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Facebook Changes & Artists | 4 Crucial Things You Need To Know…

Facebook has undergone a RADICAL overhaul over the past few days. Changes, first outlined by Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg at the f8 conference in San Francisco have already begun to roll out over the site and many more will be coming online in the coming weeks.

Many artists use Facebook as a platform for promoting their artwork so what will the new changes mean if you have an artists Facebook Page? What do artists need to know about the new Facebook?

Lets take a look at some of the new changes.

The power in the blue corner.

Facebook now marks stories that it thinks are important to you by tagging them with a blue corner in your news feed. Users have the power to “untag” these prioritised stories in their feed by simply clicking on the blue corner, meaning that Facebook then demotes similar items in your feed.

By this change, Facebook are taking a massive shift in direction, in that this will selectively weed out boring, irrelevant or annoying posts. Users can easily demote and remove all those annoying updates from friends about requests for Farmville stuff and tedious information about what they had for tea. Hoorah

What this means for artists.

However, whilst welcome in many ways, this change can also mean your work gets removed from the feed if you aren’t engaging enough or if you bombard people with things they aren’t interested in.

It will no longer be enough to accumulate loads of LIKES and then bombard your LIKERS with low quality posts. You are going to have to produce great engaging content to earn your place in the news feed.

Posting interesting content that engages people is now more crucial than ever if you and your art aren’t going to end up talking into empty space…

Too much information!!

The news ticker in the right hand column is a second by second relay of exactly what you are up to. It shows your comments on friends posts {who aren’t neccesarily friends of the people viewing} and also, will soon show any games you may be playing or music you are listening to. In short it overshares everything you do to pretty much everyone, everywhere.

Facebook will also be introducing Facebook Timelines in the next few weeks. This means that everything you do on Facebook will be evolved into a searchable personal history timeline stretching way back into the past. This video explains the concept.  Timelines could be a pretty cool feature but may have some drawbacks too.

What this means for artists.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial to be yourself and also to behave professionally. If you are using Facebook to promote your business it is essential that you are aware of how you may appear to others. Be careful about what you post and do as it is becoming even harder to be totally sure exactly who is viewing your actions. Keep it professional at all times.

Now may be a good time to go into your photo history and delete or detag the pictures of you being sick in a bush at a student party.

Build a shed in the walled garden…

Facebook is making these big changes in an attempt to be even more immersive. You will be able to do an increasing amount of actions, such as listening to music or watching films, WITHIN the Facebook framework. The changes are all designed to make Facebook even more addictive than it curently is [if this is possible].

This is the “Walled Garden” effect, where users are encouraged to stay in one place, within the same site, and never leave.

What this means for artists.

This means that it is becoming even more important to have a presence within the Facebook framework. If you don’t already have an artists Facebook page, now would be a good time to create one. If you do have one, spend a bit of time ensuring it is up to scratch and contains great content. You need to make sure you have access to the walled garden and aren’t left outside banging on the door.

But build a house outside it…

Not all the changes have been popular with Facebook users. There have been many online groups formed to protest against the way Facebook rolls out changes without consultation and doesn’t listen to user feedback, coupled with concerns over Facebook’s attitude to user privacy. It is hard to predict if Facebook can continue it’s meteoric rise or if it’s progress will be derailed somewhere along the way…

A quick glance over the shoulder to some of the internet casualties of the past, including the once mighty MySpace, AOL, Digg &  IBM illustrate that Facebook could quite easily stumble and lose ground to other social destinations like Google +, especially if they keep annoying their users every few months.

As every James Bond villain knows – world domination is by no means guaranteed.

What this means for artists.

Now, more than ever it is ESSENTIAL to base your web presence on YOUR OWN website, on YOUR OWN DOMAIN, outside of Facebook.

Whatever Facebook’s fortunes over the coming years, your own site is your home on the internet, on your own land. It is the most important piece of the jigsaw in promoting your work and will be there for you, whatever social media platform comes to the fore.

Enjoy the fun of Facebook, and use it as an extension to promote your work,  but build your main foundations on the solid ground of your own website and you can’t go far wrong…

 

What do you think of the new Facebook changes? Exciting? Frustrating? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Social Media for Artists – How To Conquer It And Have A Life Too

Social media can be fun, a great way to network and spread the word about your art to the world and enjoy new collaborations. It can also be a terrifying time sink of gargantuan proportions of the kind where you wake up on Saturday morning and realise you have spent the entire week poking at Facebook and Twitter and achieved NOTHING else. Not good.

So this little post deals with a few ideas to help you deal with social media in ways that are a bit more efficient and which can help you reclaim your life.

Scheduling – for fun and relaxation.

There is a big secret to reclaiming your life from the tentacles of social media… and that secret is SCHEDULING… If you can limit the time you spend on social media to, say one or two 15 minute session it stops you from getting embroiled in addictive checking. You can set up a bunch of links first thing in a morning to post later. Then you can close down Twitter & Facebook and get on with the good stuff, like painting and creating.

Will scheduling make me an evil robot?

Looking on Twitter it’s easy to spot the absolute abuse of scheduling software. Streams of random links and spam, offering ways to make $3000 dollars at home, posted by bots with no human interaction. This is clearly not where you want to be, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

You can use scheduling to post your links but take time in your 15 minutes update time to check on what’s happening, thank people for retweets, chat and interact with people. You can still be human. Scheduling just means you get all the grunt work done, actually leaving more time for the lovely enjoyable human stuff.

Which software to use?

There are some great pieces of free software on line which will help you automate many aspects of your social media presence. These are my favourites…

Tweetdeck

I use Tweetdeck.com as my main weapon of choice when dealing with Twitter. You can set up tweets and schedule them for a particular time. You can also see your streams of followers, mentions and direct messages extremely easily making it a snap to keep on top of what is happening. I spend 15 minutes or so first thing scheduling my posts for the day and replying to messages. I will then check back towards the end of the day to chat. Tweetdeck also allows you to add other social services including Facebook.

Networked Blogs

Networked Blogs is extremely handy for taking your blog and feeding it into Facebook. This is my main use for this application but you can also feed your blog straight to Twitter too.

Dlvr.It

I have recently discovered www.dlvr.it and found it really useful for sending an RSS feed from a blog into individual Twitter posts.

The great thing about dlvr.it is that you can schedule the posts for the best time for you and specify how many are posted at any one time, preventing flooding. You also get stats on how your posts performed. Extremely informative.

What about Google + ?

Google+, the new social networking phenomena from Google is growing at a phenomenal rate. It offers a lot of the functionality and advantages of Twitter and Facebook without the complexity. It is easy to use and offers content sharing, the ability to network with people you don’t know {like Twitter} as well as share content with your close friends {like Facebook} all in one place. It is a simpler, more streamlined “one-stop-shop” for the sharing of content and images and as such has the potential to be a definite time saver.

However, it’s usefulness will be ultimately governed by how many people join and the levels of useage it attracts. It looks extremely promising though and is well worth joining for artists, giving you the advantage of being in there early.

At the moment, Google+ is by invitation only so try and grab one if you can from someone you know who is already using it.

Reclaim your life…

Automating some parts your social media presence will really help you to free up your life from some of the more time stealing elements of this area of the web.

Importantly it will allow you to focus on the really important part of social media. Communicating with people.

Share the tips and software/apps that work for you in the comments...

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How to get loads more Google Love to your art blog or site { or 11 dead easy SEO tweaks for artists }

If you sell your art on the internet through your own website it is really really important to ensure that you have a steady stream of interested visitors looking at your work. I can’t emphasis this enough because you can have the most amazing work in the world out there on the web but if no one sees it nothing exciting is going to happen. You can’t just sit back and wait for people to turn up. You have to help them find you.

So, one of the best ways make this happen and make sure you get all those visitors popping their head round the door of your shop is to spend a little bit of time making sure that your website is as “Google Friendly” as possible. This means tweaking the site so that Google and other search engines find it easy to navigate and index. If your site is easily found via search you are likely to get a steady stream of good quality interested traffic.

Search Engine Optimisation { or SEO for short } can seem like a complex and daunting bit of the web but the truth is that there are some really simple tweaks that you can make to your site which will greatly improve it’s Google { & overall } search engine performance.

So here we go – some easy SEO that will give your site a head start.

Use keyphrases – not single keywords

Keyphrase consists of 2 keywords together – like “Abstract Art” or “Contemporary Art”. You will get far better targeted results than if you just use a big fat generic single keyword like “Art” which is too general.

Page titles – Sort em out!

The page title is the short string of words that shows up in the top left corner of most browsers and describes the page. Probably the most important thing you can do on your page is make best use of your page title and its surprising how many sites don’t. It is one of the biggest ranking factors for any page.

  • The most common mistake is to leave the home page titled “Home” or “Welcome to my website” or similar. That’s a huge facepalmtastic missed opportunity. Actually USE your page title.
  • Make sure your page title relates closely to the content of that page and the keyword you are trying to optimise that page for. See “Research your Keyphrases” below to figure out what your phrases should be.
  • Target your homepage with your main keyphrase. Every page should have a different keyphrase focus, don’t just use the same title for each page. Keep your page title short [under 9 words or 80 characters] and focus your keyphrases at the beginning of the phrase.
  • Here’s a totally made up example for a fictional photographer – “Wildlife Photographer | Martin Smith | Nantucket”
    or
    “Arctic wildlife | Wildlife Photographer | Martin Smith | Nantucket” specifically for a page of shots of the Arctic. Keep a consistent format across each page but make sure that each page title has a different keyphrase focus. {ie in this example the phrase at the beginning of the title will change relevant to each page.}
  • The title is read from a piece of code in the HTML of your site which looks like this. <title>Title goes here</title> You may need to edit it directly if you are happy working with HTML or if you use a portfolio service, research the help files to discover how to alter it.

This is a very simple and HUGELY effective SEO tweak that will make a big difference to your ranking results.

Don’t miss out on Google Image Search

Google Image search is a brilliant opportunity to show your work and get more visitors which is often overlooked. It works like this – someone is searching Google for images of Barn Owls. If you have created a painting of one and named the file correctly, they stand a good chance of seeing your work in a Google image search. You can potentially double the traffic you get if you get this right as searches for art related subjects are often visual.

  • In order for your work to show up in image search you need to name your image files properly. Make sure you include the relevant keyphrases in the names of your files.
    For example, our fictitious wildlife photographer – He may name his files in the following format – snow-goose-arctic-martin-smith.jpg or snow-goose-wildlife-photography-martin-smith.jpg ensuring his image are indexed and found easily.
  • Make sure you use the same words in the alt tag of your image and any caption relating to it. Always try and include relevant image caption text with your image as this really helps your picture to get picked up by Google image search.
  • If possible, add your images to Flickr.com with a descriptive caption. I have found this does really well in image search

Research your keyphrases thoroughly

Its dead easy to make assumptions about the keyphrases you THINK people will search for. You can spend a lot of time optimising for those keyphrases when a few minutes of research will show you that another phrase would get better results.

The tools below will help you find out what people are ACTUALLY searching for.

Google keyword tool
Use Google’s keyword tool for a rough indication of keyword popularity.

Wordtracker
Wordtracker is the industry standard keyword research tool and offers free limited searches.

Choose a relevant keyphrase for every page

Look at the content of each page and decide on a keyphrase that most closely describes the content of the page. Its no use trying to optimise your page for “bronze sculpture” if the page content is actually about “abstract painting.” Make sure the keyphrase and content match closely. The key to search is relevance.

Write natural text using your key words or phrases

When you have chosen a relevant keyphrase or two for a page, add the keyphrase and related words into your copy. This doesn’t mean cramming the word in repeatedly. Make sure you write in a natural way but make sure the keyphrases and related words are featured say 3 or 4 times, preferably at the beginning, middle and end of the text.

Use keyphrases in headers

Similarly, include your chosen keyphrase in the headers text on a page. This means the bold text that divides the body copy into sections. Words in these headers may be given more weight by Google.

Work on getting quality incoming links

There’s only so much you can do to improve your site itself. A lot of what will help your Search Engine rankings are so called “Off Page” elements. These include incoming links to your site and the important thing here is QUALITY. It’s better to have a handful of good quality links than hundreds of spammy links from irrelevant sites and directories. You want to show to Google that your site keeps good company. You don’t want your website to become the online equivalent of a dodgy shop down a backstreet on the wrong side of town with stained net curtains and a man behind the counter with no teeth. Right?

Try and secure links from sites that are related in content to yours and are well respected. In the case of our imaginary photographer, a wildlife photography forum or blog would be the kind of site to try and get a link from.
You want a site that values its links and doesn’t have zillions of other links on a page. If possible [and this isn’t easy] try and ensure that the linking site uses your keywords in the link text [ i.e. “view Martin Smiths Arctic Wildlife Photography on his site by clicking here” ]

Avoid links from directory type pages that are only there to generate links and don’t have any other relevant content, like massive business directories.

Create a signature file on forums

If you comment on any forum related to your work, create a signature file with the address of your website in it. Whenever you comment your web address will be included, possibly helping SEO {depending on the way the forum is set up} and potentially raising the profile of your site.

Research and use the SEO capabilities of any site you join.

If you have a ready made artists portfolio site for example, check the documentation and find out how to best modify your page within the system to help the search engines find you.

If you have a WordPress site download and install and use the All-in-one SEO Pack plug in.

Create quality content

This is The No 1 most important rule in SEO. Quality content will naturally attract people. They read or see something interesting and link to it. All these incoming links are a signpost to the search engines that your site is worth bothering with and will increase your ranking. This is why blogs are such a great way of getting people interested in your work.

Write in a natural style about topics of interest around your work, for example, techniques, history, exhibitions etc. Make sure your content is grammatically correct and spell checked. Use a range of keywords and phrases in order that people can easily search for your topic. Break the text into paragraphs and ensure it is well divided with headers and sub headers. Make sure it isn’t too long.

The great thing is that any changes you make to your site for the benefit of Google will generally have a positive impact on your results in other search engines too.

Please share the SEO tips that work for you in the comments below.

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