Exploring Viral Marketing: Part 2 From Spectator to Player

In monitoring online art chatter, you may have identified some blogs, groups and high-profile users of social media networks where a discussion about you and your work could have great impact on your publicity and sales. What actions can you take to attract the attention of users, and what techno-savvy things can you do help push yourself further into the limelight? It’s time to become a player, rather than a spectator, and make some cyber noise.

Prepare and Share

Collateral materials — text, image, even video — are your food for fodder. What compelling story observation or useful tip do you have to share? Does your latest creation tie to a news event? Posting a free article download or new art on your Web site can also be excuses for opening your mouth (as long as you do this tactfully because hard selling is a real turn-off).

Next, transmit your story through multiple streams for maximum exposure. Here’s a list of where you can take it:

  • E-Newsletter: Include your story (a few sentences will suffice) and image of your work in the e-newsletter you send regularly to those on your mailing list. (If you have not yet started writing an e-newsletter, read our five-part E-mail Marketing series .)
  • Blog: You can post things to your own blog, or try to get another blog to pick up your story (refer to Pitching Your Artwork to Blogs, Art Calendar, April 2009, and Pitching your Story to Blogs, Art Calendar, November 2008). If you are blogging yourself, the blogs can be a few paragraphs, but short-and-sweet works quite well too. Don’t forget to upload the image when you post the blog and paste the link of the landing page where the image can be found on your Web site. Try a free blog site like WordPress or Blogger.
  • Video hosting Web site: If you’ve got a video, you can easily upload it to YouTube (refer to YouTube: The Online Stage for Artists, Art Calendar, September 2008 ), and also Daily Motion, Blip, Vimeo and, if you are a member, www.ArtScuttlebutt.com. Then add it to MeFeedia, a media search-and-discovery site.
  • Social networks: Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, be succinct with a micro-blog of 140-character-or-less (the maximum size for a Twitter post. (Have you tried “plurking” on Plurk yet?) Then there’s Meebo, which lets you IM with all your buddies and groups, even though they are on multiple networks like MSN, Yahoo, AOL/AIM or Google Talk (and you don’t even have to download any software.) Certainly add images to your photo album or slide show on these sites. (Refer to Social Networking: Marketing in the Digital Age, Art Calendar, July/August 2009.)
  • Other online communities for artists and creative professionals: Art Calendar offers ArtScuttlebutt.com; there’s also Behance and DeviantART, and many, many more. Add images to your portfolio; create a thread on a discussion forum then include your text and even paste a link to your image or video.
  • Social news-sharing sites: Check out Digg, Clipmarks and StumbleUpon. Recommend your Web page, submit links and stories. These sites offer a lot of ways to toot your own horn.

Respond

Now that you’ve shared your two-cents-worth with all of your cyber contacts, you have to stay engaged. Respond quickly to user comments to keep the chatter going. Social networking sites allow you to send and receive updates via mobile devices, so you can converse with users without being bound to your computer.

Pay attention to discussion forums and popular blogs covering topics relevant to your story; weave your story, your artwork or a reference to an article you wrote into a comment; then link to the source page. For broadcasts, you don’t have to comment via text — respond with your own video.

One more reason why you shouldn’t ignore social media is that sometimes a story may go in a direction you didn’t expect. If you monitor and respond, you are far more likely to keep your viewpoint out there, and contain or minimize negative messages than if you remain mum. (Editor’s note: Remember, though, be careful about trying to “defend” yourself; this can cause more harm than good; refer to Pitching Your Artwork to Blogs, Art Calendar, April 2009.)

Behind-the-Scenes Action

When you are proactive on the back-end, you increase your visibility and allow people to follow you easily. Most of the following tasks can be accomplished without a computer science degree:

  • Submit your site for inclusion in search engines, if they haven’t found you already:
  • Google: http://www.google.com/addurl/
  • Yahoo!: http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html
  • MSN: http://www.bing.com/docs/submit.aspx
  • On your Web site or blog, include buttons for a mailing list sign up and an RSS feed, which sends subscribers a headline and link whenever there is a new posting. Also consider social bookmark buttons, which allow readers to bookmark and share content from your site (to install this, go to AddThis.com).
  • Bloggers, set up a free account with Technorati (http://technorati.com/account/claims/new). This is a search engine specifically for blogs.
  • “Ping,” and get pinged. A ping is basically a signal that one server sends to another to verify its existence. If you encode an automatic ping into your Web pages, you can be notified when someone links to content that you have published (this is also called a “trackback”). Pings are great for bloggers because they notify other sites when a blog has been updated. Many weblog software programs (WordPress, for instance) support automatic pingbacks; just configure it in your blog settings. In addition, be sure to ping Technorati every time you post. You can do this manually (http://technorati.com/ping/) or configure an automated ping in your blog settings (http://technorati.com/developers/ping/).

Reality Bytes

Talking about your art online all day long means less time creating artwork and managing other aspects of your business. So how much time should you invest in “buzz marketing”?

Megan Murphy, founder of Artocracy.org, an online art marketplace that features original works using digital fine art multiples, has accounts on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Ning and Squidoo, and a blog called “The Drawing Board.” She will soon be uploading art framing how-to videos on YouTube. Murphy is careful about the frequency and quality of her social media postings. “I only post things related to art topics. I ‘tweet’ once every other day, and do a Facebook update two times a week. I want my followers to think of it as fresh instead of ‘that girl sits on her computer all day.’”

Besides determining how often you want to dedicate yourself to developing friends, fans and followers, you also need to ask yourself, “What’s the point?” Without clear business goals for content-sharing — list-building, public relations or selling a product — participating in Web 2.0 will be a waste of your precious time. Consider also whether social media outlets are the best tool to help you attain certain goals. As Murphy points out, “Will it make a difference to galleries if you have 20,000 fans?”

It is impossible to predict which post or comment will take off with flying colors, and you are far more likely to strike out than to hit a home run. But it’s not about one-at-bat, a single game or even one season; it’s about your career. So take a measured approach. Nurture those cyber relationships; maintain a “try-try again” mindset; and ensure that that your online efforts complement your total marketing strategy. Then, you’ll definitely be in the game.

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