All artists want attention on some level. We produce work from deep within us and want people to notice, to be moved. On the Internet, being found, getting noticed, is often driven by tagging images of your work with pertinent words and phrases. Much has been said about the techniques and strategies of tagging images. There is a lot of good advice out there, and creative tagging is a small art form in itself.

The question is, what happens when tagging starts to use none pertinent words for the sole sake of gaining attention? For example, why not add “Damien Hirst”, or better yet, “Lady Gaga” as tags to one of your images? Guaranteed, your image will be seen by a much bigger audience than it is now.

This is not a hypothetical question. This is a growing and troublesome trend in the art world. Sometimes it’s as blatant as the examples offered, but not always. The implication is that we have become so desperate for fame and notoriety, that any means to achieve it is justified. Oh well, you say, Lady Gaga has enough fame, she can spare a little. Small harm if someone tags on her coattails, right?

Well, let’s get personal for a moment. Suppose an artist tags images of their work with your name. The name you’ve worked hard to establish. Your name is your brand. It has an audience. When that other artist uses your name on their work, they steal a portion of your audience. Bad enough if the other artist’s work is dissimilar to yours – but suppose it is not. Now what happens to your reputation (and sales) when your audience starts confusing the other artist’s work with yours? 

These same kinds of tactics were used for years in the web development industry to divert traffic from competitors. It is now illegal to engage in such practices for a web site, but not so in tagging. We offer this information so you will know the practice when you see it, or worse, if it happens to you.  We also hope by shedding light on this unethical practice it will discourage those inclined to employ it.

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Well I guess I am not surprised but it would never occur to me to do this. My work is all about me, me, me!! Hahaha I'm just getting ready to add some new tags, but it was in the way of misspelled words, like how many people get 'electroforming' right the first time:)

I can imagine that all kinds of retailers practice this, it seems to be a dog eat dog world out there. But it strikes me not only as unethical but just imagine all the creepy people you might attract if you put "Lady Gaga" in your tags....I personally think she's a hoot....but seriously. 

Good point about common mis-spellings.  I was at a "How to use Linked-In to Drive Business" workshop a few weeks ago.  The instructor recommended that if you have a name or process that is commonly mis-spelled that it is a good idea to include the mis-spellings in your tags so people can find you.

I must say I agree with Ann. It would never even cross my mind to do this. I come from a discipline (until 2004 I was a professor of Classics) where plagiarism is rampant and the thought of another person tagging their work with name and my hard earned reputation is very upsetting.

All of us makers have an individual voice that comes out in our work (style, materials, technique) and that renders our pieces individual.  I would hope that the people who buy my jewelry would recognize the absence of that voice and refrain from buying the inauthentic piece.

Unfortunately, together with the enormous benefits of the Web, there are a number of serious drawbacks and this unethical practice is one of them. The other day, I was reading a site on tagging where the makers where encouraged to misspell their tags to attract more customers.....

Just the other day, a friend of mine complained bitterly that she is being repeatedly "tagged" on facebook through images of other people's work that have absolutely nothing to do with my friend or her artwork at all. 


My friend is really ticked off as she now has to delete her name from every photo that pops up on fb with her name tagged. The good news is that facebook lets you do that and it isn't hard to accomplish, you just have to keep doing it. Enervating? For sure.



For me, honesty and integrity are number one in business, art and in life. I do my best to accurately represent myself and my work, both in person with galleries, and online in all of my tech arenas.  I would never attach anything inaccurate to my work in the form of title, tag, or description. But, that doesn't mean that I don't go all out to reach my audience. The key being "my audience", not someone elses.


I tag with every search word I can think of that could accurately lead someone to my work. One thing that has helped me develop my tagging is seeing what search words people used to find my work on my website, Flickr, and my blog. That information is readily available in the statistical information. It is important to look at your stats, because there is valuable information there. For example, some days might trend toward having many more visitors than other days. Even the time of day you post something matters. Posting photos in multiple places is also a good idea. Joining AND participating in various forums gets your name circulating. I could go on an on, but I won't. The bottom line is represent yourself and your work accurately and use good business practices. Demand that your work be of the highest quality, and remember how sacred your customers are. Word of mouth is the best advertisement of all. You want the word on the street to be positive.


When other people tag me, no matter where it happens, I call them on the carpet for it very publicly, and then I block them. I usually send email to other people who I think might be targeted as well. I have been thanked many times for letting people know. Many sites have a "report abuse" link. Don't be afraid to use it!

Dawn Blair

Our identities are becoming increasingly defined by our on-line presence. This is already a major topic in human resource circles, where your "personal brand" can spell the difference between getting the job or not. For artists, managing your online presence is a critical part of your career development.  The deceptive practice of misleading tags is nothing less than a form of identity theft.


Can we really say it's "unintentional" or "just being thorough"? This is a far cry from adding misspellings, which is a completely legitimate tactic. Some applications, like Facebook, recognize that there are people who will abuse tags. They tell you when you are tagged in a photo and give you the ability to remove yourself. This is the exception, not the rule. Most of the time you will never know that this happened unless you police your own brand.


A new law went into effect on January 1st that actually makes it a criminal offense to impersonate another individual on-line. As the virtual world slowly becomes the real world this an unfortunate but needed step.

Harriete Estel Berman dressed up like Emily Post
Each sphere in our lives has manners or customs that have developed over time.  But with the Internet, a whole new social forum, this busy, bright new world hasn't had time to develop clear etiquette.


However, even you aren't familiar with prevailing customs, manner are based on courtesy, respect and consideration for others.  Tagging photos of your art or craft with other people's names is not just rude, but it is essentially committing social networking hari-kari.


No one will want to be your friend. Your posting can be labeled as spam and reported to Facebook. They will close your account.


"Social Media shouldn't be seen as advertising. It should be seen as public relations."  Brian of Alpine  is so right!  Nothing bothers me more than getting multiple email blasts a week from an unrequested source. I don't care if it is their idea of an opportunity, give away, free advice or participation in their inspiration of the day. Any blog, organization, or web site that bombard me with excessive emails gets relegated to my spam


On ASK Harriete I wrote a post on the topic titled: Web Manners: Harriete Dressed Up Like Emily Post  that includes a few more tips and suggestions for your social networking etiquette book.


I am still practicing these tagging skills.  I do have a unique situation of sharing the same name as the famous Winona Ryder.  I haven't yet, but do I start tagging my work with just Winona?  That is how I sign my pieces, with only my first name.  What would you do in this situation?  I like Winona Ryder as an actress.  She may have her personal issues, but who doesn't?  Would it be so bad if my artwork started popping up in-between the abundance photos of her?
I'd suggest using you middle name..If you don't think of a way to change your name it will be very difficult to differentiate your identity from such a famous star.
I have all ready established Art by Winona as my business name.  I am not going to go through the agony of changing it.  My name means a lo to me.  It was my great grandmother's name and also the name of the Coast Guard ship my father worked on.  As far as tagging goes I have tagged Art by Winona instead of just Winona.  I guess I will just have to keep going down that route.

I didn't mean to say you should change your name....just ADD your middle in

Winona  middlename Ryder.


Oh, sorry I was reading that a different way.  It's a thought.


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