Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What should an artist expect from using social media platforms?

What should an artist expect from using social media platforms?

Good question, right?

Just having a website won't get you or your work "out there" anymore. The prevailing advice to artists is to use social media to connect with your audience. No one really explains how for each or that no one platform will do it all. You will have to find that information on your own through research or by paying a consultant. In the end, you will still have to put in the effort to make it work.

But, wait. How is it supposed to work? Why should you have a Facebook page, Twitter or Pinterest account, or blog? First, drop any thoughts you have about how social media relates to sales. Social media is about building relationships--you and your collectors, collaborators, and colleagues. And the real question is deciding which one or combination of platforms works best for you.

Here's a little run down of the pros and cons of a few popular platforms:

Facebook: Great for establishing conversations and building your "brand." Post pictures of works in progress, workshops, shows, upcoming teasers, and video clips of interesting techniques (e.g., raku, soldering, and other processes). You can show "you" and how you work. If you are a working parent, some pictures of you in the studio with your children can establish a connection with other parents. Pictures of you at your favorite charity event are another personal touch.

Facebook shouldn't require a lot of deep content, which makes it easy to keep fresh. How often should you post? Once a day is enough, and even just a few times a week is ok.

Twitter: If Facebook is good for promoting yourself, Twitter is nearly the opposite. Again, it's about engaging with people, but on Twitter, you can't flood your feed with yourself continually. On Twitter, the rule of thumb is for every ten tweets, eight should be about your profession/techniques/ideas to foster relationships with the other leaders in your field, and two about yourself (shows, accomplishments, etc.).

Connecting with a wide variety of people on Twitter increases the likelihood that you can become an authority in your field. Remember to engage with other people in your network (favor tweets, retweet, comment) and to use pictures and videos when possible.

Pinterest: Honestly, until recently Pinterest was like a pretty bobble that I couldn't figure out why I should want or need to use it. Then I started pinning a bunch of ideas about an "unbirthday party" I've been thinking about for a long time. I added new boards and went a little nuts finding all sorts of cool ideas. Then people began re-pinning my pins and following my boards. I followed them back. Then I had the "duh" moment--I need to pin my blog. That's when I realized the potential for Pinterest. It's not just that you want to share your artwork on boards for, say, painting, commissions, or limited edition work, but that you can add boards that interest YOU, then you connect with people who like what you like and so on. I've read different approaches to how artists use Pinterest, so I would recommend just checking it out. I don't put a whole lot of time into it and have been surprised at the level of engagement I've gotten.

Blogs: I've been blogging for years. At one time blogging was the way to connect, especially with other people in your field. I think that at this point it's much harder reach people by blog only. However, cross-posting your blog on other platforms is a good way to connect the dots, so to speak.

You can be a little more creative with your blog, which I find is helpful in trying to build engagement.  For instance, have a guest blogger from your community to blog about a technique or event that they are known for, or interview someone in your professional community. (See my blog for March 12, 2015 "Interview with Mosaic Artist Lou Ann Weeks" for an example.) This encourages people who are interested in those people to know you and builds traffic for your blog/website.

Another way to build up your blog traffic and following is to offer something tangible. A popular blog post subject is product comparisons. Another is step-by-step tutorials. You don't have to give trade secrets, but do try to offer something that someone may not have thought of that makes the content valuable to them.

How to keep it all organized

There are free online tools to help you. The article 11 Best Social Media Management Tools does a great job of listing tools and discussing how they differ. The best thing about these tools is that they allow you to plan out your social media posts and gives you the ability to schedule a time that the tool will post them for you. For example, you plan to post on Twitter at 9 am Monday, but you will be in a meeting at that time. You have your post scheduled in the tool, and it is posted automatically.

Keep in mind that the optimal days to use social media is Monday through Friday. According to Blogger, the posts on Facebook have more engagement on Thursdays and Fridays. The time of day is important, also, especially for time-based feeds, like Twitter. In general, 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm are the times when people seem to use Twitter most. A later tweet, after 7 is probably a good bet, too.

If you're confused about which social media platform would work best for you, check out what other people are doing with their accounts. Consider the type of posts they use, if they cross-post, and what type of engagement they have. Then think about how you want to connect with people and start with one or two. The most important part of creating engaged social media is to set up a schedule for yourself and stick to it. People want to see that you are consistent (but not creating spam!).

Where are you going to come up with all of that content? I'll have some ideas for you in my next blog!!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Art and Fun

Today's post is about a fun artsy experience. I am also very interested in the business model for this type of arts experience.

Rodney cutting wax (photos by me)

A couple of weeks ago, Rodney and I were in Leesburg, VA for a friend's wedding. We had some time to ourselves and decided to get out and wander around for awhile. We wound up at The Village at Leesburg shopping mall. That's where we found The Art Station. I'm familiar with the drop in-type hands-on business model, but this place was really great. They offered make it-take it projects like candles, soap, and various painting projects. (They also offer painting parties for adults and children.) They have two roomy studios, with one designated for painting only. We decided to make candles.

They offer many different molds in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. (Of course, the smaller the mold, the less expensive the over all cost.) They also offer a nice selection of scents. We chose our molds and went into the main studio.

There we had access to lots of colors of wax, and pre-cut shapes and letters. (The pre-cut pieces are sold by the piece.) This was a lot of fun. The concept is to fill the mold as full and tightly as possible, so that as the wax melts, it fills in the small air pockets. Also, this is an upside-down type project where the pieces on the bottom will become the top, like a pineapple upside-down cake. (If you've ever made poured concrete mosaic stepping stones, it's the same concept.) Then we took our candles to our host and she poured hot wax into the molds. Here's a cool video of that process.

After that, we walked down to a nearby restaurant, shared an appetizer and had a glass of wine. Then we did some window shopping and came back to The Art Station about an hour later.

And here are our candles!

Rodney's candle

My candle

Rodney's candle is rose scented and mine is sweet pea scented. They both smell great when they are lit.

We had a lot of fun that afternoon--if you are ever in the area, it's worth checking out!

May all of your scores run true!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Accounting Essentials for Artists

Porch view, Topsail Island (photo by me)

After a nice, relaxing vacation where we enjoyed beautiful weather everyday, I am back to continue examining the business of art.

It may seem obvious, but tracking finances is a critical chore that any artist will have to deal with. How else will you know if you are making or losing money and what your costs are?

Software makes this a bit easier than it once was. For instance, Quicken can create many different reports for you that you once had to create by hand. Mint is the free version of Quicken and can work for many artists. Quicken Home & Business offers more functionality and costs about $115. 
A good place to start organizing and thinking about your finances is to follow the IRS Schedule C. This will help you see an outline of how to sort through expenses, deductions, and profits.

Another critical point here is to keep your personal and professional accounts SEPARATE. It is easier to find areas where you can save money or where you are losing money if you don't have to sift through what are business or personal items.

Keep your files (paper or digital) organized. Don't wait to update your accounts after a big show or flurry of sales. Take the time to make sure you get all of the sales receipts and any expense receipts of your own (parking, food, mileage, etc.). Make sure that you are taking advantage of options to download transaction details from your bank, PayPal or credit cards. This saves you time and is more accurate than hand-typing your details.

The Small Business Administration is a resource for your business that includes sources for grants and loans, starting and managing your business, and local assistance.

Then keep at it. Don't set up your accounts and get sloppy. Review your accounts regularly (weekly or monthly) and do the balance sheets monthly. Sometimes it's tempting to think that you know it was a slow month or a big week, but you'll need to track everything to really know what's going on.

May all of your scores run true!