Artists and art organizations need to have a presence on the Web, but sometimes it can be complicated affair, what with getting a domain, putting together a Web site and then updating that site. But one possibility for an easier web presence is using some of the free social networking services.
Social networks are currently one of the biggest traffic draws on the Internet, with Facebook accounts now numbering close to 200 million and Myspace having close to 100 million users worldwide.
The concept behind social networking is finding people: old classmates and friends, and connecting with new people. And social networks make the mechanics of that very easy. You can easily open a “profile,” and fill it out with your personal details and include music, graphics, video and “blog” about whatever you like.
What you essentially get is your own free Web site. And that makes social networking services something that can be used by both artists and arts organizations.
All social networks feature more than just young people; the fifty and older crowd is currently one of the fastest growing groups of internet users, so you won’t be out of your demographic element. But I suggest Facebook over Myspace, because Facebook is a bit more mature and has new features for organizations.
The Missoula Art Museum (MAM) has had a formal Web site for years, according to Linden How, Director of Visitor Services at MAM, but she has also established Myspace and Facebook pages for the museum, mostly for the younger demographic.
She said “It’s important for MAM to establish our presence with young people. Our mission includes education through contemporary art, and we strive to reach new populations and foster the perception of museums as valuable places of learning.” Linden uses social networking to market their receptions and gallery talks each month.
Those are the same capabilities that an individual artist can take advantage of. You can upload images of your artwork, videos of performances, and even link to services such as Google Checkout and PayPal to sell work.
Go to Facebook.com or Myspace.com and search for your art medium or your location in Montana and see what others have already done. That will give you an idea of the number of artists using social networking and also give you some ideas of what is possible to do with a profile.
If you’re still at a loss, find your local teen to help, or get a book from the library on social networks in general or one dedicated to Facebook or Myspace.
What about people finding you and your work? Google and all the other search engines index the social networking sites, so your profile or organization’s name will be indexed by all the search engines and anyone will be able to find you. But keep your profile professional, because everything you post will be searchable.