HOW TO GAIN
I
NTERNATIONAL AWARENESS
FOR YOUR ART
(see legal notices below!)

Read This First

This document is an overview intended for artists outside the US who need to take advantage of the Web to publicize their art. It is not an endorsement of any particular artist, group, point of view, product, or organization.
Terms of Use:  This document is being freely provided as an overview, but is not a roadmap, guide, or checklist. The use of this material is entirely at the reader's OWN RISK. It is your job to keep yourself out of trouble.  This material is NOT to be construed or used as legal advice, and none of this content has been reviewed by a lawyer. The reader MUST review the laws and regulations of their own country as well as US statutes and the terms of service of the Web resources they use before taking the actions below.
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All that said, this is pretty good stuff.  If you find an item that doesn't work, is wrong, needs more explanation, is out of date, or is simply missing, please email your comments and additional material (in English, please) to arts@saleslogistix.com.  We might even use it to make an update.  It could happen.
 

Think Before Doing

You wouldn't start a work of art without having a bit of structure and a plan for completing it.  Same idea applies here--please, do not skip ahead and just "start doing."  If you do, you'll just waste lots of time and effort.

Set your objectives: the resources below can help you achieve a lot...at low or even no cost (other than your time). But they do not let you defy gravity. A reasonable objective is getting awareness of your art and producing a mailing list of people who might want to see or sponsor your art or performance in the US. A more difficult but achievable goal is collecting a few dollars a year in advertising revenue (you get it, you don't spend it). An unreasonable goal is selling a painting on the web, and a ridiculous idea is achieving fame and fortune, whether in Hollywood or New York. Miracles happen, but we're just working on the foundation here.

Define your audience: to have any impact or results, you need to focus on people who might care. Audience definition should start with demographics: age, sex, nationality, ethnicity, and educational level. Next move to preferences or cultural basis: religion, cultural interest level, and artistic sophistication. Develop a short description of two or three personas that represent your audience (e.g., 30 year old Latin housewife in the US who's an amateur dancer with two kids), and keep them in mind during your design and construction efforts on the web.

Choose a "home" country: as a general rule, you will want the home country for your web efforts to be the US. Planting there gets you best access to 500 million English speakers. If you are really only interested in Spanish or other languages, some of the resources below will work, but the specifics are likely to be quite different and you'll have to look elsewhere.

Identify your cohorts: in the arts, it is usually more effective to work cooperatively with others in your field, rather than competing with them. Of course, there can only be one #1 most popular...but you're a long way from having to worry about that. Right now, your goal is to build an audience, so you don't want to splinter it. Get the enthusiasm for the general category going first, that way there's a bigger pie for everyone to sell to. So...find other artists and performers who have a similar audience so you can build on each other.  There are over 500,000,000 web sites around the world -- you are much more likely to be visible as a collective "movement" than as a set of individuals.

Choose a name: your parents already gave you a name, but for your web presence you need to establish a memorable brand. This is just a name: you don't need to worry about a logo or font. That said, it's surprisingly important to get the name right the first time...because changing it later is a real pain. Here's what your name must be:

  • Unique: this is the hard part. Use Google to find out if the name is taken (many good ones are).

  • HTML-friendly: letters, numbers, "_", "-", and ".", but no spaces or other punctuation (including diactrical marks).

  • Memorable: "cubandance4you" isn't bad, but "cubanrhumbawithgreatcostumes437" is ridiculous.

  • Easy to type correctly: generally avoid abbreviations, misspellings, and acronyms.  Keep the dashes down. "Panama-intl_landscp_art" is a bad idea.

  • Isn't ridiculous in your target audience's language: if you're targeting English, "mexicanbeisbol" won't do and "mexicanshitballs" will only generate laughter.

  • Free of brands: don't do something like "cubandisney" or "africanelvis" or even "mexicanjedi", as they are all copyrighted and trademarked and you will be forced to give any of those up.

Identify your proxy: you are going to need somebody in the "home" country (presumably the US) to act as your local agent for various tasks. They should be knowledgeable about the web and computers and it helps if they speak HTML. They MUST be over 18 years old and be trustworthy because they will hold your success (and your money) in their hands. As a rule of thumb, this should be a family member who is interested and wants to learn about the web.

Define a budget: there are three parts to this. Cash is the first one--and keep this low. Do not buy advertising, no matter what. Your time is the second dimension: this will be 40 hours minimum to start, plus a couple of hours a month. Your proxy's time is the final key resource: this will be at least 40 hours, plus a couple of hours a month.
 

Prepare Your Content

There are two main areas for preparation: understanding the medium you are using (the mechanics and the style) and creating the content that will really work there. Typically, the preparation takes more time than the actual building, but both take time. We recommend that you do the preparation/build cycle one medium at a time, rather than jumping around, as the learning curve for any one medium can be significant.

About copyright: whether or not your country has or enforces copyright laws, you need to be aware of intellectual property rights. The core idea is that you are not allowed to use the work of others without their express written permission--even if you are not making any money. There are severe penalties for theft of artistic expression, just as there are for any burglary. So, read up about the copyright laws in your "home country" (in particular, how to formally assert a copyright) as well as your own  And in your artistic work, do not use photos, artwork, music, logos, or trademarked names unless you have the written license to do so. If you produce a work that includes Mickey Mouse's ears, Eminem's Superman "beat loop", Albert Einstein's face, Homer Simpson's body, Chevrolet's logo, or even just Elton John's name, you MUST keep that work off the web. The copyright owners will come after your proxy in the US, even if they can't sue in your country.

Unless otherwise noted below, you need to assert your copyright on everything you produce and post on the web (scroll down to the bottom of this page to see how we do it). Note that the copyright has to be held by someone or some organization in your "home" country. That's one of the things your proxy does for you.

Wikipedia: this is a wonderful resource for creating awareness and disseminating information about your category of art. The text cannot be promotional in any way, and you may not even be able to get your name in there. But if you are part of a movement of school of art, this is a hugely valuable free resource. Here's what you do:

  • Go to Wikipedia.org and do several searches with keywords that are relevant to your art category.

  • See what's already there, and read the pages that are there in English.

  • Probably, there is already a page or two that is fairly closely related to your art. If so, add new paragraphs, sections, and references to make the article more applicable to you.

  • If (and only if) there really isn't a page that is relevant to your field of art, create a new page and link it to the existing ones.

You will be writing (or adding to) an "encyclopedia article" about the artistic genre, providing information for those who are interested. Generally, articles should be no more than three printed pages...if they are, find a way to split them into subtopics and create new child ("leaf") pages. Your new child pages could be about a sub-genre of the art, a technique, or even a neighborhood that houses the artists (think:  the Greenwich Village in New York or the Quartier Latin in Paris).  The key to getting your article read is linking it to other Wikipedia articles and authoritative external resources. This is where you can make yourself more visible, particularly if there are photos, videos, or audio tracks that you can point to. Note that the content you put in Wikipedia is not your intellectual property, even though you wrote it. Wikipedia uses a Creative Commons license that lets others use and modify your work without restriction. Since anybody can edit a Wikipedia article, you don't control the content.  So, you'll want to go back to it every few months to see what others have added to it...and add some more of your own as you see fit. You may find that one of their editors has put a "to-do" banner at the top of your article, indicating that it needs more references or tighter language. In some cases, they may delete sentences that are show personal opinion, political bias, or unsubstantiated claims. Take this feedback as a gift from the community and use it to improve the quality and depth of your article. The metric of success for Wikipedia is the number of viewers of and contributors to the page.

YouTube: this is where the majority of your richest content will live. Typically, the materials here are free samples--copyrighted, but not charged for. The goal is to get viewers to reach out to you for more, to get the good stuff that is not free. If you have a high traffic YouTube page, you can also make money with the advertisements from others that appear on your page (using Google AdWords).

But let's start at the beginning. You'll need a Google account, and you might as we'll use their free email as the way you interact with people who are interested. You should also set up a Google AdWords account, so you can participate in AdSence and get some free web statistics.  Then, you'll need to link that set up your YouTube account, and link them all together. So...now you have the container for your content.

Set up your gmail account with your (organizational or group) name that you defined above.  Check your email at least once a week, and if you have requests answer them!!  Nothing is more destructive to a web presence than a lack of responsiveness.

So, you'll need to edit some videos in the appropriate format (typically FLV, but other formats may be better for your artwork) and post them with relevant keywords. Once you've got a few of them (each typically 3 minutes or less) you'll want to set up a YouTube channel devoted to your genre of art. If your medium is film, this is obvious...but what about if you do painting or music? You can post documentary footage, how-it's-made segments, short interviews, snippets of music, or even just a slide show. Just make sure that the content is all yours (or it's licensed), it's interesting, and it's relevant to your audience! The metric of success for YouTube is the number of views and the number/strength of comments on your videos.

LinkedIn: this is the premier social network for professionals, and as a professional artist you should be up there as an individual (using your name). In addition, your organization or group should be up there (using your organization's name). Make sure to fill out all parts of the profile section, include some nice art work (yours, or something you have licensed), and links to other resources (such as your Facebook handle). Once you have established your LinkedIn identities, point them to each other and invite colleagues and any interested parties in the US to join your network. For artists and performers, a larger network is always better, and there's nothing wrong with having 500 direct connections.

Facebook: like LinkedIn, Facebook is a social network--but it is focused on non-professional relationships. Follow the same steps as you did with LinkedIn. For your organization's Facebook page, be sure to put up a short sample of your work (typically a free video or two on YouTube). The metric of success on Facebook is the number of follows, likes, and comments made on your page by your audience.

MySpace: MySpace is a social network explicitly focused on artists and performers. Why aren't they first on this list? Well, they just aren't that popular any more and they tend to be for "pure pop music". That said, they offer a lot of resources for presenting and selling, and you can get started at no charge. MySpace is very different in layout and operation from the other social networks, particularly in how you present your content. The metrics of success for a basic MySpace setup is the number of fans and the number of posts that they make on your page.

Yahoo groups: these are another free and fairly popular web venue for enthusiasts...the more obscure the topic, the better. You'll need to set up a yahoo account (you'll get free email with it, but for security reasons it is not a good idea to actually use it for anything). Once you have signed in, you can create groups...which is a fine first step. But you have to drive traffic there, and the two main ways this is done is by (1) cross-linking with other web assets you have already created, and (2) by infiltrating other existing yahoo groups. You do that by joining the group, reading for a bit to make sure that the group cares about your artistic domain, and then making a subtle posting with a pointer to your new group. The metric of success for yahoo groups is the number of visitors per month.

Twitter, Reddit, blogging sites, and the like: these will probably not be very useful to you, unless there is something very unusual about your art. They are essential to flash mobs and similar performance art, but that isn't likely to apply to you at least for a while.
 

Build Out the Web Asset

There are three cardinal rules for building out any and all of the assets you've prepared.

  1. Keep it simple--nobody wants to read a lot, and it is way more effective to have 3 compelling, beautiful pages rather than 10 mediocre ones. YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO BORE YOUR AUDIENCE.  For example, nobody cares where you went to school or who your influences were.

  2. Don't be perfectionist ...get something "good enough" out there, then revise it next month when you have some distance from it...and have collected some feedback.

  3. Building a web presence is a process, not an event. What makes the web work best is a small amount of new or updated content coming every month. So start small, spending time in 5 hour increments...building the value of your content in a drum-beat that reinforces visitor interest.

Putting up the content is a different task from creating it in the first place. Assuming you have slow internet service, you will need to use your proxy to do most of the mechanics. Send him your content files as email attachments (use "zip" files or Windows' compressed folders), and have them do all the work with the web assets mentioned above. Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace in particular will be completely hopeless for anyone working over a slow web link.

As mentioned above, I recommend doing the prepare/build cycle one site at a time. Revisit each site about two months after you first post it to make sure things are still working and to measure results. BE PATIENT.
 

Improve Incrementally

If you possibly can, log in to LinkedIn, Facebook, and any other social network you are part of at least once a week!  Respond to anything that has been posted there, and put up some of your own updates--even if it's just a photo of the glorious sunset and how inspired the wine made you feel last night.  Nothing is worse than a dead social network page.

Updating all your web assets with news items, quick blog entries, and other posts should be done at least once a month. I like using Hootsuite for this, as this free tool is a powerful and efficient way to update several social networks simultaneously.

SO FAR, YOU HAVE NOT HAD TO SPEND A DOLLAR--just your time. Assuming that the measurements show that you are beginning to get some interest, you can spend a little money.

URL--this is just reserving the web domain so that nobody else can use it. The URL should be www.<whatever-your-name-is>.com...or if you are a non-profit, .org. Getting the URL will cost maybe $10 a year from companies such as GoDaddy.com

PayPal--this is how you receive payment in the US. How you get the funds to your country is a separate problem that I can't help you with.

Web site--this is using your web domain (URL) to actually host pages, typically for several artists in the same genre. This costs at least $10 a month (from companies such as  SquareSpace), so you don't turn this on until things really start moving. However, if you are really clever you can host several separate web domains for one web hosting fee.*  The metric of success for your web site will be number of visitors and number of registrations per month. The registration should be very basic: just name, email, state/province, and country. Look here for an example of how to do it easily. Record the registrations in a spreadsheet via manual entry.

Moving to more advanced tactics
Only after you have done all the items above, you can look to these resources:

Community of interest marketing (three separate articles)
Other marketing tactics 
Email marketing, worst web site practices, etc.

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*For example, the page you are reading is hosted in a single web site that hosts three separate domains (www.sfdc-secrets.com, www.taberconsulting.com, and www.saleslogistix.com).  If your web person is really clever, they can see how we did it using just public web records.  If they aren't that clever, they'll have to ask some of their friends who are.
 


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