The excellent and wise Michele Banks (of Artologica fame) has written a fantastic post on one aspect of e-commerce that is so often overlooked by newbies. What it boils down to is engagement, and so many artists just…don’t. They put their work on Etsy (shameless self plug) or RedBubble (also a shameless self-plug) or some other online marketplace and they just figure people will somehow find them and buy their stuff. It doesn’t work like that. Michele’s post brought to mind a dozen similar conversations I’ve had with fellow artists and crafters who are struggling to market themselves online:
I suggested she start by posting her new shop on her Facebook page. “Well, that’s the thing, I don’t do Facebook.” Twitter? Nope. Instagram? What?
When you’re a small independent retailer you can’t afford to spend money on advertising, you don’t have an established brand, and you don’t have a strong enough web presence to dominate search results. When a McDonald’s opens up on your street, they don’t have to advertise – everyone knows it instantly. When a tiny hole-in-the-wall burger joint opens up, they have to get out into the community and MAKE everyone know about them. How do they do that? By engaging with the community:
Well, if you have an online shop, the internet is your neighborhood. Get out there, take a walk every day, and say hello. Read some blogs. Read some tweets. Make some intelligent comments. Then say, “here, have a look at what I’m working on.” Repeat.
It can feel awkward at first to shamelessly plug yourself, and if you’re not used to using social media, there are certainly learning curves associated with those. It takes time and energy to build a following and become a part of the community. But there aren’t a lot of hermits who own successful burger joints, and maybe that should tell you something.
Well, the CSM conference is over and done, and what a week it was. The conference organizers did a great job, and everyone was incredibly friendly. It was especially nice to see how excited people were about the art booths! Both Nicole and I had lots of visitors, and many people walked away the happy owner of one of Nicole’s beautiful prints or some of my nerdy ceramic jewellery.
I couldn’t resist picking up one of Nicole’s pieces for myself:
Next year the CSM conference is in Toronto, and I’ve already had a brief conversation with the organizers about setting up an expanded art show, potentially including some installation art as well as art vendor tables. Exciting times ahead for CSM!
Things to do differently next time around:
1. more/better signage – we could have used something to guide people to the art tables. A sign behind us, one at the coffee area, maybe an artsy bacteria trail on the floor?
2. get in on the prize action if possible, or set up a giveaway at the booth. Maybe a good opportunity to sign people up to a mailing list, too!
3. make sure the focus is squarely on microbiology. Very little interest in anything else with this crowd. Bacteria, bacteriophages, and DNA were the big sellers.
4. LOTS more stickers & inexpensive ($5 or less) items.
It’s the final week before @CSMRegina2015 hosts the 65th annual conference of the Canadian Society of Microbiologists, and for the very first time in the conference’s history, there will be art for sale! Nicole Edmond (@NicolePrints) will be showing her beautiful silkscreened prints and other scienterrific paper goods.