Raise your hand if you just don’t "get" this micro-blogging thing called Twitter.
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I see those hands. . . and I’m right there with you. When I first started hearing the buzz about Twitter, I couldn’t understand its popularity. Why would anyone want to post random messages (with a limit of 140 characters) to no one in particular?
To be honest, I still don’t fully grasp the appeal of Twitter, but then again it really doesn’t matter what I think. According to www.twitdir.com, there are over 3.3 million Twitter users—or twitterers—and that number is growing every day.
So with such a large audience it was only a matter of time before entrepreneurs, salespeople, and even artists started wondering, "how can I reach people and yes, even sell my stuff, through Twitter?"
The way I see it, there are two methods: normal Twitter micro-blogging, which most people seem to do, and a more hands-on, direct marketing approach. I’ll explain both, below, in just a second.
First, a brief overview of how Twitter works
With Twitter, everyone starts out alone. You visit the Twitter home page, sign up if you haven’t yet, and then just. . . stare at this page.
It’s a bit odd, yes, but Twitter really IS as easy as answering the question, "what are you doing?" All you have to do is type something in. Truthfully, it’s a lot simpler than most social networks, but it can also be a very strange experience when you first join.
Most people start out by "following" a popular Twitterer or jumping into a pre-existing group of friends that use Twitter already. If you’re the first of your friends to use Twitter, it might be a little lonely until your social circle catches up.
Of course, you can also just start off by replying to other people’s tweets (publicly or privately) or by beginning a new discussion. Twitter is like a massive worldwide chat room, so there will probably be times when people respond to your tweets who you don’t know and will never meet in real life.
That’s certainly not a bad thing from a marketing standpoint, of course.
Twitter marketing for artists, the normal way
Most twitterers who are twittering for business purposes treat Twitter like a traditional blog. They attempt to get more followers every day with the goal of eventually building a massive army of tweeple (er, people) who love their product or service.
For artists, I suppose the goal would be to grow a big enough audience of loyal fans so that every new painting just flies off the easel into the eager arms of a buyer.
And yes, this marketing strategy can be effective, but MOSTLY it’s effective for folks who are already famous online. Take mainstream blogging, for example. Someone like Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net has the means to build a following on Twitter very quickly, while bloggers with fewer readers will struggle.
I understand that working hard is part of any art marketing strategy, but when it comes to Twitter I think there’s a better way—at least if you’re looking for quicker results and you don’t already have a large fanbase.
How to directly promote your art on Twitter
What’s fascinating about Twitter is how people’s expectations have changed because of it. Just like the folks who type sentence-long questions into Google, expecting answers, Twitter users are growing accustomed to asking the universe for help—no matter what their problem is.
The difference between Google and Twitter is that Twitter users ask the question before the answer is available.
And that’s where Twitter Search comes in.
If you visit search.twitter.com, you’ll find yourself looking at a basic search bar for Twitter. This lets you search for any word or phrase amongst the millions of tweets currently flitting about the twittersphere.
Want to see something cool? Type in "need help" or "help me" using quotes and press enter. The result is somewhat reminiscent of that scene in Bruce Almighty when Jim Carrey tries to keep up with all the prayers of the world flooding his email inbox.
You see, Twitter Seach—among other things—makes it easy for anyone, anywhere, to find a question and answer it, quickly and easily.
So here’s my thought: what better way is there to market your art, design, paintings, etc. . . than to be able to instantly contact the person who needs it right then?
Let’s filter through the noise a bit. Try typing something a little more specific into Twitter Search—I started out with "need artist" (no quotes) and quickly refined my search term to "need artist -music -itunes" which filtered out most references to musical artists rather than visual artists.
At the time of my search, one twitterer was asking his friends for new art (no, I’m not kidding, it was exactly as seen above), an editor of an online arts magazine was looking for an artist to feature, and a third person was looking for illustrations to go with his report on the financial crisis.
And that was just on the first page!
Sure, twelve out of the fifteen tweets on the first page were irrelevant, but there were five fairly relevant requests on the second page and four more on the third. Not to mention that Twitter is constantly updating every minute, twenty-four hours a day, all week, month, and year long.
And obviously, the more you refine and target your searches, the more relevant the results will be. Twitter Search has an advanced search option which even allows you to filter by location and time, so make sure to play around with that if you need to narrow down your results even more.
The final touch—putting Twitter and RSS together
Nobody wants to sit in front of Twitter all day and night, even if it means finding a potential buyer for your art. Luckily, Twitter automatically creates RSS feeds for any search you do, and you can grab that RSS feed and get notified every time a new tweet appears that matches your search.
Just run your search once and copy/paste the RSS feed into your favorite feed-reader (Bloglines, Google Reader, Firefox Live Bookmarks etc). From then on, check it as often as you’d like and contact anyone who needs your sevices.
I don’t think it gets much easier than that. . .
So if you haven’t signed up for Twitter yet, or if you have but you’ve never used Twitter Search, why not give Twitter a twy? I mean try. :) If you do, let me know how it goes!