Friday, February 1, 2013

7 ways social media can help you build a sustainable arts career this year

Hey there,

I was inspired to right this addendum after reading a wonderful piece by Tim Cynova, Deputy Director at Fractured Atlas, 7 Ways to Build A Sustainable Art Career This Year. It's a list compiled by the staff at Fractured Atlas, and I'd highly recommend reading that article for the full context, to which I'm adding these social media...nuggets.

With that, thank you to Tim and his team for providing such a great spring board, and I hope you find something useful and actionable.
  1. "Practice your networking." - in addition to the various opportunities mentioned, social media is another great platform to practice it, particularly Twitter whose main strength is in facilitating conversation, whether they be a simple reply or an extended twitter chat. And there are networking opportunities on multiple levels. You can reach out nationally with hashtags like #newplay, or you jump in locally by looking up a regional or local hashtag, like in the DC area, we've got #dcarts.

    Biggest bit of advice? It's crucial that you listen and reply. It's almost like joining the staff or board of an organization, take some time to feel out the climate of the conversation, the temperature of the tone. Because if you make it about you from the get-go, people are less apt to substantively engage with you, much like in real life, ironically.
  2. "Be a well-informed arts professional." - This one's great, and speaks to just being knowledgeable about your craft, what's going on in your sector, support that's available to you, what your peers are up to, how the public is engaging with relevant work. And with social media, it just makes informing yourself that much more personal, with a greater chance of building new relationships.

    Are there organizations you want to work with? Make sure you're connected with them on social media. Know of service organizations for your discipline? Same thing. Aware of advocacy groups and local/regional arts councils or commissions? Find them. And it doesn't have to be a labor-intensive, overwhelming project. If you don't have a lot of time, just take a minute or two each day to google something new, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter.
  3. "Be easy to find. Don’t be shy!" - This one, they actually speak directly to one's online & digital media presence. So, to take this one step forward, I would say this has to do with the big "P" word: "Privacy". Being on Twitter isn't useful to connecting with your fans if you're tweets aren't public. I have friends who still want to maintain some semblance of a social media sanctuary for their personal life, so they have multiple accounts: one personal and one professional.

    I'm kind of at the other end of the spectrum. Most of my profiles are very public and very findable. In fact, one tip I would give (if it's not too late) when thinking about you and your personal brand, having a handle that you use consistently across platforms. Mine is AWayofLife0, which if you google "AWayofLife0", you will definitely find me.
  4. "Track YOUR fans." - Social media makes this uber-easy. But it takes a bit of work too, it might be easier if you're a solo artist, but if you're presenting work as part of an ensemble, or collection, then you want to be aware of how folks are interacting with the organization or venue on social media. Then jump in on the conversation, especially if they've said something in reply to your show or exhibit!!

    And no, this doesn't contradict my earlier statement about making it about you...they've already made it about you, via the work you created for them to see. But make sure in your response, you still make it about them. Thank them for seeing the show, ask them what they thought, start building a relationship with them (again, which some platforms are more conducive for, than others). Then, keep up with them if possible, see what else they support and see, and when you have another arts happening, reconnect and send 'em an invite.
  5. "Account for your art-related expenses." - Yes...this includes your internet service at home, your cell-phone bill, etc. Even if these expenses aren't enough to count for itemized deductions on your taxes, in terms of accounting for your income and budgeting for your expenses, you should at least try to keep a record of this internally, for your own financial health. This probably speaks more to individual artists. But if you're at an arts organization, I would certainly consider including a line-item for social media related expenses.
  6. "Broaden your fundraising horizons." - So one thing I do when I go see a show is look at the donors in the program. This can definitely translate to social media, in terms of looking them up. And the great thing with a lot of corporate and foundation entities, a number of them our on social networking sites.  In fact, with the latter, the Foundation Center has a great resource called Glasspockets, which has a list at their site of online communication channels for foundations.

    The original article even mentions several crowdfunding sources which incorporate social media tools and tactics heavily. In addition to that, connecting with funding, service, nonprofit, and general arts agencies are a good way to keep up with funding opportunities as well as professional development workshops and training to better ask for money.
  7. "Catalogue and document your work." With social media, this would be one area where I would say email alerts are very useful. While your own media might be easy to sift through, and the piece references some photo-sharing sites to use as a tool for cataloging and documenting, the interaction, that engagement from your friends and fans which is social media gold, can be hard to keep track of.

    Because social networking sites are very immediate and about the moment, few of them are conducive to easily searching through your  interaction history. But if you save and manage your email alerts, not necessarily all of them, but notable ones, like a reaction to your piece from an audience member, a review in local press, someone who took a photo at an event related to your work, any of the various things people might post and share.

    But beyond that, thinking of social media in general, as a way to catalogue and document not just your work, but your process, might help inform you in being aware of notable moments to share on social networking platforms, like breakthroughs in a rehearsal, being blocked in creating something and dealing with it, or even a pedestrian moment of the day which unexpectedly revealed insight into something you were working on. Because one great thing about social media, while it might be taking the magic and mystery from what it takes to do our art, it helps tell the story of bringing together the final product which an audience experiences. And the more you can tell your story on social media as an individual artist or an organization, the more people will get to know you and want to support you.
Anyway, that's it. For now, anyway.

Again, please read the original article for the larger context of all of these tips. Social Media is great and all, but in the end it's just another platform, another tool to do the work you should be doing offline. In and of itself, it is insufficient.

With that, thanks again to Tim and the rest of his team for a great list of ways to keep moving forward, as well as the work they do 24/7 with all of Fractured Atlas' programs and resources.

Let me know what you think, anything comments, things to add, you know, the usual,

- JR

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