Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Social media for artists, because artists amaze me

I am one super-lucky girl because I get to meet and work with some truly inspiring and fascinating people. And one subset of these is artists.

I am not artistic. (If you want some proof, see some of my childhood samples on my travel blog - this was the *peak* of my drawing ability!) But I am in absolute awe of anyone who can paint or draw or sculpt. In fact, I confess, my husband was very smart to bring one of his incredible paintings to hang on an empty wall in my apartment shortly after we'd met - I was thrilled at the idea of hanging out with someone who could paint!

And I've also been thrilled to be able to work with some artists over the last few years, artists who have been looking for help with blogging and social media as a way to get some more (well-deserved) attention to their artworks. Obviously, social media is an ideal place for artists to hang out. Most social media platforms are extremely visual and if you're an artist with beautiful stuff to show then you've got it made.



One of the artists I was especially glad to meet is Jennifer Sulaj. She was wanting to get more serious about making painting her work and life and realised that social media would probably help her out, and despite being really not too keen on sitting in front of a computer when she could be in her studio instead, she's now doing a marvellous job of it - have a look at Jennifer's Facebook page and I'm sure you'll agree. What I think she is doing right, and what I have suggested to other artists I'm lucky enough to work with, is to post these kinds of things on social media:

  • Images of some completed paintings along with a story about how they came to be, what they mean to the artist or something unusual that happened while painting it.
  • Photos of works in progress, because the process of painting is fascinating not only to artists but especially to non-artists like me, who can't imagine how anyone can produce something so beautiful.
  • "Life of an artist" type posts, for example, images and stories of exhibitions, sales and even a simple thing like where and how they buy their paint or other supplies. (One of my favourite recent posts on Jennifer's page was the tale of the mishap when she bought a new van and it broke down an hour later, meaning her paintings were delivered late to a new gallery - nice to know that artists are human, too!).
  • Short tales of inspiration for starting a painting, for keeping on going, for getting back to work when it's hard to be inspired.
  • Sharing posts from other artists who inspire, or who have an interesting or different style.
  • Images of a studio, because for us non-artists it's hard to imagine what really goes on in an artist's studio.
I think that every kind of business has a place on social media - of course for some businesses, LinkedIn might work better, or Twitter, or something else - but for artists, one of the best has to be a Facebook business page. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in being fascinated by the life of an artist and they've got so much pretty stuff to share. A perfect match.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Using Pinterest for my office revamp inspiration

One of the things I want to organise early in 2013 is a tidy, organised office. I already have an office at home; it's the tidy and organised bit that's quite lacking. Part of this arises from the fact that when I set up my office it wasn't an office, but just a study, a place to house my large collection of books and a desk for my computer so I could write and blog. Since then, it's morphed into a proper home office and with that has come a need for something more than a relatively small desk and a wall of book shelves, because as much as I try to avoid it, along with a home office comes a collection of paperwork, books, business cards, training notes and resources and all kinds of other stuff that needs to have a good home.

I have a filing cabinet full of non-work related stuff in another room of the house; I didn't feel like a just a boring old filing cabinet was what I needed to solve this problem. So I did what any other self-respecting social media junkie does when in need of inspiration: I turned to Pinterest.

If you haven't discovered Pinterest yet, then I have one word of advice: don't! Of all the different social media I think Pinterest is the one that is the most addictive and potentially time-wasting. But that's because it's SO MUCH FUN! So I won't be at all offended if you ignore my advice.

Random Pinterest goodies
In a nutshell, Pinterest is a virtual pin-up board where you can "pin" websites, blog posts, images, whatever, into different pin-up boards (in other words, into different categories), and you can look at what other people have been "pinning" and "re-pin" their best bits to your own boards.

For my home office revamp project, I set up a pin-up board on my Amanda Kendle Consulting Pinterest profile called "Home Office Ideas". I then had a very legitimate reason to do some fun searches on Pinterest looking for inspiration for how to redesign my office to be both practical and beautiful. Now, I must admit that the implementation of this is a long way away, but the dreaming and collecting of ideas on Pinterest has certainly made headway!

Home office inspiration on Pinterest

While I was searching, some of the Pinterest posts reminded me that my home office could be a place for my son to "work" - in the sense of "play quietly" from time to time, and perhaps more and more as he gets older; as I'm always teaching in my social media for parents courses, no child should have a computer in their bedroom so perhaps (looking ahead a few years) my office could also be his, and he could use a computer while I'm at work here (ask me in five years if this turned out to be a good idea or a stupid one). This idea led me down a whole lot of new pathways for gorgeous ideas to pin.

And so it goes on. Of course, I now need another spare couple of hours to have a proper look at all this and figure out the best way to re-do my office, but as far as getting lots of ideas from the comfort of my computer go - Pinterest can't be beaten.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Custom domains and why you really, really need one

When I teach blogging, I make it nice and simple to get started there and then, in the lab, by having my students use Blogger.com. It's totally free and it's really straightforward to use so we spend eight hours talking every aspect of blogging I can cram in as well as putting it into practice immediately.

BUT ... that means my students go home with an address for their blog that looks like myblogname.blogspot.com - in other words, they will have the "blogspot" bit in their domain name, rather than having a custom domain (which would be myblogname.com).

This is not that cool. It's similar if you use the free wordpress version, and you have seen people with blog URLs like myblogname.wordpress.com. Whichever you use, I can't recommend enough that you should get yourself a custom domain. For lots of reasons. Most of all, you look a thousand times more professional and your blog's URL is a million times easier to remember and tell people. (Okay, these numbers may be slightly exaggerated, but my point is that I consider this really important!) The main reason I recommend getting your own domain name is that these days it is so simple and cheap so there's no excuse not to - and it's pretty common that what's started as your little hobby blog becomes something much more important to you. You can get sites redirected and so on but it's just simpler to start how you mean to go on - and if you can afford the time to blog, you can afford the minimal cost of this, I reckon.

The lucky thing is that if you are using Blogger then it's super simple and not even expensive (they currently charge US$10 per year for both the custom domain name plus they host it for you - there is no better deal than that). The "how to" goes like this:

1. In Blogger, choose "Settings" (and the first sub-menu "Basic" will appear by default)

2. On the "Basic" page of settings, look for "Publishing" - there will be a section for "Blog Address"
3. Click on "Add a custom domain" and Blogger will automatically suggest your domain name simply without the blogspot part. This may or may not be available - click on "Check availability" to find out.


If it's available, yippee and go for it. If not, or if you want to change your domain name anyway, then keep typing them in and clicking "Check availability" until you're a winner :-) Once you get it, it's just like shopping online and you can pay for it with a credit card. They'll ask if you want to automatically renew and I recommend it, because a year will come around faster than you think and you don't want to miss those emails saying "please renew your domain name now!" and then go to your blog one day and find it's disappeared!


(PS: Experienced bloggers will immediately tell you that you "must" have Wordpress rather than Blogger, for two main reasons - a Wordpress blog can be basically endlessly customised and also you have more control, because you have to host it somewhere of your choice rather than letting Blogger (aka Google) host it for you. These two points are both absolutely true, but in the case of most of the people I work with, they are not in the mood for learning the more technical aspects of Wordpress, and they are often working from lower budgets. In other words, for many of them, a custom domain on Blogger is enough - and in any case, it can all be transferred later if they so desire.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New year's resolutions and your social media goals

First up, Happy New Year! And second up: new years are all about goals for me. I love the whole idea of a fresh start. And if you've attended pretty much any one of my courses (and particularly my Kitchen Table workshops) you've probably heard me ramble on about setting goals for your blogging and social media. This is normal for me: I'm a list-maker, a goal-writer, a resolution-setter, and I think it works. Whatever form it might take, figuring out an effective way to set some goals for yourself at the very least helps you think about what you want to achieve (giving you a better than average shot at it) and at best, keeps you focused and on track and actually achieving the goals!

When it comes to social media, this gets extra important. Remember my "dip in" theory of social media? It includes setting yourself a time budget for your use of social media (because it's all too easy to get sucked into a vortex of Facebook updates and Twitter hashtags). Sticking to a sensible amount of time using social media (especially if it's for your business) makes it less likely that you'll waste time.

I wonder what goal I've got in mind for increasing my Facebook page "likers"?
But of course not wasting time isn't enough. You have to use it well and the way I see it you have to have some goals to be able to do that. So, given that the new year is just beginning, it's a good time for everyone to sit down and set some social media goals. They don't need to be complicated or fancy but they have to exist! I tend to set "slightly beyond realistic but possibly achievable" targets for my social media goals - knowing I may or may not meet them, but I'll be inspired to keep trying. I like having some concrete numbers to track throughout the year so that I can adjust my strategy if I see I'm not getting close enough to achieving the goals.

So what might these social media goals be? Keeping it simple is definitely the way to go so consider some of these possibilities, depending on what social media you're using:
  • Number of Facebook page "likers"
  • Number of Twitter followers
  • Number of connections on LinkedIn (bearing in mind quality over quantity) or number of followers of your LinkedIn company page
  • Number of ... you get the idea? Not that number is everything of course - anyone can buy thousands of fans from Cambodia or the Philippines for their Facebook page - so make sure your goal is to get quality followers who want to interact with you (and ultimately buy your product or service)
And if you're a geeky stats lover and want to go a bit deeper (without spending too much time on it, of course!) then have a look at some of these:
  • Quality of Facebook "likers" - look in the demographics section and, for example, improve the proportion of likers who fit your targets (eg age group or gender); especially if you're running a location-dependent business, then look in your demographics and try to improve the proportion of likers who live in your local area
  • Number of comments on your Facebook posts
  • Number of retweets and/or @mentions on Twitter
  • Interaction on your LinkedIn posts (comments, likes, shares)
You definitely need to decide for you which statistics are important (the fewer the better) and then figure out some numbers that work for you and your goals. I review them every month (or nearly. I admit I don't always get to it. But do as I say, not as I do!). I've put down some new numbers to chase in 2013 and I'm looking forward to it already. 
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