I bought this wooden dollhouse from a friend in Woodstock, NY in the early 1980's. She was about to move, and it was just too big to lug around. Now I have lugged it to two different houses in Woodstock, two apartments in Brooklyn, and one house in Vermont. I'm about to move again and was considering selling it, since I'm downsizing by a lot. I took it down from atop the fridge, where it has sat for 13 years, to take some photos of it. And I fell in love with it all over again. I guess I'm keeping it.
I was planning to teach a class at Winooski Circle Arts, a store I managed, about using Facebook for business. Since WCA is closed, I thought I’d share some ideas here. The examples are from two Facebook business pages I created: Winooski Circle Arts and Small Equals.
I've framed this for business pages but the ideas hold true for any professional pages: art, writing, publishing, theater, cooking classes, or anything.
The four key ideas are:
Image + Story
+ Acknowledgement + Engagement
1) Use images:
You can use vintage images on your facebook page. Add text with imaging software like PicMonkey, which is free online.
Use images as often as you can. It’s best if you can shoot your own. iPhone or smartphone pictures are great for this. Better still - take an extra few minutes to crop, frame, and add text if you want. Remember to add your logo, and add photo credit if the photos are not your own, or even if they are. I use online photo editing software, PicMonkey and think it's a great program. There is a free standard version or you can upgrade for more versitility.
Take pictures of your product, your office, studio, employees; take pictures at the craft or business fairs you attend. Take photos at events you speak at. Take pictures of the equipment you use to make your product, and the people who are using the equipment. Take pictures of your customers interacting with your product - but only use them with permission.
Old images are great too. Take advantage of google image searches to find a vintage image that is no longer under copyright. These are fun and people enjoy them. Do not use images that are copyright. Rule of thumb, stick to images made before 1925. That’s not precise, but good enough.
Story sells. There’s always something to tell about your product or service. Do you make something that uses ingredients or components? Write a paragraph or two about them. In my business, Small Equals, I like to write about how my bags and placemats are made by Flashbags in Burlington, VT. Or about the boxes that are made for me by Vermont Wooden Box. Go to your supplier, ask some questions, snap some photos. Link to their websites. Do this often.
Did you start working with a new manufacturer, with a new tool, a different paint? How is it different? What does it look like? Where did you get it?
Unless you go into the woods and chew down trees to make your paper, your supplies are made somewhere. This is interesting when you think about it. Your customers will think so too; even more so if you actually do go into the woods and chew down the trees.
Did you read an article or see a film that inspired you? Even if it is only tangentially related to your business, your readers might like to know about it too. Remember, your customers are well-rounded people, and they want to hear about your ideas as well as your product.
If you’ve written a blog post about anything related to your business, make sure to link it on facebook. And, of course, make sure you have a facebook link on your blog.
3) ACKNOWLEDGE EVERYONE
Acknowledge your employees. Saturday shopkeeper, Willa at front desk.
No business, maker or artist works completely on their own, nor do they get their ideas out of thin air. Did someone give you a terrific idea that you put into production? Were there books that inspired you? Tell your customers about it. They want to know, and the person who gave you the idea deserves credit.
Is your product being sold in a local store? Go there and take some pictures, or at least write a little post about them. Make sure you link to their facebook page, too. This lets your customers know where they can get your product, and builds good relations with the store. This is very important. Do this often.
Did you consult on a project with someone? Tell your readers. You have an amazing accountant, fed ex driver, editor, publicist? A customer who was particularly encouraging or funny. Share the story.
Write about your employees, mention their birthdays, or if they got an award or had a baby or if they accomplished something interesting or important for your business. Everyone likes to be recognized, and your readers will like peeking behind the scenes.
This is all about building good will with your customers, friends and employees.
This is also known as building community. It matters. A lot.
4) ENGAGE WITH YOUR READERS
respond to your readers. If they don't matter to you, you are in the wrong business.
Don’t just post and run. Make sure to respond when someone comments on a post. A “like” will be the barely acceptable minimum. A “thank you, Sally,” is quick and easy. If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone’s comment inspires you to write back, do so, even if it's brief. Conversation is engagement. Conversation lets your customers know that there is a real person there and that you care about them. If you don’t care about your customers, you are in the wrong business.
Sometimes your readers will post a comment you disagree with. If it's truly offensive, if it uses slurs or attacks, you certainly have the option of deleting it, and often that is the best thing to do. But if readers are responding with a genuine concern or interesting idea, even if you don't agree, try to think of this as an opportunity for engagement. You lose credibility by ignoring or deleting comments that don't tell you how wonderful you are, or that don't parrot your own ideas. Eventually your readers will figure out that you do this, and will realize that what you have provided is not a community but an echo chamber. All but the diehard fans will leave, and this is not really something that will help you promote your business.
These suggestions mean you have to check in to facebook regularly. I’d say minimum of once a day. Keep posting, keep responding to your readers. Engage! This is an important part of your job. Just do it. And have fun with it.
Your business is not just about you. It is about relationships. Build them.
PS: I wrote a post several years ago about reciprocity in business that covers some of the same topics. Find it HERE
Winooski Circle Arts is not open right now, but here's the Facebook Page.
Two cat woman guardians Drawing in cray pas. Liza Cowan 1990
Way back in 1989/90 I studied Art Therapy with Dr. Erika Steinberg at The New School For Social Research in New York City. Dr. Steinberg had us all keep extensive journals of drawing exercises, dream and meditaion notes, and the process of drawing. It was an amazing class, with some extraordinary students, including a gifted and now- famous psychic/intuitive practitioner who subsequently became a best selling author, but during that year was just beginning her career, and, for those two semesters, was a good buddy of mine. Her insights amplified our work in many ways. The class met twice a week for two semesters, and it was the environment in which I rediscovered how much I liked drawing and the process of making art.
I chose not to become an art therapist, but the techniques of dream work and art therapy clung. I was reminded of this last night as I was listening to a radio broadcast that, almost in passing, mentioned feline guardian beings and goddesses. Of course, cats were goddesses in ancient Egypt and around the world, but I don't think I was thinking about them as I began this small series. Not consciously at any rate. The images came from dreams and meditation.
In our art journals, Dr. Stienberg had us keep notes, short ones, on three things: Environment, Process and Product. That is, what we were feeling and the physical space we were in while we were drawing, how we made the drawing, and a description of the work itself.
Cat woman guardian. Drawing in colored pencil. Liza Cowan 1990
Product: Cat/woman #1. February 19th, 1990
She is facing the world, staring right into its eyes. I love drawing mouths as circles. Like she's talking and kind of surprised, too. The boulders are from a dream I had two weeks ago, just after we got our dream-box assignment. In the dream I saw huge dark boulders and received instructions that my job was to decipher the rocks. Like, that's one of my lifetime jobs. The water is fluid and reflective. Her feet are not quite in it, or maybe her toes are just touching that unconscious substance.
Cat woman, drawing in colored pencil. Liza Cowan 1990
Product, Cat/woman #2 Feb. 19th,1990
She is still a bit stormy, but a lot more peaceful. I love this drawing. She is a solid presence. Heat or emotions rising from her, intense but rhythmical.
( I don't know what the "stormy" is in reference to.)
Mama lion and cub. Drawing over photocopy Liza Cowan 1990
Lion/woman. April 1, 1990. Woodstock
Environment: Hanging out at home in Woodstock
Process: I was looking through some magazines and came across this photo of a lioness and her cub, or a cub and her mother. I was moved by how they looked both peaceful and ferocious at the same time. I made a photo copy of the picture and drew over it with cray pas. I gave the mother lion my hair. I know that it is the male lions who have the mane, not the females, but in this case she, like me, has the tresses.
Product: Sometimes I describe myself as a mother lion when I am protecting people or things I care about. I can be ferocious in my guardianship, alert and calm. I love how the cub stands enfolded in her mothers arms and head.
The following drawing is from a week before the first cat drawings. I believe that the animals in this dream either were, or became, the cat figures in the subsequent images.
Dream of man and marsupials. Liza Cowan Feb 11, 1990
Product: This is a dream I had last night - from notes I took when I awoke from the dream at 5:30 am:
"I am at a Woodstock gathering, I have my video camera and am ready to tape, but nothing appeals to me.
Suddenly a small man is doing a "show" with strange looking animals, maybe marsupials, who are delivering ecology messages. They keep changing shapes and exit by disappearing into the ground. I get the whole thing on tape. I have no idea how this strange little man feels about my recording him. He comes over and smiles and hugs me warmly. Very lovely. He's glad I recorded it. I am going to give him my business card but suddenly everyone leaves the gathering in a big crowd and I wake up."
This drawing does not convey the eeriness of the dream. It was almost frightening, the animals were so strange and so was the man. But he was so nice that it ended up not being scarey at all.
I don't have a vivid image of the animals, so I just drew anything, figuring it was still accurate. The big eyes and stripes feel right.
Before I fell asleep I was reaing a Jungian magazine and I think it influenced ths dream.
The creatures are intense, especially their eyes, as they were in the dream. Their message was profound, but I forget it."
My new photography show, Saki, Pug For Fun opens in two days but I'm still shooting for it. Crazy, right? Today I took four pictures I'm very satisfied with. One will go in the show, maybe two.
Spotted Chair. Painted by Liza Cowan with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Recently I started painting old chairs. This was my first. It's been a lot of fun and I'm so pleased with the results. I paint on any surface, really. Glass, walls, wood, canvas. And in the past I've painted some furniture, but discovering Annie Sloan Chalk Paint really made a difference. That suff goes on so easily and covers so beautifully. And no smell. And water cleanup.
Today I decided to photograph the chairs, on a beat up old table in front of my living room wall. I painted the wall 11 years ago when I moved into my house. You can see I like spots. I'm shooting with my iPhone 4, using the Camera+ app.
And here is Stella, the doxy. Stella's not quite as happy in front of the camera but the floor was a long way down and she was not about to attempt a jump. So she sat. Here she was listening to the sound of a car outside. It's best when something captures their attention.
My daughter and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly at the Pug Fest at Alice Austen House Museum last weekend. Not only are we pug fans (and owners) but we are fans of Alice's life work as a pioneering 19th Century photographer. See more about Alice on this blog here and the Alice Austen House Museum website here.
At the Alice Austen House Museum, Pug Day. What a beautiful day to be at Clear Comfort, Alice's Staten Island, NY, house on the water. Here, my daughter and I recreate Alice's self portrait with her pug, Punch. I bet Alice would have loved to be able to wear jeans and boots, and keep her hair short. Imagine lugging hundreds of pounds of camera equipment around wearing a corset and floor length dress. Kudos to Alice for managing so beautifully.
Alice Austen and Punch, self portrait. Willa and Saki by Liza Cowan
Today my friend Penny sent me this picture of the finished billboard. It's for Barneys New York.
And here's the inspiration for the billboard:
screen capture from wallpaper.com
"Helmut Lang's cast-resin replica of five front-row seats from his final fashion collection are installed in a concrete room in the window of Barneys, replicating the artist's own basement, where the piece has been stored. Flat-panel plaques on the floor display the fashion items the artist selected as highlights of 2009"
When I started following the sisters it was because I loved the flow of their saris and the way they walked so closely together. When they entered the bank I had to laugh. I'm sure that the Missionaries of Charity have bank business, but for a brief moment I had a vision of them robbing the joint. You know - to give to the poor.