By Renee Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach
This is my follow up to my article Social Media: Marketing Art in the Digital Age that appeared in the July/August issue of Art Calendar. I appreciate the positive feedback I’ve received from many readers and self-described “newbies” who thanked me for encouraging them to begin social networking and have joined me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Much like in-person networking, “social networking” consists of communities of people who share interests and/or activities; however, it takes place on Web sites known as social sites. The most popular social sites, like the ones I use — Facebook.com , LinkedIn.com and Twitter.com — are free. Each day, I network with hundreds of artists who use these sites to advance their professional careers. Please note, I do not claim to be an expert on the subject. Like many of you I learn from experience, reading articles and asking questions from more experienced users. I encourage you to read the plethora of “how to” articles available online. You will reap many rewards if you pay attention to some simple tips and put the time and effort into the process. Create and follow a general plan, but also experiment, and make it your own experience.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Create a Strong Presence
1. Before you begin networking online, create your own art Web site or at least a professional art blog. It is much more professional to direct users to your own Web site than only to pages on MySpace, Etsy or another supermarket online gallery.
2. After you have joined a particular network, spend time reading other users’ profiles and comments to feel more comfortable in this new arena.
3. Make creating an attractive profile your number one priority. You have only one chance to make a good first impression. Make it clean and easy to understand. Avoid flashy graphics, music and long load times.
4. Select your profile picture carefully. If you choose to use an image of your work, select a graphically strong image, since it will be small. If you use a headshot, make it as professional and approachable as possible. An empty square where your photo should be is suspect and makes you seem unapproachable.
5. In terms of the design, try to be consistent across all of the platforms you are using. For your profile picture, use the same headshot or style of artwork on each site, as well as your own Web site and blog. This will help people recognize you. (Tip courtesy Audrey Chernoff. See sidebar for more.)
6. Let your unique personality shine through with each post, and be consistent. Avoid appearing like you have multiple personalities.
7. Update your profile regularly, as you would your resume.
Protect Your Interests
8. Read the service contract. Each site is different and permits the host of the site different usage rights to images, posts and other personal information you enter. Make sure you are comfortable with the contract before agreeing.
9. Manage your privacy settings so that you can control what information you share. For example, on Facebook, when you post to someone’s wall, your mutual friends may be able to see the posts as well. Adjust your settings on SETTINGS, PRIVACY and NEWS FEEDS AND WALL.
10. Protect yourself from data theft and viruses. Since social networking began, data theft and viruses have increased. Change your password regularly. If you have a PC, install an anti-virus program. You may have a sufficient program already installed.
Build Your Network
11. Begin by searching for your friends, alma mater, arts organizations and businesses you know, and then add to them. It’s okay to ask for referrals.
12. Network in groups, such as Manhattan Arts International on LinkedIn. Join the discussion topics that interest you most or start your own. Stay active in them, as this will build up recognition and enhance your relationships.
13. Join groups selectively, since other users will be able to read what groups you joined. In addition, you want to focus on the most productive groups. It’s okay to leave groups if they don’t fill your needs and search for new groups.
14. Start a group that reflects the nature of your artwork and become the expert on the subject, such as Sue Smith Contemporary Pointillism. Then contact art professionals and art enthusiasts who share your interest in Pointillism and ask them to join your group. Your name could also appear as your subtitle on your Web site. You may want to create a blog using the same name.
15. Exchange information about social networking (including a link to this and other helpful articles at www.ArtCalendar.com) with fellow users.
16. Consider adding your social networking links to your business card or linking from your Web site to your social networking accounts.
17. Keep your posts, status updates and tweets professional.
18. Use spell check and correct grammar. The same rules apply here as for offline forms of communication.
19. Read twice, click once. Proofread, not only for spelling and grammar, but also for tone and clarity. Ask yourself, how will this message be interpreted by the reader?
20. Realize there is a different style that is appropriate for the each site. For example, an informal post on Facebook may not be appropriate on Twitter.
21. Read other members’ profiles so that when you do reach out or respond to their requests you can comment about their business, hobbies or recent posts. Ask or say something that shows you read it.
22. Always type the prefix http:// whenever you post your Web site URL so that it will create a live link.
23. Set aside time each week to invite new friends and followers, but keep in mind quality is better than quantity.
24. For Facebook or LinkedIn, consider easing into a new relationship by exchanging a few messages with a new person first before you add them.
25. Contribute information, experience and ideas regularly. Share a link to an article of importance, a book you’re reading or favorite Web site, or inspiring quote of the day.
26. Make an effort to turn your strong online connections into a phone connection, or a “let’s meet in person” connection whenever possible. Suggest, but don’t push.
27. Send people a personal thank-you reply when they start to follow you on Twitter or accept your invitation to join your network.
28. Follow the rules of social networking for when it’s appropriate to send a personal message, to share a status report or to “send to all.”
29. Search for local events posted by fellow users, and attend them; then post about the event the following day.
Keep learning as much as you can!
30. Always keep abreast of new free applications on these sites, and apply them to fit your expanding needs. AC