Social media and online culture tends to scare our community. I think there are two parts to this fear, one is that as a community we have a tendency to shy away from technology (we are not early adopters). The second is that participation can be daunting and seem a much larger problem that it actually is. For those of you that this doesn’t apply congrats and welcome to the future! To the others, you have to get over it and join us in the moment and discover the amazing time in which we live!
What follows is a brief summary of what I have learned about social networking and the internet medium since I have been out of graduate school. Some do’s and don’ts in our little world and thoughts on marketing one’s self and work. Marketing can be perceived as a nasty dirty word, I thought so while I was in school. However, in my post academic world it is essential to my existence. As I am one of many facing the dilemma of getting your work out in the world I have seen many approaches and hear lots of excuses why people don’t have smart phones or websites or why they hate Facebook. Besides the ” get over it” response that is somewhat knee jerk at times I have a little soap box spiel I’ll share with you. The topics I am going to discuss, things like websites, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the realities of the marketing world today. REALITIES! If you have the means and want to sit in a shack, deep in the woods and make art, good luck with that! Or if you are waiting for that elusive teaching job, also good luck with that! However, you will still most likely end up with a pile of work in a shed somewhere. The reality of my journey is that I need to sell my work, so that i can not only pay my bills but also have space to make new work. It frustrates me to no end when people complain or hate on these entities, they are tools nothing more. Most people that are complaining are not even active in these spaces. It is like voting, if you don’t participate you don’t get to complain! My challenge to these people and to you is to participate, if you don’t like the content you see, add content you find compelling and interesting. Raise the bar through participating, play the game and see how you can change it or make it interesting for yourself and others! With that little rant out of the way, please feel free to use what you find helpful and disregard the rest.
Disclaimer: I am self taught on all computer stuff. I am tech savvy only to the degree I need to be. I call computer people and companies for help and advice all the time when I hit a wall. The tech world is set up to help us non tech people. It can be a very intimidating to call a web hosting service and explaining your problem in a very non technical way to the person on the phone, but I must say all of my encounters in this area have all been incredible and the tech people I have spoken with have been helpful and don’t care that i don’t speak their language. Absolutely no reason to hesitate and not accomplish your goals. I am on this crazy path trying to navigate a new world where we have incredible opportunities and abilities to reach the world. I am no expert, I just fumbling my way around finding what works for me. Below I am sharing what I have learned through trial and error. Good Luck!
1. Websites – Get one, make one, just do it! The first and most important thing in the “real world” is to have a website. People need a way to find and contact you. Look at other websites, bookmark the ones you like, use preset designs. There are so many programs out there that all you have to do is plug in your info and pay a small fee and you are on the Internet. The number one thing procrastination excuse i hear is people getting hung up on the design of their site. Get a website setup and then tweak it! I had a site for a year and didn’t like it, I wanted it to be more flashy or designed, it took a while for me to grow into a design I liked. Playing with the programs and developing content is a way for you to find the right kind of site for yourself. . As you get more experience you can rebuild and redesign. A few simple guidelines, keep it clean and simple to navigate. One of our realities is that people will be looking at your website from their phone! If your content is to large, cluttered or “flashy” it will be difficult to navigate in that arena. Keep it simple!
2. Blogging – Blogging is an easy way to be online if you are super intimidated by building a website. It can be treated in a number of ways, journal keeping, educating, marketing. It is about you putting content out in the world. I have a number of people whose blog I check on a pretty regular basis. It is a nice way to keep track of them and see what they are up to in the world. Blogging is not for everyone. I have found it difficult to maintain. CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT! UGH! One of the key ways to make a blog effective is to post often. Blogging effectively involves a commitment to sitting down and writing and having something interesting to write about. I made a few of the classic blunders. Initially, I made a commitment to blog twice month for awhile. After doing this for 6 months, I Googled imaged myself (which you should do, it is a good way to tell which of your media activities are helping or not) and a number of pictures popped up of my cats! Not what I really wanted the face of my work to look like to the world! For myself i have discovered that it is not my favorite way to navigate the web, I now post maybe once month and treat it more like a “Catch up with Sunshine” moment, a posting of current and recent activities for people who don’t keep up with my other online activities. Be sure to think about what you want your blog to be, a professional resource or a way for friends to keep up with you. Be mindful of the imagery you post as well, your blog address and name will be associated with it and pop up as images of you, your work, or your cats!
3. Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) – This is a tricky subject, I am on all of the three of these most popular social networks, for this I sometimes get a lot of flack. We as a community are on the cusp of change. The world is online and participating in social media. But if it is important to you to find a place in the world for your work, these outlets might be the way. I think the jury is still out on this. I will say that people find me all the time on Facebook. If they are online and are looking for me they have a plethora of ways to locate me which is the goal! For myself these outlets are marketing tools, I am able to connect with people in a visual and possible thought provoking way. I can post images with a caption from my phone to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously! Or I can post articles or share events I find interesting. In part this may seem redundant but my hope is that though these avenues I am connecting to new people in different demographics in interesting ways (google: hash tag, handle, tagging). I am trying to capitalize on my lifestyle (my life as a working artist) and the way I see the world. I share what I think in interesting and compelling and a reflection of my daily life. My one warning is to keep it professional, never compromise yourself or others in these places. Current and future employers, customers, and friends are in these spaces, and they will look you up. These spaces are a reflection of you, your choices and your connectivity to different communities. The world is a small place online, we have so much information at our fingertips it is important to choose how you participate in the online world. In part my lifestyle lends itself to these forms of interactions as a way of keeping in touch and a way to participating with friends, real and virtual, in a way that allows people to check in and visually travel with me throughout my day.
To sum up my thoughts on all of this, I want to say that being illiterate in the language of today is not a good thing. If you are not active in any of these areas, reflect and figure out why. Figure out the best way for you to participate in this world. Ask yourself what do you want for your career, set some goals. As artists in the business world we are asked to be all things at once, artist, retailer, promoter, marketing expert, web designer, it is a lot and it is difficult to navigate. But I would ask you instead of complaining about all the obvious pitfalls, embrace the remarkable fact that we live in a time where most of this information is only a few clicks away. We live in a time when our access to information, people and technology are unparalleled and we can do almost anything with resources like these! So go forth and conquer!