Don’t forget the personal touch

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

So much of what we focus on in communications and marketing these days is focused on social media – what to do, what not to do, statistics, and infographics.  But don’t forget the most powerful tools out there – face-to-face conversations and word-of-mouth.

Over the past two months, my colleague and I have been going out to visit with various community groups to test our version of what we think our community knows we do and what our community actually thinks we do.  And while most of the time what we think the public knows about us is, in fact, true, there have been a couple incidences where people did not know information that we felt was common knowledge.  Not a good thing when trying to develop support.

No matter how many press releases we put out; no matter how matter articles (with pictures) our local newspaper carried; no matter how much posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter; no matter how many e-Newsletters or e-Postcards.  The information was either not getting to them or not sinking in.  But since starting the face-to-face meetings, the interest and response has been exciting.  People have come to us, rather than us going to them.

So, no matter how much I love technology and know the power of using social media and other electronic forms of communication, I will always bow to the effectiveness of a face-to-face talk and the power of word-of-mouth.  The point to my ramblings…don’t forget to get out of your studio every once in a while.

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Organizing Your Facebook Life

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

Feel like you’re spending your life tracking down fellow artists or favorite sites onFacebook?  Create Lists – a practice I already use in Twitter (where it’s called “Searches”) to get a quick overview of the chatter on specific topics or by specific groups. The idea, and knowledge, to do this on Facebook came to me today in a Social Media Examiner post shared by fellow communications pro, Carol FingarSocial Media Examiner is a great site to follow for social media tidbits.

Creating Lists on Facebook is a good way to group Pages or Friends so you can take a quick look at their status updates without scrolling through your main news feed. It also helps ensure that you will see the post, since your main news feed uses Facebook’s mysterious algorithm to populate your news feed.

If you’re like me and have clients or customers related to a specific region or topic, you can sort those folks out as well. To keep my sources for generating stories related to the PA Wilds together, I created a list to include the following folks:

• Olga Gallery, Café & Bistro
• Yorkholo Brewing Company
• Revitalize Mansfield
• Curt Weinhold Photography
• Pennsylvania Wilds Artisan Trails
• Flemish House Art Gallery
• ECCOTA

And if you have Friends and Pages that you want on one list – you can do that too! Just create the list from Friends and then add Pages, or vice versa. There is also an option in the top right of the list page to add individual Friends or Pages, rather than choosing from a list. Also in the top right corner of the List page, you can manage your list by adding/removing friends/pages, deleting the list, renaming the list, and even choosing which types of status updates are shown on the list.

And don’t worry, you’ll still have your normal news feed!

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.

Doing the Digital Jump

For many arts organizations, and artists, making the jump into the digital word can be a bit daunting, especially when your “old” methods still seem to be working.  But today’s consumer/patron expects to see their favorite artist or organization where they are – online.

Still need some convincing?  Check out the study, “How Strong is Your Social Net?” fromTrudel | MacPherson – communications consultants who help “nonprofits, public agencies, membership organizations stand out from the crowd.”  Throughout the ten months of the study, more than 1,000 arts organizations from 45 states were surveyed to see how they were using social networking.  Some of my favorite summary findings included:

  • “Arts organizations are realizing that using digital media is not ultimately about technology: it’s about using new channels to communicate and share what they already know best. The novelty of digital media and social platforms is fading as they become a fact of everyday life for audiences and arts organizations alike.”
  • “Budgets and geography are not a constraint to innovation. More than half of our respondents are associated with organizations with operating budgets under of $500,000…”
  • One organization did away with their printed brochure, put all their resources in to social media and saw a 26% increase in ticket sales
  • Social networks worked best for developing fan networks and building live participation (attendance), then ticket sales, and lastly for fundraising.

Now, going strictly digital may not be the best option for everyone, but the study shows that learning how to use today’s technology to share will reap benefits.  And keep in mind it is all about learning and experimenting, and finding out what works best for you/your organization.

Ready, Set…Technology Malfunction

So, I had grand plans of sharing all the information I learned at the recent National Arts Marketing Project Conference with you this week.  And then my computer decided otherwise.

So, while I work from an old laptop and try to get the new one working again, enjoy these photos from the conference on Flickr,http://www.flickr.com/photos/americans4arts/sets/72157628117381900/

and this FANTASTIC keynote by Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing.

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!

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):