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April 2011

April 2011 -- Wind

Gallery

Columns

  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Liiga Smilshkalne
  • EMG News:
    News for April
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Finished
  • Behind the Art:
    Using Watercolor Pencils in a Finished Piece
  • Ask an Artist:
    Value in Illustration

    Features

  • Depicting Wind
  • Blowing Hot Air

    Fiction

  • Poem: Huffing and Puffing
  • Poem: Aria's Breath


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  • Blowing Hot Air
    by M. G. Ellington

    I've been promoting the creative efforts of artists, writers, and musicians for many years now on my personal blog. Mind you, this was not as a professional marketer but rather an amateur cheerleader. During this time, I learned a little about what works for my audience.

    Last spring I jumped at the chance utilize those promotion skills for Apex Publications. I'd already been promoting individual blog posts, books, and authors related to Apex. I started blogging for Apex in January 2010, progressed to running the promotion for the Dark Faith Anthology, and eventually became the blog editor and marketing director.

    Dark Faith was Apex's best selling book last year. The website traffic increased while I was with Apex. The Twitter followers tripled. I had an impact. I learned plenty of new tricks. I also got to see first hand what was working and what wasn't in terms of driving traffic and sales.

    Before joining forces with Apex, my three main audiences read me at LiveJournal, Facebook, and Twitter. My core audience, the folks that would follow me anywhere, did indeed do just that. I could see them traveling over to the places and products I recommended. The new members of my audience, the ones I'd yet to interact with on any scale, were not so inclined. Many of those came to me through my new ventures.

    As I spent more time promoting Apex, my other activities died away. There wasn't time to maintain those relationships I'd developed with my core audience. I had zero time to cultivate new ones. All the while, my messages to both groups became a streamlined message of "Here, go check THIS out. Please." At least there was still a please.

    All my readers and friends were seeing were meaningless smoke signals. Were they even receiving a real message anymore? I became concerned. I'd spent years building this audience. I'd fed them on sincerity and support. Now I was starving them. The newcomers were fending for themselves and often migrating away with long timers following reluctantly.

    I'd been watching the Apex numbers so closely; I lost sight of my own audience and my original intent. My tenure with Apex was a short one. I left to work on my own writing. I am also working to build my audience back. The numbers are still there, the willingness to follow, less so. I suppose I am working to rebuild the blogger and promoter/reader relationship.

    Now I know we aren't friends with everyone that reads us. That isn't the kind of relationship I mean. I think it is a trust. People that read my output expect certain content. If I tell my readers to check out something, it is because I have put thought into the suggestion. There is a reason I am making it. I think during the blizzard of promotion, the trust of sincerity was unintentionally compromised. The signal to noise ratio was off. Perhaps I was blowing hot air. The appeals were sincere, but for new reasons, singular-purposed ones.

    I still use my blog and other social platforms to promote the creative output of others. Lately though, I try to remember that it is good consider the action. Why am I sending my readers in the direction of that work or creator? Is this something my readers expect from me? What will the recommendation say about me and about my own work?

    If the recommendation seems to be reasonable, then I need to consider adding content to the message. I don't just send a random link if I can help it. Sometimes it is an issue of time. "Hey this is cool. Check it out." Sure, I can get away with a few of those. Yet, the impact of the recommendation will be stronger if I add:

  • Because I know you guys love fuzzy, funny monkeys.

  • Because this ghost story gave me the chills.

  • Because I want to write like this when I grow up.

  • Because she is a friend and I have followed her work for year. (Yes, this is valid. If you are cultivating a sense of community in your audience, this will fit well.)

  • Because the artist made me stop and think. What do you get from the painting? (Encouraging feedback is a terrific way to demonstrate sincerity. As an added bonus, your audience feels more invited than ordered.)


  • Even in the world of 140 characters, there is often room for a little context to keep a link cozy. In blogs where rambling is not prohibited, keeping it simple and straight-forward is still a good idea, but adding enough meaningful information can make the difference between hot air/white noise and a valued recommendation/successful promotional message.

    M. G. Ellington
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