I haven't tried the Internet yet to promote my work. What do you suggest to start with first?
Overwhelmed and Confused
The Web can certainly help your marketing efforts, even for a novice. Start with the easiest web exposure by joining a couple of social networking sites. Here is a list of several good ones.
Flickr offers a free image posting service. You can upload images to create a portfolio and then refer people to look through your online portfolio. Flickr is less about socializing and focuses more on providing an easy to manage portfolio of images. Some "groups" within Flickr have discussion boards, but they don't seem that active. Flickr is NOT a retail venue, in fact, any overt promotion of your work, such as prices or links to retail sites, is strictly forbidden except on your profile page.
It is easy to post images on Flickr. If you don't have Photoshop (or other photo editing software) you can upload rather large images to Flickr directly from your computer or camera. Flickr will accept large images and resize them to web size images. This is a quick and easy way to make web-ready images. Flickr is free for up to 200 images or 100 MB. Start with the free stuff. You can upgrade any time to the fee-based premium options. There is no filter on Flickr, which means anyone and everyone can participate, but you'll be joining a crowd. To give you work on Flickr more visibility, join groups on Flickr, then post more of your work to the groups regularly. You may meet people with similar interests.
a social networking site that is also free and very easy to use. Posting images is secondary,
but you can make posting images of your art or craft work a primary focus for your pages. You'll gain a lot of
visibility with a wide new audience both inside and outside of the arts and crafts world.
You'll meet lots of people on Facebook and it helps break the isolation
of the studio. Facebook is the largest photo sharing site on the web.
Crafthaus is organized specifically for artists and craftspeople. It is monitored by Brigette Martin and is intended to be a combination of social network and image visibility within a group of like-minded people. Martin acts as a juror to filter or select who can participate and what images can be posted within the site. A number of on-going discussions and blogs cover art/craft related issues. It now costs about $20 to be on Crafthaus.
LinkedIn is a social networking site without images but it can be useful to connect with other individuals or possibly your collectors who might have a "professional" profile. It doesn't cost anything other than a bit of your time, and it provides another possibility to connect with colleagues from your past, present and the future. Keep this site completely professional. Skip any reference to your family, children and pets, etc.
Every one of these sites generates visibility for you and your art work or craft. As you become more proficient, make sure to add links on each of your profile pages for every site and your website to interconnect them. This creates more traffic for your artwork or craft and more name recognition. The Internet is called the "web" and it is up to you to create a web of links and connections to catch attention for you and your work.
A new generation of the web - dubbed "Web 2.0" (pronounced web two point o) - enables sites such as Facebook and Flickr. For most of us, it means that you don’t need programming skills or special software to participate. Most 2.0 sites are very egalitarian by their very nature. Just jump right in and get started. After some experimentation it does get a lot easier. If you get stuck, many people already on-line can help you out. Just post your question and ask for help.
Your goal is to gain visibility online that could lead to purchases. Experiment first with the free sites and learn before spending money on Internet sites that promise visibility for $100 to $200 a year. You can create a lot of visibility without spending much money. Save your money for investing in fantastic professional photography.
Go ahead, jump in and get your feet wet. IF you don't like it, you can either delete your account or let it lie fallow.
For some expert insight, there will be an entire afternoon focused on websites and Web 2.0 during the Professional Development Seminar on May 20, 2009 (Wednesday afternoon) before the SNAG Conference in Philadelphia. This four hours of information is a real deal for $15 at the door. (Download the Professional Development FLYER) This program is open to anyone.
Stay tuned for future posts about Web 2.0 and other good stuff that I expect to learn at the Professional Development Seminar (in case you can't come) . Retail 2.0 sites will be listed in an upcoming blog post.
P.S. I have included the links to many sites in which I participate, but you may not be able to see much unless you sign in. Hopefully you'll see other examples to give you a feel for the particular site.