Why you need the internet, and why the internet needs you

Disclaimer: I am a consultant/leader for the Creative Capital Professional Development Program “Internet for Artists” workshop.

When trying to build awareness on a public project, there is nothing better than the internet. The internet gets you access to a much larger audience, and it can give your a project a life far beyond its actual lifespan. The internet provides a great repository for sharing the story of your project. There are a few ways that you can really make the internet work for you.

  1. Build a project site. If the project is big enough and you expect to get some press on it, a project site can be helpful* to building project recognition: the press can refer directly to project/site name and people searching for the project name will find the site easily.
  2. Get all your press info (hi-res photos, press release info) online, that way you can respond to requests easily and quickly.
  3. Build your audience.
  4. Share your resources, experience, knowledge, etc.

1 and 2 seem pretty obvious, its 3 & 4 that are more complex.

The Internet, originally uploaded by chade2112.

There are many ways to build your audience online. Although I think it is helpful to remember two things: 1. It takes time to build that audience, and 2. It takes energy to build the audience (what you put in is what you get out). There are of course many resources to do so.

I start with putting up a project site, that just gets the information out there in a cohesive way and it gives me something to point people to. (And strangely enough, with the way the web works, other people will find your site, and if the project is compelling, they will write about it). It is also a great way to keep track of your resources and to solicit feedback on the project.

Then you want to start looking at what other methods you might want to use to promote the project (or solicit resources & feedback depending on what you are seeking). You can use a broad audience social network like MySpace or FaceBook – if you have a lot of friends they can help disseminate information about the project (post blogs about the project to your profile, consider doing a project page, mention the project site in your updates, etc.)

You may find that your time is better spent seeking a more specific audience, in which case seeking out niche or private social networks might be more suitable. These might exist as a private network (on ning or collectiveX) or as a yahoo group or email list. Do a search on the private networks and then do a more general google search for your keyword + group. There are groups out there for everything – fibers, sustainable design, animal rights, light sculptures… If you chose to join these groups you may be rewarded with lots of feedback and resources, but remember to pay it forward – participate in the community and share your knowledge and resources.

This makes for a nice segue to talk about #4 – the idea of sharing your resources, experience & knowledge. You will undoubtedly learn a lot about the process of creating the work that is your project. In doing so you may now have experience which may benefit others. Make a point of sharing what you learn, whether in one of the groups or on a blog or another site like instructables.com. All of these efforts will continue to attract people to your work.

I would also encourage you to consider sharing whatever you can from your project — post photos on flickr, videos on youtube — and do so under a Creative Commons license. (I personally license all of my images and projects under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike – meaning someone else can use the images or even recreate the project as long as they license the work under the same license and attribute me in all materials). Putting your work out there like that enriches the commons (the things that we all have access to). Just remember that what you are putting out is not your actual work, but representations or documentation of your work. So share and share alike!

All of this work is meant to help *broadcast* about your project, because as we talked about before, you should be telling everyone.

*you can always do a redirect, i.e. www.myprojectsite.com could redirect to www.myportfoliosite.com/myprojectsite if that helps you with managing online identities

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