Yesterday we learned an important lesson about the power of social networking to help you align with your target market. It was delivered, curiously enough, not through facebook or twitter but through an email campaign. Here is what happened…
We had just returned from a few days camping at Sequoia National Park. It was a wonderful time sleeping and playing amongst the ancient Sequoia trees and mountain streams – we were feeling great about life and excited that it was July 4th.
When you come from another country and make a conscious choice to become a U.S. citizen (as we did) I think it means that you have an awareness of the uniqueness of America – in a way that you might not necessarily have if you grew up here. I don’t know that for sure – it’s just a guess. In any case, we value the underlying fabric of America – there is something alive and palpable here even if it is often shrouded in problems and challenges! (show me somewhere that isn’t!)
In this spirit of jubilation we sent out a Happy 4th July email message to our email readers. We mentioned the wonderful experience we had camping, expressed enthusiasm about July 4th and the values and spirit that America was built on, and wished everyone and their loved ones a happy 4th. There was no attempt to sell or make special offers because that wasn’t the point – it was a sincere message based on a desire to express what we felt and connect with our readers.
A few hours later I checked my email and saw something that surprised me. I was very happy to see that we had received very happy and generous replies from several of our readers. They had appreciated the message and sent replies of celebration. But that wasn’t what surprised me. What got my attention was that I also saw that several people had unsubscribed from our email list.
We have a pretty good relationship with the readers on our email list and we don’t get a lot of unsubscribes. Sometimes people just opt out after a time because they’ve got everything they wanted. On a rare occasion a reader will unsubscribe when we send out an email that includes a discount or a promotion. That I understand. This was different though because it was a personal message.
I thought that maybe the people who had unsubscribed were from other countries – that maybe they had been offended by our enthusiasm about the U.S. Upon investigation though, it turned out that with one exception (a Canadian) all the unsubscribes were from America and our most lovely reply was from an artist in India. Exactly the opposite!
I’m still thinking through what this all means. I spoke with a friend who is very current in Online Marketing trends and she suggested that possibly readers had thought the email was too personal or too political. People sign up to receive specific information from you she thought – not personal communications and political viewpoints.
I can understand that point in principle – but is it political to express enthusiasm about your country on a day of national celebration? I really struggle with that concept as I wasn’t endorsing any person or political party. I am aware of many of the deficiencies and challenges in the U.S. – which we tend to focus on for about 364 days each year! But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a lot of good here too that we can celebrate on one day.
The whole concept of being too personal is a challenge for me too. Isn’t that what 21st century business is evolving towards with social networking? Aren’t we aligning our businesses based on having real relationships with our customers and clients where we are open about our values?
Or did I get that wrong?
Our experience with our business over the last 5 years has been that our best customers are the ones who share similar values. That doesn’t mean that we agree on everything but we form relationships that are more than just pure business. That makes it more enjoyable and productive for clients and for us.
A traditional marketing viewpoint might say that by sending out our email we had risked losing potential business by somehow offending readers. A different viewpoint might be that the few people who unsubscribed might not have been great clients for us anyway because our values were different and that trimming our list a little was actually a very good thing. This is the view I prefer as I continue to think this through – but I might be wrong!
It might be different if we were selling clothes pegs or DVD players, but in a service-based business where you work hand in hand with clients, having good relationships is essential. That doesn’t mean agreeing on everything, it just means being respectful of each others viewpoints.
Shared values is something I think about a lot with business. Quite a few years ago I studied Electrical Engineering (very different form of “art”!) and there is a theorem for transformers called the “Maximum Power Transfer Theorem“. What it says, in a nutshell, is that you get the maximum power transfer through the transformer when both sides have the same impedance (electrical resistance). In more recent years I’ve seen how this principle applies throughout all of life. In business it means that you get the best productivity and the best results when the client and the business share similar values.
So, what does all this have to do with Social Networking and targeting your art market? Facebook and Twitter (and email to some extent) give you the chance to connect with like-minded buyers, patrons, business partners, and fellow artists in a way that was only possible in local communities before. There is a very good chance that you can build real relationships that lead to sales. But here is the key:
Be yourself, share your values, share your passion. Be respectful of other people’s viewpoints but don’t modify yourself. Say what is true for you with your voice and your paintbrush. Do it in your local community, do it on facebook and twitter, do it with your email list. For sure, some people will drop away, but they’ll be replaced by others who are more likely to “get” you and your work.
Pruning a plant is essential for strong growth, so don’t be afraid to prune your list, your followers, and your fans by being authentic.
Your honest comments and opinions on this topic are very welcome and gratefully received.
I received the email you refer to in this post, and I'll admit, due to its personal nature, I had to check twice who it was from. My reaction was, "wait, WHO are these people who went camping and are wishing me a Happy 4th of July?"
While it certainly didn't cause me to Unsubscribe, it did come across as "off-brand" as they say.
It does sting a bit to lose Subscribers, even though I totally agree that it leaves room for the people who WANT to be there, which is good.
I've learned that while you DO want to show Personality in your social media networking/marketing, it's best NOT to get too Personal overall.
Remember what people signed up for. In your case, it's to get receive Art Marketing Secrets! THAT'S what you need to consistently provide.
Glad you had fun camping, though 🙂
Great article. I will translate in French for my blog.
I've just received your article in my inbox and wanted to say to you…please don't question your decision to make some of your emails or articles more personal based …. (in relation to those who un-subscribed)
Your articles, your newsletter, your tweets, etc etc. are really great. I love reading them! And the personal based articles/emails are always fabulous.
Because I receive so many ezines/newsletters etc, only last week I unsubscribed from a couple because they were constantly about trying to sell their latest 'Launch' or course or -book…I am so tired of those…hence why I enjoy yours…..Thank You!!
Here's to continuing these stimulating informative conversations in and about the Wild Wild West of the Web! It's really a learning experience for all…thanks!
I love the personal touch…so much in our lives now is missing that bit of humanity and connection and it is refreshing to receive something that feels a bit more personal. After all, we are artists! I actually felt like you really cared about me, which in turn made me feel a warm spot for you! There will always be those who love you and those who don't. Stay true to yourself and follow your own path.
I mentionned your article on my blog review : http://reproduction-tableaux.typepad.com/art/2010…. I hope it will bring you some new French readers.
Thanks for the comments and thank you Jean Gerard for the link-back. I am still percolating my feelings on this topic and the coffee is not quite brewed! But I will comment further soon because I think this is an important question in social networking. ~ Daniel
Many artists openly reject the 4th of july celebrations and may attend a 4th of July barbecue only as a family obligation and to socialize, but feel out of place there. If you grew up in the USA forced to sing the Star Spangled Banner, fearing the draft during wartime, you found means of avoidance. When others show an open appreciation of that particular holiday it can be a little bit scary. The 4th is often considered a "red neck holiday". Someone convinced me to attended a large gathering to view a 4th of July fireworks display. The type of people there made me feel out of place, and I felt vibrations of aggression and hostility from many people sitting on blankets on the ground. Their clothes were different from mine, their hair styles, shoes, jewelry. I did not fit into that crowd and I was glad that I didn't. When rain began to fall I was nearly trampled when all those like-minded people jumped up unexpectedly en mass and ran for cover. I'd never seen anything like it! A little bit of rain! I love rain! I was born in the USA but I do not fit that 4th of July mentality and I know other creative people who feel the same way. I attended anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco w/Bonnie Raite, Joan Biaz singing, actor Danny Glover on stage as speaker and other celebrities etc. The people did not want Iraq war to begin. There were thousands of people there but I did not feel fearful as I did in a crowd watching 4th of July fireworks. The politicians did not listen to the thousands in all the major cities protesting the Iraq war. I witnessed several instances of police showing quite a bit of aggression toward peaceful demonstrators including women and children. If I had received a Happy 4th of July email newsletter I would think that the senders are out of touch with reality! Yes, I'd probably unsubscribe.
P.S. I have a blog for artists : Artist Marketing Resources
Thanks for the comment. I would have been far from comfortable with that crowd too!
Your comment helped me understand the issue here and why some might have been offended by our email. I guess it depends on what you are celebrating on the 4th July. What I am celebrating is the great bravery and creativity of many early Americans in breaking away from the tyranny of the old European empires. To me that was an amazing thing.
Many of those people had less than perfect personal lives (some supporting slavery, etc) but that moment in time was to me like a spiritual event that endures time and deserves celebration.
What we were not celebrating on July 4th is America's interference in other countries.
My 2c worth – and thanks again for the comment.