Most everything an artist does regarding art career communications will soon originate from a computer. Calls for artists and all manner of opportunities including workspace and housing are moving online. Increasingly, artists will be submitting proposals for grants and opportunities online.
Additionally, it is becoming increasingly important that artists create an online community of arts folk with whom to network. Networking online is rapidly becoming the way to keep work and career visible and viable. Known as social networking, this rapidly growing facet of the cyberspace landscape is something artists should seriously consider engaging in. In its simplest terms, social networking sites are designed to provide people with a means to communicate with each other. Networking sites allow the user to create a profile to which images, text, video, music files, html code, etc. can be added with the intention of communicating an individual’s current ideas, musings, efforts, tastes, and, in the case of artists, current and past works.
The network for which you sign up may dictate the extent to which you can customize your information. There are essentially two types of networks: specialized networks are networks where users share a common interest; open networks are open to all regardless of interest. Both types of networks can be useful tools for promotion. Open networks are more useful to performing artists, as open network sites more commonly offer video uploading features. Specialized networks are important to visual artists as there are currently more specialized networks created just for visual artists than any other discipline.
Social or open networking sites allow users to interact with each other through the sharing of information. There are many social networking sites available. Most recognizable are myspace.com, youtube.com, and facebook.com. These fall under the category of open networks, in that anyone can create a profile without any particular focus.
Specialized networks can be very useful for artists. Sites such as myartinfo.com and myartspace.com provide artists with a “complete” socializing environment such as galleries, communities, groups, opportunities, and much more. Sites such as artdish.com provide artists with a vehicle for promoting shows and individual blog sites. There are also sites like ning.com, a sort of hybrid between an open network and a specialized network in that the network allows users to create specialized networks within an open network framework.
Blogs have become effective alternatives to standard websites. Blogs provide all the essential tools that an expensive website provides, for much less money (usually free). Blogs are a manageable, accessible, and effective way to keep your audience apprised of developments in your work and career. The important thing to remember when using the blog format as a tool to promote your career is to keep it professional; everything you say online becomes retrievable by others. As you enter the cyber-world, use the good manners you would use in any public forum where you want to leave a good impression. Make positive comments and be constructive in your criticisms when using your professional name. Two examples of blog publishing services are blogger.com and wordpress.com.
How effective is social networking to an artist’s career? That depends on the time and energy one is willing and able to put into the effort. Of primary concern will be time management. Remember to take small steps and learn to say no. Don’t sign up for or into every group and service that’s out there. Only participate in what can be managed with confidence. Find out what works for others. Remember that the purpose of all of this is to create energy around your work—positive, responsible promotional energy that will attract the arts professionals out there looking to connect with you. The more you participate, the more you get your name out there, the more likely it is that traffic will be directed to your blog, website and/or online profile where people will see your work and interact with you in a way that will bring new opportunities.