When it comes to blogging, selling, twittering, listing, and overall participating on the internet, it can be hard to get that "feedback" feeling. You work hard on something, hit the "submit" button, and then just let go, knowing it's out there in the internet-sphere. But then what? Well, that was my immediate obsession when I began this process of getting onto the internet with my photography. Now, by no means do I consider myself already an expert, but I have found some really neat tools on the internet to not only help keep track of my progress but also keep the internet FUN (can't always be about WORK, ya know?). So, here goes - some of my favorite top internet tools/websites/tips I am using.
This site can either induce large amounts of productivity or happily waste away your time on the internet, so proceed with caution. There's your warning. . . .now the fun part. Basically, you create a profile and it asks you what types of topics interest you. Once you have selected all of your favorite topics, it then gives you a "Stumbleupon" icon to click. Essentially, this button is like rolling the dice on the internet and, according to your topics, displays one random site, page, photo, etc, at a time for your perusal. You can either give it a thumbs up or down and the more you "stumble" the internet, the better the sites it returns will be. Like I said, this can either be incredibly productive as it introduced me to tons of wonderful photography sites, photos, crafters, DIY'ers to follow on Twitter or with my blog reader (more on that later) but then it also finds very funny and entertaining items as well. It is rare it returns something I feel truly deserves a thumbs down, so that also helps keep me interested. A plus? You can add sites that you feel would be great for other stumblers (Maybe your own work? Come on, you have to be your own biggest fan, right?).
Craftcult's Heart-O-Matic tool is a must have for any Etsy seller. The website itself has several features, which includes many Etsy artists through the Treasury West feature as well as the advertisements throughout the site. The Heart-o-matic is what I go to every day. As a seller, Etsy easily can show you who "hearts" your shop and individual items but you have to click through several screens one at a time to get the info. When you go to Craftcult's Heart-O-Matic, it is an all in one convenient place to track your store's latest heart's, individual items which have recently received hearts, and also tracks the view count of the store.
Wanna know how many people are visiting your site each day, clicking on certain pages, what items are getting the most hits, what countries the visitors are from, and more? Google Analytics gives you all of this and much much more. It can be pretty overwhelming when you first start using it but with some basic information, you can get a lot of use from this. I highly suggest reading this Google Analytics Tutorial that Senioritis posted recently. It covers the basics of Google Analytics much better than I can, so why reinvent the wheel?
If you've ever wondered how people can follow all these blogs out there and not just have a billion bookmarts, Netvibes is one of the answers to this. It allows you to keep every blog you follow in one tidy location. I know there are many other "RSS Readers" out there, like Google Reader, but I personally like the multi-functionality of Netvibes and how it lets you edit it to a view that works best for you. I definitely like a lot of options. If you're not that blog savvy, essentially an RSS reader (Netvibes, Google Reader, etc) lets you subscribe anonymously to a blog, so you don't add to the e-mail clutter. Just look for the RSS Icon, click on it (while logged into Netvibes) and it will subscribe you to that blog, subsequently allowing you to get all the updated posts in one place.
I love Flickr. I will admit, when I first signed on I was insanely overwhelmed at the amount of stuff on there. I didn't know where to begin and essentially became paralyzed by all the options. It all started to unfold and work for me when I started joining the groups on Flickr. I looked up several topics and just went from there. I added pictures, commented on other people's photos in the groups and it just kept growing. It helped me feel like I "belonged" and wasn't such a small teensy tiny drop in the crazy large ocean of photos on Flickr. Let me remind you, you don't have to be a photographer to enjoy Flickr. Anyone who enjoys seeing originality, creativity, and artistry will enjoy perusing Flickr. There are some people on there doing amazing things with Photoshop, Iphones, cameras, and more. I find inspiration there every single time I log on.
The Etsy Treasury feature allows sellers on Etsy to curate galleries, per say, of other sellers' items based on a theme. Some theme examples include colors, events, vintage styles, holidays, and many many more. Honestly, the options are infinite. Etsy's own description of the feature is "Treasury is Etsy's ever-changing, member-curated shopping gallery. Create and share lists of items. Beautiful, diverse lists may be featured on Etsy's home page." The benefits of the Treasury swing both ways. A visually interesting theme encourages shopping and helps sellers be featured. The benefits are great. The negative is there are SO MANY treasuries out there, so your Treasury can get buried pretty quickly if you rely only on setting it up and people randomly finding it. You have to advertise, spread the word, and also notify the sellers whose items you have featured so they can spread the word. This is a time where you DON'T want to toot your own horn. The Treasury is a time to showcase others and spread the love. It's always better to give than to just take all the time.
The general opinion about Twitter is that people either LOVE it or HATE it (actually - more like find it utterly useless). I like Twitter and I feel it is a great medium for passing along cool information, quickly. That being said, it can be weird to have a lot of perfect strangers "following" you and people randomly find your profile all the time. It is totally up to you on how public or private you want to be. I, personally, find it really fun to read and interact with the other users who share my interests and how to find those people is the fun part. You can use the "search" option on the far right of your homepage and type in certain keywords (like Etsy or photography) and it will return people whose profile include those words in the description or whose tweets include those keywords. Then you can wander through the results and see who is posting things that seem of interest. It can be really fast paced and if you don't log on for more than a day you can miss A LOT of stuff. I will admit, that is the part I that is taking the longest to get used to but having the application on my phone helps.
I am still torn about using Facebook for promoting my photography. It's very easy to use and makes getting the information out there a breeze but you can easily cross the line from sharing to spamming and since almost all of the people following me on Facebook are friends and family, I really don't want to annoy everyone. So, for me, the jury is still out but it is very convenient as well, since I also use Facebook for personal use. The good thing is, it does allow my friends and family to voluntarily follow my updates and if they are no longer interested, they can disconnect from my photography profile but yet still be "friends" with me on normal Facebook. Hopefully, it won't get to that point.
Of everything I can think of to recommend, participation is my number one key item. It is so very true that you get what you give and out there on the internet is no different. I try as much as possible to respond, comment, share, and pass along what other people are saying/doing. I go into the forums of the websites I read and discover plenty of other people doing the same as me who have great advice to give. If you just sit there and constantly promote yourself but never interact with anyone else, it will come across as impersonal and contrived. More consumers nowadays want personality along with a personal touch. If they want a big business feel, people can get in their cars and drive to Wal-mart, but many are going against the impersonal feel of Wal-mart and choosing to spend their money on individual, hand-crafted, & made with blood/sweat/tears items so their homes/lives can be an extension of their personality. That's where you, as an artist, come in. You also have to bring your personality into your work and business ideal or this will all become NO FUN, and that's no way to live. Put yourself out there - again, you get what you give.
I know this is in no way a complete and final list of tools to use on the internet and look forward to finding many more as my business grows and shapes itself to the future. I am definitely open to more suggestions. I only hope that any beginner out there would read this and feel they are setting up a really good foundation of ways to interact with the world of the internet.
Every time I visit a photo site/blog, the question that always seems to pop into my brain is "What is my photography style"? I look at these amazing photos and I quickly see a consistency in them, a look, that I immediately attribute to the photographer's "style". I then ask myself "what is MY style" but every inch of me wants to avoid the question, so it just kind of bounces around my head for awhile and then I wrestle it back into some tiny drawer, tuck it away, and just let myself enjoy whatever I am looking at.
Recently, I was asked this question by a well-intentioned person and I struggled to come up with an immediate answer. The only thing I could stammer out was "colorful?" (while shrugging my shoulders and kicking the non-existent dirt with my shoe). I responded like I was confused, ashamed, guessing, and also like I felt I was giving the wrong answer. Well, duh - my style is MY STYLE. So why am I confused? I think it's because what I see is instinctual. It comes straight from inside and is so natural that I don't know the categories to process it into. I should probably learn, so when it comes time to give a textbook written response I won't yammer away like a parrot. I also get nervous because I see all these amazing artists out there who are just so sure of their "style" and seem to quickly and neatly throw it all into these lovely categories, with some possible sub-categories to boot.
So, let's go back to this "colorful" answer I gave. I think this answer truly deserves some merit because it was the very first thing that came to my mind. I will admit, my entire life I have always been drawn to really bright, fun, primary colors. Ask my college roommate, Emily, who endured my party-store Tropical themed decoration, with the main colors being bright pink, bright green, and bright yellow. Wow - that was fun on the eyes at 7 A.M. My wedding is another good example, with the colors being red, orange, and yellow. Most people I told this to, prior to the wedding, would look at me with fear in their eyes and say "Oh, that's nice". My greatest satisfaction came when those same people kept telling me after the wedding how beautiful the colors were. I really really like COLOR. It only makes sense that this craving for color would make its way into my photography
I admit, when I look at other people's photos online, if there's a bunch of thumbnails the one with the most captivating colors is the first one I will open. I am naturally drawn to those photos and my heart just soars when the colors in a photo envelope my eye and brain. Don't get me wrong, I also really appreciate a well done black and white photograph. I, personally, have not been able to trust my black/white photography eye and I can honestly say I haven't really given it the ol' college try, so that is definitely a someday goal. So, I apparently know more about my "style" than I originally thought. I still need to sit down more and really give this some further thought outside the scope of "colorful", but I definitely am off on a great start. I just need to stop getting myself mentally twisted based off the awe other photographers photos inspire in me.
Classic Rachel, I need to remind myself to take this one baby step at a time and stop getting lost in the overall goal. What's that saying again? Oh yeah, one day at a time.
|Westminster Abbey, England|
I don't know when it happened, but recently my days became about a big checklist. It's a mental checklist I have been keeping for many many moons and, until recently, kept thinking it would stay right there in my brain. Who knows how or why - but this list has become reality.
Let's see, what have I done:
- Set up my Etsy shop? DONE
- Create a Facebook Fan page? DONE
- Begin a Blog (the scariest part for me)? DONE
- Edited photos like a crazy lady? YEAH, PRETTY MUCH - BE VERY EXCITED (MANY NYC PHOTOS TO COME)
- Got all my artsy craftsy items? AMAZINGLY, YES
- Recruited a side-kick to assist with these artsy craftsy items? GO, CASEY, GO!!
- Printed the photos for my cards? INK IS LOW (NO BUENO).
- Written any remaining "To-Do's" down so I won't forget them? NOPE
It's definitely getting there. At the very least, I am really really enjoying what I have been doing. It's a great way to keep my "artsy fartsy" side (as I so lovingly call it) fresh and awake. We'll see where this ride takes me. Don't they always say it's about the journey and not the destination?
Well, that's a very promising situation.