Friday, August 10, 2012

World domination via social media

I don't want to sound too ambitious here, but one of my current goals is world domination via social media.  If  that sounds crazy to you, imagine how it sounds to my exceedingly reasonable and logical husband.   

I meet (in-person and online) artists who adore the sticky, paint-covered process of being an artist, but either don't care about or don't understand how to create an online presence for their endeavors.  I think each and every one of us who dabbles in a creative trade are aware of  the fact that significant financial success based solely on selling our creative work is unlikely.  Don't get me wrong - it happens.  But, it rarely happens spontaneously.   It's very much like becoming a world-famous movie star.  I suppose there are a few isolated success stories out there that go something like this, "Umm, yeah.  So I was just standing in line at the 7-11 with a Snickers bar in my hand, when a Lamborghini screeched to a halt at the front door, just missing the homeless woman's cart by an inch.  Steven Spielberg hopped out, grabbed my arm, and said, "THERE you are!  I've been looking all over for you.  You are talented and beautiful and you're going to star in my next movie. Hop in!"

Instant success is the exception, not the rule.  In fact, I think the real life stories of most successful people, in any industry, most commonly involve a gigantic heap of effort, planning, consistency, commitment, and hard work.  Add a whole bunch more hard work, blind stubbornness, and a dash of luck and maybe, just maybe, you'll achieve some modicum of success.

Creating and maintaining an online presence for your efforts can be a good step toward achieving some level of success, especially if you don't measure success strictly by the bottom line in your debit account.  If you're somewhat unorganized, implementing a system for keeping track of things can really go a long way to highlighting your weaknesses, allowing you to focus more on these areas. I made a conscious decision some months ago to 'come out' in cyber space. Prior to this decision, I'd been somewhat of a closet creator.  My personal time revolved around writing and painting, but rarely did I post anything on FB because it felt too personal and I was terrified of criticism. I slowly came to the realization that I was operating in something of a vacuum due to my reticence to share this part of my life with others, and I made the decision to come out.  I began slowly posting things related to my creative work, and immediately I began to experience positive results on a daily basis.  Nope, I haven't been picked up by Random House. I haven't even secured a local art exhibition (YET!), but I have witnessed the following:
  • I am free to be myself.  I can't begin to describe the transformative power this concept has had on my life.  
  • Networking is HUGE.  I have met so many lovely, encouraging, talented people, both local and on the other side of the world.  This kind of collaboration and communication is powerful and has catalyzed my creativity and confidence.  It has helped me learn new skills and introduced me to new techniques that I didn't even know existed. 
  • I really need encouragement. As a collective, artists and writers are some of the most uplifting people that I know. The successful ones remember what it was like to be new and uncertain.  The struggling ones will do everything in their power to help you and in return, I try to do the same for others whenever possible.
  • I value honest, kind criticism.  This is what helps us to improve as artists and as human beings and I am doing my best to welcome it. I'm also doing my best to quench the urge to punch people in the face who are critical of me.  It's a process.   
  • Validation.  Maybe you don't need this, but I do.  Being immersed in the creative world makes me feel  like a 'real artist' or a 'real writer', whatever the hell that is.  I like the feeling of being connected to a community of like-minded people.
  • And last, but not least:  If you are interested in any level of financial success or in just carving out a name or reputation for yourself, today's paradigm essentially DEMANDS that you cultivate an online presence.  It's just how the world works now, like it or not. 
So...how to do it?  I freely admit, I'm not the world's expert at social media.  I have, however, spent the past few months focusing on this with my personal work, and so far, I am happy with the results.  One word of caution:  Setting up various accounts is all well and good, but there is one ingredient that is absolutely crucial to your continued success - content.  Consistently delivering interesting and relevant content is a skill which at its best requires a mix of marketing knowledge, humor, creative writing, efficacy, and dogged commitment.  Not easy to pull off, even on a good day.  I struggle with this daily and I have a loooooong way to go before I would consider the problem licked.  That being said, let me tell you how to get started.

Decide what your focus will be.  I tried.  I really, really tried with this one.  I wanted to focus on either writing or art, not both, so that I'd have a razor sharp focus. I eventually came to the conclusion that they're both equally important in my life and in a way, being a little unfocused is a better representation of the true ME, which is ultimately what your online presence is - it's how you present yourself to the world.  Ideally, you will have a focused business or creative concept, but if you truly have difficulty choosing,  I am of the opinion that being true and genuine has more value.  Just be yourself.  

Grab a notebook.  A real, paper notebook with lined pages.  This may seem counter-intuitive to our current focus on social media and electronic apps, but this is what works for me.  I keep a notebook on my desk at all times to jot down keywords, ideas, and for brainstorming.  Engaging my hands helps me to think.  Much of the time this looks remarkably like doodling, but from time to time something great creeps in.  If you don't already know what the name and concept of your business presence will be, use the first page of the notebook to flesh that out. Don't worry too much - you can tweak with later if necessary.  If you think this exercise is silly, you need to take yourself more seriously.  Read this, then proceed.

Start thinking about a short bio statement related to your business.  This isn't a complete bio including every detail of your life since you were born.  Rather, this is a short, focused description that creates the idea or business concept you're trying to evoke.

Now, create a new Excel spreadsheet.  I maintain the details of my life in one whopper of a spreadsheet, appropriately called "My Life" and I back this up regularly.  You'll soon have more passwords and usernames to remember,  and this will come in handy.  Here are some of the tabs I currently use:
  • Works - this is a running list of my finished works and included relevant details (Series, title, date, location, size, price, weight, shipping, substrate, media, hardware, signature, etc.)  If you plan on posting all of your finished pieces to certain websites, like Pinterest or Behance, you should include a column for this as a reminder for yourself.  
  • Social Media - this is a list of sites you need to check, update, and maintain.  Column A contains the current date and the rest of the columns show the site name (FB, Twitter, Etsy, etc.)  I keep track of how many followers or users I have, and open this sheet as a quick way to methodically go through my sites and post a quick comment or update without getting distracted.
  • Pass - this is a list of sites, along with usernames and passwords. Obviously, you need to keep this file secure.
There are other tabs, but they pertain to my personal finances and other goals and are irrelevant here. The take-home message is:  you need to find a way to be organized and efficient with your time.
Most of us already have a FB account, but I get the sense that there exists some confusion regarding Facebook pages vs. profiles. There are two different kinds of FB accounts,  and both are free. A PROFILE is intended for personal use and adhering strictly to FB terms and conditions, these accounts should not be used to advertise a business endeavor.

Click here to check out my personal Facebook profile.
What's the difference between a FB profile vs. FB page?

PAGES are designed with businesses in mind and they can be a little overwhelming at first.  After creating a page, you'll see an Admin Panel with tons of analytical capability.  Just ignore most of it for now and get the basics of your page taken care of.  Later, when you've gotten firmly established, you can use these tools to optimize your experience.  Click the icon above for more clarification.

Click here to check out my Facebook page for Ink & Alchemy.

Once you've taken care of the basic stuff - bio, photo, cover page, you need to find yourself some fans.  While logged into your personal FB profile, use the search bar to find your FB page.  Click on it, and then choose build audience, and invite friends.  Use the drop down to make sure you're searching ALL of your friends.  Simply click to select friends and then submit.

Congratulations!  You have completed the first step toward world domination.  I'll post again about other sites, but if you must have more immediately, explore my sites or search my name in Google.  You'll begin to notice another important rule of social media marketing - link your sites to each other to enable viewers to easily jump from one to another.  You'll get more followers that way.

I am planning on having a superb weekend, including meeting with a brand new writing group.  I'm excited!  The fact that I was invited to join the group is another reason to tout your talents via social media.  This friend would not have known that I had an interest in writing if I hadn't shouted it out for all the world to see, and I might have missed a great opportunity to grow as a writer.  Isn't life grand?






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