Monday, April 9, 2012

Using Social Media

My name is Tanya; I worked for the Ink People Center of the Arts as their Programs Manager for three years, and have been a board member of North Coast Open Studios ever since. I’m now a Social Media Consultant, Marketing & PR Representative, Event Coordinator, Band Manager, Community Activist, Fundraising Consultant, Coffee Slinger, wife & mother to 3 amazing sons & 2 beautiful dogs. Most everything I do in life involves advertising and marketing. I get “paid” to market coffee for my employer, Humboldt Bay Coffee Co. & help schools/charities market fundraising campaigns. As a community service, I run several social media sites and a website that are used as a free resource … a way of connecting with community, sharing what you have, what you need, and what you’re doing. This brings us to the point of this blog post: using social networking sites to share & advertise your art, business, or activities.

Some of the Social Media sites I currently use and enjoy most include: Facebook, Pintrest, LinkedIn, & Twitter. I also have secondary experience using Google Plus, Flicker, Ookl, MySpace, Etsy, YouTube, & Vimeo. As for Blogging I personally enjoy WordPress, as they offer a website program and a ton of online tutorials.

When creating an online identity, especially for an artist or an entrepreneur, It’s important and wise to present yourself using a variety of mediums… this allows you to reach a broader audience. My personal favorite social media platforms are Facebook and Pintrest, thus I will start with them.

FACEBOOK is the ultimate social networking tool. For me, it’s proven to be a hugely helpful resource in connecting with community and resources. It allows us to inform community, friends and supporters (& buyers) about events, classes, openings, volunteer opportunities, needs, job openings, new projects, and the like. It also allows us to see what’s going on in the community and where we can get involved. Facebook has built in photo albums, allows us to share videos, and has a blog platform – these can in some cases eliminate the need to have a separate blog, video site and photo site. It’s important though to understand the difference between a Profile Page and a Fan Page. You have to have a Profile Page to open a Fan Page, but they each have different capabilities and limitations, and hey are ALWAYS changing.

A Facebook Profile is for individual users. Posting updates daily makes it easy for you to connect with your “friends”! You can post status updates, videos, pictures, send messages, write on walls, and socialize witin Facebook. A Facebook profile should NOT be used as your business page. If you create a Facebook profile for your business ONLY “friends” can see your updates, and this limits your reach. For a prospective customer to see what you have to say they would need to click the ‘Add As Friend’ Button (not effective for businesses).

A Facebook Fan Page – Once you create a Facebook profile you can use that account to create a Facebook Fan Page for your art/business. This is where you post “business” information: events, videos, photos, specials, promos — and encourage your fans to ‘like’ you, post testimonials and help spread the word about you, your art and your business. Facebook Pages are important for 3 main reasons: 1) They help your business to show up high in search engine positions, as Facebook is a very popular website 2) You get unlimited “fans” for your Facebook Fan Page; Facebook Profile has a cap of 5,000 friends. 3) Your page is visible to all Facebook users because they do not need to “request to be a friend” to view a Facebook Fan Page. IT is highly advisable to start a Facebook Fan Page for exposing your art and small business.

PINTEREST is the newest social media fad. Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard. You are able to organize and share images you find on the web. You can use your pinboards to plan a wedding or party, come up with home decorating ideas or images to inspire new art work, you can catalog your favorite recipes, and (most importantly) share your art/ event posters/ photography. You can also view pinboards created by other people. This is a fun way to discover new things and get inspired by folks who have common interests. I personally love Pintrest and am finding it very useful business wise … and it’s fun! It had an app that can be used on your iPhone making it very accessible. But I warn you that it is addictive!

LINKEDIN I like, but don’t love! It is a great professional social media resource for connecting with people who have similar professional interests. It is simiplar to facebook in many ways but my favorite part is the lack of games and app requests! You can post your resume, photos, and blog short statements about your activities. You can post information about job openings and visit peoples LinkedIn sites to learn more about their work history, interests and current activities. I don’t find it AS useful or entertaining as Facebook or Pintrest, thus I don’t use it as often. But it has it’s legitimate place in the social marketing world and is advisable as a small business owner or artist to use as a tool in marketing your project or yourself.

TWITTER like facebook has a very large following. It seems to be best used to send out quick short messages that keep your followers updated and involved. As a social network, Twitter revolves around the principle of followers – not friends or fans. When you choose to follow another Twitter user, that user's tweets appear in reverse chronological order on your main Twitter page. If you follow 20 people, you'll see a mix of tweets scrolling down the page: breakfast-cereal updates, interesting new links, even music recommendations. To build a Twitter following, it's important to be “useful” in some way: Some people scour the Internet and find great links to share, Some people organize chats, & Some are simply funny or clever.

There are certain key essential tools that are used on Twitter that are unlike any other social media format: Users can group posts together by topic or type by use of hashtags – words or phrases prefixed with a "#" sign. Similarly, the "@" sign followed by a username is used for mentioning or replying to other users or you can also use the Reply button. To repost a message from another Twitter user, and share it with one's own followers, the retweet function is symbolized by "RT" in the message or you can use the official retweet button. This button retweets your friends Tweet to your other followers. To Share a Link- you'll need to use a link shortener. A link shortener basically turns this: http://blog.nateford.com/blah into this: t.co/xxxxxx. When people click on the short link it opens up as the big link. To shorten links, simply click on the tweet button and they'll usually use Twitter's own shortener, otherwise, some people swear by https://bitly.com/.

Twitter messages were initially set to a 140-character limit for compatibility with SMS messaging, introducing the shorthand notation and slang commonly used in SMS messages. I find this very difficult being that I tend to be very verbose, thus I have a difficult time using twitter other than to tweet links to my latest blog posts. The simplest way I’ve found to use twitter is to tweet about my other social media work (for instance “New Pictures of my art at…” & the link to the site). But again you may need to shorten the url which is where the bit.ly site comes in handy.

BLOGGING is an art form in its self, a way of telling your story, much like journaling… but for public consumption. Blogging is a way of personalizing your work, of informing your fans and buyers who they are purchasing art from, personalizing your work. There are just as many blogging sites to choose from as there are social networking sites ~ it’s important to shop around and find the one that works best for you. Your blog is the place to keep your audience up to date on what is happening with you, your art, & your business, as opposed to your static website, which typically only shows your fine-tuned portfolio and basic information.

You can use your blog to make announcements when you create new work, when you are interviewed or featured in a publication, when you receive an award, or any other exciting developments. While social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are great ways to promote yourself, your blog offers a much more controlled environment where you can tell your story in words and pictures without distraction. If it’s done right, your blog can be a cohesive extension of your portfolio website, featuring elements of your brand such as your logo, illustrations, and anything else that helps to build and communicate your brand. While your portfolio should carry most of the burden of introducing yourself to potential clients, your blog can take things further by telling them who you are, how you think, what inspires you, and what makes you tick.

Your blog is also an ideal place to show your audience that you are an expert in your field through articles, tutorials, process posts, etc. Giving Art Directors and other potential clients an inside look at you and your business can do a lot to help them to understand why you might be the best person for the job. At the very least, you should be using your blog to make announcements about anything exciting that happens in your artistic business. This helps to keep your audience up to date and encourages them to subscribe to your blog via email or RSS if they want to follow your latest developments.

Blogging about your creative process is another way to promote yourself. Potential clients appreciate any chance they come across to get an inside look at the way you work, even if they don’t consciously realize it. This is especially effective for those who aren’t quite familiar with your work, or even with the creative process. Unlike the formal atmosphere of your portfolio website, your blog is the perfect place to loosen up a bit and share sketches, comps, and other pieces of more experimental or personal work. Like process posts, this helps to open a window to your creative spirit and tell a more complete story about yourself. I personally LOVE wordpress as a blog platform. They offer a FREE blog platform with a ton of online tutorials and they also have a website program that’s very similar to the blog format. WordPress offers options to link your social media to your blog so that when you blog it gets shared on your social media sites. I do however suggest you have a tutor to get you started… it can be a little confusing while you get the hang of it.

ETSY is a great way to launch your art business. It is a good place to test product ideas and learn about your target market. Etsy is a great way of developing new products and getting feedback about what you are doing, what people like, and what you can change to increase your buyers market. There are actually many ways you can use Etsy to conduct market research. Start by simply seeing if there is even a market for your art or products. If you list products and wait for customers to find you then it’s difficult to know if the problem is your products or your lack of marketing. But if you advertise using your social media, blog, and website consistently and your products still aren’t selling, then the problem might be that there isn’t a market for your products. You can also use Etsy as a market research tool by looking at the buying preferences of your customers to get a better feel for your target audience. By going through the purchase history of your customers, you can see what other products they are buying and how often. This can give you invaluable information about your target audience. Also, the ease of which you can make changes on Etsy makes it an ideal testing ground for finding the right prices for your products.

Etsy is a good place to build a compilation of faithful fans. Etsy’s favorite system allows customers to keep track of you and your products, but if you’re goal is to someday move off of Etsy, you’ll want to be able to take your fan base with you. Make sure you’re providing links to other places for fans to connect with you (ie. blog, social media, website). The most effective way to try to get Etsy fans to follow you is to get them to join your email list, so you can connect with them no matter where you move on the web. Include a link to sign-up for your list in your welcome message, and ask those who buy from you to sign-up for your list

Here are some suggestions on ways that you can increase your fan base:

Email Signature Blocks are helpful to direct people to your social media sites and blog. Hopefully the people you email include current and prospective customers. These contacts should be one of the first focus areas for people you want to become a social media follower or a potential blog reader. The simplest way to do this, is to include a link to your Facebook Business Fan Page, Blog, and other social media sites into every email you send out. Wisestamp is a free and easy email signature app that you can download to your computer.

Be Useful - One of the most important things to remember about the internet is that most of the time people are looking for answers to questions or products and services to fulfill their needs. When posting on your blog, always try to ask yourself what your readers might gain from your post. Make an attempt to help people with tutorials, process posts, advice, or just some healthy inspiration. The more people get out of visiting your blog, the more likely they will be to return.

Be Entertaining - Try to determine what your more entertaining qualities are, such as humor, wit, or intellect, and try to bring them to the forefront when publishing posts. If you can make people laugh, cry, or gaze in wonder, you will be reaching a soulful part of them and they will remember you for it.

Be Personal & Personable - Art Directors and others visit your blog to learn more about you. That’s why your blog is a great place to give your visitors a peek inside your creative process as well as share the things that inspire you. The more you allow your readers to get to “know” you, the more inclined they’ll be to return to see what you’re up to and potential purchase something from you.

Interact & Connect - One facet of being ‘personal’ with your blog that most people neglect is the process of interacting with your readers. Ask questions, respond to email questions and blog comments, and even ask for requests for future content. By interacting with your audience, your blog will grow and evolve while building relationships.

Stand out from the crowd - do something exciting, such as host a giveaway, start a group, or invite other artists to submit their artwork. These types of things inspire your visitors to play an active role on your blog, and share you with their friends. You can also start a series - Build anticipation and plant yourself in the minds of your readers by publishing a series of posts that will make them want to check back often.

Update Regularly - The fastest way to make people forget about you is to do nothing. Even if a visitor likes your blog, they won’t have a reason to return unless they feel like they might miss something. By publishing posts on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to inspire your readers to subscribe; I suggest you blog one to three times a week.

Invite people to your sites - The funny thing is, sometimes the easiest way to get people to return or subscribe to your blog is to ask them to. Of course, if you’re not providing value to your readers, they won’t be inspired to revisit, but if you are, they may not realize that they can subscribe, or they may not have considered that coming back later might be a good idea. Inviting people to subscribe.

Building up an audience takes time. If you want to raise the number of subscribers to your blog, try using these ideas for a few months and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Visitors to your blog will be able to tell if you’re devoted to keeping things going, so try sticking with it and give it a chance to develop into an evocative part of your online presence.

Please feel free to email me with questions about social media presence, networking, blogging, etc. You can also use MY social media sites to help generate interest in your art & activities… simply send me an invite at TeeOfArcata on Facebook or email Tofarcata (at) gmail (dot) com. Have fun, Share, Connect & Go!

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