Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cultivating a Web Presence

Take a second and think about your favorite webcomic, blog, or internet personality.  Got one in mind?  Good.  How did this person first attract your attention?  Did you know them personally, or has this relationship developed online?  I'm betting that for the majority of you, you first noticed this person online, and follow their work due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their ability to develop and entertain a web audience.

A lot of artists far underestimate the importance of a web presence.  They say their audience will find them, and then are disappointed when their work goes unnoticed.  For your work to sell, you have to sell it, and one of the ways to sell your work is to sell yourself.  Customers enjoy buying commissions and comics from artists they like, and you can make yourself more likable by becoming more accessible.  You can attend conventions yes, but without much web presence, you probably won't make your money back.

The internet offers plenty of free opportunities to build an audience for your work.  I'm sure you are all familiar with services like Twitter and Tumblr, but don't underestimate the value of a regularly updated blog.  You're trying to develop audience loyalty, give them a reason to check back often, so try to update at least once a week, more if you can.  Share everything you can, even the ugly, and don't worry about being good enough.  That will come with time.  Cross post as much as you can- when you update your blog, link to your Twitter and your Facebook.  Different social services attract different people, and you want as much exposure as you can get.  Try to interact with as many people as possible, and encourage interaction as well.

An interent presence is something you have to work at, cultivate.  You need to give people a reason to care about your work, especially if you don't draw a lot of fanart or if your style isn't the most polished.  A personality to go along with the sketches and comic pages.  Think of it as building brand loyalty, if the idea of being an interesting, likeable person is odious to you.

Though I encourage you to share some of your personality, try to keep things professional.  Your blog is not a venting wall, that's what friendslocked livejournals are for.  Keep your drama out of your internet life as much as possible, lest you end up on Encyclopedia Dramatica.  Don't bitch about your creepy fans on your Twitter, you might scare off the real, non creepy ones, and don't complain about your publisher ANYWHERE.  Word of mouth is just as important in this day and age, so do your best not to step on toes.  If you enjoy steady commission work, then practice being pleasant.

One way to majorly boost your audience stats is to befriend other artists.  When I say befriend, I don't mean suck up to more popular artists until they've added you to their herd of syncophants.  I mean strike up a legitimate friendship that involves actual discourse about artistic choices.  Attend their livesteams, comment on their blogs, reply to their tweets.  Don't get discouraged if they don't reply, just move on. 

Conventions are an important opportunity to meet other artists and drum up a little exposure.  Make sure you have business cards printed up with your name and web address on it, and  try to get away from your artist alley table once in awhile to mingle with other artists.  If there's a Creator Meetup offered at the con, you should strongly consider attending, even if you're not that interested in working with other artists.    If you're fortunate enough to attend an art school, start seriously networking with fellow artists.

Take away tips:
Be active on Twitter.  Talk to other artists, post your art, talk about things you enjoy.
Update your blog with art at least once a week.
Comment on other artist's work
Cross post as much as possible

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