Timeline: It is coming

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

In the ever-changing world of Facebook, another significant change is coming very soon for business pages – Timeline.  A new page format already in use on personal profiles will soon be implemented for Facebook business pages (February 29th to be exact).  Not sure what Timeline is?  Check out my profile: Jennifer Swain Carlson

This change represents a great opportunity for businesses, but in particular, arts-based businesses.  The new format relies heavily on the visual and gives artists a great opportunity to really highlight their work.  The new format also allows users to post things along the “Timeline” of their life or work.

In my work with the Bradford County Regional Arts Council, I’m already starting to think how I can use that for the organization’s advantage.  It seems that it will fit perfectly with our upcoming 100th and 125th anniversary celebrations for our historic theatres.  Rather than posting photos of the theatres in one large album, I can place them along the Timeline to show an accurate history and progression for each building.  The possibilities for telling the story of each building, and the organization overall, are exciting.  In a sense, it becomes an online scrapbook.

For an artist, think of how you can show the progression of your work over the years.  By placing images of your work along the Timeline, your page visitors can get a sense of how your work has evolved and even events that had an impact on your work.  Still not sure?  Check out this Mashable post with projections of what the new Timeline could look like for some of the major brands.   Still not ready?  Have no fear.  It is anticipated the roll-out to the new format for Pages will be a gradual process, as it has been for Profiles.  If you haven’t yet switched to the new Timeline for your Profile, take the jump and start getting used to how it works.  And start reading up on the new format.  This post from Inkling Media has some great tips.

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Developing a Content Calendar

(A Ready. Set. Share. contributing post on www.handmadeinpa.net)

It’s a new year and time to start thinking about where you want to go with your business over the next twelve months.  One tool to help pull things in to focus is a Content Calendar (Let’s refresh with the Wikipedia definition of Content Marketing: “all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases.”)

Content calendars help you navigate the year ahead with not only marketing, but also general scheduling.  There are lots of ways to develop your Content Calendar – the key is to use something that is easily edited.  I use Excel.

To get started, pull out a 2012 calendar and start entering your shows and exhibits and any ideas of content related to those events that you could share. And leave space so that its easy to add more ideas – this is not a one-and-done exercise.   For example, if you’re attending the Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair in Philadelphia in May, what are topics you could use?  The show is around Mother’s Day – what products do you have that would be great for Mom?  Share your favorite gift received, if you’re a mom, or the gift your mom loved most.  The show is in Philly – what are some hot spots that you would recommend?  Favorite gallery, restaurant or theater?  What else is happening in the Philly area that weekend that you love or would recommend?  Remember, this isn’t so much about promoting you/your work but rather sharing information.  But do remember to invite people to stop by your booth during the show (and give them the Booth # when you know it).

Next figure out where and how you can use that information.  I set up my calendar with events/topics down the left column, methods across the top.  For each event/topic, I have a column for: Print Ads, Press Releases, TV Ads, Email Blasts, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Then enter the date you need to complete the task or want the information shared and the angle that you’re going to use.  And don’t feel that you have to use each method for every event/topic.

Developing a Content Calendar is also helpful in making sure you don’t overbook yourself or book things too closely together. Adding holidays to the calendar will help you see dates that could affect your normal tasks, like sending out a press release in time to meet print deadlines.

There are lots of resources out there.  This post, “How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing” by Michele Linn, was helpful to me.

Ready, Set, Share – New Blog Series on HandmadeinPA.net

Being an artist in today’s world means much more than making and selling your work from your studio or gallery.  Today’s world is all about Sharing – the story about you and your work, your thoughts, and just general information.  And the way you share that story can make all the difference in the world for sales and the success of your business.

Case in point:  As I was writing this blog, the following came across Twitter from a friend and social media colleague, Melissa Dobson:

@copperoven @cayugaridgewinery just met #socialshareroc attendee who visited you for 1st time because she likes how you engage on social

In case you don’t read Twitter, she’s letting the folks know at The Copper Oven andCayuga Ridge Winery that she met someone at the Social Share Summit (Rochester, NY) who made a visit to their physical retail sites because of the way they engaged with friends and followers on social media.  That’s pretty convincing testimonial for getting on the social media bandwagon.

In this new Blog Series, Ready, Set, Share, we’ll take a look at the various ways to get your story out there, how to engage your fans and followers, and some of the resources that are there to help you.  For a quick refresher on some of your options, check out this past post: Navigating the Social Media Jungle.

And in the meantime, did you know about the National Arts Marketing Project?  Check it out online:  artsmarketing.org or www.facebook.com/artsmarketing.  I’m headed to their annual conference, November 12-15, and I’ll be reporting on some new trends and tools when I get back!

Fall Brings Changes of All Sorts

The leaves have changed and are starting to fall.  Television commercials are starting to change from schooltime ads to holiday ads (I’m not quite ready for those lovely snowflakes streaming down my screen!).  And life has changed as we decided to move and buy a new house in September!  It has been a crazy fall as we made some minor fixes to our old house, found new tenants for our old house, searched for a new house, bought a new house and are now in the process of moving in to the new house!  All in about a month’s time!  Crazy, I know.  But all for the good and towards our long-term plan of downsizing, placing more value on the things that really should matter (family, food, wine and culture!) and really putting our money in to fewer, but higher quality things.

So, thanks for your patience and look for new blog updates on a regular schedule again soon!  Topics on the burner include:  Sheldrake Point Winery’s new Seneca Lake Tasting Room; New York Wine & Culinary Center; the National Arts Marketing Project Conference; and a new series of contributor blogs to Handmade in PA.

Shopping the PA Heritage Festival

This past weekend I helped out at the PA Heritage Festival in Troy, PA.  The event, in its 6th year, features a Heritage Village with demonstrations and activities based in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s and an Artisan Marketplace featuring more than 40 juried artisan vendors.

This year’s event included many return vendors like Barb Sargent of Glass Jewelry Shack, Mike Wysocki of Sassy Albert Soaps, Marie Bauman of Shades of Country and Ed Hammond of E.M. Hammond Glass Designs.  And it saw several new vendors like Amy Jackson of Blissful Fiber, Joan Davis – jewelry artist, and Bob Moss – carver.

Bob Moss, carverBob Moss has been carving for about 10 years.  He first got interested after attending a craft show with his mother. After seeing some scroll work by an artist at the show, Bob figured he could do that work, went home, bought the needed equipment and got to work.  Scroll work eventually turned in to work with the lathe which eventually turned into work carving.  He carves in antler, golfballs and cottonwood bark.  He uses the lathe to create fantastic pieces from antler, corian and wood.Santas by Bob Moss

And he’s a fast learner, not just at his artwork.  After just a few years of selling at shows, Bob has become a master at the retail shows from watching others and observing traffic flow.  He sets his booth up with purpose, and often shares his insights with others.  Find Bob on Facebook and on Etsy.

Navigating the Social Media Jungle

The world, it is a-changing…..and at a pace I find mind-boggling! The new reliance on social media and mobile technologies is forcing a lot of folks to re-evaluate their business practices – whether they like it or not.

I recently read a blog post “Dear Restaurant Owners – Having a Website is no longer OPTIONAL!,” and while it was targeted at restaurant owners, the same should be said to any small business. The days of avoiding a website are gone and every small business needs to have their presence on the web locked in.   It is now the first place people go to look for information.   I understand that you’re probably a one-person shop, and I’m not saying you need something fancy – but just to have your basic contact information, store hours if you have a physical storefront, a few photos, bio and artist statement are critical. That’s the base.

But there are so many other platforms out there – TwitterFacebookYelpFourSqaure, Blogs (I use WordPress for the NTCA web site and for my own blog) and now Google+to name a few.   How do you know which ones to use?  Not every social media option is for everyone, but you should definitely check out what each one offers and decide which will work best for you and your business.   My recommendations for a small, artisan business (as of today, because there will be something new tomorrow) include a minimum use of:

  • Website – of course.  As a promoter of the arts and someone who works with tourism groups, I cannot stress this enough.  A web site, even a basic one, is so key especially as more and more promotion is done through mobile apps that allow shoppers to find you while on the road.
  • Facebook: It is so simple (and free) to have a Page for your business. If you’re just starting out on Facebook – make sure you create a Page for your business, not a Profile (meant for individuals). It’s actually against Facebook’s rules to use a Profile for a business or organization and you risk having the Profile shut down. You can (and should) have a personal Profile plus a Page for your business. And once you get to 25 Likes, make sure you register your “vanity” URL or username.
  • Twitter: While it can take a little bit more to get into Twitter, it is a great source for sharing information and news. A good rule of thumb for using Twitter is: 70% of your tweets should be about sharing information, 20% should be spent “chatting” with those you follow and who follow you; and 10% is about self-promotion.

There are programs out there, like HootSuite and TweetDeck, that can help you manage multiple social media sites in one simple location. But be careful how you use them – the uses and accepted practices for Facebook and Twitter are different, so a message that works on Twitter might not work on Facebook..

Here are some examples of sites and folks to check out (you do not need to be a Twitter or Facebook user to see the sites):

Locavore, Locawino, Locapatron??

One of the programs that I work with through the Northern Tier Cultural Alliance, is theBuy Fresh Buy Local program – a national program designed to increase demand, consumption and production of local foods – thus providing healthier food for all and supporting local agriculture.

Although the movement is focused on foods, what we’ve seen over the past few years is the inclusion of beverages (predominantly wine & beer) and handmade items.  NTCA originally came to the program because of its connection between agriculture and farm-based crafts.  The basket makers, weavers, wheatweavers, quilters, and others who had developed their artwork from a farm-based craft and/or who were growing, raising and processing their own raw materials.  They were not only farmers, they were also artists.

As with other BFBL Chapters, it is the goal of the Northern Tier Chapter to make it easier for consumers to find, choose and appreciate great local foods….and to support the farmers and lands which produce them.  Sound familiar?  It could so easily be “making it easier for consumers to find, choose and appreciate great local crafts and art….and to support the artists and communities which produce them.”

Now throw in there the burgeoning wine and craft beer industry in northcentral PA.  We now have ten wineries within the four Endless Mountains counties, not to mention that the NY Finger Lakes Region is only about an hour away. Having grown up and now living on the NY/PA border, this is well within my definition of “local” and Seneca Lake continues to be part of my stomping grounds.

And the connections for the industries are win-win-win.  A local restaurant that serves local foods and wine with local artwork on the walls or for sale in a small gift shop; a winery that offers local cheeses and local artwork in its gift shops; a small pub that serves local beer & wine with food ingredients sourced from local farms and beer mugs made from a local potter; a festival that features local beer & wine along side regional artists and craftsmen.

What could be better?  I can’t think of much, both as an arts administrator and as a consumer.

Photo Captions:  Willow Basket by Patty Dillman; Wine Rack by Larry the Table Guy; Cheese from LeRaysville Cheese Factory; Pottery by Jeff Overman; Glass Grape Clusters by Mike Dietz; Wine from Grovedale Winery