Rise of the Social Eunuchs: Trusted guards of Reputation’s bedroom.

art hamont 050

During discussion in my media & reality class last week, I learned of and been thinking about the concept of two classes of social media citizenry emerging – those who keep their reputations online clean and those who don’t.

Of the those with a clean reputation, there are those who flourish online as communicators and those don’t.

Of those who do excel in this medium, there are those who digitally represent brands and personas.

These are trusted and valuable to an organization, as they are closest to the identity machinery, are typically not an owner but an employee, and yet trusted with it. This reminded me of Eunuchs, castrated to serve as of class of slaves or servants throughout history. They too were trusted in the most intimate and public environments as the thinking was that, among other presumed losses of particular desires, there would be the lack of ambition.

I’m thinking of that person who dropped their pants or posted something in passion or conflict. The Social Eunuch would never do that – so you can trust them.

I mulled in an earlier post about how it seems better to not have a presence online at all for some. Some politicians and organizations now wish they weren’t. So the next best thing is to have a replaceable, dependable and (at least as an online footprint) completely unremarkable person as your social media lead. This is the Social Eunuch and is perhaps has emerged as the most valuable class of online citizenry today. The stereotype of our historical notions of the personality traits typical of a Eunuch lends itself to a Social Eunuch’s presumed virtues of no desire for sex, no ambition, docile and dependable.  This lends itself to a standard of reputable online presence free of sex scandals, criminal accusations and no desire for online conflict like being snarky to a competitor or critic.

Eunuch’s were considered easy to replace – so is the employee who tweets out something racist or sexist. First impressions are very important on social media so if suddenly a lot of people notice your social media profile online because of a bad or embarrassing behaviour, then that is your first and lasting impression unless you become immediately and permanently bland and unremarkable. This is strategically attainable to middle class citizens by never appearing publicly on Social Media again  – and thus castrating yourself from your shameful extension.

For a brand, the only hope is to acknowledge a distinct personality was associated with the brand.  Little he/she had a mind of their own and are now cut from the team.

To achieve Social Eunuchism:

  • Hire someone who does not have an online presence or has a very careful, minimal and unremarkable online presence.
  • Person(s) anonymized when acting as the brand voice or the person(s) are identified as persons but only publicly online as the persona.
  • Person is a dedicated professional.

Does this affect artists?

I think artists are, as usual, a special case and social media is a different tool for us. Our reputation can “take more heat” than non artists, intellects or celebrities. Even boutique or cultural enterprises can cross lines on the web and actually benefit from it. There are Social Eunuch artists and cultural entities, to be sure, but there are also more social selfies (social media as a self portrait construct) and more controversial artists who are also social media elite citizenry. I look forward to posting more thoughts about this.

Ten quick tips for posting art PR via web and email

10. Remember to always add the physical address of your event at the bottom of the posted PR even if the address is somewhere else in the site or the template design.

This makes it easy for others to copy and paste the complete info and also the eye tends to look at the bottom for all even details, so this is a great opportunity for location branding.

9. Add social media links to your community presences on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc, even if they are just text links. Many people prefer information from you this way instead.

8. Highlight in bold the names of the organization or entity presenting the event and the name(s) of the artist(s).

7. Put a quote in. If you want to make a claim (i.e. this is the best and most original art show ever) then it tends to write and resonate better as a quote from the artist, curator or director. Media and people look for “an expert” or notable in this part – the quote should never be the first or second paragraph. If it is the fourth paragraph then your press release is probably too long.

6. All crucial information (who, what, where, when, why) needs to be in plain old HTML text – not flash or a graphic. There is no arguing this point if you would like any kind of internet search to find you.

5. Use an image you don’t mind being posted and shared on other websites and blogs. Attribution, not copyright, is the new currency for artists in social media. Publish your work in the commons or perish in your walled garden.

4. 500 words is a decent size and optimal for searches and sharing. If you can, make sure the title of your release is in a <h2>header tag, usually size 2,3 or 4 </h2> and *not* bold. Search engines look for the official titles of your event in these tags.

3. If you are sending out an email then make sure you have a web page version as well that links up.  It’s ok if the email is very basic and / or without an image as long as long as it has a link to more info. Also, make sure you have your full website address in the release. It also provides a place to link to for people who want to share your image – this is the essence of social media marketing for arts and culture. It is very surprising how many PR emails I have seen without these links.

2. Add a social bookmarking link or button if you can i.e. addthis or shareit. You want people to be able to list your information on websites like digg and delicious instantly. Plus, it is a another direct path for people to share your info to social media galleries.

1. Purely social media PR works really well for events and over the long-term, but for the art world especially it is important to at least have a modest print presence as well for a show that runs more than a day. For example, of Facebook event guests who confirm attendance you can usually depend on around 20% actually showing up. The event info then tends to get “buried” in the stream of event announcements and attendance drops off considerably.

I welcome any other tips and suggestions for our industry, these were just on the top of my mind this morning  – don’t forget to submit your PR / subscribe to artprwire.com 🙂

10 tips for blogging art on tumblr

Hi tumblr – 1,000’s of posts later, and perhaps 10,000’s of views of art of all sort, I would like to point out a few practices I maintain on my tumblr blog. In other words: tips and tricks for blogging /re-blogging/finding contemporary art on social media.

10. No accreditation = no re-blog | Don’t do the artist / designer a disservice if there is no name or source attached. And trust me, nine times out of ten there is none to be found even if you perform a forensic link trace to find a name. I now move on – even if I really, really like the image.

9. Link up to a twitter account and auto-tweet your tumblr posts | The advantages of this should be obvious if you are interested enough in social media to be reading this post. Linking up with Twitter is an option is right there in the preferences section of each tumblr blog. *Tip – make sure you manually verify the content of each tweet from your tumblr posts, as sometimes this option will only show a shortened url with no description. However, the “Share on Tumblr” bookmarklet does a good job inserting the title into the tweet.

BTW – a tumblr / twitter combination for galleries and artists is a terrifically powerful, agile and simple communications tool. I highly recommend it, and you can embed both into a wordpress blog later on if you want to expand even more.

8. Cut and paste tumblr sources for reblogs into the bottom | I do this to make the information of the post more coherent when my content is shared on twitter, facebook and RSS. Having it at the top, while gallant and fair, confuses people (myself included) as to the title and artist name, etc, and can lead viewers away from your blog.

7. Ignore tumblr’s submissions email function and get a gmail account | If you are thinking of having a cool submissions based site like eat sleep draw, art PR wire or illustrativo, then beware the email that tumblr gives you for submissions. The /submit function straight of the tumblr blog works great but I found most emails to me never arrived in my submissions queue, and those that did most were truncated severely. Get a gmail account, and get submissions email there and then send that to the auto-post email that tumblr gives you in the goodies section for administrators to publish with.

6. Use the queue function to drip out content | Silly me – when I first started I published posts right away. The result was a massive block of immediate postings with long periods of inactivity in between. People are on and off tumblr at various parts of the day and if they are anything like me then most tumblrs will most likely view your post if it happens to appear in the stream in the dashboard. Right now, I have mine set to post one at a time every three hours between 8 am and 9pm – when most people are on the computer, period, and maintains a reasonable presence throughout each day.

5. Vimeo rocks, but Youtube is King | I appreciate Vimeo greatly when I have a video that is over ten minutes to post. Also, when I see a posting with a video on the Vimeo platform I tend to initially take it more seriously than Youtube.  However, what Vimeo has in quality it lacks in sheer traffic quantity and thus you should also be posting on Youtube. Also, facebook video is surprisingly robust and embeddable but does not have the sheer “find-ability” that uploading to videos on Youtube has, of course.

Did you know that the second most popular search engine in the world is Youtube?

4. Post about popular exhibits are less popular than posts about less popular exhibits | Confused? I’ll give you an example – I post about exhibits in Toronto all the time, and when I post about big exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario there is some interest and traffic with it. However, when I post about an exhibit at a small gallery with an emerging artist my traffic and reblogs spike. Why? Because the news about big shows with big ad budgets is everywhere, including with reviews by the somewhat lazy mass media art critics out there. But by posting unique, niche content such as smaller, more avant-garde artists and galleries is more valuable and rare comparatively and generates more interest – not to mention your tumblr blog URL being sent to everyone on that artist and gallery’s list.

3. Don’t follow everyone – follow the best sources | One mistaken approach to tumblr is to treat it as a social network – it is more of an exchange of postcards than a conversation. I followed lots of people at first, but got visually bogged down rather quickly with all the non-art postings. Now I am very strict about who I follow – generally people who go find, document and post interesting art from their areas or do some valuable research and writing about culture I will follow. You have to keep an eye on some people’s posts – often they blog a lot of art then slip into more personal posts. Keep your numbers manageable.

2. Permission-based blogging is actually flatter marketing | I have never had a problem with permission for posting people’s work. I always ask, or reblog with what I must assume has been permitted to be on the web. Artists work very hard on shows, and when somebody with a blog comes around and wants to post about it (like me) then almost always the artist is thrilled. Even though I am not a huge art media mogul (yet) it makes me feel good to validate such work and talent – sometimes some artists who are control freaks and do not understand the value of social media marketing will say no. That’s fine, because there are a thousand brilliant artists lined up behind them who desperately want their work and names to be shared.

For art listings professional, I post a lot of historical works and artists such as Picasso, Dali, O’Keefe, etc. When you post a review of a local artist’s exhibit in between names like those, then you add a bit of context for that artist and they usually are pretty happy to have such company.

I also work hard to not just post but “curate” the experience for the blog visitor. Posts, per block, are related to each other either formally or thematically and this seems to a be one of the keys to building a relationship with a larger and more serious online art community.

1. Post original content | If you reblog, then comment and add a some unique value to the post and reward those who come to your blog instead of where ever else that post is up at. More importantly, add original photos, videos and listings of art shows around your area and your tumblr blog will be picked up far more often in local searches. Those following you will greatly appreciate it and you will be re-blogged far more often as well. If you simply reblog, then your arts-based tumblr blog will never get noticed by very many people. Plus, you are more likely to be forming connections with people and being linked to is the foundation for high rankings on google searches.

Being ground zero for original content is the golden rule in the age of re blogging.

Let me know if you have more suggestions!

The Pledge: to visit every gallery in Toronto during 2010

Casey and I are back in the galleries and video reviewing art shows. I realize many of the videos are in the proximity of where I live, so we have decided to visit every gallery in greater Toronto and do a review and all within this year.

We developed ALP with the idea in mind that anyone anywhere could submit a video review of an art exhibit or event. Anyone can post a video to ArtListPro at http://artlistpro.tumblr.com/submit and so I was doing some to get the ball rolling. One hundred and fifty video reviews later, I am actually starting to enjoy it and very excited by the possibility of getting to know the scene more intimately.

We also want to make sure we stick with the approach to videos that we enjoy the most – conversations and banter in the gallery space, with a feel of being with friends at a gallery and having some fun.

And we want more interviews with gallery directors, coordinators and arts professionals to talk about the industry of arts and culture.

Finally, part of this Pledge for me is to communicate more successfully that Art Listings Professional is a free broadcast and promotion tool for professional contemporary artists and galleries. It should be a place to browse for the latest interesting exhibits and articles and on every PR list to post announcements and press releases on.

With Casey working on our new Toronto art map, we mulled many approaches on how to define “every gallery in Toronto” – the answer was to list every gallery that has made an effort to be found. Thus, we are looking in the listings of NOW, Eye Weekly, MAG, Slate as well as Akimbo and will always add those who post to our site, of course.

Very exciting! See you out there – if you want to contact us (and to invite us to something!) please email us at artlistpro@gmail.com. We are always looking for more video review contributors.

Public Realm @ Propeller

guest curator … Christopher Hume
The exhibit looks at the demarcation lines between public and private space. Until Jan 31, 2010.

Propeller Gallery
984 Queen Street West
Phone: 416.504.714

uh-oh – Seth Godin is flatter marketing with the word “art”

I have been wanting to rant about this for a little while – as I am sure many in the arts and culture industry have – and finally seeing business author Seth Godin’s post today has inspired me to state for the interweb record that no, making something well and being clever about it DOES NOT make you an artist.

I model much of my own arts and culture marketing after Seth Godin and his vaunted teachings. He’s a marketing thought giant and well worth subscribing to. Now I understand that he has a new book, and a key part of this book is throwing the term “artist” loosely about to probably appeal to  fragile and vain egos of people in the marketing and business industry who desperately need to hear this kind of thing.  Seth sees an opportunity and develops it – I respect and admire that because that is the fundamental lesson in his  business teachings. However, this does not mean I, as a real artist, have to like this.

Art as a tired old cliché for every non-artist out there

Here is Seth’s definition of art:

“My definition of art contains three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work”

So, with all due respect and with humour, Seth’s definition of art contains three elements:

1. That as a human being, you can make “art” by doing whatever you are doing if you just try harder. (Whatever it take to feel special, I guess)
2. There are no such things as a happy accident, experimental research or exploring process – it’s about contriving messages, short-term value and designing to reach the most people possible (Sounds like advertising, not art, to me. )
3.  That art is has more in common with a motivation poster of some mountain climber with the words “Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work”.

Why do people feel so liberated to slap the “art” and “artist” on anything with the slightest of justifications?

There are some theories about this that I have heard over the years, and I will paraphrase them for you below:

Read More

Web Design is Dead – Long Live Content

If you are a producer of content such as an artist or writer then you don’t need a website anymore – you’ll never have to know how to build one, or pay for a website designer or host or worry particularly about terms such as “SEO”.

Paying for a website is more than perhaps wasting money – it can actually hurt your exposure to your potential audience. Even if you got a professional looking flash based website for free then you would still need to set that aside and start over to accomplish your marketing goals in today’s web.

Many arts and culture professionals I have met have a false expectation of what a website is, how it is supposed to work and especially how it is supposed to look. This leads to paying for a design monstrosity that employs many a boutique design agency but leaves little in the way of functionality and search engine optimization. Too many artists and organizations I have met are left with a dead, abandoned website that they cannot update themselves, Google can’t find it and it looks unreadable in some browsers but it looks good as a screen shot in a web designer’s portfolio somewhere.

The good news is that for content producers such as writers, artists and performers then all you need to do is pay for a domain name – and having a domain name is actually optional. I’m talking of course about establishing your footprint on social media platforms in lieu of building a website.

If utilizing the Internet is like discovering fire for talent toiling away in the dark, then social media is like inventing the wheel. You see, it used to be that content and design were one and the same – you want an “about page” so you build an html page for the text. Then along came web 2.0, and content and design were separated – for example, a designer builds a template for a website instead of an entire website, and the content is “poured” into the template from the database via the content management system being used, such as the text and pictures for an “about page”. A little more complicated but great for websites that interact with visitors and other applications.

Now with Social Media, marketing and content are the same thing . A site even comes built for you – it’s called Google and it finds the “about page” by looking in social networking websites such as Tumblr, WordPress, Typepad, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Flikr, etc. I suggest Tumblr as a great platform for very easily putting up a portfolio of work and having it function very smoothly and reliably. Flickr is a powerful and popular plat)form for galleries as well. Twitter is simply the easiest and most lightweight marketing tool to any gallery, organization or talent out there and can drive traffic to that gallery of work you just put up on Flickr. You have a Facebook page, you have a profile on LinkedIn, you have a network of cool and legitimate people linking to you – viola! Your exposure soars not because you have a website, but because you have really interesting work and *the way* you are posting it up on the web is optimal to be searched, found and shared.

Each piece needs to be able to be bite-sized, played with, poured with a space for notes and thumbprints on the back. Your work makes sense as a whole but each individual work sort of acts as a ambassador for the rest. That is how people will find you – not by knowing your name, spelling it correctly and then “googling” it but by seeing your work and following it to learn more about you. This is the most important part – you have to expect your postings of images and/or text to be imported and viewed in a million different sizes, resolutions and contexts. It is now like any other information flying around out there and your painting will be projected on wall in one place, while somebody is looking at it on their mobile device three thousand kilometers away. This is good – because they want to see your work and learn about you and it does not matter if you have a traditional HTML website or if your painting is in a small, unprintable graphic format posted on somebody’s Facebook wall. The medium is not the message in this case but the vehicle.

If you are keeping your work within a “walled garden” so to speak (on your own website) then you may be preventing people from finding your work where they are spending the most time. You might be thinking at this point “sure I will connect my website to youtube” but that’s still expecting to draw people to you when you should be thinking more about what going to them. It could be said that a website is no longer measured by hits and visitors, but by the content being syndicated from it.

The content is the design – it’s what people came to see or are subscribing to see. For example, I don’t care about the building a gallery is in more than I care about the work that is inside of it. Why do I care if you have a background image that is 100% and lots of warm brown textures? If the only thing I notice on a website are your photographs, and they are the only thing I remember from them, and they are easily socially bookmarked so others can find it, then that is the best design of all. The white cube still rules – basic HTML text and links and images and movies. Flash based sites and complicated designs actually do not get read well by search engines or social media apps so steer clear. As well, don’t protect your images with anything more than a watermark. But I will save that argument for another post.

Final advice – go get a free WordPress or tumblr account and start posting your images and words and movies. A domain name can be added on at anytime for free or for about $10 I think with WordPress. Keep it as simple as possible – simple, simple, simple and spend your time doing what you love and then posting it. Leave the rest us, as they say. And yes, Twitter is the real thing so go book your name on it.

I advocate going light and free for artists especially, but obviously am not talking about business sites, organizations, design specific, special projects, etc etc. Also, getting clients set up properly with a design direction, branding, analytics and posting best-practices is the new role of being a web designer in 2010 and this is what I do now. Everybody should have a plan, a CSS in hand and a developed persona brand … man.