Supporting Small Businesses and Artists

Supporting Small Businesses and Artists 
support small business and artists this Christmas
Each week I write a brand new article to support members of our three wonderful arts groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take a look at why small businesses in the creative sector are vital to the economy and what you can do to promote independent artists and yourself.
The Viral Post…
Over the past few weeks I have noticed more and more people sharing memories from a year or even two ago on Facebook. The memory was a post asking people to support small businesses, how supporting them doesn’t need to cost them anything because even a love or a wow reaction on Facebook or the sharing of the businesses social media page will make all the difference. It is a fantastic post because doing those things really does help small businesses to widen their presence on social media. 
What surprises me more than anything though is that we are sharing a post from a few years ago because we are being reminded that we shared it to our timelines back then. The same thing happened this time last year, and the year before that. I know because I get the same memories pop up at the same time for similar posts that we have all previously shared at around the same time. My surprise comes from the question of, why aren’t we reminding people to support small businesses every day?
Each year those posts get re-shared by other people and those very posts informing people about how they can support small businesses go viral. They appear everywhere on Facebook and on other social media platforms. Exactly the kind of exposure we would all like for our own small art businesses right?
Yet we are the ones who are making these posts go viral. We share the words that will hopefully prompt friends and new customers to make a conscious choice this Christmas and maybe trigger something inside them that will make them want to support the local artist, the local crafter, the local butcher, the local baker or any other small business. Collectively although we don’t always realise it, we are joining together and making sure that everyone sees those posts. 
We are collectively making sure that this important message gets out into the wider world of social media, and the post continues on and on. Next year we will probably all do the same again and we will once again share the memory and make the post go viral. Another surprise here is that we wait to be reminded because for the 364-days in between we are wrapped up in sharing funny cats videos, which is fine but we shouldn’t forget that we artists need to run our businesses too.
Do you see where I am going with this yet? 
For the first time in as long as I have been using a certain print on demand company, that print on demand company has decided that this year prices will be significantly reduced over the holiday sales period. There will be days when there will be 25% discount on one or two items, and there will even be a day where those in the USA will receive free shipping which is exactly what is going on with the site today through to the 26th November. 
There are some exceptional offers happening, and I am sure a few artists will get some buyers from this very special event. But alas my fear is that not every artist will. Not because no one loves their work, and for once no one can really say that the artwork is too expensive, but because those artists don’t have the capacity to fit in any more marketing than they already do, especially if they need to continue creating new works. 
Marketing at best is complicated, and at worst can cost real money if you want the kind of post reach those support small business posts got. Professional independent artists are artists who have had to also learn the art of business, but art is always their core mission.
Let’s face it, being an artist is a business when you rely on selling your art to pay the bills and pay your taxes and everything else that comes from running a small business. Small businesses for anyone in any trade or craft or service sector are difficult enough to operate in today’s economic market. It is tough being a small business, it is tough being an artist, to combine them both takes someone with some real grit.
Then there is the competition or rather the competition we think we have. But the competition isn’t other artists because every artist is unique. The competition are the volume discounters or the online only retailer who is making more money in an hour maybe even a minute, than a whole community of small businesses and artists will ever earn in a lifetime. 
We share posts from our true competition too. Fancy playing video games this Christmas? Let’s share a post from the tech giant who creates games consoles. Fancy a brand new phone this Christmas? Let’s collectively share those posts and make them go viral too because the shareholders of those giants are struggling and the CEOs need a bonus. We’re all guilty of this to an extent and that’s fine because it adds some interest on our timelines, but we should never forget that some of those huge corporations started out in a garage or a spare room and there are many more businesses operating from the spare room today that need a helping hand to get them where the others have ended up.
Every day on social media we are collectively engaging in some of the biggest viral social media campaigns ever seen. It’s clever on the part of these competitors for people’s money, because while their posts are being shared they don’t have to pay to play. 
We artists and small businesses on the other hand, well we are kind of happy if we get twenty-six likes on a motivational quote that says “be the best you”. 
We can only ever hope to reach the dizzy heights of post fame that the competition seems to climb to. But even if we did pay to play, I expect because I have tried it in the past that many of us will just be left out of pocket. Maybe a few more likes, but likes alone don’t pay the bills.

art for Christmas independent artists
It is within our gift…
Collectively we made those posts supporting small business happen. We worked together and we made it into a campaign. But what we were really saying was ‘support me’ or ‘support us’ but we didn’t tell anyone who the ‘we’, or the ‘us’ were. 
We educated people on how to increase a posts visibility, what we didn’t do was educate people on the ‘who’, the ‘people’, the ‘small businesses’, the very subject the posts tried to raise awareness for. We didn’t link what we do every day to these posts which would make it obvious that we were small businesses, we kind of expected people to guess.
It is within our gift to do something but first we have to understand why the message of those posts was so important and for that we need to understand the algorithm that holds us all back.
We hear a lot about algorithms on social media, I have written about them and even had nightmares about them just as many other people have I am sure. But what are these faceless zeros and ones that make or break our posts and ultimately our businesses?
The way the algorithms on social media work is quite simple, the algorithms themselves are very complex. In short, minus the geeky bit, they are a mathematical formula that looks for relevance. Some reactions on social media swing the relevance meter a little higher in one direction than others, or maybe they don’t. The truth is that the algorithm is a secret and no one really knows how they work other than the people who have the ability to write them and we do need people like that to help keep our lives organised. 
Algorithms are essential to limit what we get exposed to on our timelines so that we can get to the most relevant posts first. The problem is that we have to first prove to this algorithm that this one post is more relevant than the post selling fake Roy Bins sunglasses or some other totally irrelevant stuff that we constantly see.
What we do know is that loves, likes, and wows do seem to make a difference, and we know that the more comments a post gets the better it seems to do. That’s because there is one thing about algorithms that we definitely do know because even Facebook have told us many times. Check every article out of Facebook that mentions relevancy and reach and they have said many times that engagement is the key metric that matters. Something you have also seen me write many times before, and hey, we have even read it in real books on the subject too.
When a post is first published only a handful of people will get to see it on their timelines. The algorithm doesn’t recognise it as being relevant in the same way that we do. If those initial few people engage with it, love it, comment on it, and everything that the post we shared about supporting small businesses said, then it reaches another handful of people. If they do the same then it reaches another handful of people again, and then the hand becomes bigger, much bigger. The post exponentially spreads and becomes viral.
Suddenly we have this viral post that gets way more exposure than we could have ever got on our own. Collectively we drove that post to a position where the algorithm saw it as being relevant and then the algorithm said, y’all hold my beer (I’m sure the algorithm has a beautiful southern drawl), and it up ranks the relevancy score and surfaces it on more people’s timelines. Yes, posts do get scored by the algorithm and that is one of the metrics that lets the algorithm know if something is spam. It’s really not rocket science, it is just a piece of code that learns from the actions and reactions of people who do and do not engage and it learns from the pattern of posting.
We have the education of how people can help small businesses taken care of, but we still as yet don’t have the call to action that gives people the reason the react, or share, and importantly give them the information to help them decide who to buy from or why.
My point is that we did this. We created a viral campaign but it will all be for nothing if we give up now. The next phase needs to provide the information, and let people know ‘who’ the ‘who’ are and the why this really matters. By sharing each other’s posts and supporting each other as artists and focussing on the quality and passion that independent artists bring to the art world, we can collectively make any artists post go viral. It is as they say, within our gift.

support small business this Christmas
So what can we do?
Collectively we should be raising more awareness of the why small businesses matter. Small business are at the heart of the economy. We should be raising awareness of why independent creatives and artists matter, because they too are integral to local economies and because they are creating art with passion, and it’s a different passion to the kind that mass produces art on a production line. 
But we should also be educating on the ‘who’. Who are these independent visual artists and what do they do? And why should I even bother?
If only one in ten posts on your business page were exposing other artists not only would it give your page something fresh, it would benefit so many artists and expose them onto other people’s timelines. In turn your own page would be shared giving you the same benefit and exposure. It takes a second but that second can change an artist’s life. 
If two out of every ten posts were from other artists then the campaign would gain even more traction, but if we asked our friends and educated them on the benefits of doing this too, then wow, suddenly every artist could have the potential to reach way more people and this would give the small businesses we are so fond of a real boost.
But this quarter four sales season is short. We only have a tiny window and we are already late to the game because the offers from the print on demand service were only made known to us a short time ago. The chains and discounters were saying y’all hold my beer years ago when they sat in a board room discussing this very specific sales period.
We now need to play catch up but this is perhaps our best opportunity yet. It is timely that those memories appeared over the past few weeks asking people to support small businesses, and it is timely that the offers we are seeing from the print on demand sites are starting to appear in good time for Christmas, but the window of opportunity is very small indeed.
None of this should be one-sided because without the collaborative efforts of everyone no one will gain the traction that re-sharing those memories posts gained. 
It’s not just those artists who will benefit from the offers afforded by the latest sales on Fine Art America, other print on demand services also run frequent offers. This is about making sure that independent visual artists gain a voice, and that people recognise the quality of the artwork they consistently produce. 
Artwork and crafts created by independent artists that have been created with a love and passion and care. The sale of which will benefit the artists financially but it will also give those artists a much needed boost of morale and give them the reason to continue bringing truly outstanding art and crafts into the world. 
We don’t always have to share posts either. A love or a wow, a positive comment or a mention, these are all positive steps to relevancy. Think of each reaction, share, comment and mention, as a gift to a fellow artist. 
support small business and independent creatives this Christmas


People want to support small businesses but they don’t always take action…
People genuinely do want to support small businesses and in the main they want to support their local arts scene and local artists. Often they don’t carry through because the big brands have a new deal that takes the money away from the independent. But as artists we have a responsibility to make sure that those people can find us and that we clear up the many myths that often surround us and the work that we do.
A conversation with a day job colleague just a few weeks ago surprised me as much as it didn’t. One of the myths was that art produced by independent artists was lesser than the art hanging on the gallery wall, and that’s not always the case. Some of the best examples of artwork are made by not yet found artists.
Another myth was that the art independent artists produced was too expensive, yet most artists who sell on print on demand are making just a few bucks for each piece sold. They’re not selling it in high volumes either and because of this there is another benefit to the buyer. No longer will the buyer have to decide on which art print from the discounters will be the one that very few other people own. In some cases owning a print is owning the only on canvas (or other medium) example of that particular work and even if the work is popular there is a high probability that the print has still not been hung on the walls of too many homes. 
Maybe it is an original and no prints are available at all, but you can bet that the cost will be way lower than a gallery and if you want to fill your home with art, what better way than to support a range of artists and often for much less than a single original.
The other myth was that the quality must be poor. We as artists choose our print on demand services with a high level of care. Most of us will make sure that the work that the buyer gets meets our very high standards and many of the print on demand companies have master printers who take their role in the production of art very seriously and they do this the world over. 
And whilst there is often a difference in price between the discounter and the print on demand services, the quality is different too. Many of the print on demand companies will produce prints that with the right care will last for generations, yet the print I purchased three years ago from a discounter has long since faded, not that I mind because I found out that three of my close neighbours have the same print hanging in their homes too and I want the artwork hanging in my home to be reflective of me, and in the style I love. 
But above all of this by buying a creation from an independent artist you will be making a difference to a person, a family, someone who might take that small profit and put it towards the cost of lessons for their children, or who will spend that money locally. Most independent visual artists I know also perform a happy art dance every time they sell even a greetings card, I know I do and apparently it is quite a sight. It is like a Super-Dad-Dance with added animation and a few whoops.
For most of us independent artists it is about getting our work out there just as much as the money and knowing that we managed to create something that people loved enough to buy it. I doubt very much that the CEO of a global market place takes a second or two out of their work day to perform a happy art dance every time they make a sale of a greeting card. 
Buying from a small business, an independent artist, the local butcher, baker, soap bar maker, really does make a difference, a real difference to real people. So please do whatever you can to support an independent visual artist or small business this Christmas even if it is just a mention, a wow, or a love.
About Mark…
I am an artist and blogger who has a serious addiction to art, independent artists and good coffee. You can purchase my work right here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com  and until the 26th November you will also get free ground shipping across the USA.
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes towards to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website ensuring that I can continue to write new articles each week and support other independent visual artists. 
You can also follow me on Facebook at: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest right here.  
If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here

Comments

  1. Best read MA...But you didn't mention the "Super-mum-Dance"....I am wounded!

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    Replies
    1. LOL! Sorry Jane! I really meant to add the crazy mom dance but then I figured that anyone can dance better than me!

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