What do you do when someone calls you a name? Sometimes it makes sense to wear it. Someone called me a facebooker extraordinaire. Cool. What in the cyber-world is that? I doubt they gave it much thought, but I like it. My twitter following is growing slowly. No one knows what’s happening with Google+. LinkedIn has been intriguing, and has generated some interesting leads. My YouTube channel had some recent rapid success thanks to “Two Guys Walk Around Port Townsend“. My Klout score is 61, not that I really know what that means, but my score is in good company. And this blog continues to gain subscribers, generate more traffic, and extend its reach. Okay, maybe I’m not an expert but evidently I’m getting somewhere. So, thanks to the suggestions of some of the artists from last year’s Whidbey Island Open Studio Tour I’ve decided to teach a class in, “Social Media For Artists.” Hey, that makes me a teacher. That’s a familiar name.
If the social media universe appears overwhelming, then congratulate yourself on excellent perception. Check out this historic graphic, and I mean historic because it must already be out of date. If you want something more entertaining, look at xkcd’s version – and then look at the revision. The first is from 2007. The second is from 2010. They look fun, but they are actually accurate too. The areas represent the size of each community. I can’t find the Facebook patch in the 2007 version, and by 2010 MySpace has possibly vanished. I hope he maintains his three year cycle and updates it next year.
I don’t try to follow it all. I simply feed my accounts on facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and twitter; ignore several other accounts that I was required to join for various temporary endeavours, and avoid diving into the rest until absolutely necessary.
But why do any of it? Scroll back a couple of centuries and ask, “Why go west?” One answer is, “Why not?”, but a more pragmatic answer is, “Because the frontier is inhabited by opportunity.” Americans and immigrants moved to the Western half of North America because where they were was too constrained and crowded. (By the way, about a fifth of my web traffic is international, so please pardon any unfamiliar geographic references; but, hey, everyone’s seen Westerns, right?) They looked for opportunity and freedom. They didn’t expect guarantees. They did expect hardship and hard work. Today’s frontiers are no longer geographic. Today’s frontiers are cultural and electronic. The types of opportunities, risks, and work are different, but the impetus for artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses remains the same. People use social media to be social; but, the business models of the sites rely on commerce. Something is paying for those “free” sites. People have always mixed business with pleasure. Social gatherings are well known as places for networking and getting the word out. There is no black and white to social media, online or offline. There is a lot of opportunity available for little money and a bit of work.
Facebook, despite its fall from grace within the investment community, is still a $44,000,000,000 corporation. That’s $6 for every person on the planet. Whether I think the valuation is appropriate or not, (I prefer to invest in smaller companies, much smaller companies) FB’s price is one measure of how important social media has become. Another measure is the size of its community. There are over 900,000,000 accounts registered. Even if many of them are fictitious, the remaining ones exceed the population of the United States. One businessman was afraid that something they’d post would get out of control and be plastered across the accounts of tens of millions of strangers. Um, and in business, is that a bad thing?
Social media is appealing to me because it is appealing to a major portion of the population of the planet. For some reason, millions of people want to connect. That’s a good thing. A counselor helped me work through my divorce. I asked him if I was nuts or crazy. He chuckled and said neither. I just had a very thin support network. We all do, at least relative to a stereotypical fifty years ago. He pointed out that once upon a time stereotypically men would hang out in the local bar, or hunt, or fish to smoke, drink, and complain with each other. He pointed out that women stereotypically gathered for card games or afternoon teas and would do the same thing. Today is defined by No Smoking, and Don’t Drink and Drive, and Women in the Workplace, all of which are things to celebrate, but we haven’t replaced the support networks and connections we lost. I think I see a bit of that returning on facebook. Rants and raves are common. People find support.
Just like back in those mythical times, there are now places where we can announce small or large celebrations to friends, family, and acquaintances. Back then announcements went out to everyone within the range of a loud voice. News was limited by geography. Now, announcements may not reach the people next door, but will reach people drawn by similar interests and passions.
I use social media to talk about my art, my business, my volunteer work, my speculations, my observations, and much of my life. I don’t use social media for everything, just like I don’t walk into a crowd at a party and shout out intimate details about my life. There is an etiquette to social media because it is social.
I am glad we are getting together any way we can. Social media is particularly good for opening lines of communication without having to define those lines or pay for them. Posting something to this blog makes my contributions available to those who want them enough to visit my site. It is a pull more than a push. The people who engage are the people who want to engage. I like that a lot more than buying ad time to push a message.
Pull rather than push is why I think social media is good for artists. Artists create art that attracts attention. Artists are natural at creating pull. Social media is a natural tool for artists – if they know how to use it. Unfortunately, social media is created by technologists, not artists. The sites are created by businesses that may have different ideas about intellectual property, security, and privacy. It adds immense complexity to an overwhelming selection of possible sites. That’s why I keep it simple and that’s why I think there’s value in passing along a simple path that I think might work for many people.
Here’s the irony. I am teaching a class about Social Media for Artists and using social media to spread the word. That’s a bit like teaching telegraph operators how to use the telegraph. So, in a very social sense, I ask you to pass along the word to your friends, family, acquaintances, and compatriots who may not be electronically connected. We can enter this frontier one step at a time and follow a trail that already exists.
Here are the details.
Social Media for Artists
The seminar will describe the basics of how to get started – and how, why, and if to connect the various sites.
The workshop will be a working session so bring along your laptop. We can spend the afternoon tweaking sites and jumpstarting each other’s networks.
Social media is powerful, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Let’s remove a bit of the mystery.
Seminar: 9am – noon Lunch: on your own Workshop: 1pm – 4pm
Bell House in Freeland (contact me for directions)