The Art of the Business

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

What are people saying about you? December 11, 2009

I just turned 40. I’m told that one of the best things about being 40 is that you stop caring about what other people think about you, and making decisions based on that. While that might be true for my personal life, it might not be good advice for your business.

One of the major resistances that I hear from people who are afraid to jump into social media is that they are afraid that they won’t be able to control their message, or brand. “People will talk about us,” they say, “and they might say things that are not in line with our company’s corporate message.” And they’re right. But the truth of the matter is, people are going to be talking about you, whether you give them the tools to do so or not.

I often will tweet about excellent customer service, or lack thereof. A couple months back, I went to buy a futon. I drove half-way across town to a futon shop, only to find it closed, even though I was there during the time that they were supposed to be open. What was the second thing I did after phoning the owner and telling him he just lost my business? I twittered it.

It is imperative that you keep an eye on what people are saying about you. That way, if it’s something negative, you can do damage control. If it’s something positive, you can use that person and their message to help spread the word.

Here are a couple of ways for you to monitor the airwaves:

Set up a Google Alert: go to http://www.google.ca/alerts. Create alerts for yourself for your name and the name of your business. Every time your name comes up, you will receive an email from Google.

Twitter Alerts: Go to search.twitter.com, and type in your name. It will tell you if anyone is talking about you right now. Do the same for your twitter user name, just in case someone mentioned you without @ing you. This can be time-consuming, so there are a couple of other options. One is monitter, which works like a Google Alert, only for Twitter. If you are using a Twitter platform like TweetDeck or Seesmic, create a column that continuously searches for your name.

Blog links: If you have a WordPress Blog, WordPress automatically monitors any incoming links. If anyone links to one of your posts, it will show up as a pingback in the “incoming links” section. When someone quotes or references me, I’ll often go and drop a comment thanking them in that blog post.

WordPress Ping

There is one other application to using these monitoring tools. If you’ve been doing keyword research on your blog or business (ie: you know what the top keywords are that people use when doing a Google search to find you), you can set up monitors for those key words. Then, let’s say someone posts a question to Twitter: “Thinking about buying X. Anyone know of a good one?” If you are in the business of selling X, and you receive an alert, you can immediately suggest yours.

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Getting Things Done December 9, 2009

Filed under: book review,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:41 am
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If you’re anything like me, you probably often feel that there is never enough time in the day. Between the day-to-day duties of running my own business, taking care of my son, shopping/cooking/laundry/cleaning, spending time with friends and working on the future of my business, well, there’s just never enough time to get it all done.

I think I manage my time pretty well. But I always feel like there’s room for improvement. So I turned to David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

What’s interesting about this book is that it’s not about time management. It’s about developing systems to make your time more efficiently spent.

I don’t know if this has happened to you before, but in the past, there have been times when I would check my email, and see something that maybe didn’t need to be taken care of right away, and thought, “I’ll do that later.” Then, a week later, while driving somewhere in the car, I’d suddenly remember that I’d forgotten to deal with it and panic!

David Allen helps you to create a system for dealing with your “stuff”, be it physical (pieces of paper, whatever), mental. or virtual (email). The joy of having this kind of system in place is what he calls “closing loops.” What that means, is, you can feel less stress, because you aren’t always going around thinking, “what is it that I forgot to do?” Allan’s system allows you to forget, knowing that you’re covered.

Here are a couple of tips I found particularly useful:

1. When dealing with your “stuff”, if a task can be completed in less than 2 minutes, just do it. If it can’t, file it away in a folder to be dealt with later, then go back and check that file at a prescribed time every week.

2. I now get my email in box to zero every Friday. I spend a couple of hours Friday morning going through every email in my in box. If I’ve dealt with them, I delete them, or if it’s important and I need to keep them, I file them in the appropriate file. If it’s something I’ve forgotten to deal with, this is where it gets done.

3. We often deal with large projects the wrong way. We look at what we want the end result to be, and then often feel  overwhelmed, because we don’t know where to start. So, instead of writing to-do lists like “get car fixed” or “Michael’s birthday party”, ask yourself this question: “what is the first next thing I need to do to move this project along?” That might be, “call the mechanic and make an appointment” or “ask Michael’s teacher for a list of all the kids in his class.” This way, you are making progress, moving things along. You’re unstuck, which is what being overwhelmed tends to feel like.

I haven’t yet had time to put all of Allen’s suggestions into practice, as some of it takes quite a bit of time to get through. I am putting aside time over the next two weeks to get through it. Perhaps there will be a part two to this blog post….

I highly recommend this book.

Click here for David Allen’s website.

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Goofing off June 26, 2009

Filed under: Attitude,Life,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:05 am
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DSC_0275Yesterday, my son graduated from Kindergarten. Beside the excitement of having a son who is going into grade one, I’m also super jazzed that it’s summer vacation. I have often complained that his teachers spend more of his waking hours with him than I do, but summer vacation is going to change all that.

I work pretty hard. I have natural tendencies towards workaholism, plus I take the responsibility of running my own business pretty seriously. If I screw up and one of my clients is not happy, it could have deep and long-lasting effects on my future, as I rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business. So, I drive myself pretty hard when I have active contracts.

Because I’m a single parent with a young child (now out of school), it’s been necessary to plan ahead, and am pretty much taking the summer off. Oh, I still have a few things I have to take care of, but the plan is to spend as much time as possible with Michael, camping, hanging out at the pool, the park, and the beach. Oh–I also have a two-week trip to Greece planned (it’s in celebration of my 40th birthday!).

Here’s the thing: something’s gotta give. A couple of months ago, I found myself feeling pretty burnt out. The hours were taking their toll. I strive all the time for that elusive balance between my work and my life.

How about you? You’re looking a little stressed. Need permission to goof off and take the dog to the park? You got it. Cut out of work early and take a picnic to the beach? Go for it.

Oh–and one last thing: posts may become more sporratic over the next couple of months. I hope you’ll forgive me if the last thing on my mind is writing a blog post while I’m lying on a beach in Naxos (and yes, I did say that because I wanted to make you just a little bit jealous!).

For some more advice on goofing off, check out this recent post by Trilby Jeeves.

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Creating a Social Media Marketing Plan June 17, 2009

Filed under: Arts Marketing,E-book,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:10 am
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Would you like some purple Kool-Aid?

Sometimes I think people I interact with think I am some kind of zealot. And, to be honest, they wouldn’t be far off. I’m very passionate about social media, and a great deal of the reason for that is because I see its incredible potential. Through social media, you have the ability to reach thousands, possibly millions of new clients. And all it is going to cost you is your time.

I still hear resistance to this all the time. “We’re underfunded. I need to write grant applications so we can produce our shows, I don’t have time to Twitter.” “I’m overwhelmed by the amount of email I get every day, there’s no way I can add another thing to it.”

On the other hand, you’ve been hearing all about social media applications. Perhaps your colleagues are getting onto Facebook and Twitter. You’re intrigued, but you are still really concerned about having enough time.  I get it. It’s overwhelming: how do you run an arts organization, or your art practice, and still have time to participate in social media?

What you need, my friend, is a plan.

A plan that takes into account your level of comfort with social media and the amount of time you have to devote to it. And that is exactly what my e-book, Getting Started in Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations is all about.

So, today, another excerpt from the book.

Creating a social networking marketing plan

  • Set goals: What do you want to get out of social networking? Increased traffic to your website? A higher profile for your cause? Sales? Public relations? Try to be specific with your goals, ie: “To increase website traffic by 30%.”
  • Keyword searches: If you already are using Google Analytics or some kind of keyword tracking service, you have some idea about how people are finding you online. Put your keywords aside, we will revisit them later while making the marketing plan. If you are not currently tracking how people are finding you online, you need to start.
  • What kind of readers do you want to attract? People who are already buying your product/service, or a new audience? Conquering your current sector might be enough to start off with.
  • Choose someone to be the ‘voice’ of your company. If it’s just you, then it’s just you. But many small-to-medium sized companies use their marketing manager to be their social networking voice online.
  • Time, and the best use of it. How much time does the person who is going to be doing the social networking have to devote to it? What platforms will you participate in?

Included in the e-book are handy-dandy fill-in-the-blank social media plans that you can create for yourself or your organization. Cool, huh?

Now, can I pour you a glass of Kool-Aid?

Click to buy my e-book: Getting Started with Social Networking for Artists and Arts Organizations.

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Why you should NOT join Twitter May 27, 2009

Filed under: Marketing with Twitter,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:23 am
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I was out the other night with my sweetie’s co-workers, helping to celebrate one of their birthdays. It came up that one of the co-workers had just attended a workshop that day on Twitter. I,  of course, Twitter enthusiast that I am, was all over it.

“So, are you going to join??” I asked, thinking, “I have to get her handle so I can follow her.”

“No,” she said. “What’s the point? It’s a lot of noise. I don’t want to know the minutae of people’s lives.”

Hmm… good point. Hard to argue with that.

There is a lot of noise on Twitter. Clearly, having tools like Tweet Deck or HootSuite to deal with thousands of Tweets daily makes a big difference. But there’s a bigger problem, here.

Here are two good reasons NOT to join Twitter:

1. If you don’t have a purpose for Twittering, and you don’t have a plan. I wrote a while back about Oprah joining Twitter, and how anything she touches turns to gold (by which I mean, becomes immensely popular). If you are thinking, “hey, this Twitter thing sounds cool, everyone I know is doing it, I should check it out,” that’s fine, but stop first, and do some research and planning.

What do you want to use Twitter for? It’s most useful application is to drive traffic. So, if you have ablog, vlog, podcast, or Flickr steam, Twitter can be really useful for increasing your stats. It can help to drive traffic to your website. If you have a business, it can help you to promote special deals and sales. But it’s good to have a plan going in–how are you going to use it? When will you tweet? Map this stuff out before you begin.

2. You have the time and energy to put into it. You can’t join Twitter, follow 1,000 in 10 minutes, and expect that you’ve done your job. Social Media is all about making connections. You can Twitter on five minutes a week, but for me, the minimum would be 5-10 minutes, three times a day. Because Twitter is real time, things happen fast, so it’s good to check in more than once every 24-hours. You need to respond to interesting tweets, Re-Tweet stuff you like, and respond to people. If you are doing nothing but putting your own stuff out there, people will quickly loose interest. They want connectivity as well.

There was a big hoo-haa about this Neilson Blog post about Twitter’s recidivism rate. Turns out, only about 40% of the people that will sign up for Twitter this month will continue to post. The other 60% will abandon their accounts (it’s coined a new term: Twitter Quitter). I get it. Twitter’s hard. Not to learn the interface, or to get started, but to learn the nuances of the culture,  takes time. (shameless plug: or you could hire Simon and I to do a workshop for you).

I’m okay with people not jumping on the Twitter bandwagon. I am excited about people who are excited to join for the right reasons, and who are committed enough to keep at it and follow through and to create Tweets with value. Maybe there will be less people twittering about their ham sandwich they had for lunch, and that is never going to be a bad thing.

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