Considering Dave and I barely made it to our own panel at 7:30 am, I was surprised by the high turn out of attendees, although I have to admit they all looked suspiciously perky and bushy tailed and all that, almost as if they hadn't had three mixed drinks and four beers the night before.
As I mentioned before, Dave and I were asked to preach away on a panel discussion about the application of social media in the art biz. We had the specific topic of blogging. Also on the panel were Judy Takács Pendergast, covering Facebook, and Chris Saper, on the subject of self-publishing. Personally, I learned a lot from both of these ladies. And thank you, Judy, for making me feel like Facebook isn't a black hole sucking in hours of productive work time and instead a machine of self-promotion. Time to go catch up on the various kitten fail videos languishing in my notifications bar.
In order to get out of travelling with a stack of printed handouts, I promised to post our panel notes up here on the blog. Below is a paraphrasing of all the clever and sagacious things we had to say about blogging. Take it away, Sam:
The purpose of this panel is to discuss ways in which artists can utilize social media to advance their careers. Simply put, your product plus your image equals your brand. And using social media is a great way to disseminate your brand. Both free and easy, it's a way to put both your product and your image out where people can find it.This is a recent revolution. In the past, the art market has had strict gatekeepers: galleries, agents, publishers, and curators. It used to be that if an artist wanted to put their brand out into the world where buyers could see it, they had to rely on a gatekeeper allowing them or helping them to do it. Today, an artist can use platforms like Facebook, instagram, and Blogspot, to name a few, to make themselves visible and to interact directly with their own market, without a middle-man. There are many examples of artists who have used free social media programs and applications to build huge followings, which in turn translates into fame, sales, and invitations to Cecilia Beaux Forum Discussion Panels.Dave and I are here today to talk about blogging specifically.For those of you who don’t read blogs [OKAY I COULD HAVE EDITED THIS OUT FOR YOU GUYZ, BUT SERIOUSLY, SOME PEOPLE DON'T KNOW WHAT A BLOG IS], a blog is a special format of website that serializes your material like a journal. When I go on my blog and write a post, it is published with the date on which I wrote it. As time passes, my blog posts become archived according to month and year and all material that is published remains available in chronological order. I can post as much or as little material as I want, photos, videos, links. When you use a platform like blogspot, which is very popular, you can also accumulate followers—people who get email notifications whenever you make a post. Whatever program you use to make your blog, you can track your blog’s popularity by looking at the blog’s statistics. The stats will tell you how many pageviews you are getting, which posts are the most popular, and where your readership is. Most of ours is Canadian and American, but we have readers all over the world.Dave and I started writing our blog in 2011. It started off as a fun and casual hobby. Our target audience was our friends and family and private students. It’s very hard to keep everyone up to date on what you’re doing in the studio, and the blog was a great way to do just that. Our early posts focused on studio news and works in progress. At the time we had no idea the profound effect it would have on our careers.What blogging has done for us:1. Created an outlet for us to blow off steam and have fun together. From the very start, the blog has been for us to enjoy first and foremost.2. It involved our families and friends more in our lives and gave them insight into what we do. Being an artist is very isolating.3. Attracted artist friends. Friends are important in this industry. Friends are your life line, for emotional support, professional opportunities, and for technical information. They say this industry is all about who you know, so this is a great way to meet people.4. Created an identity that precedes us wherever we go. When we come to something like the PSoA conference we are constantly running into people who already know us.5. Attracted art students for workshops and private teaching. My last workshop was entirely comprised of blog readers. Each student came with questions about things I had written. It meant that they came to my workshop knowing exactly what they wanted to learn from me. Their expectations of what they could learn from me were perfectly accurate.6. Attracted small budget art collectors. Small sales happen on our blog regularly now. Small studies and drawings that wouldn’t fare well in a gallery sell to blog followers, because they are as interested in the painting process as the paintings themselves. Our blog has been a great platform for making sales below the thousand dollar mark. The problem with selling anything below a thousand dollars at a gallery is that there is zero profit margin for the artist by the time you factor out the gallery’s cut, the frame, and the shipping costs (shipping costs are like THIS BIG from Canada).7. Attracted large budget art collectors. Most of our large ticket sales still happen through galleries, but it’s important to remember that the smartphone yielding thirty year-old of today will be the financially secure art collector of tomorrow. We are counting on the fact that we have readers right now who can’t afford our work, but will be able to in ten or twenty years. When someone is passionate about your work, they will have their eyes on you for a long time.The biggest consideration in blogging is subject matter. Again, blogging is an opportunity to disseminate your brand—your product plus your image. Most artists should consider making their blog a place where interested parties can go to get studio news and project updates. Your blog material can be whatever you want it to be. I’ve seen some very successful blogs that are nothing more than a daily posting of a picture with a caption. I’ve seen others that have a lengthy written element. In the end, you should decide what you want the world to see and think of you, and then put that material out there. Maybe you want your blog to be a place where collectors can gain a greater understanding of your inspiration. Maybe you want your blog to attract students and help fill your workshops. Maybe you want your blog to be a publicity machine. It helps to try out different angles and see what works. Your stats will tell you what is popular.Our few years of blogging have taught us a few lessons.Some blogging rules:· Pick a tone and stick to it. Maybe you are serious. Maybe you are very personal. Maybe you are whimsical or maybe you are funny. People will be going to your blog because they like your tone, so maintain it. Think carefully about what sort of language you want to use. Decide if you want to be casual or formal, if you want to use slang. The choices you make will affect how your readership perceives you and responds to you. It will affect your image.· Proofread. Mind your spelling and your grammar (ahem, Dave!) Organize your thoughts. Consider your delivery. Everything you learned about good writing should go into practice.· Be sincere and authentic, but you don’t have to be totally honest about everything. You don’t need to, and in fact you shouldn’t, put all of yourself out there. Keep some of yourself for yourself. Your blog shouldn’t be a really exposing, cathartic experience.· Don’t apologize for not updating in a long time. There is no need, and it looks silly when someone reads back through your archives and every other post starts with, “OMG, soooper sorry I haven’t posted in like forever…”· Don’t be self-conscious or insecure. Some people seem to feel that writing a blog is really egotistical, and that they need to compensate by putting themselves down. This is bad for your image. The world needs to think you’re awesome. You need to think you're awesome. If you put it in writing that you hate the painting you just did, or that you suck at backgrounds or whatever, you are making a negative affirmation about yourself and it’s not healthy. Too many people do this when they’re blogging.· Quality over quantity, but the right quantity is important too. Some types of content is easy for readers to digest and you can post more frequently. If you’re running off a post the length of a Russian novel each time, maybe you shouldn’t update more than once a week. You don’t want people to stop reading because they simply can’t keep up. And yet you want to post frequently enough that people don’t forget about you.· Make your blog easy to read. Black text on white background if you have a lot of written material.· Pay attention to your stats to see what subject matter is popular.
Finally, only blog if you love blogging. It is a big time commitment, and a long-term project. The whole idea is that you are in this for the long-haul. If you can’t keep up with a blog, do something else that is more fun for you. But if you do love writing, and you love talking about art, then you should blog. You will find it a very rewarding experience, and by creating something to share with the world, you will make friends and create opportunities for yourself.