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learning curve

The Marketing Learning Curve in Internet Time

Posted 04/01/2014 by Stacey Cornelius

A year in very quick review
I’m in the midst of prepping to teach marketing and pricing workshops for visual artists. Without even looking at my materials from last year, I know I need to make some updates, mostly on the marketing side. Because in the online world, everything moves fast. If you want to build and maintain a reputation, you need to keep an eye on not only current technology, but also the culture that develops around it.

The culture evolves almost as quickly as the applications.

People are mobile, and on the move
There’s been a shift in social networking. Teens have deserted Facebook in droves. I’m ignoring them, because that group doesn’t buy the kind of art my people sell. The fastest growing group on Twitter? Baby boomers, the bracket between 55 and 64 years old. That group warrants some serious attention.

People have gotten mobile in a big way. Smart phones and tablets are everywhere, and smart web designers understand the implications. Simple and clean is better. Responsive design, that adapts to devices, is crucial.

Stories popping up in the news media: busy has become a status symbol. We’re on the hamster wheel, and running because we refuse to get off. Competitive schedule-stuffing! We post our scores on social media, upping the game with every post.

At least those of us who have succumbed.

There’s still no school like old school
There’s the inevitable pushback: Slow Food has become Slow Everything. Norway set a magnificent standard with slow television, which is creeping its way across the Atlantic. Hours of train journeys, a cruise, marathon knitting. (I’m not being sarcastic about the magnificent part, at least not about a vicarious train trip through Norway.) The joke’s on us, too: Norwegians have been able to enjoy slow TV since 2009, and by all accounts they enjoy it in large numbers.

Marching to a different beat
The dust on blogging (a word I will despise until the end of time) seems to have settled. Internet marketers continue to bang the drum, but many others (me included) have redirected our time and energy into other projects without feeling the need to report on every milestone. I stayed connected with my people on social media. (I could have made a slow TV video of me putting shingles on the new studio, or taping and mudding drywall, but… no.)

For some of us, less is the new more.

Lights, camera, sound, and action
Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, it’s all about the pictures, my dears—great news for artists and designers. Podcasting is hot again (writers, take note). I’m seeing some impressive, classy and very simply made DIY videos that could be mistaken for professional television production. The tools are accessible, some of them free, to those who decide to take the plunge.

Some things that need to change have not
There are still the one-size-fits-all pushers of ideas. Organizations and businesses clinging to the status quo, telling themselves it will end well in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary; the belief that all you have to do is build it and they’ll come; that a social media account is an effective strategy and putting your work on a big, popular website means you can sit back and watch the cash roll in.

And the biggest misconception of all: that everybody is your customer.

The one perfect constant
One thing I will not adjust: great marketing hits the sweet spot between you, your work and your customer. The way you promote your work will, and I’d argue must, reflect your own style, and not just in the way you work, but in the way you communicate. Forcing yourself into someone else’s vision of what you’re supposed to be, or what marketing is “supposed” to be, won’t serve you. Paying close attention to your best customers and finding the best ways to reach them will.

That’s the best thing about teaching: seeing eyes light up when people realize they can create ways to promote their work that’s a perfect fit, and can change and evolve as their professional practices grow.

If you’re in Nova Scotia and would like more information about the workshops mentioned here, visit Visual Arts Nova Scotia for details.

Creative Commons photo credit: Dominic Alves