Social Media: An Introduction Part 2

Most people think of Social Media as Social Networking. Social Networking is one of only a vast range of tools at your disposal. I will break it down into simple terms in a minute. What they all have in common, however, is the ability to interact. To have a two way conversation. There are places on the internet where you will not have that ability, a website is a good example and on Social Media you can also turn off the ability to have that conversation but this is not something I recommend. On a website you might be able to click a “Like” or “Tweet” button but you won’t be able to comment or post, directly on that website.

Here are categories of Social Media:
• Social Networking – a platform, similar to blogging, where you can interact with people, create relationships and enhance the ones you already have. Facebook , LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.

• Blogging – short for web log, this is a place (like this blog for example), where you can write articles, post photos and videos and people can comment and share and repost your articles on their blogs. So far I have found that WordPress.com is the best platform because it has automatically built in functions and widgets that will share your posts on various Social Networking websites. I also like Blogspot.com, otherwise known as Blogger.com but not as much. It’s run by Google and has good search engine visibility but there aren’t enough widgets or built in things. I have had more traffic and comments on Word Press in a month than I had in three years of being on Blogspot.com

• Micro-Blogging – Twitter.com is a good example. You have a set amount of space (140 characters – spaces count as characters – on Twitter for example) to post. An original idea is to post several consecutive posts on one topic. I did a Twitter class on Digital Photography for example.

Photo Sharing – websites like Pinterest.com, Flickr.com and Instagram.com It’s almost like a photo blog. You will post photos and people will comment or in the case of Pinterest.com, they will “re-pin” onto their boards.

• Video and Audio Sharing – this is a website where you would post audio or video and you would get comments and feedback. People will also share your posts and put them on their “Channels.” YouTube.com is a good example of Video Sharing. SoundCloud.com would be a good example of an audio sharing website.

• Podcasting – Audio or Video that you create and post – different from Video and Audio Sharing – that people listen to or watch, like listening to a radio show. It’s usually a series of informative recordings. These are available through a website or a platform like iTunes.

• Article Sharing – These are websites where you can post articles that you’ve written about different topics. They will be shared and re-posted and commented on. A good example of an article sharing website is hubpages.com

• Business Rating Websites – These are websites where users post information and reviews of existing brick and mortar businesses. Yelp.com is a good example.

• Crowd Source Funding – These websites work in conjunction with Social Networking websites to help you raise funds for certain projects, such as Kickstarter.com, Rockethub.com and GoFundMe.com. Some are all or nothing websites – raise all the funds or you won’t get paid (Kickstarter.com is one of these) – and some are get paid as you go (Rockethub.com and GoFundMe.com are get paid as you go websites).

The statistics of user numbers for these websites is huge! I will share some of this in future posts. Before Social Media, however, Word of Mouth marketing meant that one person could spread the word about you and your art with 20 people over a period of time. With the advent of Social Media – combined with mobile devices such as iPhones, Androids, iPads, Kindle Fire and more – one person can share information with 2000 people in a matter of minutes. This should give you a fair idea of the power of Social Media.
In future posts I will show you how to maximize your use of Social Media to get positive feedback and word of mouth about your art.

Internet for Artists: Website Design: The Gallery Pages

The most important reason that viewers will visit your website is for your art. It is important to present it, therefore, clearly and simply. There are several options for doing this and there are new options appearing as new technology becomes available.

When I first started writing this I was using Photoshop Elements and Dreamweaver 8. I am now using Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web. It’s amazing the difference in new technology and will probably always be a novelty to me. It has Photoshop Extended. Photoshop Elements is a perfectly good enough program if you can’t afford Photoshop Extended and will let you do all the things you need to do. Therefore, there is no excuse for poorly presented photos.

Since I am talking about photos let me speak about a newer format. .png 8 and .png24. These two elements are lossy compression elements as is a .jpg or .jpeg. That means that you will loose pixels when you save it but not as much and the color options are in the millions and millions. This makes it a format that is great for the web and presents your art in a clearer way. .jpg or .jpeg is still the preferred format in most applications for exhibits, grants, fellowships and residencies.

So how to present your art. Remember that each artist is different and each website should be professionally presented but at the same time unique and inline with the artists style and technique. I did like the disjointed rollover. That means that you have thumbnails of your work on one side and when the mouse rolls over it, a larger image appears. This allows your viewer to see a larger version without having to click on anything. However with the advent of new technology and the fact that Dreamweaver CS5.5 no longer has the technology to support it, it’s not the ideal way to go.

Another way is clicking on a thumbnails and a larger image imposes itself over the page with a transparent black background. Much like in this website: www.kathleenjgraves.com. Make sure that this is done in .html or Javascript and not Flash. Flash is not supported by mobile devices and is slowly going out for computers as well.

This artists website has a portfolio system with thumbnails on the top that visitors click and a larger image becomes available below them: http://www.symastudios.com/PORTFOLIO/Pages/PUBLIC_ART.html#8

I’ve also seen pages with thumbnails that open into a new window. This is becoming common again. However, make sure it’s not a “pop up” window (a small window that opens to the top left or top right of the browser). Also make sure there is a way to go from photo to photo without having to leave the separate window. It’s best to have it open to a full web page rather than a “pop up.”

I can’t really offer you more options at this time but keep looking around. Look at what other artists are doing, galleries and museums. See what you like and instruct your designer accordingly. Make sure it’s simple, all about your art and you will have great success.

Internet: Website Design: Top 10 Mistakes

Before I talk about the gallery pages on your website I thought I should talk about the mistakes I’ve seen on artists websites. I want to be sure that you will develop THE most exciting and professional website possible. Your website says so much about you and is there to speak for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s the world wide web after all and a poorly designed website says so much about you.

1. Not including an artist statement, bio and resume.
Visitors will go to your work, first and foremost, to see your art but a well written artist statement, bio and resume will make the difference between making a sale and not making a sale. Between getting an exhibition and not getting that exhibition. It shows how in touch with your process you are, your experience and your professionalism.

2. Not including contact information or including too much contact information.
If there is no way for people to contact you how will you receive any opportunities. That said putting your address on your website (or anywhere on the internet for that matter) is opening yourself up for identity theft and perhaps something worse. Also putting a landline phone number is a bad idea. If you put your phone number into a search engine your name and address might come up. Try it on Yahoo in particular. With that information someone can start opening bank accounts, getting credit cards, etc. in your name. So put access to an email and a cell phone number only. You can also put links to your Social Networking profiles.

3. Not putting links to other websites
Search engines will give you better ranking if you link your website to another website and they, in turn, link back to you. Make sure that these links are relevant to your work and that they have high search engine ranking. A link to your dentist is fine but does it really have anything to do with your work?

4. Not Meta-tagging Your Website
This means that you will choose 8 key words that will help search engine spiders categorize your website. If you don’t’ do this they will go by the content of the text on your page and that will make they come up with something totally garbled. There is also a two sentence description that is a tag. You can see what that is in a previous post with a glossary of terms.

5. Letting your website developer handle the whole entire thing, even the design.
A website designer, in most cases, is not a graphic designer. If they are, they may not know the ins and outs of the art world. What makes a professional website. That’s entirely up to you. Before you even think of approaching a designer please, please, please take the time to plan your website. I can help you do that through an internet consultation. Visit the website for more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com I can do it over the phone or in person with internet support.

6. Putting up a website and leaving it static.
In order for a website to be effective it has to be live. Meaning lively and constantly changing. Put new photos, articles, exhibition information and events. If you can’t do it yourself have your website designer do it for you. This can be costly. The Artists Objective has a monthly website update program. For more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com

7. Confusing Navigation/Menus
This runs the gamete from poor placement, to type that’s too small, to confusing categories. The number one mistake here is categorizing by the year. To me this is a huge cop out and I’m inclined to leave the website. I feel that it’s too exclusive for me, and that I might have had to know about the artist in the first place in order to be privileged enough to visit the website. I know that’s not what the artist intended but it’s the lazy way out. Describe your art by medium, or subject. You can do drop down menus (technically known as jump or pop up menus). Think carefully about this because it generates hits/clicks which boosts your rating on search engines.

8. Poor Navigation on the Gallery Pages
I will talk more in the next post about how to set up the gallery pages but you will want a way for people to click from one enlarged image to the next without having to go back to an interim page. That’s annoying to your visitor and they may leave after the first click.

9. Small Images or Images that Don’t Enlarge.
When I visit a website I want a comprehensive look at the art. That’s the first and foremost reason I am there. I not only want to see the work, I want to LIVE in it. I want to feel it and almost touch it.. I want to feel compelled to touch my computer screen. Images that are too small do not allow me to do that. In fact, it almost screams ameture. Images must be 72 dpi and I like to recommend a minimum of 350 pixels. but ideal is 504 which is 7 inches. I always try for that but if it’s not possible that’s okay too. Be sure that it also works on a smaller screen, like an iPad or an iPhone.

10. Poorly Photographed Images
When I see this I sigh. Why did the artist spend the time and the money to put up a website in the first place? I can understand if an artist is using interference or iridescent colors but there is a way. Your images must be 100% perfect! In today’s digital world there is no excuse. See the first posts on this blog fore more about photographing your art properly. Please don’t put up a website until you have good photos.

A bonus mistake – too many bells and whistles or colors that are so bright that they interfere with the art itself. Your art is fantastic! Make it shine on the internet and everywhere else that you present it. Let planning your website be a way for you to develop a “look” for all of your materials. Your blog, postcard, brochures, stationary, etc.

That said The Artists Objective does website design and internet consultations. Please visit the website for more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com In the next post I will address the gallery pages. Stay tuned!

Internet for Artists: Website Design: Planning

The number one key to success on the internet is intuitive design. This takes thought and careful planning but the pay off is huge. It’s key to higher search engine ratings and will be very important to your visitors. Most of all the main content of your website is to showcase your art. It should be a retrospective of everything you’ve ever made, a catalog raisonné of you – the artist.

There is a temptation to put up bells and whistles, fast moving content. Please avoid this. The simpler the better and the more your art will stand out. Sometimes these kinds of websites are built in a program called Flash. Flash is okay in parts of websites but the whole thing should never be built in Flash. For example most videos are viewable in Flash. I’ll talk more about website design programs in another text but one major reason not to use Flash is that you can’t meta-tag it, losing control over traffic to your website.

At this point I’m sure you have a vision for your website. What color is the background, what typefaces will you use? How will your banner look, etc. I’ll talk more about type and color in another post. I’m going to start with a list and descriptions of essential pages every artists website should have.

• Home or Index PageThe first page your visitors will see when they arrive at your website. This should be simple and make a bold statement. Your visitors should never have to scroll for anything on this page. I always recommend putting a work of art there that’s bold and inviting and to change that about once a month or as appropriate. It will keep visitors returning again and again to your website.

• Gallery Pages – These are the pages that display your art. How will your visitors see it and how will these pages connect to each other? How many images should go on a page. If you have a lot of art I recommend using what’s called a “disjointed rollover.” This is an image that opens larger in another part of a page just by having the mouse roll over it. See an example on this website: www.nancyfabrizio.com You will also see a small arrow on the right that connects to the next page of the art. If you have fewer images you may want to consider using one or two larger images of your art.

• Text Pages – one each for an artist statement, bio and resume.

Site MapA Site Map is a page with listings of all of your pages. This is a wonderful tool for many reasons. The number one reason is so that your visitor can easily find a specific page they are looking for. Secondly, it helps search engines categorize your website and thus boosts your ratings. Thirdly, it is a wonderful place to start your website on paper. Do this and your web designer will love you. You’ll also save a ton of money doing it.

• Press Pages – if you have any press written about you and the images of those articles this is the place to put them. Make sure they are readable. The type and images are clear.

• Copyright Page – it’s one thing to say ©Artist Smith, 2012, All Rights Reserved. It’s quite another to outline the terms of that copyright. It makes you look so much more professional. Like you really mean business. You can see the copyright page on the website mentioned above. By the way the way to say copyright is just the way I said it above “©Artist Smith, 2012, All Rights Reserved” As I mentioned in a previous post there are international conventions and by saying All Rights Reserved you are conforming to and claiming those conventions.

• “Missing” Page – This is a page that people will arrive at if a URL is typed or linked incorrectly. I’m sure you’ve seen those pages that say “This Page Does Not Exist.” A website host will automatically put up a page for that, however it will not look like your website and you’ll lose the visitor. It’s easy enough for a website designer to create a “Missing” page with your banner and navagation bar on it. Again your website will look more professional and you will capture the visitors that you’d otherwise lose.

Those are the essential pages. Now it’s time to think about how to link these pages and this is where the planning comes in. It’s time to draw out that site map. Which pages and links will link to what pages? How will you get there? It’s called navigation and I’ll address that in the next post.