29 Jul 2019
Sam loves telling quirky stories about The Big Idea’s community of artists and interviewing successful arts practitioners to gather insights about funding and commercialising their art.
Going out on your own as a creative is about more than practicing your underlying skill. You also need to find people who are willing to buy what you’re selling - whether that’s commissioning, getting hired to do custom jobs, showing your work in galleries, or something else.
But there are only so many hours in the day, so you need to make sure that any promotional activity you do is effective. There are some basics and smarts to make sure you to track your numbers, like how many people are going to your website, or how many people are engaging with your social media content.
This can be overwhelming. There are all kinds of different metrics to track, and it’s hard to know which ones are the most important. To help get you focussed on the right numbers, I spoke to Richard Irvine. Richard is a freelance consultant who (among other things) helps people develop great social media content. Here are his tips for using metrics when you’re promoting yourself online.
Photo by Prateek Katyal.
Everyone is promoting themselves for a different reason. Yours could be something like getting your art seen by lots of people, finding buyers for your art or creating a community of people.
The numbers you focus on flow directly from these goals. If you want lots of people to see your work, but you’re not too fussed about what they do next, you’ll focus on different numbers than you would if you wanted people to buy your work, so have a good think about what you’re really trying to achieve.
One common mistake people make is to focus too much on one single metric. For example, you might look at how many Instagram followers you got each week, without looking at anything else. Or you might look at how many people viewed your content on Facebook.
These are all useful numbers, but they’re also all related. One metric is just that: one number that is telling a very small part of your overall story.
So look at the whole picture. Don’t just look at your followers, or views, or likes and shares - look at a whole bunch of different numbers, and keep an eye on how they interact with one another. At the same time, look at how these numbers interact with the goals you set in the last section.
Another metric to focus on is the number of people signing up to channels you control directly. For example, your Facebook followers are not on a channel you can control. You don’t have any way of contacting them outside of Facebook. Richard says “you’re at Facebook’s mercy” in this situation. If Facebook wants to charge you to talk to them or make it harder to talk to them, it can (and will!) do that.
But if people give you their email address or phone number, they are now in a channel that you control. You can get in touch with people directly, you can send them a newsletter, you can send them a card - it’s up to you. More importantly, you can make this choice without another company or platform standing in between you and your customers, which is hugely valuable.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should only focus on channels you control. Remember what we talked about above. It’s about the big picture. But if you can grow an audience in a channel that you control, that is absolute gold for your promotional activities.
It’s easy to look at a social media post. It takes less than a second. It takes a bit more effort to like a social media post, a bit more effort on top of that to share one, and even more effort to get in touch with you or buy something from you.
Generally speaking, the more action people are taking, the more valuable they will be to you. Taking action, says Richard, is “putting something on the line,” which usually means they’re more committed than someone who is not putting anything on the line.
If one post is getting lots of views, but no “likes,” while another post is getting just a few views, but lots of “likes,” the second post is probably more valuable. When people take an action, they’re putting skin in the game. So keep a keen eye on how many people are taking action based on your content. The more action they’re taking, the better
So if you’re going to put all this in practice, here are some things you could look at:
Look at the big picture by comparing how many people see, like, comment on and share your content
Set up a mailing list with Mailchimp, and let people sign up. Even if you’re not sending emails out, this is worth doing to build some foundations for the future.
Keep an eye on your “action” metrics, and run some experiments to encourage people to take more action!
That should give you enough to get started. Enjoy!