The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Arts Organization Website Essentials: The Main Three Questions September 27, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Guest post,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:38 am
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A guest post by Brian Seitel.

Recently Rebecca Coleman posted on her blog a link to an article describing the most essential elements of a website for an artist.  Individual artists often have different goals than arts organizations, and as a theatre artist that moonlights as a web developer, I thought I would offer my insights as to what makes a good arts organization website.  It really boils down to three questions that each visitor will have and absolutely must be answered as soon as possible.  I call these the Main Three Questions (how original, right?).

Studies have shown that visitors allow any given website about 5 seconds before they make up their minds about whether they want to stay or not.  That means you have 5 seconds to grab their attention and keep them on the site to hopefully at some point make what’s called a “conversion” — selling a ticket or reservation.  The easiest way to grab a user’s attention is to provide relevant content immediately.  The less clicking they have to do, the better!

They’re rather simple, and when you read them, you’ll probably think to yourself “Of course. Why is he stating the obvious?”  The truth of the matter is that a great many arts organizations focus too much on the blog and getting donations, and not enough on the Main Three Questions.  What are these questions?  I’m glad you asked.  They are:

  1. What piece of art is being produced?
  2. When (and if not an organization with a permanent venue, where) is the production?
  3. How do I get tickets or make reservations?

The absolute number one reason a visitor comes to your website is to see what is currently going on with your organization.  Once they’ve figured out what the event is, they want to know the event location and dates.  If they don’t know when and where it is, then they can’t schedule time to see the show, right?  And finally, once they’ve checked their schedule and realized that they are indeed free that weekend, they’ll want to know where to buy tickets or make reservations.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

The Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL, USA) – http://www.goodmantheatre.org/

As you can see, the biggest, most prominent element on the page is a guy’s face next to the name of the play Candide.  Underneath are the dates and times.  Below and to the left you can see a smaller section dedicated to upcoming plays, and each play has a “Buy Tickets” link. See? Easy peasy.

Some more examples:

The Philadelphia Orchestra (Philadelphia, PA, USA)- http://www.philorch.org/
The Lincoln Center (NYC, New York, USA) – http://new.lincolncenter.org/live/
Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, Canada) – http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/
The Fox Theatre (Atlanta, GA) – http://www.foxtheatre.org/

The blog, donate buttons, photo galleries and other things that you put on your site are completely and totally irrelevant until the audience has decided that they want to learn more about your organization.  After all, if I don’t know what you’re producing or if I’m not interested in any of your upcoming events, why would I want to read your bio or blog?

Keep it simple:  what, when, and how?  Your audience will thank you, and your organization will benefit.

Read a longer, more detailed version of this post here.

Brian Seitel: Born nude, helpless and unable to care for himself, Brian overcame these handicaps and became a juggler for a passing circus. After saving a poodle from a burning building by jumping from the fourth floor, Brian gave up the traveling lifestyle and turned to more daredevil routines by spending all his time talking about social media, web development, and the arts. You can follow him on Twitter as @briandseitel.

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A Website Checklist September 17, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:53 am
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You know you need a website, right? But not just any website. You need something that is designed with usability in mind (meaning, people who aren’t super technically adept can find their way around with a minimum of effort), is graphically pleasing to the eye, and has the right information (and not too much of it) on there.

Though an art website is the beginning of the selling process, a poorly designed and ineffective website can stop a prospect from investigating that artist’s work further.  A professional artist website should have the following 10 basics for a visitor to evaluate whether they want additional information about the artist, their art work and experience.

This great article on Artsy Shark has a checklist of 10 items that should be on your website.

Click to read the rest of the article.

Hat-tip to Lili Vieria De Carvalho.

 

They don’t call it a “revolution” for nothing August 17, 2010

Okay, seriously, this is cool.

A new company called Pay with a Tweet has figured out a way to barter Tweets for stuff. For example, The Globe and Mail published this story yesterday about the Ottawa Indie band called hotshotcasino. If you tweet about them, you get to download one of their songs for free.

The service is available for either Facebook or Twitter, and allows you to edit the message–except for the URL.

Absolutely brilliant. Think of the applications not just for musicians, but for theatre, e-books, restaurants (free appy for a tweet?).

Here’s the thing: we’re using social networking, anyway. Many people are looking at it as a kind of a currency. So why not reward the people that make the noise?

Read the article in the Globe and Mail

Pay with a Tweet website

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Fringe Marketing for Dummies Pt 2 July 26, 2010

Today, we continue our series on how to market your Fringe show! As ever, feel free to share your best Fringe marketing tips in the comments below!

Publicity and PR: Deb Pickman recently offered a workshop on this topic here in Vancouver, and it was well attended. If you couldn’t make it, you can download her notes. The Fringe supplies participants with a media list. Again, the number one thing to keep in mind while crafting your pitch or your media release is to think about what your USP is.

Event Listings: Create a short PSA and send it to the local papers for their event listings, and find event listing websites to upload your listing to. The Fringe does this for “The Fringe,” so it’s possible that event listings editors will see that you are part of the fringe and not print your listing, but it’s worth a shot.

Here’s an example of a listing:

SENSATION OF MAGIC: Vitaly Beckman performs seventy minutes of jaw-dropping, mind-bending magic and illusions. August 17-21, 8 pm. Havana Theatre on 1212 Commercial Drive. $15 (advance) $20 (door), Tix at Highlife Records, 1317 Commercial Dr, Vancouver. Info/Tix: 778.228.5291, http://www.SensationOfMagic.com

Websites and Social Media:

You need to have a website. If you can afford it, get one professionally done, but if you can’t, I offer some tips on how to build a website in Word Press here. Deb put it so well in her notes that I’m going to quote her on this one, because I couldn’t possibly say it better: Your front-page right hand side should contain buttons for all online social media streams: FaceBook, Twitter, Blog, YouTube, Flicker. A journalist should get everything they need to tell your story without picking up the phone, by reading your website because it includes everything that’s in your press kit.

Social Media: This method of marketing is exploding–fully 500 Million people are on Facebook, and YouTube gets one million hits a day. Here are the top 5 Social Media sites, and how to use them:

Email: If you don’t already have this, get started now building an email list of people that are interested in your work. You can either use an e-newsletter program, or your own, html-formatted email. Send three emails: one about a month before the show, one a week before the show, and one after the show is opened, but before it closes (which incorporates your positive reviews). Include photos and links to make it interesting.

Facebook: if you haven’t already, create a fan page for your company. Then work your butt off to get as many fans as possible. Create an event page off of your fan page for your Fringe Show. Now, populate the page with updates every couple of days: how things are going in rehearsals, media coverage, photos, etc. Connect your page to the Fringe’s page.

Blog: Blogs are all about what goes on behind the scenes, so write about your rehearsal process, your tour, that crazy conversation you had with an audience member after the show. don’t feel like you have to depend upon writing–photos, video or audio are also fun and acceptable. A great example is Jeremy Bank’s Fringetastic blog. I’ll be doing an interview with him in a future post.

YouTube: create videos of yourself in rehearsal, of you talking about your show, etc. Post them on YouTube, then cross-post them on FB, Twitter, your blog, and email. Post them on the Fringe’s YouTube Channel.

Flickr: Get a Flickr account to post photos: not just production photos (ie: your professional ones) but also casual photos from rehearsals. Also connect your account to the Fringe Flickr account.

Twitter: If you are not yet on Twitter, quite honestly now may not be the best time to jump in. Learning how to Twitter is easy, but mastering it takes time. It is, however, a very powerful tool. The Fringe, by the way, is @VancouverFringe, and the hashtag, if you are Twittering, is #VanFringe. Anything that you twitter with that hashtag will likely be ReTweeted by the Fringe Social Media dude, Earl.

The Fringe, by the way, will also have an IPhone app this year.

Guerrilla Marketing/PR Stunts: There are great opportunities for guerrilla marketing at the Fringe. Granville Island is pretty densely populated all the time, so walking around in costume, handing out flyers, or flyering lines is pretty successful. After all, if people are there to see the Fringe, they are your target market, you’re doing them a service by telling them about your show. You can also draw/make signs on the sidewalk and road with chalk, or talk to the Fringe about doing a mini-performance in the bar.

Using other Fringes for marketing collateral: If you have been to other fringes, and have gotten star-ratings or good reviews, it’s important to use that info as much as possible on all of your marketing materials. Here in Vancouver, the way to get a much-coveted preview is to have someone from The Straight see your show in Victoria (which is right before ours) and highlight it in a Fringe preview.

Good luck! Have fun! Share any additional comments or tips below.

 

Building your website in WordPress Part 2 April 21, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:53 am
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I recently wrote a post about how to use WordPress.com to create a website or a blog (or a website with a blog) for yourself. Using  WordPress.com is a great way to build a basic website, but if you want to build a really great website with lots of room for customization, you should use the WordPress.org blogging software. It’s more technically complicated, in that you need to have your own domain name and hosting, but it offers much more freedom and customizable features than WordPress.com. The software is free–all it will cost you is the price of buying a domain name and hosting.

Using the WordPress blogging software offers a lot of advantages:

  • There are almost countless themes to choose from
  • There are almost countless widgets to choose from
  • The site address will be whatever your domain name is, with no “WordPress” in the address
  • With a bit of technical knowledge, you can customize the page to your heart’s content

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. Register your domain name
  2. Make sure that your internet service provider, or wherever you park your website, is SQL enabled. I buy my domains from Doteasy, and included in the price of my domain, is free hosting. It costs me an extra $7 a month to have my site be SQL enabled.
  3. Go to WordPress.org and download the latest version of the blogging software and unzip the file.
  4. The next part is a bit tricky, because it depends upon who your hosting provider is. Basically, you have to FTP the files to your server. There art lots of free FTP clients out there–I use Cyberduck for Mac. Click here for the WordPress tutorial. If you get lost on this step, phone your hosting service–mine actually installed it for me.
  5. You should now be able to go to http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and log into your site using the username (probably admin) and password which you created.

You’ll notice that the dashboard looks pretty much the same as the WordPress.com dashboard.

Your default theme will be plain, with a blue header. You’ll want to change it to another theme, and customize it. You have a few options:

  1. Do a Google search for “wordpress free themes” and you’ll get dozens of hits. Browse through and find a few that you like and download. I like this one. After you download and unzip it, you need to FTP the theme to the wp-content/themes/folder. Finally, in your dashboard, go into Appearance–>Themes  and activate your theme.
  2. Purchase a theme like Thesis (which is universally thought to be the most customizable of all the WP themes, and is used by all the heavy-hitters).
  3. Hire a designer to create a custom theme for you. Check out the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society site, or the Presentation House Theatre site, both custom designs. Or, hire a designer to modify an already-existing theme, like I am planning on doing this summer.

The Presentation House Theatre Website was built using WordPress by the students at the Interactive Design program at Cap U

Now that you have your site up and running, you can start to populate it.

  1. Create pages and add copy and graphics. For example, on my website, I have Services, Clients, About, Testimonials, and Resources. Don’t forget to put your contact information on there, as well, in the footer, the sidebar, or create a Contact page.
  2. Create a header using a program like Photoshop, or Gimp or Paint.net. It needs to be 780X200 pixels. You can upload it under Appearance–>Custom Header.
  3. Don’t forget to put your social media contact information in the sidebar. You can even import your Twitter feed into the sidebar. Simply go to Plugins–>Add new and do a search for “Twitter.” This will walk you through the process to install a widget which will import your Twitter feed into your sidebar.

Certainly, some of this can be very technically overwhelming, but the joy of WordPress is that the interface is so simple to use. If you get really lost, or you feel like it’s technically over your head, then think about hiring someone to build the site for you in WordPress, and all you have to do is write the copy and post it.

Good luck!

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Using a calendar to plan your social media April 14, 2010

Last month I wrote a post where I encouraged you to commit to a blogging schedule and I promised that it would pay off.

Today, I want to share with you how I help people to plan thier social media (I use this method myself!).

First of all, you need to decide which social media you want to participate in. For many people, this, in and of itself, is overwhelming. There are five main ones:

  • E-newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Photosharing (ie: Flickr)

You can decide based on how much time you have to commit to marketing your business with social media. But remember, there will always be a greater time commitment at the beginning, as you get everything set up and working. Blogging takes the greatest amount of time, probably 2-5 hrs/wk, depending on how often you post. Facebook and Twitter can be easily manged in 15 minutes a day. YouTube and Flickr could take more time, because of the editing process.

You can also make this decision based on what’s easiest. Many people begin their foray into social media with Facebook, because it’s the one they are most familiar with, and they are probably already on it with a personal account, and familiar with the interface. I encourage people to take things slow–to not jump into everything at once. Start with one, get comfortable with it, then move on to the next once you feel you’ve conquered it.

Next, get a calendar and create a schedule. Remember, all of your social media should feed into your other social media, and be connected to your website. The whole point is to drive traffic back to your website where people can find out more information about who you are and what you do, and to contact you if they like.

Here is an example of mine:

I set aside a couple of hours every saturday morning to write my blog posts for the week, then I schedule them in. After the post goes up, it automatically is posted to Facebook via Networked Blogs, and I also post it to Twitter (which you could also have done automatically.) On days when I don’t have a blog post going up on Facebook, I try to share a link that I’ve enjoyed on my Facebook fan page, and I like to retweet links on Twitter whenever I find something interesting.

The key to having a social media strategy is to plan out some things you want to post, but to also be flexible about posting things that you discover during your day that you like, and might be interesting to other people.

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Are You Connected? Pt 2 February 8, 2010

Last week I wrote a post on how important it is to make sure that your website and all your social media are connected to each other.

I had a few questions after I posted it, mostly along the lines of, “How?”, so today’s post is dedicated to showing you how.

Website: If you have a website, you probably have a contact page. Make sure that your Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media are on that page. Even if you import your Twitter feed to your website, make sure there is some way that people can easily click on a button and go to your Twitter page so they can follow you. A “Follow Me on Twitter” badge works nicely.

Blog: If you are using WordPress, as I am, you can put your contact info in your sidebar. You need to know a bit of HTML code for this, but it’s not too complicated.
You use a simple Anchor tag, which looks like this:

<A HREF="this is the URL of the page you want to link to">the name of the page</A>

So, for example, if I want people to email me, the code would look like this:

<A HREF="mailto:rebecca@rebeccacoleman.ca">Email Me</A>

It would show up on the page as this:

Email Me

One more example, directing folks to my website:

<A HREF="http://www.rebeccacoleman.ca">My Website</A>

And it would look like this:

My Website

You do all of this via a text widget in your sidebar. Here’s a screen capture of how to do it–including directions to how to use click-able icons instead of text to direct people.

Facebook: Go to your profile and click on the Info tab. If you scroll down, you’ll see “Contact Information.” You can add as many of your websites as you wish. Some social media have widgets that can create buttons that link back to that platform. For example, you can use this widget to create a Linkedin badge for your Facebook profile.

Twitter: If you haven’t yet created a custom background for your Twitter page, a great reason to do so is so that you can post your websites on it. The drawback of Twitter is that you are only allowed to post one hyperlink to your profile, so that should be your main page that you want to funnel people to. You can, however, put your URLs for your blog, website, Facebook, and email on your custom Twitter background. People will have to physically type your address into their browser, but at least the information is there. Creating a custom Twitter Background is the subject of an upcoming future post, but in the mean time, you can use a free service like this.

Aggregators: Because we all have at least half-a-dozen URLs or more, Aggregators are gaining in popularity. What they allow you to do is to post all of your contact information on one page, that has an easy URL, which acts kind of like a digital business card. Some examples of aggregators are Netvibes, Flavors.Me, and one I’ve been using with my BB: Dub.

Create a map of your online presence like I did, and see if you have any gaps, then have some fun with it!

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