Article by Guest Poster
This article was written by a guest contributor. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of WHSR.
Focus on Your Brand First
Before you begin a campaign- or enter the realm of social media marketing in general, be sure you understand EXACTLY who you are, what your brand is, what you offer customers and what the benefit of your art or service is to your potential customer. Know this well, speak it clearly and embody it in everything you do.
“The #1 reason people fail at social media marketing is that they don’t have a solid foundation. They don’t have a brand, they don’t understand the outcome they provide, and they have absolutely no way of differentiating themselves from the competition.” – Zen of Social Media Marketing.
It may sound simple, but every action you take- both offline and online- is a reflection of your brand.
Social media platforms are simply the tools that amplify your message to the world. In order for you to impact your potential audience and bring them into your world- your online personality must reflect your true self. Your authentic voice- and thus your artistic brand- must be in close alignment with who you are as an artist.
And your visual brand identity must clearly reflect these truths.
Be sure that your logo, website, social media profiles and photos all clearly reflect you and your artistic brand before truly diving into the deep end of social media marketing.
“Authenticity is critical. The message conveyed by each platform must pull in the same direction. Text styles must be uniform. Even the paper stock between print projects must remain true. When these factors vary, trust suffers. But if potential customers recognize a consistent, authentic message across multiple platforms, trust flourishes – and they’ll be far more likely to engage,” excerpt from the Brand Played On. Agency Access published an amazing resource for artists and the branding efforts they must undertake for their business to flourish.
After your brand is clearly defined and represented in all of your online platforms, it is time to connect with your audience. Connecting with your Tribe, or the people who truly support and champion your art, is your next major hurtle in tackling a social media campaign.
Identify who will benefit and connect most with your type of artwork. Study the means in which this community uses social media to communicate and enter the conversation in their territory.
For example, if you create hand-woven rugs for personal spaces, you might have a large number of high-end interior designers who both support your work and incorporate it within their own businesses. Find an active online community of interior designers who use blogging and Pinterest to share their work and scan their Twitter feeds or blog comment sections for questions that you might be able to answer regarding custom flooring, color palettes or fiber textures.
With this example in mind- and not to be redundant here- your online brand is key to opening that door of communication. If you contact a high-end interior designer and engage them in conversation, they are more than likely to reply and continue the conversation if your social media avatar is a smiling face (rather than a sterile logo) and if they follow your links to your web site, your platform needs to reflect the caliber and quality of your work for this designer to take your advice seriously. In this instant, an effective and distinct brand will lend additional support and legitimacy to your advice and give your voice more strength in this new community of potential fans and customers.
Once you’ve identified your audience, you need to create a means of opening a deliberate and permission based direct communication channels. You need to convert a casual visitor of your social media space to someone who actively want to receive information and specials from you. Use an incentive based conversion option for opt-in newsletter subscribers on your website.
Furthering our fiber artist example, once the interior designer has clicked through our artist’s Twitter profile and landed on her website, she’s enthralled by the artwork she has found and wants to learn more. She notices an email subscription offering a free downloadable PDF booklet about interior fibers and custom rug design in exchange for a newsletter sign-up. Our interior designer recognizes the value of this free information and wants to receive more information and specials about this artwork that her clients will love in their homes.
Our artist now has the permission of a new fan and future customer to send product specials, custom rug tips and design advice. The artist can now cultivate this relationship over time by providing value to her new fan.
When used strategically and mindfully, permission based marketing will convert customers and develop quality relationships that support the artist in many ways. The artist also has an audience who has stated that they want to hear from you and will likely purchase from you in the future.
Amplify this effect by scanning social media channels and engaging in conversations with people who are likely to connect with your art. Use the basic search tools of each social media channel to help you better scan conversations.
Our fiber artist will want to monitor hashtags related to her artwork and her potential buyers. She’ll want to use a tool like Tweet Deck and create special columns with a hashtag for each term she wants to search. Her terms should be somewhat broad, but not overwhelming. For example, if she searched “#design” the conversations would be rapid and too diverse to focus on targeting conversations where she might participate. By changing the term to “#urbaninteriordesign” or “#fiberart” she might find people talking directly about her area of expertise.
Another excellent tool for scanning blogs in Google Blog Search.
Simply enter a topic and Google will scan for blogs that address this area of interest. Setting up a Google Alert for specific terms, such as “interior design in Manhattan” might help our NYC based fiber artist find local interior designers to connect with. The Google Alert will email daily with search results pertaining to the terms entered in the Alert. This is also an excellent tool for an individual to use to monitor conversations happening about them or their product.
Now that the brand has been clearly defined online and an audience has been identified and targeted, it’s time to cultivate the emerging relationships. Depending on your approach, this will include continuing the conversations using your preferred social media platform, finding new points of engagement, emailing tips, information or specials to your newsletter list and looking for additional methods of providing value to your community.
With this in mind, stepping into the world of blogging might be the next logical step. Many artists might already have a basic blog associated with their website and for many, blogging is more sporadic without a clearly defined goal or purpose. At this step, you have already clearly defined your audience and understanding if a blog is appropriate should be obvious at this point.
If your audience and potential buyers continually seek a certain type of information from you then there is a need in the marketplace for your expertise- beyond the artwork that you create. Identifying this need and speaking to this specific gap in the marketplace might provide you with an opportunity to connect with even more people who relate to your work.
The main aspect of a successful blogging campaign is to be consistent and concise in what you are providing to the community. This step does require a greater time commitment and might not be appropriate for all artists, due to time or industry constraints. But bear in mind that writing is not the only means of communication for your blog. Many successful artists who use blogging as a main method of identifying and communicating with their audience use multiple forms of communication. Video, audio podcasts, webinars and visual essays are all effective means of providing valuable information to your community. If blogging is on your list of possibilities, visit BlogCast FM and listen to some of the leaders in the blogging community for tips, advice and strategies for self-publishing.
Our fiber artist has noticed a distinct gap in the online community for information regarding fiber textures, color pigmentation techniques and care of custom rugs. Interior designers- and now regular customers of hers- are constantly asking similar questions and show can see a place online to provide a valuable service to her fans and grow her potential customer base. But she hates writing. So, our artist purchases an inexpensive FlipCamera, finds a nicely lit corner of her studio, sets the camera on a makeshift tripod and starts speaking to her community about fiber textures using examples from her studio.
She uses a basic video editing program to place her logo graphic and an introduction at the beginning, uploads it to YouTube and places the video on her newly created Tumblr. She linked the Tumblr to her Twitter and Facebook accounts when she set up the blog, so it automatically send her new video post out to all of her online community. People begin to ask her additional questions in the comment section of the blog and her interior designers start to forward the video on Tumblr- also known as “reblogging” in the Tumblr world.
Soon, her video is spreading all over social media platforms and since the interior design community is strong on Tumblr, she’s gained new followers to her blog, Twitter and more newsletter sign-ups. She also has her next video topic based on the additional questions from her comment section.
And this is how the connections work in the online social media world. For many people using these platforms to expand their reach, the building takes time, deliberation and creativity. But the rewards are tangible and can be seen over time with increased web site traffic, engaging conversations throughout the day and loyal customers and fans. By investing in building your brand from the start, you can successfully make a name for yourself online in your area of artistic expertise and build an engaging social media marketing strategy.
Site note: Also read Crystal’s previous article on Building A Tribe Around Your Art; One Lovely Person At A Time.