The Internet & Social Media: Basics

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This article is the content for the first talk and workshop I am giving at the 2017 Teaching Artist Institute. This Institute is a simple set of lessons for currently teaching artists for the Studio School here at the Art Center. I am creating this effort to add some professional development to your experience here.

What are the apps, devices, and functions we are talking about, anyway??

We are in the age of the internet, and there is no way to escape it. Print coverage is not the most effective means of spreading the word about your career, work, or thoughts–at least not by itself.

Today, we will discuss:

  • Web sites (I hope to go to each person’s site a little and discuss strategy)
  • Email newsletters
  • Personal branding
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Youtube
  • LinkedIn

Do you know how the internet works? Honestly, it does not hurt to know the basic principles.

Do you need a website? YES, yes you do!

How does Social Media work?

Ways to develop a social media strategy to promote yourself

You have to have an online presence to be truly competitive and productive as a cultural producer–who wants to live off of your work. I know some people fear to put too much personal information out there, but that is all the more reason to learn how and where to tell your story. We ned to discuss some key ideas: social media strategy and personal branding.

“Personal Branding” does not mean going corporate, by the way: it is just a way to discuss the way you want to present your efforts to the public. Bear with me, I know the whiff of marketing-speak can be offputting, but I am here to tell you that you need to know how to present your work in a clear, concise, and honest way.

This is work, have no doubt about it! But we have always needed to promote ourselves, no matter the era. The fact that so many of us do not get much training in this in art school is a shame, but with some training, you can start making better and better choices over time.

Some of the services we will talk about are free (but take time and effort), and others cost money. Once you look at the work you are doing, come up with your purpose and planned trajectory, choose the networks and strategies in which you want to invest your resources. Then you can start learning the ropes on that limited bracket of options!

Need to see a great example of this effort? Look no further than the website and social media efforts of Studio School Teaching Artist, Anne Kullaf. She has a great Facebook presence as well!

Create a website and maintain it so that it stays contemporary in function and aesthetic.

  • You must have a website. This is not a bad thing! You are coming to the field well after the wild west days; now there are so many ways to assemble useful websites without knowing a thing about code. I will go over this in-depth later this week. I would love to look at everyone’s site right now and discuss the criteria you want to develop.
  • You need to make sure your site is kept current. That means making sure the content and links are fresh as well as the look and feel.
    • There are so many systems for building a site now, I seriously recommend you use those instead of trying to build one of your own (unless you want to be a web designer).
  • You need to gather email addresses and be prepared to send out newsletters if ever you need to. This is simple if you are using a service that provides the code for you. You need to be able to send emails to people who are interested in your work

Look at the current channels and decide what you are willing to do and what ends you hope to achieve.

  • Facebook is huge, with well over a billion members worldwide. It gives you the biggest possible audience of all the social media networks. Due to its particular development, it’s the easiest to manage and allows for the best possible targeting if you want to go into formal advertising. Rates are still affordable.
  • Twitter is a great platform if you want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.It gives you the potential to go “viral” most readily. Hashtags are used to catalog and organize content. They make a big difference in building momentum for your posts, so pay attention to what is trending today and include relevant hashtags. You can also get in contact with people at the top of your field readily through Twitter through retweets and other means.
  • LinkedIn is the network for presenting yourself as a professional to other professionals. It prioritizes relationship building more than any other, so be sure to keep the content about that, not about sales pitches. Also, you can create a LinkedIn Group for people in your niche and provide value to them that way.
  • Instagram comes with a phone app for making great photos. Use this to talk about process and illustrate your narrative. You can also use it to sell work. Hashtags are popular here as well.
  • Pinterest is great if you have great images to share as those go viral most readily. This can promote your work, but you need to make sure to watermark or mark your images with a credit. (You can use the free level of PicMonkey to do this)
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine and owned by Google. Your videos on this network will do far better in search engine results just by association.

Homework: think about your personal brand and what you want it to do for you

You need to think long and hard about what you want to do ith your work, your techniques, your story: in essence, you need to start to recognize that you already have a personal brand and how to begin to truly control and promote it.

Once you know how you want to present your work and the goals you have for your career, you can decide your social media strategy. What amount of time and money can you devote to this? What end goals are you working towards?

Write out what you want, start working on your action plan, and decide where you would like to start!


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