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Marketing Monday: Building your Mothership

paper_typing_torn-400x171 Marketing Monday: Building your Mothership

After you have  a clear vision of your art business the next step is to build your basecamp, your mothership  your blog. I am not going into detail here on the mechanics of building and using a blog, that subject has been more than adequately covered by others many whom I have mentioned in previous posts. What I am going to do is discuss why a blog is the most important part of your marketing strategy,  how to go about finding the right platform, and how to use your blog as a customer magnet and grow it into the command post for your networking strategies.

Why a blog

I won’t go into the history and evolution of blogging except to say that using a blog to create web presence has far surpassed the use of static web pages. So here are a few reasons why you should build a blog.

  • Usability – Instead of requiring a PhD in computer science blogging platforms allow pretty much anyone to easily build a web presence and keep it current, all you need is a computer and an internet connection.
  • Visibility – By making it easy to keep a site current blogs allow the most Luddite among us to gain high visibility in the search engine world. It is no longer necessary to have a fancy schmancy developer cast a spell on your site to attract search engines, the mere act of posting regular content on a blog does this beyond the needs of most users.
  • Connection and Interactivity – Blogging allows businesses to talk with their customers instead at their customers. For artists a blog allows you to share your process, and work regularly making your readers feel more connected and hence more likely to buy from you because they “know” you. Your blog can be used as a way to gain insight into your buyers and their needs by allowing for two way conversations.

Choose your platform

  • For non-Geeks – For those who just want the basics, who don’t care about the back-end vs the front-end and just want to get moving. The simplest way to get started is to use a free service like Blogger, TypePad, or WordPress.com. These services provide easy set up, don’t require having a web host or your own domain name and most importantly, they are already optimized for search engines. Setting up an account and building your blog can be done in little time and if you ever want to move to self-hosted WordPress you can do so with little sweat. The downside of service hosted blogs is that you have no control over your content should their servers go down and they can change the backend, the place where you actually write and place your content, without notice. Services are also not particualarly easy when it comes to linking your blog up to your network.
  • For Geeks – For those of us who like to tweak and tinker there is but one choice…a self hosted WordPress blog. However, even non-geeks willing to hire a tech person to take care of some of the tweaking and tinkering, can use this free platform. Once set up the WordPress platform offers the most flexibility for publishing your content, whether it be images or video of your work or simply a couple hundred words talking about what you are making. WordPress also makes it extremely easy to connect your blog to Facebook and twitter.

Creating your content

  • Know why you are blogging – This is simple for artists your purpose should be to build and maintain a connection and on gong conversations with your network of buyers and potential buyers.
    Focus your content – More than anything else your ability to focus your content by giving your readers a reason to return, refer and to show up in your booth or gallery to buy. So your content should make your readers want to learn about you and your work do this by writing about what your work means to you, why you like working in the medium you are working in, and how that work reflects your values and vision. No it doesn’t have to deep navel gazing into the meaning of your work but it does need to express your passion which in turn reflects the value your work delivers to those who buy it.
  • Engage your followers – Invite your followers to participate by giving the chance to comment, you will be surprised how positive your readers will feel about your work and how much they honestly want to help you. Feature certain customers and let them describe how your work has added to their lives.

Make it a home

  • Have sections and categories – Build specific parts of your blog that specialize in different types of information think of them as rooms and fill them with the furnature that will make them a comfortable place for your network to visit.
  • Design it like your home – Design you blog so that it is not only comfortable and easy to navigate but also reflects you and who you are. Design it to reflect the way you like to entertain and live.
  • Showcase – Use it as a way to show your buyers all the ways your work can improve their lives and their homes or offices. Incorporate photos and testimonials of people who have your work and let them do the work for you.
  • Make it inviting – Combine all of the above to make your blog intersting, and unique the kind of place your readers and network will feel comfortable and most importantly want to come back to over and over.

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ArtWorks Featured

Comics and the Warrior, the Healer, the Visionary and the Teacher

Themes and learnings

One of the things that helps me write is to find a theme that over time I can build on and use to tuck ideas into.  2008 was mostly about getting my feet wet, testing directions and getting acquainted with you and you with me. In 2009 I’m going to focus on giving you a foundation and then help you build on that foundation throughout the year.

twitter_page Comics and the Warrior, the Healer, the Visionary and the Teacher

Before I get into the details I want to tell about the graphic above, it’s my new Twitter background. Why is that important? I’ve been wanting to do one for quite sometime and as usual started out seriously designing, until this morning when I revisited what I had done yesterday. Looking at it I realized it was waaaay to serious, it didn’t really say much about me. So scrapped it and started over. This time I took a “I’m gonna have fun” attitude, and since  I love comic illustration or stories told graphically I used Comic Life together with some photos to design the background. The point is I had fun and more importantly I showed up in a way that put a part of me out there that many don’t see.

That brings us to themes…several years ago I became acquainted with the writings of cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien author of The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary. She spent many years collecting the wisdom of people all over the world and she found that when everything was put together a common theme surfaced that provided a fundamental base for living. She identified four archetypal paths or ways for helping us navigate change that are based on centuries old shamanic traditions practiced by indigenous people and how they managed change.  The masters of change among indigenous peoples were their medicine men, chiefs, shamans, and teachers, the recognized the constant nature of change and took on the role of supportively guiding their communities through life events instead of denying them. Arrien calls for a reconnection to the four archetypal paths  common to  all peoples they are,  The Way of the Warrior, The Way of the Healer, The Way of the Visionary and The Way of the Teacher. Expanded they boil down to:

  • Show up be visible and empower others through example and be present to your life invest in yourself
  • Pay attention to what has heart and meaning to your life
  • Tell the truth without blame or judgement be authentic in brining your life gifts to the world.
  • Be open by not being attached to outcomes so that we may have better access to our own wisdom.

The first step

The first and most important thing we as artists need to do to not only survive the current shifts but also emerge as leaders is to SHOW UP. Showing up means starting that blog by putting  the nurturing and empowering nature of your gifts out there for all to see. A strong part of this is self- investment because without it we are blind. When I designed the Twitter page above I decided to show up, by be authentically visible in a way I have exposed I also invested time in doing so because it reinforced my presence.

Showing up will also put you above the crowd of people who can’t seem to show up, it will place you in a position to lead and lead with authority. Because you will be one of the few who chooses to be present.

So in the coming weeks we will talk more about showing up with your blog will look, we will build the foundation using the “Four Fold Way” above together with practical and creative ways start building the structure of your house. We’ll also talk more about each element can help you overcome your fears and empower you to claim your spot.

How are you going to show up? What are your fears? Will you show up with me?

Please join the conversation and get our tips, techniques, news and support once a week.

 

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ArtWorks

Self Investment: your # 1 intention in a down economy

 

ship_wreck Self Investment: your # 1 intention in a down economySelf investment from here on out should be focused on finding and using the best tools and techniques to build a network of enthusiastic followers. A crucial part of self investment during a down economy is to start recognizing that you have to change the way you think about your business. You will need to expand what you do best…thinking creatively about not only your art but also your direction.

Think about how many negative messages you are getting about the current economy and think about, and notice the effect, they have on you by using the techniques I described regarding ANTS. When we are pummeled constantly with negative messages, those messages take an emotional toll on us. Notice your feelings (not your stories) when you think of the future relative to a down economy. Some of those feelings may be:  feeling scattered or randomly moving from one thing to another and not getting anything done ,anxiety, insecurity about the future and what to do, self doubt about your abilities or feeling unsuccessful, or fear of moving in any direction, of failure. All of these feelings breed and trigger scarcity and scarcity leads us to being stuck. Now the funny thing about worrying about the future is unless you are psychic you never really know what is going to show up next.

The first thing to realize is that what is going on outside of you has very little to do with your success and you can control how it affects you by changing your beliefs. It is our nature to become identified with external factors, accepting as given the effects those factors have on us, in essences, we become victims and we start feeling stuck and worried. In a down economy we very often revert to what we think is safe, we become risk averse returning to old ways of living. We choose to cling to the sinking ship blinded by our ANTS because we know it, it feels safer than the cold unknown waters. Instead we should be looking for lifeboats that will help us get away from the maelstrom of the sinking ship and finding a route to safety by using our innate  ingenuity, and intuition.

Your # 1 intention should be to self invest by owning your future, breaking away from your fear and anxiety and start using your creative resources to find the best lifeboat with the best passengers. These passengers should not be survivors they should be adventurers willing to navigate whatever barrier surfaces in order to find the best route to land. They will also be motivated by a particular twist … their success will help keep other ships from sinking.

Lifeboats in a turbulent sea

Your lifeboat in the coming year should be equipped with the right gear to help you not only survive but also sustain you after you make landfall.That gear should also help you support those in your boat because they depend on your skill and knowledge. And the tools should also reinforce communications of all in the boat by amplifying your skills. The tools in the gear bag should help you feed and inspire your companions by unifying them into working toward a common goal ensuring that the lifeboat and all its passengers make landfall. In addition your tools should help you find and connect with other lifeboats so that you can have greater strength in numbers along with their relevant  knowledge .

The primary form your lifeboat will take will be in the form of a blog because it will be your base of operations and primary beacon. You can use it to help those afloat on the sinking ship’s debris find you. In addition, you will need listening posts or buoys set up to send you information about the state of the sea ahead.

Now leaving the Titanic metaphor behind and remembering that the hub of your activities is your blog let’s look at two very important tools to have in your gear bag. One important thing about choosing tools is to choose only those that will help you and at the same time reduce the amount of time you need to use them… Remember the 80/20 rule.

Here are some that will help you right away.

Twitter

  • By using a variety of tools you can now segment your followers into geographic groups or whatever way you want.
  • You can also send private tweets to only that group using Tweetgroup.
  • Use twitter in connection with your blog to send your followers to special blog posts like discussion of what you will be bringing to a show or a special event at a show.
  • Connect your blog to twitter so your posts will be sent out automatically.

Facebook

  • Facebook is the easiest and best way to start building communities, it is easy to set up and can be an excellent way of finding networks spread out geographically. And no you don’t need to have 5k friends, in fact it is best to be very selective using the tools built into Facebook.

E-mail list

  • An e-mail list is important because not everybody is up to speed with using the internet. You should also have a way of segmenting your list geographically so you can send messages to key members.
  • When your list starts getting large you will need an auto-responder that will automatically send messages to your members.

Skype

  • For those who don’t do e-mail you may want to call and let them know you will be in their area. Skype is web based telephony which you can use for pennies, you can also have conference calls with several of your members.

You can start building your network easily by using the tools above, we will talk about strategies and tactics for using each one as well as other tools we will talk about later.

Please join the conversation by completing the form below

 

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Parallel Desktops

Mastering Twitter with TweetDeck

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t "get" Twitter. When I first heard about it and saw that "tweets" were 140 character micro-blog posts that contained such mindless drivel as "Heading out to work" or "Getting a haircut" I dismissed it as pointless.

A couple of months ago my good friend Jeff told me that I should give Twitter a go. Jeff’s a bright guy so I ask him "Why on earth would I want to do that?". His response was "You don’t blog frequently enough for me". Well, this was indeed true. As I’ve been working more and more on my startup I didn’t have as much time to devote to blogging. I had lots of things I wanted to share but didn’t want to take the time to put together a full blog post for it.

So in July of ’08 I grabbed a Twitter account and started tweeting away. I only had a couple of "followers" (people that would see my tweets in their Twitter home page) for the first few weeks. They were close friends that were also playing with Twitter for the first time. At that point simply using the interface that Twitter provides on their home page was enough. I’d drop in my 140 character status, catch up with what my friends were doing and that was that.

After a couple of months I had done little more than checked in a couple times a day to see what people had "said" and try to drop in a pithy quote here or there. Then Jeff pointed me towards the Search feature in Twitter and mentioned the value in using key tags in a search. Since Jeff and I are both huge Washington Redskins fans he found that many people were inserting a #skins tag in their tweets. By searching for that we could see a global and very dynamic conversation that was going on with our favorite football team.

As new tweets came in for the search term a dynamic indicator at the top of the search page would indicate how many new results there were and provide a link to refresh the page. This was great and opened a whole new way for me to look at Twitter. It suddenly became more about participating in a global conversation on topics of interest, a cross between an old fashioned chat room and a forum.

While all this was great there was one little problem. I found myself constantly pulling up browser tabs with different searches on them that would allow me to see what was going on. Though the web interface for Twitter is very easy I found that the more I used it the more difficult it became to manage the various views I had for Twitter data.

Enter TweetDeck
TweetDeck is an Adobe Air Desktop application that runs on Mac, Windows or Linux. It provides a multi-column interface for accessing different views of your tweets. You can create multiple columns of the following types:

All Tweets: A collection of tweets from everyone you follow
Replies: Replies targeted to you regardless of whether you follow someone
Groups: A customizable list of people you want in their own column
Direct Messages: Non-public tweets sent only to you
Search: Enter search terms and every tweet that contains them appears
Favorites: You can get a list any tweet you have flagged as a favorite

Within any of these columns you can also set a filter to help limit what you actually see in the event your are tapping a tweet source that is very active. You can also mark tweets as read and have them removed from your view if you only want to see what’s new. At the top of the All Tweets column is a number that shows you how many unread tweets you have though that’s the only place the unread count appears for me on the current 0.20b version.


Individual tweets display the image for the person making the tweet that doubles as a menu for interacting with it. Mouse over it and you have the ability to Reply, Retweet, Send a Direct Message or mark the tweet as a favorite.

The area at the top of the window for entering tweets is spacious and clearly marks how many characters you have typed in, also giving you tools to insert a shortened URL or a TwitPic (always helpful when dealing with a 140 character limit).

The notification options for TweetDeck include playing a bird chirping sound whenever new tweets arrive (which for me became quickly annoying; I turned that off), as well as a small notification window that will tell you which of your columns has received new tweets:

This was also something I turned off. Iain Dodsworth, the developer of TweetDeck indicated in a recent tweet that it would soon offer Growl support.

TweetDeck works by talking to the Twitter APIs, pulling down the messages you are reading and dropping them into a database on your local machine. Though you can manually pull down tweets at any time Twitter limits you to the number of API calls you can make in a specified period of time. You have some control over this polling of the Twitter service if you feel like tweaking how quickly your tweets come in.

Using TweetDeck
I really enjoy using TweetDeck. Though I would like the user interface to be a lot more compact I can generally see most of what I want on a single screen if I make the window large enough. On my Mac Pro with two 1600×1200 displays I’ve found that TweetDeck works best with 4 visible columns. Unfortunately you cannot size the columns so on my 1600 pixel wide display I max out at 5 visible columns.

I love that it has shortcuts for URLs and pictures when I am creating a tweet and that I can Retweet something I find interesting to my group of followers. I really do wish the text entry area had auto spell checking though; since it’s now embedded in virtually every editing surface I have I’ve become quite accustomed to seeing little red squiggles when a word is misspelled.

Getting beyond the UI, the biggest benefit to TweetDeck is that I can create a number of different columns that can track my interests, especially by entering a search term. This is where Twitter stops becoming just a cute little time waster and starts to become a very powerful networking tool. If you have a deep interesting in something just put it in a search column in TweetDeck and see what comes up. If it’s an active topic the search window will dynamically update, providing you with an ongoing stream you can dive in to if you see something that catches your fancy.

I have had some problems with these dynamic search windows in TweetDeck on occasion. Some times they will simply stop grabbing new results and need to be closed and reopened in order to see new results.

TweetDeck is not perfect but it is by far the best tool I’ve used for accessing Twitter. If you’ve got a better tool for accessing Twitter please drop a note in the comments or feel free to follow me on Twitter and shoot me a reply.

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