Building an Online Presence

I’m part of a round table discussion this afternoon, for young artists. I’m there to talk about what they could do online.

I had the impression that young people would be super savvy online and I wouldn’t have much to say so I asked the organisers for a list of participants and did a little online research to see just what sort of presence the group already have.

It varies. Most are on facebook, some are on linkedin, one or two came up in pages from the university profiling a project, or in articles about an exhibition. Few came up in a name search as having their own sites.

I was surprised. So I’ve put together a little list of 7  things to think about.

Take charge of your own presence

You want to be talked about? Start the conversation.

Choose your tools

Because you haven’t got time to do everything, choose the tools that you can work with easily, choose a format you can stick to easily… eg; a photo-based blog with one photo of something that inspired you and one photo of your work in progress each week.

Consistent Story

Design, style and tone of voice should all reflect you, and be consistent. That doesn’t mean the same and it doesn’t mean they can’t evolve as you grow as an artist. It means that people seeing your art and your blog/site/twitter page will understand that it’s all about you.

Test your presence in search

You want to be found – you should be on the first page on a name search, even better if images of your work show up as well. Even greater would be if you come up on a search of your genre or style of work, but that’s a lot tougher to crack.

Remember, everyone is listening

Be aware that anything you do online, including comments can come up in a search. Be aware that comments you make on facebook about a client who has commissioned you might be read by that client.

Be alive

Don’t link to sites under construction, if you’re using a blog – use it – don’t abandon it.


Connect/link your content, use the tools to publish to more than one place, connect to other artists online.

I think that’s enough to start with.

I’ll see what happens in the discussions – I am curious to hear their views on online communication/marketing. I’ll let you know.

Pick a song

I’m sitting in my apartment listing to Jason Mraz singing “I’m Yours” and it occurs to me that I “discovered” him in an unusual way, via this clip.

More recently I discovered Charlie Winston while sitting at an Italian restaurant in Paris, where I’d been speaking Italian with the waiters and the song “Tongue Tied” came on which begins;

Now’s my chance, here in France, I’ve gotta give it a go.
How do you say I’m happy ? Estoy feliz contigo ? No ! No !
Désolé mon français est un petit peu confus
Possible que tout le temps si j’essaie
Hablo poco spanish – another stupid english boy !

Which seemed so appropriate for my situation, but the album wasn’t yet out in the Netherlands so I kept checking and a month or so later finally bought it.

These aren’t part of any traditional marketing strategy, in fact both men have full websites providing pictures, videos, lyrics and all sorts of giveaways, they run their own blogs (Jason Mraz is very active on his) and have well constructed facebook fan pages (Jason Mraz has a healthy 2.6 million fans).

Both have understood the value of word of mouth marketing, and how to use online tools to leverage it, neither is using (at least not visibly) the machinery of the record labels. Yet they’re getting attention.

Much has been written about the changes in the music industry, the decline of the studios, the rise of the power of individual musicians and the changing ways of distributing music – including U2’s live at the Rosebowl concert which was broadcast live -and free – via YouTube.

But the problem of attention has remained, how can a new artist gain an audience without a studio promoting him? It’s one thing to load a clip to YouTube but more than 20 hours of video are loaded every minute so how does your clip get attention? How can you build a following? How can you reach people like me, who like music, listen to it a lot, but never go in a record store?

The music industry has been through a period of disintermediation – which means the people between Jason Mraz/Charlie Winston (the producers) and me (the consumer) have been removed. They’ve shown that they can still promote their music and get a following using internet/social media tools. A new model for “getting attention” is emerging. How long before someone spots the opportunity to create a new “intermediary” and start providing that service? Well it’s probably already started, and not by the old record labels.

Deep Branding

Recently I spent some time looking at how robots.txt files are used. These are small text files that tell spiders and webcrawlers how to use a site. They’re used to point the crawler towards any site maps, or exclude certain parts of your site from being crawled, or exclude specific webcrawlers. Of course unscrupulous webcrawlers ignore these instructions and it’s not an effective way to “hide” information but it is useful in terms of Search Engine Optimisation.

Guess who.

One company put a little branding message into their robots.txt file. See if you can guess who it’s from. (If you’re really stuck the answer is in the alt text – so just mouse over).

Pretty much nobody reads this text, the only people who do are geeks, and 50% of the geeks I asked didn’t get the branding message. But 50% did.

This says something about the company, branding is so well done internally that the geeks writing the robots.txt file include a variant of the company’s tag line. It also says they are confident about their brand  can have some fun with it, whether or not it’s out there for public consumption.

I’m calling it deep branding.


image robot

Identity on the Edge

Gary Carter begins by talking about his work as COO for FreemantleMedia where programmes are created for audiences identified “by gender, age and social class”. It is marketing 101; segment your audience until you have an approachable target that will still be profitable. He specifies that for the television industry we, the audience, are the product sold to advertisers.

He critiques the mass marketing segmentation by providing a contrasting classification of his son as “slightly under-weight, non speaking, second generation allochtoon child aged 10, with communication spectrum disorder who is co-parented by his birth parents and two allochtoon homosexuals one of whom, in the precise language of colonial ethnography is an octaroon, in other words an non-western allochtoon who is 7/8 white and 1/8 black.” Unsurprisingly there are no programmes for his son, who is also marginalised in society and in the education system.

He challenges us to rethink how we see difference, to interest ourselves in difference instead of looking for similarity. We should see ourselves as united by our differences.

His approach resonates with me; I’m a foreigner far from my home country, I don’t know anyone from my home country here, and I have chosen to be “other” by choosing to live here. I am part of the Dutch community but not Dutch. However because I look like my Scottish ancestors people assume I’m Dutch – until I speak. In a way that’s been freeing as I could forge a new identity in a sense, in another way it’s troubling because I have no cultural history and few common references with friends here.

Gary Carter’s presentation an astonishing and moving performance; rich with poetry, imagery and music. And it poses a wonderful question – what would the world look like if we valued our differences? How would businesses change? How would the entertainment industry change? Will technology every really allow the level of micro targeting of products and content needed to reach some like Lucio Albert Shabaz Shala?

Social Media Metrics

I’ve had some difficult discussions about how to measure the value of our web presence, and some even more difficult discussions on how we should measure the value of social media.

I don’t think visitor traffic says that much, our peak traffic days in the last year have coincided with announcements related to the current financial crisis. We’ve had assistance from the Dutch Government, a new CEO, and most recently an announcement that we will be splitting the company. On those days our web traffic soared even if our shareprice didn’t so clearly traffic does not equal value to the company.

For me there are two ways a site can generate value for a company; reduce costs or increase revenue. Social media programmes need to show the same kind of benefits, and there are plenty of examples out there, the DellOutlet twitter is perhaps the clearest example – where followers can benefit from offers from the dell outlet store that otherwise wouldn’t get much publicity.

I’m not the only one lamenting the lack of sensible thought within companies on measurment and ROI for web/social media; Jay Baer points out that we might be “cherishing the wrong trophy” when we chase facebook fans and twitter followers. David Meerman Scott dislikes ROI (like any good marketer) but still pushed for thinking about “creating buzz” and business impact in a recent presentation.

But the hands-down best, winner-takes-all explanation of why and how ROI matters in social media comes from Olivier Blanchard in this presentation.

Two items that particularly pleased me;

  1. the acknowledgement that it will take time, as in months, to realise the financial impact of social media (slides 28 & 60)
  2. the reference to those easy-to-get web metrics as “non-financial impact” (slide 34)

Aside from that there’s a certain genius in the use of images in this presentation – it’s worth a look for that alone.

From Dusty Collection to Revenue Stream

To date the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has never had a photographic exhibition, and yet their collection of photos has become a revenue stream. How?

Well first of all they started loading the Tyrell Collection – a set of more than 7000 glass plate images known to be free from copyright – to flickr under a creative commons licence. In other words they put the images into public space, in effect they gave them away. So again how did that become a revenue stream?

Before setting up the flickr account the powerhouse had some of the Tyrell collection on their site, and were fairly happy with their 30,000+ visitors per year. In the first two weeks of putting the collection onto flickr saw more than 40,000 visitors.

Visitor interest has been really high, with visitors helping to identify where some of the collection is shot, and actively commenting on some of the images. The museum has also picked up on a mashup of their images, google maps and google streetview to allow a then and now comparison, the mashup was developed not by the employees of the museum, but by a fan. Other fans have made a more lowtech comparison, using images from the Tyrell collection in the foreground of a photo of the current environment.

Some photobuffs have gone to even more trouble creating remixed versions of the images.

The original plate glass image in the Tyrell Collection A remixed version entitled “Madame Pooch”

The museum works hard to load up the collection, to produce a “photo of the day” blog, and to collect images on flickr into the Tyrell today group on flickr (and link them to their historical equivalents. It’s a lot of work, but it’s paying dividends. It’s all been successful enough for the Powerhouse to create a book – published on demand – of the best of their flickr experience called “Then and Now“.

Their once dusty collection has become a revenue stream with uses and orders of their photos increasing year on year. The collection has become an asset, maybe one day it will even earn itself its very own exhibition.

image: camera

Building Buzz via Exclusivity

ABC is launching a new show, a comedy called “Modern Family” and one of the ways they’re creating buzz is by giving a preview of the show to a relatively small group – just 20,000. This elite fan group are the “Inner Circle”, recruited by the station in earlier marketing campaigns, and they’ll get a code that lets them see the pilot programme on their ABC Player.

The marketing plan behind this is that those in the “Inner Circle” will create a lot of buzz around the programme, particularly on social media tools, and ABC hopes the key will be shared.

Google did a similar thing with the launch of gmail, initially you could only get an account if you were invited.

What is interesting is both companies are promoting something that has potential to reach an unlimited audience.  Once broadcast the TV show reaches all subscribers to that channel, and since it’s invitation-only release in 2004 gmail now has more than 100 million accounts. However they’ve chosen to create “scarcity”.

Why would a business do this? Simply to create a greater demand, basic economics says that if a supply is limited while demand grows then the price the supplier can ask rises. This is why strawberries are expensive at certain times of the year – it is not connected to the cost of production but a reflection on what pricing the market will permit.

In the case of ABC the higher price would translate as larger audiences leading to greater advertising revenue.

I’m curious to see how this will work out for ABC – will the buzz from 20,000 of the “Inner Circle” be enough to create a critical mass and win the ratings war? The show should be screening now, it will be interesting.

images champagne,  graph from Wikimedia Commons

Pay what you think it’s worth

Years ago my parents when to a concert to raise money for musicians in Sarejevo, the tickets were free. You had to donate to leave. It was brilliant, everyone there was already ready to show support and by the time they’d heard the music they were in a good and generous mood. I’ve always wondered what the ticket “price” really was. I’ve also wondered if anyone else had tried this model.

Today I read of some other cases that have; a taxi driver, a chiropractor and a law firm.  It is another alternative payment structure like “freemium” – where a free model is available, but you pay a premium to get all the features.

I think it works under two conditions.

(1) when you are providing a personal service where clients and supppliers meet each other during the profession of the service, where both parties trust each other and have learnt to communicate. In other words where there’s an existing relationship.

(2) where it’s easy to compare the market price for the service, in the Concert example the attendees were all regular concert goers so knew roughly the price of a ticket. I’m currently having rather massive dental work done, it’s time consuming and complex. Although I know what a regular treatment costs I would probably underestimate the costs of this work.

I think it’s less likely to work where the service is anonymous, for example a retail relationship where it won’t be necessary to return to that supplier, or a service provided by an anonymous corporation – for example an insurer.

I’d like to be wrong, but I suspect without the relationship our own self interest will take over.

photo cello

Twitter for Executives

It’s the latest fashion, everyone is on it, it’s in the news. Is your CEO on Twitter?

And a tougher question, should CEOs be on Twitter?

Yes – but with a caveat, Mashable has come up with the “5 Habits of Successful Executives on Twitter” (I think they mean 5 Habits of Executives Who are Successful on Twitter, but I forgive them). There list includes

  1. They are their brand’s conscience
  2. They don’t sell they share
  3. They are real human beings
  4. They write well
  5. They commit

It’s a good list, as far as it goes, I’d add that they need to have something to say, and what they say needs to match the brand. Of course the CEO’s personality should already be congruent with the brand – but that’s not always the case.

Flying Green with EasyJet

I’ve just booked flights on EasyJet, and with a click I could offset my share of the carbon production of the flight.

Guilt free flights at the click of a button



When I fly for work my company offsets the carbon produced, but this is the first time I’ve been able to do it on a private flight.

I think it’s great, they’ve chosen UN certified partners for the carbon offsetting and are trying to do it at minimal cost to the customer. Their carbon offset programme seems to be reasonably well thought through.

They’ve been in trouble for some of their claims, apparently they referred to their flights as being lower carbon emitters per person than  a Prius. A pretty wild and easily refuted statement. However very few cars emit carbon at anything close to the 104 g/km rate quoted for the Prius, most people are driving cars at a higher emmission rate. So while the statement by EasyJet was incorrect, the concept behind the comparison was not so far off.

I know there’s a lot of “greenwash” out there, and people could argue that the company should avoid this externality and just pay for the carbon emmission themselves. However this seems like a really easy way of letting the consumer make greener choices. It’s too easy to demand that companies become carbon neutral but the forces us to put our money where our mouth is. I like it.

EasyJet could impress me more by showing me some statistics on how many people on my flight have paid for their emissions, and some overall reporting on how many people choose the option.


image aeroplane via pixabay