Mixing “social” with “business?” Is that rather like the division of church and state? Not really. But you’d think so when you see the proliferation of articles, everywhere, about what to do and what not to do when it comes to utilizing Social Media and your business. What’s a girl to do?
This year of 2010 has been a revelation to me as to the ins and outs of Social Media. Why capitalize the first letters? Because Social Media is a phenomenon that is like a whirlwind or funnel cloud that can swoop up your business and drown you in minutiae and steal your Time. The one key thing I learned was this: know WHY you want to use Social Media for your business before you ever step out that door. I decided early on that my Why was because I really do wish to expand the visible presence of my business beyond my geographical neighborhood [I'm an artist-preneur]. In my small way I really do want a global business. Yes, I’d like to sell my artwork to someone in my hometown but also to someone in England; or Australia; or New York; or Washington, D.C. The Washington, D.C. sale did actually happen – my business is physically located in California but because of online Social Media presence someone in the District of Columbia found my work. How cool is this?
The cool factor aside, Social Media can steal your time and confuse you. Here are the 3 most important things I have learned about Social Media this year.
1. Social Media is a tool. Simply that. In the garb of business it is a tool that allows you to:
- put your shingle on a global street so that many people can see it
- allows you to share your expertise on a broad stage
- offers a variety of ways and means to say your message: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs as example
One of the drawbacks of this powerful tool is its siren call to spend hours at your keyboard. It’s very important to remember that: Not everything is online. Not by a long shot. Networking began in the human world where people met face-to-face to exchange names and ideas. Artists do the same. I joined a group of artists who meet several times a month to share what we’ve learned about the doing of art, of promoting our work, critiquing one another’s new works and generally giving each other support and friendship. Keep your local community close and participate - not out of selfish intent but rather out of the joy of being with others who speak your language. Sometimes only another artist knows what yet another artist is talking about!
2. Choose your Social Media carefully. I take it as a marketing given that a business should be utilizing internet Social Media opportunities if – and this is a big IF – that business has a desire to be known farther afield than its own geographical neighborhood. There is a site that has much to say on this subject, Social Media Today [dot com] – lots of articles gathered from many sources with titles like:
- “How much will you spend on social-media marketing next year?”
- “The Top Five Essentials for Your Social Media Strategy“
I decided early in the year to include Social Media in my business marketing and promotional strategies. But Oh My Gosh! there are so many Social Media sites out there…it is quite possible to overload yourself to the point that all you are doing is writing status updates. If you have a very small business like I do, Time is one of your most valuable resources – I have to carve up my Time in a way that benefits my business not hurts it. It takes time to paint a new work, to apply ceramic tiles to new mosaic piece, to design a new digital artwork, to go on photography jaunts for new inspiration; time to do paperwork; time to do shows; time to do promotion and marketing…not to mention time for the entire rest of your life. So it becomes necessary to be smart in how and where you choose to use Social Media. I decided to keep my focus somewhat narrow because I have limited time I can spend at my laptop:
- Twitter - I use this micro-messenger for my art business – letting folks know when I have a new blog post or new work in my Etsy shop or events to attend or sharing interesting things I’ve come across; and of course I link everything everywhere one to another
- Facebook – I have a personal profile, but this year I added a business Page - On this Page is information about my business and also an actual mini-Etsy shop where images of my work can be purchased; also a shop button for my galleries at Fine Art America. Having a Page for my business on Facebook made sense for my marketing plan.
- LinkedIn – you wouldn’t think that artists and other creatives would use this professional social platform, but you’d be surprised at the thousands of us there are – I’ve “met” some pretty interesting people there – it’s another audience to share your business info with.
- YouTube – I began making short videos pertaining to my artwork this year and opened my own channel on YouTube – again, another way to reach more people with my business
- Niche-appropriate sites: depending upon your business there are social sites specific to your niche that would make sense…as an artist I have a couple specific to the art world.
3. Focus. And I say again, Focus! One aspect of focusing my efforts this year was that of writing. I see blogging as being a part of Social Media. It is a unique way to talk about your business: what it is, what you offer; share information in that niche; offer insights into your particular industry and much more. Up until September of this year I was writing two blogs – an artist blog, and what was then my primary blog, one dedicated to small business called “Linda’s Business Blog.” I came to a point of asking myself – one day as I was reviewing my business plan [even solopreneurs, artist-preneurs, need to have a vital and alive business plan]- why was I writing two blogs? My personal business was my art business and as such I should devote my writing efforts to that realm. So it made sense to retire “Linda’s Business Blog” and grow Mosaic Mandalas. Focus.
So. I learned, recognized really, that Social Media is one of the items in my business toolbox; that it should be chosen carefully and thoughtfully and focused.