BY ANNE BELOV, Sept. 13, 2013
These are still strange times, not to mention hard times, in the arts. I keep hearing that the recession is over and that fortunes are rising once again, but the way it was has no relationship to the way it is now. So what can we do to change this dynamic for the better? How can we make use of the new modes of communication to get the word out without being a spamming nuisance?
Psst…do you want to know a secret? We all have a super-power at our disposal. It is the power of endorsement, and whether you are using it on the wide world web or in the cereal aisle at the local grocery store, it is a powerful force for good.
We in the arts can bestow as well as benefit from, a little word of mouth endorsement. It’s not hard to do, and you don’t have to go out of your way to do it. You can share any information, whether it’s an art show, a theater or musical performance, or news of a crowd-funding project. It can be as subtle as a share on Facebook, or a request for support. I like to think of it as enlightened self interest, because in the long run (and sometimes the short run) it benefits me as much as the person or event I am endorsing.
In the early days of social media (which I totally missed, due to my luddite tendencies) you could get away with plastering the cyber waves with your message of buy my paintings, read my book, see my show. The information channel was so new and such a novel concept, that people hadn’t figured out the rules yet. Try these tactics now and your message will be ignored or deleted in a New York second. But now, we’re farther down this road and there are rules of engagement:
I am much more likely to follow through and look up a project (and maybe even support it) if the person posting about it on Facebook takes the time to write a sentence or two and tell me about their connection with this person. Tell me why you thought it was a cool or worthwhile project, and why you supported this project.
It’s all about the connections. Your reach extends not only to the people you know, but also to the people those people know.
- The endorsements should move in more than one direction. It’s not meant to be a quid pro quo, just good manners, and it’s not just all about you. If you have been on the receiving end of someone else’s endorsements or help on your project, you might consider spreading the word of not only that person who endorsed you, but anyone who does work or has a project that you think is interesting.
- Having done two Kickstarter projects and assisted on three others, I’ve become sort of a crowd-funding junkie. I follow and support other projects as well. Because we maintain our project page and database after a Kickstarter campaign, we can reach out to our supporters and bring other projects to their attention. Again, just sharing the link isn’t particularly effective, but if I write something about why I support that project, some of my supporters may come on board as well. I try not to erode their trust by doing it too often, so when I do, people take notice and check it out.
- When we have been fortunate to be supported in what we do, we owe it to ourselves and our karma to “pay it forward.” And if someone has assisted you on a project, it’s nice to thank them publicly so that some good fortune or karma can bounce back their way.
Of all the habits that you can get into, this is the best, in my opinion. Our esteemed publishers here at Whidbey Life Magazine, Sue Taves and Jan Shannon, had an idea to give the creative community on Whidbey Island an information outlet that had not existed before. This is endorsement in action! Vicky Brown, aka the Chief Milkmaid, endorses other people more than anyone I know, and because she usually includes a few words about why she is sharing a link or project, I almost always check it out. A big huzzah to you all.
So go ahead, mention a book you’ve read, a project you support, an artist you admire. Show up at a music performance or an art opening. It will make you feel great.
Anne Belov paints, writes, makes prints, and is the founder of The Institute for Contemporary Panda Satire. You can find her paintings at the Rob Schouten Gallery, her cartoons on The Panda Chronicles, and her new book here. She also writes regularly for The Whidbey Life Magazine, a free journal of art and culture on Whidbey Island. Read her recent interview in the July Issue of The Write Life Magazine, an online publication. Her main regret in life is that there is no MacArthur Grant for Panda satire.
Editor’s tip: Check out Belov’s paintings in WLM’s Virtual Gallery through September on the homepage.