(Parts of this blog were originally published on hellobeaumonde.com)
As artists, knowing how to tell our stories isn’t enough. To succeed today we also have to know how to broadcast our stories, to share them with the world and market ourselves on social media among other outlets.
Sure, we can (and often) hire marketing teams or PR teams or ad agencies to handle content or event promotion. But without a baseline understanding of artist brand identity and arts marketing techniques, we can end up a little out to sea — and bewildered — when marketing agencies come knocking to help us engage audiences in new ways.
Because telling your story — in paint, in a novel, through music — permeates everything you do. Your marketing materials are a part of (not apart from) the art you create. So let’s get started.
Whether you’re building or re-designing your website, updating your social media profiles, creating business cards, assembling flyers for an upcoming exhibit, or anything else, the information below will help you strengthen your connection with audiences while refining the stories you present to the world as an artist and entrepreneur.
Here are 5 basics to profile building and presentation you can use to distinguish yourself online today…. Not tomorrow. (They’ll expire & spontaneously burst into flames!) So let’s get started.
1. Write Really Really Good Value, Vision, & Mission Statements
Yeah yeah. School again.😖 Don’t worry. While it may seem tedious, putting effort into crafting these statements for your arts venture goes a long way. When you do so, your audience knows what to expect and can clearly discern the what, how, and why behind your brand. It’s almost like anticipating customers’ questions about you before they even ask them.
- A Value Statement tells your audience very clearly who you are and what value you present to the world. A value statement also provides a chance to share what your company’s core values are which serve as motivation and priority in everything you do. If you’re a clothing company you might value environmental sustainability and ethical labor. (Patagonia’s value statement is: “We’re in business to save our home planet.” The value is partly implied, but still clear.)
- A Vision Statement outlines the aspirations and goals of your brand. (A mission statement explains, often, how you will achieve this vision.) A vision statement tells where you would like to be in the future, what your bright vision of the future is. For example, “We envision a world where high quality glasses don’t break the bank.”
- A Mission Statement conveys the objectives and purpose of your artistic pursuit. It’s what propels you forward. Simple and direct sentences are best here. A good example, coming to us from Life is Good, is: “To spread the power of optimism.”
Do you need to use all three of these statements next time you update your Facebook About section? Or your website? Nope! In fact, what you write about yourself may blend a bit of each type of statement.
What’s important is to focus who you are, where you’re going, why you’re going there, and how you’ll get there into a few short lines.
If you’d like to read more about value/etc. statements, check out this great and very comprehensive guide from Moz.com.
2. Write a Killer Bio
Maybe this is obvious. But often I stumble upon people’s bios that, while fascinating, are entirely too long or too dense or too vague and either don’t say what should be said or Do say what should be said but take 2,000+ words to get there, just like this sentence.
Here are some key points to help guide you to writing a killer bio:
- Remember your audience & purpose. Stephen King refers to this as writing to your ideal reader.
- Tailor your bio to match its destination. (E.g., your personal website versus a bio for an event at which you’re performing.)
- Let your art influence your bio. If you have a distinctive writing style, or artistic technique, bring that in for a touch of pizzazz.
- Write in the 3rd person (unless you just really don’t want to!).
- Have a short and a long bio.
- Your short bio should cover the essentials—who you are, what you do, your credentials in 100 words or less. This is great for bios in social media profiles.
- Your long bio can introduce more personal embellishments like inspirations, work experience, your history, and whatever else seems relevant. Long bios can be anywhere from a half a page to a page. (Longer bios are great for your website About section.)
- Balance work experience with inspirations & interests. The key is balance. As inspiring as something may be to you, not everyone wants to read about your love of 1940s noir films for 9 sentences.
- It helps, if possible, to include any awards won or justifying credentials (like degrees, certificates, etc.) or accreditations in relation to your brand/product/service/etc. This lets people know you’re legit & what your qualifications are.
- PS, Don’t Forget Contact Info! At the end of my bio I like to link to my Twitter and LinkedIn.
- PPS, For long-form bios on Facebook, consider using their Our Story feature for FB Business pages.
“There is no best way to write. The style you adopt will depend on your company, but make an effort to write in a way that makes your content, and your site, feel accessible and friendly.” — Ben Austin, Moz.com
3. Use Sexy Photos (no, not that kind of sexy)
Here’s some razzledazzle:
- If you’re selling products, get high quality photos of your products taken.
- If you’re selling art, same thing goes.
- If you’re selling services, find photos that represent the value and mood of the services you offer.
Like photography? Read my latest blog about… photography! here.
If you elect to take pictures yourself, first of all congratulations. Photography is a time-honored artform. It’s important to have the right photos to represent your brand.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when taking pictures for your website:
- Use clean backdrops that will enhance your product. This doesn’t just mean a white wall. A desk, a coffee table, your front porch, anywhere that won’t distract too heavily from the main attraction.
- Look around! If you don’t see your immediate surroundings as fit for a photo shoot, take a bus downtown or walk to the park. It’s an excuse to take an adventure, besides, even if only down the street.
- Good lighting is key and conveys mood, though too much mood might make your business pictures look more like an artsy tumblr page than a reputable establishment.
- Consider placement of the subject in the frame and the balance of colors. Is there too much space over or under the object? Try dividing the frame into vertical thirds and placing whatever you’re photographing in one of those three sectors. (See: every Wes Anderson film.)
- High image quality helps a lot, though most smart phones will suffice. Prop tip: If file sizes of all those pictures starts eating away at your computer’s memory, check out jpegmini to reduce file sizes without sacrificing quality. (This is also great for SEO!)
- Consider target markets & demographics: who are you appealing to? How does the setting, the lighting, the color palette, texture, and the feel of the composition overall of your photography relate to audience interests and perceptions of your brand?
And if you don’t want to take pictures, or all of the pictures, for your digital presence, Unsplash is one of several fantastic places to find super high quality stock photos that will put the words “stock” and “photo” to shame.
Plus you can always download stock photos, then take them into Canva, or some editing software, and add overlays of text, texture, etc. onto them to make them your own. You’re an artist, after all.
For a more in-depth look at at product photography, check out this guide to beautiful product photography by shopify.
4. Include Testimonials
Testimonials are important because they help your website visitors form opinions about your brand based off real, solidified interactions others have had with your offerings.
Testimonials help convert potential clients into members of your circle: you go from being hypothetical to real and verified. Testimonials can also include yelp or google reviews, which you can always link to your website or social media pages.
Some things to include when putting someone’s testimonial on your site or social:
- Client’s first name and relevant details about who they are & what they do (unless they’ve asked to remain anonymous). Names establish credibility.
- A photo of either the person who wrote the testimonial OR of your product/service that is being testimonial-ed about. (See #3 for more on taking high-quality pictures that can accompany such testimonials…)
PS, always be sensitive to the person who wrote the testimonial about your work. If they wish to remain anonymous, honor that. And it’s always good to ask before using a picture of them online.
5. Keep it Simple
Is this a copout for a 5th tip? Either way, keep it simple.
Too much text overwhelms viewers causing them to leave in impatience. Make your point up front, and then add embellishments of style with creative language like “the mauve butterfly fluttered” or “beautiful eyes.”
Clean, simple, and pretty to look at website design and social media profiles build trust. If your artist Facebook page is well-balanced with information and aesthetics, you’ve gone a long way before people even dig in to the nitty gritty of getting to know you.
First impressions are the key difference between someone staying to further explore your work or closing the door with a big slam.
The cleaner and more organized your website or profile is, the easier it is for visitors to get the information they need and to authentically connect with you as a person or brand. (This ties back to the first 4 tips.)
But don’t just take it from me. See what the experts have to say:
- “Users prefer websites with low visual complexity.” (Source: Google)
- “A website’s design often provides the first impression customers have of a company. If the design is outdated, disorganized, cluttered, or uses unappealing colors, it creates a poor first impression.” (Source: CrazyEgg.com)
6. Bonus Tip: Be Yourself & Tell Stories.
Are you being yourself or only a hollow shell? Do you meditate? Audiences (and especially arts audiences) love to see what goes on behind the scenes. Social media, in this sense, is a powerful tool.
Just check out violinist Hilary Hahn’s Instagram to see what I mean. Her practice videos, stories from traveling, personal announcements near a window, backstage warmups — the personality she pours into her music comes through in her Instagram profile, and, most importantly, she is clearly herself.
It’s easy to get caught up trying to present a well-crafted image online instead of just *flips hair* being ourselves. People love stories. Share your journey, invite fans into the hard work behind your craft, share what inspires you every day even if it’s simple.
Now go back to work. Life’s a gift.