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Monday, April 26, 2010

Blogging for Artists - introduction, and some benefits

I am back up and running on a new computer.  Unfortunately I do not have certain programs installed on this new machine yet, like Photoshop.  Rather than wait to update any longer because I haven't yet got the ability to make that hiking post about the Trotternish like I said (it would be image heavy), I hope you don't mind my providing something else.

I was asked to do a presentation to a local artist group about social marketing, so I'm starting off with blogging for artists.

recent commissioned painting of wolves, acrylics on peacock feather

An online presence of some form is essential for success in today's art market.  An online location such as a website becomes your storefront.  Unlike your studio or your representing gallery, your website is available for perusal 24/7.  And unlike those physical venues, there are almost no geographic restrictions.  you really can bring your art to the world.

Website:  Your website is your anchor.  it is the fulcrum from which all your online marketing extends.  The website has long since become the accepted business standard, but it does have its drawbacks.
-Cost.  Hiring a professional can be expensive, as can purchasing some of the website building programs that are available.
-Time.  if you build it yourself, it is very time-costly - especially if it involves coding.  There is also the matter of a professional's time, as your site is likely not the only site he has to keep updated. Those updates may not come as quickly as you would prefer.
-Updates. When your website is updated, who's going to know?  You have an email list, and you may notify your friends and patrons this way, but that too takes time.  there is no automatic notification that I am aware of for websites.

A website tends to be static and seldom changes.  It best serves you as your base online portfolio in which you showcase your best work and provide your essential information such as artist bio, contact information, and calendar of shows and events.  Do update it, quarterly at the very least.

Blog:  Your blog, unlike your website which changes very little, is organic and constantly growing.  Your website is a showcase of your best art, but your blog may show the working process of new pieces.  it may also be a place for your readers to come and get to know you a little bit better.  A blog also encourages community and interactivity, it is more social.

Consider your favorite blogs - what attracted you to them?  What keeps you coming back?  A good blog that attracts frequent visitors is one that has good content, good imagery, and is updated regularly.  A successful blog provides value - whether it informs, inspires, or simply entertains, that blog provides something useful and of value for the reader to take away.  readers come to fulfill a need.

Benefits of Blogging:  Blogs have many benefits over websites.  Community, ease of use, cost-friendly (most are free!), and instant publishing are a few.

-RSS.  Blogs may also be subscribed to by RSS, or Real Simple Syndication.  This allows the readers to see immediately what new articles you've written without actually going to the blog.  They are immediately notified of updates without any email notifications or other work on your part.

-Community.  You may allow comments to your blog, which lends a level of interactivity that your website just doesn't have.  In some blog platforms, such as Blogger, you may 'follow' other blogs within that platform. You may also add a list of your favorite blogs in a 'blogroll' and others will add you to theirs.  through these activities you may build a network. You may ask questions on other blogs and answer questions and comments on your own.  you're building a connection with people.  As your community grows, so do friendships.  You'll begin to see people frequenting blogs not only for the content, but also for the conversation.  this is the 'social' in social networking and it is a very powerful tool.

-Search Engines.  It is a fact that search engines love blogs.  Search engines search for words, and blogs are just full of them.  Search engines also like freshly-updated URL's and blogs definitely provide that, much more so than websites do.  Keeping that in mind, when you make a blog post, whenever possible (and without being obnoxious about it) include key words that people would use in searching for you or your work.  You may have noticed I use the words 'painted feathers' in many of my blog posts, and that is to help people find me.  Keep in mind the words people might search in finding you or work similar to what you do, and employ them when you can.

Cost.  I have already touched on this one, but it's worth saying again.  Most blogs are free.  Websites can often be costly, both monetarily and in time, and a blog is thrifty in both.

Ease of use.  You can literally set up your brand new blog in a matter of minutes.  You don't need to know codes, you simply choose a style you like, write your article, add your images (which is also very easy), Title it, add some tags if you choose, click 'publish', and voila, your article has been published to the internet and within minutes it's already available to your subscribers' RSS feeds. What could be easier?

How often should you update?  It needs to be at whatever rate you are comfortable with.  If just once a week is all you can handle, that is fine - but an effective blog needs to be updated at least once a week and preferably more frequently than that if you can manage it.  If you can't do that right away, work up to it.  I made a goal this year to get much better at blogging, and just when I had a good rhythm going my computers melt down.  Stuff happens!  Recover your footing, and drive on when you can.

What should you write about?  Write about anything you like, anything you have a passion for.  Be personable, and above all be genuine.  If you're not comfortable or knowledgeable in the subject you're writing about, it will show!  Your readers will see it.  It won't feel natural to you and it won't come off as authentic to those reading.  Just be yourself.  As an artist, you have a plethora of blogworthy material.  What is your latest project?  Show us, tell us about it, blog about some of your process.  did you go some place special to gain the experiences and reference material?  We'd love to hear about it.  Have you got some big goals, upcoming shows?  how about hobbies that you love that don't even involve art?  it's all good.  Consider those blogs you like to read... they probably involve a lot of your own interests, right?  That's who you're writing for, yourself and for those people who share your interests as well as those people who follow your art.  You could even gain new followers of your art simply by writing about your interests.

If you don't have a website, a blog is a very good alternative.  If you do have a website, however, a blog should not replace it, it should simply compliment it.  Link to your blog on all your major website pages. Show your latest artworks on your blog. Announce website revisions on your blog.  Your blog has great potential to drive traffic to your website, and vise-versa.  Use them both, update your blog regularly and see how much your website visits climb.

~Happy blogging!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Absent, But Not Given Up

So sorry, I realize it's been a few weeks since my last post.  Regretfully, I've experienced another computer crash.  This puts me back on the dinosaur again, which feels more crippled and lethargic than ever.  I do have a new laptop on the way, though, so after this coming weekend I will be able to resume posting.  I cannot even do photos under current conditions, but by April 19 the posts shall resume.  Look for a hiking post on the Trotternish then, with several photos.

Have a wonderful week!