Telling your artist story

From Brennen McElhaney’s website

I’m always trying to tell artists how important it is to keep their sites up to date, write something about themselves to bring people back to their sites.  In community sites (for studio tours and galleries) I try to tell them that if they want the gallery or their studio to be noticed, they have to bring their audience back to read what they are up to.  But all to often I hear “I don’t know what to write”  “No one wants to hear about what i do”

Here is a great article that illustrates exactly what I tell the artists I work with.  Write about what moves you, where you do your work, show them your desk/studio/workstation.

Here is an article describing an artist that has done just that.  Using images and a few words to convey where he works, what surrounds him when he creates his masterpieces.  Here is his website.

I’m Pinterested

I had a friend email me last week to tell me that she had posted an image of mine from my website (of penguins) and it had six “likes” and twelve “pins”.  Great, I thought, but what does that mean?

PinterestI’ve heard of Pinterest a few times before, but to be honest, I spend WAY too much at my computer already.  But I did set up an account on the invitation of my friend and pinned a few things from her board to mine, and I have to admit, it is addictive.  It’s like an organized Google/images.  You see hundreds of images that are popular, and if you see one you like, you can pin it to one of your own categories and you can follow people who have similar taste to you, and other people follow you.

If you have a great image on a website and someone sees it, they can pin it to their board and in no time it is generating interest and being “re-pinned” to other boards.  I suppose the hope is that those people will go to the website that had the image on it in the first place.  I felt a little special for a few hours last week when my penguins went “viral” (okay, 12 isn’t viral, but I don’t know any of those people) and who knows where it could lead.

Video Scribing

My friend, Kevin Frank, whom I’ve mentioned before, recently did a job for

Storybook Solutions, promoting Sarnia. If you watch the video in Vimeo you will see how interesting it makes the topic they are talking about.

Kevin Frank

Kevin's drawing for Storybook Solutions

They’ve filmed the drawings, sped it up and had someone do a voice-over about what Kevin is drawing. It shows how important images are on your website, and visualizations work far more than words alone do. Let’s face it, talking about $3 million compared to $30 million is just words, but an image of big bags of money vs a pile of bags of money makes that point so much better.

Just another idea to make your website stand out and to help people want to read it. We may be all grown up, but it shows that a picture is still worth a thousand words, and we like when they are drawn for us too!

Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing

I wrote last month about how YouTube was a great way to promote your business and how it is fairly easy and inexpensive to create your own videos.

Recently there has been a product that has been given lots of press due to the way the company has marketed it.

Zombie Boy  (Rico Genest)

Dermablend has created a new makeup that will completely cover tattoos. It’s a great product and the usual marketing would have likely been to show before and after images of a person with a small tattoo and how it was covered. Instead they used Rico Genest (a.k.a. Zombie Boy) who has spent the past ten years adding these tattoos bit by bit.

But more remarkable is how this company’s advertising went viral by using him as their model for their new cover up makeup. Watch his transformation here. And below is a behind the scenes video which at one point he says “I think now I’ll go out and get a job!” He seems to be doing alright for himself, although I feel a bit sorry for his grandmother.

Facebook and Twitter

Twitter is a micro blog, or mini blog. You can only use 140 characters in a single post. It is simple to set up, very public is a one to many platform. One post can go viral. This is done by a Tweet being re-tweeted. When you re-tweet you can have 160 characters to allow for the new address.

How do you get followers? The best way is to mention your account to people on your website, in person and on all your advertising or paperwork. And write interesting posts and they will tell others. You can also follow other Tweets and your name will show up as a follower.

What should you write? The rule of thumb for a business Twitter account is a third sales and marketing, a third general company info ie. General information what you do, how you can help people, about your staff, promoting other clients etc. And finally a third industry news. New and exciting advancements in your particular business, laws that affect your business and re-tweets by followers.

You should have things like free items for followers, valuable knowledge to pass on, calls to action (if they do something in a particular time, they get a bargain)

Another aspect to Twitter that larger firms are using is searching what has been twitted about themselves. It is good to keep your finger on the pulse of how your company is being perceived out in the world. Many large companies are now using Twitter for their customer service.


Facebook is different in that you aren’t limited to only a few characters. You can have links, images and movies. It’s almost like a website in itself. It is more structured and has rules. There are distinct pages for businesses called “pages”. Here, your followers are called “fans” rather than “friends”. Pages must be linked to a personal account, so you have to decide who in your company you can rely on to hand it over should they leave the company and who wants it linked to their own account.

Once you set up a Page, you will want to choose an image that best reflects your company, and that is usually your logo.

How often to post to your “wall”?

It’s a good idea to have a plan of things that you will post, so you don’t spend unnecessary time looking for ideas of what to post to your page. Like the Twitter advice, it is important to make it interesting enough so that fans who have signed up want to continue getting your updates and even share it with their friends. If you are a retail store, it could be information about an exciting new product that you are introducing, a restaurant could have a new menu being announced. Non-profits would have information about someone they’ve recently helped or details of an upcoming fundraiser.

How often to post depends on your business and how much time to have to devote to Facebook. You don’t want to post so often that you turn off people, but if you leave it too long they may just forget about you! Likely once a week or bi-weekly for a small business, and a couple of times a week for a big company with lots of news. But it is completely up to your own business.

How to build a following?

Announce your new page through email marketing. You can use an existing database of email contacts to start yourself off. Put it in your email signature so that everyone you email to, gets the news. Put up physical notices in your place of business. Link to it on your website. And tell all of your friends in your Facebook world and your real world that you now have a business presence too.

You can also follow other companies through your page, and they can do the same with you, creating other avenues for creating new customers.

Here is a timely article about customer service and Social Media.

What is Crowdsourcing

Crowd sourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a “crowd”), through an open call. The term “crowdsourcing” is a combination of “crowd” and “outsourcing,” first coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”.

Photography is a good example. The advent of the digital camera, easy to use photo editing software and of course the internet have seen a surge in the availability of stock photography at a reasonable price. So the quality of photographs created by individuals started to get on par with professionals and you have a larger pool of people to choose from when you are looking for photographs for yourself of your company.

Crowdsourcing can be for design work such as clients can ask for submissions for designs for anything from business cards to logo design. You state what kind of design you’d like, how much you will pay, and then interested designers will start submitting designs. You choose from the designs submitted and agree to pay what they have asked for (it may be more than you offered, but the perfect logo, so you are willing to pay the higher price).

A t-shirt company, threadless, asks for submissions on t-shirt designs and the most popular (voted on by the crowd) are offered for sale in their store. If your design is chosen you get money as well as money towards buying other t-shirts and further cash rewards should it be so popular that they re-print it!

Some crowdsourcing is for the benefit of better knowledge. Wikipedia was an early example of crowdsourcing. Linux or Open Office are also examples where the user is also a contributor to making a product or application better.

Galaxy Zoo is a citizen science project that lets members of the public classify a million galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Gooseberry Patch, has been using crowd-sourcing to create their community-style cookbooks since 1992.

Mechanical Turk web service allows humans to help the machines of today perform tasks they aren’t suited for. Such as choosing a favourite between three photos. You sign up for the work and get paid a fee for doing it.

Of course there are benefits and casualties to crowdsourcing.

1. Numerous ideas from numerous people. Gets more ideas which means that you are more likely to get the best idea
2. Cheap. It cuts costs as you are employing a person, just using them for a limited time. Plus the competition that results.
3. Fast. It takes less time to get a job done as it is more likely that the right person is available now.


1. Quality could be questionable. Ideas and designs are submitted now just by professionals but amateurs as well. So while they may, for example, have created a great logo, they have no idea how to make it into the format you may need. And as you don’t have a relationship with the particular designer, you may not be able to find them in the future for any changes or issues.
2. It is unreliable. You may not get too many people interested and are getting ideas from a less talented pool of people.
3. Confidentiality. You are on the net for everyone to see what you are asking for, so with large corporations as an example, everyone will see you are thinking of changing your branding before you are ready to launch the idea.

Of course, for designers, photographers, crowdsourcing has been very difficult as not only do they have to compete with one another, but they have to compete with anyone who owns a computer.

Mechanical Turk
CMS Wire

Selling items online

I’ve had a bit of experience lately with selling things online. I’ve had to clear out my Mother’s house after her sudden death a few months ago, and I can now give my own first hand experience with various ways to sell.

I had a dining room suite to sell and was advised to sell it on eBay, as more people would see it and with an auction, may have a few people competing for it. It was a lovely suite and I would have kept it but for the fact that I only bought a table myself last year. I put a reserve on it, as I didn’t want to sell it for a song, and the total cost for selling with eBay was almost $10. I didn’t get one bid on it. There were so many layers of categories I’m sure a lot of people didn’t even see the set. My brother had to get me to give him the auction number so he could refer people to it, and he knew what he was looking for. Now perhaps something more desirable and in a less complicated area would have been more successful. But my experience wasn’t satisfying.

Other things I had were less expensive and so I decided to put them all on I listed them in my own area as well as a few larger cities (in my case Oshawa that isn’t that far a drive for a bargain) so more people would see them. Every item got seen immediately and within a couple of days I could see that I had over 100 views for each item. And the emails started to come in. I sold everything except an ornate mirror, (but it is still up there ) within a couple of weeks of them listing. Even the dining room suite that had no interest at all on eBay, finally sold for my full asking price.

I also used Freecycle to offer some old encyclopedias to anyone who may want them. This was by far my worst experience (not selling on eBay was at least easy!). First of all, to join Freecycle, you must have a Yahoo account which means yet another email address. I already have a hotmail and gmail account so didn’t appreciate having to sign up for yet another one. Then I had to wait for confirmation that this was approved. Then I could sign up and wait for approval from Freecycle in my nearest area (in my case, Peterborough). This took so long that by the time I had emailed them as asked how long it took, I had forgotten my Yahoo account name (I wrote it down somewhere) and had to start again. Finally, I listed the encyclopedias free to anyone who asked. Two people said they were interested, so for the sake of fairness I offered one set to one, and another set to another person. The one person showed up when she said, took the lot of books and said she’d take the others if the second person decided not to take them. The second person sent me no fewer than ten emails with a litany of excuses as to why she couldn’t come (kid’s cold, her cold, then some surgery, then recovery) all the while saying she still wanted them. Finally she said to give them to someone else. I contacted the first person to tell her that she could have them as well, and even met her at the local post office, where she said she’d contact me, but never heard from her again!

I also used CraigsList, and listed a couple of items and got not one response.

All in all my experience with the four sites overall was that Kijiji was the clear winner. I got rid of the one set of books through Freecycle, but it was a hassle to join, and I offered other free things on Kijiji and ended up doing just as well without the hassle.

My experience with people buying is also worth mentioning. In my case, the items for sale weren’t at my home, they were at my Mom’s. So when making an appointment with someone, I had to be at her house a bit ahead to meet them. And people are often a pain in the butt. I’d say 70% didn’t show up when they said, were late and didn’t bother to call the cell number I supplied them with. One woman was half an hour late, walked in, said “oh, that will be far too big for the space” when she was supplied with the measurements, and then left with no apologies for wasting my time. Another treated my Mom’s house like a giant flea market even making an offer on my Mother’s urn (it is a lovely sculptural piece, but still) and trying to negotiate on prices she’d already agreed on. Another fellow said he’d come at 5 pm, had agreed to a firm price and then sent his employee at 12:30 to pick up items (I just happened to be there to wait for someone else) because he decided it would be more convenient for him. And his employee asked if I’d accept almost half of the agreed price! I said no.

All in all my impression is that Kijiji is the best place to sell items overall. If you know the price you want for something, then list it. Keep an eye on what page it is listed on, and re-list it if you don’t want to pay for the top listing. List it in more than one area if you think it is worth people travelling to see it. People will look in other communities’ listings if they are looking for something, but if you don’t mind the extra work, it makes it easy for those who only look in their own area.

Kijiji’s website was the easiest to use and by far, the most graphically pleasant to look at. And like eBay when it first started, I was selling my items to people just like me, not some corporation.

I’ve heard a lot about Craig’s List, but was surprised at how basic it is (i.e. not pretty) and also that I didn’t get any responses.

I used to use eBay in the UK and liked it there, but my overall experience here in Canada is not great. Too many big sellers, and the nice homey feeling of selling to another person like yourself isn’t there any more.

Freecycle is an excellent idea, but it would be nice to see it not associated with Yahoo for ease of use. It is about helping the planet and not throwing things in the dump. And what they say is true, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. I know someone who collects LPs and he has gotten all of his collection for free through either Freecycle or kijiji.

Finally, be careful who you reply to and realise that not everything will sell immediately, but even things I was having trouble selling (a really nice couch) eventually was sold. Also, don’t arrange to meet people late at night and don’t accept anything but cash once they’ve agreed to purchase it (in other words, get the cash, then let them start moving stuff!) I didn’t have any trouble, but a few people’s email addresses (scary names or just numbers) did make me hesitate to even reply to their query. Potential buyers don’t know my email address until I reply. You can report scammers to all of the companies, even if it stops them from doing the same to someone else.

Have a couple of decent photos and measurements of all items. Be honest about the condition an item is in. No one likes their time wasted with items not described properly. And a good photo (you can have three for free in Kijiji) will help sell the item and save time having to describe it to people inquiring.

Even though I’ve complained that people were late, most of the people were really nice, happy to be getting a good bargain and knew that they had to pay cash and be ready to move the items in question. The couple that bought my Mother’s dining room suite were thrilled with it, he carefully unscrewed the table top to move it and I felt really happy that someone knew they were getting a bargain, and would look after it the way my Mom did. May seem silly to care, but I did.

Don’t forget also, you use Kijiji to promote your business. It brings more people to your site and a couple of my clients notice more calls and sales when they put in an ad!

Happy selling!

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