, you're missing major opportunities.
Protip: Promote your artist newsletter through social media. You need to get people from the social sites to your list so that you can promote to them regularly.
Update: See our in-depth analysis of Pinterest here.