Incognito Press

truth. knowledge. freedom. passion. courage. Promoting free-thinking, activism & rogue writing.

Posts Tagged ‘branding’

Introducing my new Social Media Marketing book!

Posted by E on June 10, 2016

Art of Social Media COVER mockupSMM Cover small

I’m excited to pull back the veil from a project that has been in the works for the last few months. It’s been so hard to keep this baby a secret, but no more! The idea for this book spun off from my series on Social Media for Writers and took off like a rocket. After lots of positive feedback, questions from new clients and the need to elaborate on several points, it seemed logical to encapsulate all valuable information into a single book – The ART of Social Media: An Essential Guide for Writers and Artists.

There are probably thousands of marketing books out on the market about building your platform, launching your brand into the world and getting noticed. What makes mine special is that I write from experience – for over ten years I have developed both my own and other artist and business brands. I’ve met with publishers, was offered book deals, hired and fired literary agents, published poetry traditionally and self-published a number of books that sold very well.

In essence, I will be taking over a decade of experience as a writer and combining it with the knowledge I’ve gained in my Social Media Marketing studies at George Brown College in Toronto. Yes, after years of offering social media consulting to clients, I’m finally getting certified! I don’t believe it’s necessary to have a framed piece of paper on a wall in order to lead an effective marketing campaign, but it doesn’t hurt to have it.

So before you pay for marketing lessons or books written by well-meaning indie writers who don’t actually have a marketing or advertising background, consider getting a copy of my new book. As both a writer and working social media strategist, I can give you a hard-earned perspective that combines artistic creativity with marketing knowhow.

I will write about mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve gained, and share a recommended campaign plan and marketing strategy across most popular social media platforms. I will also cover what you absolutely have to do today to ensure tomorrow’s success, and what you’ll need in order to build a solid platform that reaches your target audience.

There will be lots more nitty-gritty stuff and specifics tools covered, but the basic gist and intent is to help you uncover the best (and secret) strategies for developing your artist brand. Trust me, it’ll be more than worth it, especially since I’ll be pricing it under $10.

Ok, I’ll let the book speak for itself. It should be available for pre-order in the next week or so, with the official release date set for December 1st. I can’t wait to share it with you guys 🙂

PS as always, any Patreon supporters at the $5 or more level will receive a free copy!

 

Posted in books, marketing, social media, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Someone Called the Police because I “Stole” her Twitter Username

Posted by E on February 22, 2016

pink typewriter

Imagine that you have an internet username that you’ve been using for a long time – say, BettyBoop1977. You have a Twitter account, maybe a Facebook profile or page in that name. You might even have started a blog or site under that handle with one of the popular free sites like Blogger, WordPress, Weebly or Tumblr. Everyone in your circle (let’s say, a few dozen people) knows you by that handle. You have your own personal brand, right?

design-branding chalkboardWrong. You couldn’t be more wrong about that. Brand ownership does not start and end with getting BettyBoop77 as your Twitter username. Sadly, too many amateurs in the social media arena don’t give a lot of thought into building a brand that they themselves own, as opposed to having a free, hosted domain with another company’s extension.

Putting aside the fact that Facebook pages and WordPress accounts are owned by another provider – who often places ads under your intellectual property, your page can disappear at any moment. Your account can be suspended or hacked. The design or template you’re using could be scrapped on a dime, and you could lose hundreds of followers at the snap of a finger.

But the issue of who hosts your blog should be your secondary concern. Your primary objective – if you are entirely confident in your brand and intend to build it to the point where it can be monetized or even resold – is to secure BettyBoop1977 as more than a twitter handle. You’ll want to buy the domain name, but even then it might not be enough.

What if, one day, you get a phone call from the police after someone feels you criminally harassed them because you “stole her highly unique brand name”?

I know it seems like an insane situation, but this is exactly what happened to me last month.

BRANDING Lesson 101: Branding, Copyright and Social Media

I’m writing this piece because I am not the only person on the internet using the handle “TheLizBuzz”. I was recently informed – by a Metro Toronto police officer, no less – that a certain individual had complained to them that I had stolen her “highly unique” brand after I registered the domain www.thelizbuzz.com.

After giving this insanity a lot of thought, I’ve decided to write about my experience as part of my Artists’ Guide to Social Media Series, and as a warning to anybody who might encounter individuals who may be delusional enough to believe that someone who has “stolen” their Twitter or Instagram username and turned it into a new website – should be arrested and prosecuted for having committed a criminal offense. It’s tantamount to a chat-room spat – say, being called a “bitch,” “asshole” or “whore” on social media and contacting police because your feelings were hurt. Can you imagine how the courts would be inundated with frivolous, idiotic prosecutions because of name-calling, or because buying someone’s online username as your domain has “hurt their brand”?

FearlessOf course her criminal complaint went nowhere because I had done nothing wrong, but that’s not the point. The experience taught me an important lesson, and one that I’d like to impart with you guys. As someone who has had the unfortunate experience to explain to a (very understanding, I should add) police officer that branding (or even domain squatting or copyright violations) are not of themselves indictable offences under the Criminal Code of Canada – I thought I should set the record straight, once and for all.

At the time I registered the www.thelizbuzz.com domain (back in late August/September 2015), a Google search revealed this Ontario-based individual (who has an almost identical first name to mine) was using the nickname “thelizbuzz” on only three sites – Twitter, WordPress and Instagram. Perhaps she might have had other accounts, but I only found those three. She was a consultant with a two-year degree in social media from George Brown College, but had never – even after getting her certificate – thought to fork over the $11 that it cost me to register the domain thelizbuzz.com. How serious could she have been about branding if she – a certified and newly-minted social media grad – couldn’t even think to buy her own domain name?

To my knowledge and limited online sleuthing, the url www.thelizbuzz.com in of itself, or its .ca extension, had never been registered. And since buying a url that might have been used as someone’s Twitter handle isn’t illegal in Canada yet (lol), I didn’t think twice about it.

My Romanian name is Eliza, and I quite liked the catchiness of TheLizBuzz as a new consulting business for myself, an offshoot of my small publishing venture, Incognito Press. Unfortunately I also happened to know Liz, the person who was using that nickname, and at one point we had been friends – but our friendship broke up last year over another serious matter.

In the seven months that followed our “breakup”, I realized that she hadn’t taken any active steps toward actually buying, incorporating or monetizing the brand. It was just a matter of time before someone else would snatch up that domain, so why couldn’t that somebody be me?

Ok, perhaps it was in poor taste for me to “borrow” Liz’s Twitter username (which didn’t even have very many followers) and start branding it under my own name, but I didn’t feel too bad about it either since she hadn’t done anything to monetize it – so I spent $11 and bought the url thelizbuzz.com with the express intent of marketing it as my new brand. There is absolutely nothing illegal about that.

In September 2015 I registered www.thelizbuzz.com as my new arts and social media consulting site. I thought about registering for an Ontario Business License at the time, but I didn’t have the $60 for the registration. I then started a new blog with a social media theme, thelizbuzz.blogspot.com.

Although Liz had my telephone number and email address, not once in the following five months did she ever contact me to express that she wanted the domain for herself – or that she had any problem whatsoever with me developing that brand, even after I emailed her to inform her about it. I would gladly have sold the domain back to her for the same $11 I paid for it, but she never said a thing and so I proceeded to develop the brand and a new website.

In fact, I had absolutely no clue that she was pissed off until I heard that she had gone to the police.

It was only after the insanity of hearing from the police officer (in January 2016) that I had stolen this other Liz’s “highly unique” social media brand (i.e. Twitter username) that I decided to – once and for all – do a proper search for her alleged business proprietorship and clear up my name.

I don’t deny that we are two women who are in the same field – we are both social media strategists and content creators – and we both live in the Toronto area. I don’t deny that we share a similar and very controversial history, and that we are also competitors in our social media businesses.

However, deciding to develop “TheLizBuzz” as my new brand is not illegal either – it’s called capitalism. Perhaps Liz hadn’t heard of the concept – or didn’t care enough to develop it herself. God knows she’d had enough years to do it.

I would soon discover that the domain and handle “thelizbuzz” had NEVER been registered either as a domain OR as a business in Ontario. I went ahead and spent approx. $10 to do a business search on the government business site, and lo and behold – NOBODY had ever registered thelizbuzz as a business.

Here’s the official form from the government website which attests that as of January 15, 2016 there was “NO MATCH FOUND” in the business directory database. Virtual proof that I had NOT stolen anybody’s branding or consulting business.

thelizbuzz no match found

So for all the stress I went through and the negative things said about me behind my back, it turns out that the police complainant, Liz, had only used a Twitter username and a WordPress blog with approx. nine entries written over the span of two years – hardly enough to establish that I had stolen her “intellectual property” and copyright.

As a freelance writer and artist, I don’t have the money to sue this woman for emotional distress or what I see as an overt attempt at malicious prosecution. I can’t sue someone just for having stalked my website, blog and social media networks with a frightening consistency and sense of entitlement for the past year.

After several death threats from psycho racists in the past (my memoir Race Traitor was an exposé of the Canadian white supremacist movement), I had IP trackers installed on all my blogs and websites. This enabled me to now track Liz’s IP (and VPNs) and see it show up continuously, sometimes as much as several times a day for weeks and months on end. The obsessive nature of the continual visits started to trigger major anxiety and affect my work – until I decided that I wouldn’t allow anybody to take away my power.

Not anymore.

But what I CAN do – both for myself and my readers – is to advise that when you establish a brand, you must take great care to prove your ownership. You don’t have to fork over big bucks to establish trademarks and register copyrights over a domain name – the costs can run into the thousands and you’d have to establish copyright and trademarks in each country you plan to operate your business.

And what you CAN do is what I ended up doing – a perfectly legitimate and solid proof of business ownership:

Officially registering “TheLizBuzz” as MY business in the province of Ontario.

thelizbuzz business license

I have now taken the step of establishing a business bank account and clients can write cheques directly to my brand, the same way they already do for “Incognito Press.” I have registered thelizbuzz on every social media platform I can find – Facebook, Reddit, Pintrest, Tumblr, Flickr, Skype, and many others. But I’ve also ensured that both the .com and .ca domains and business account are linked to MY name.

That is how you do branding.

Moral of the story: save yourself the trouble and heartache of building a brand and potentially losing it – make sure you always buy a domain first (before you even establish your Twitter and Facebook handles), and register yourself as a business in the province or state where your business will operate.

So in the unlikely event that someone comes around accusing you of stealing “their” brand, you are completely covered and have established your ownership of what is now YOUR brand.

Remember, kids, that branding is more than just a name – it’s an identity. So claim it, own it, and live it to its fullest potential.

End of story.

branding police comic

Posted in social media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Secret of Compounding Blog Posts

Posted by E on September 9, 2015

inkwell feathers

Everyone who’s ever had a blog knows that you’ll get your winning entries – the pieces that bring you loads of traffic – and your destined-to-gather-dust duds. And the frustrating thing is, at first it all seems like a crapshoot where you can’t tell which post will take off from the starting gates and which will linger unread, despite all the effort and research you put into it.

Sometimes it’s sheer luck. At least it seems like that on the surface. But if you scrutinize the patterns of your own writing, certain facts are bound to emerge. It might take quite a bit of time, but eventually you can come to predict which articles are destined to be “winners” – the pieces that bring you a constant stream of traffic, and lead people toward your other writing.

However, until this month I didn’t have a word for this. Not until I stumbled upon an excellent HubSpot research report titled Compounding Blog Posts – What They Are and Why They Matter.

compounding and decaying So what are compounding posts? Why is it crucial that you understand how they function?

A compounding post is one that grows in traffic over time, surpasssing its initial, just-published traffic. “Compounding posts may not necessarily be blockbusters when they’re first published, but their structure and substance are so relevant that they continue to deliver value and grow traffic organically — no additional marketing needed.”

The opposite of a compounding post is a decaying post. A decaying post declines in traffic over time.

The report revealed an important statistic about compounding vs. decaying posts. According to HubSpot’s research, 38% of total blog traffic is generated by compounding posts. However, compounding posts only make up 10% of all posts.

compounding posts

This seems very frustrating – out of the approximately 200 posts I’ve published in the last few years, only about 20 will be compounding. That’s a lot of time spent planning and writing pieces that will probably not go anywhere or generate much of a return. So what can you do about that?

I think the goal of most individuals and businesses is to write posts that perform. But along with trying to learn how to write compounding posts right out of the gate, I think it also boils down to what you are trying to accomplish.

In classic marketing, there are two basic schools of thought when it comes to branding – you can brand yourself, or you can brand a business (with its own particular subject matter).

who-are-youI don’t beat around the bush about being partial to the former. With me as the brand, it gives me the freedom to write eclectic pieces about anything that I feel passionate about. One day it might be an intimate, journaling piece that chronicles a particular situation I feel strongly about; the next day I might use my psychology degree to put together a profile of Psychopathy, or perhaps offer my experiences as an expat living and teaching abroad.

For huge corporations, a business brand is crucial. I read an article recently which stated that when considering toilet paper, the vast majority of buyers are not interested in the company’s CEO. But for smaller businesses, the owner’s personal brand is absolutely critical.

If I chose to brand only one angle – say, a consultancy business as an editor – then all my posts would be very narrow in scope. Obviously I would write about editing, publishing and the art of writing as a whole. But I know myself – after say, 50 posts or maybe a year of plugging at the same subject, I’d get pretty bored.

Maybe if I wrote to a niche audience I might acquire a large following faster (though there are no guarantees) and of course there is the possibility of selling the business down the road – after you’ve accumulated enough of a following. But the internet is chock-full of niche writers, so if you choose a topic that has been flogged to death (say, social media marketing or indie publishing), you’d better have something truly original or it will be very difficult to monetize it. Not impossible – because nothing’s really impossible – but very, very difficult to resell.

So don’t choose your branding strategy based on some vague notion of future riches – choose what fits YOU and your personality the best.

After reading the HubSpot editorial, I decided to decipher what sets my top articles apart from everything else I’ve written on this blog. I decided to compile all the pieces that received the highest-amount of traffic and try to break down the components that contributed to their success. Once I started to understand what they had in common, I created this list:

Variety IS the Spice of Life

Don’t just clone your pieces. I can tell you that my top-performing articles are all divergent in their topic – one thing they all have in common is my unique perception. Don’t be afraid to roam free, rather than be corralled into a singular perspective. You are a well-rounded human being with (I would assume) more than one interest and one viewpoint – use your blog as a vehicle to explore the things that make your heart beat faster: books, music, politics, shoes, cooking – whatever makes you, well, you.

Emotional Authenticity – Be Genuine

Something that all my top pieces have in common is that most of them are written from the heart. They’re full of emotion: some were written when I was feeling heartbroken or frustrated at those who took advantage of me as a teenager (my blogs about the CBC, CSIS and the Heritage Front). Others capture a particular life experience that resonates with others (such as the story of my conversion to Judaism, or my memories of growing up in a communist dictatorship).

long word counts

 Length is an issue also – these are also pieces that are particularly in-depth and on average have a higher word count than my shorter entries.

Of course I have other, equally emotion-driven pieces that are seldom read. But just like a writer who publishes and fails and tries again, I cannot guess beforehand what will be a hit. The important thing is to plug away at the craft – it might take one book to break out, it might take ten until you hit the bestseller lists. What’s crucial is to keep going, and to be authentic at all times.

In this age of superficiality, there is an underlying aspect to the human condition: the drive for meaning. For emotional truth. Don’t try to write something compelling – FEEL IT. Feel the power of the words as they flow from your heart out through your fingers.

Knowledge – write about what you really know about

The other factor all my top-viewed posts have in common is knowledge and expertise. I wrote about subjects that I knew intimately. When you try to bluff being an expert and write pieces that are not rich in content, people tend to notice. Think of how many blog posts you’ve skimmed over, nodding to yourself, Yup, I already know all this. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert to realize that valuable, smartly-written content is still hard to come by.

Take a Broad, Sweeping Approach

Broad topics that appeal to a large audience perform better over time than those with a narrower focus. Become a guerilla marketer for your own blog. Turn things inside out. See things from fresh perspectives. If 90% of what you write is serious, try adding some light-hearted, fun material. The reverse is true – if all you focus on are subjects involving fashion styles or cooking, consider a deeper, emotional piece about what a particular recipe means to you – does it make you connect with a grandmother who passed on, or a part of your heritage?

Be Unique

What draws you to one writer over another? I’m willing to bet that uniqueness is a factor. Superficial, short pieces might be fun reads and easy time-wasters, but they are also forgettable. They’re the fast-food of the masses – you read them, enjoy them, and two hours later you’re already hungry for something new.

Write about the things nobody else is talking about. Don’t just regurgitate the fluff everybody’s blogging about, or keep things lite and trite – there are thousands of very successful blogs that already do that. Fashion blogs, mommy blogs, even political pundits – it’s all been done. So just write what makes you content or fulfilled.

Be Passionate

Write the kind of material that will be savoured, bookmarked and reread. Look through your own bookmarks and see what you tend to revisit – and then find something that you are really, truly passionate about. Be fearless!

As you can see, these factors are applicable not just to creating a popular blog or website, but also can be translated to your approach to writing in general. Whether you’re working on a short, 600-word editorial or a full-length novel, the same rules apply.

Be Yourself.

Quill and Ink feather-pen-and-ink-on-old-paper

In case you’re curious, here are my top articles (in no particular order). Over time, they have generated thousands of hits to my blog and website.

White Lies: A Pack of Lies, or How the CBC Ripped Off My Story – in 1998 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made a movie that exploited and capitalized on my life experiences as a teenager. Problem is, they didn’t bother to tell me about it.

Journey to Judaism: The Day I Became a Jew – the most personal, spiritual journey I’ve made in my life. Genetic memory, discovery that my anti-Semitic father was a Jew who had hidden his roots, and uncovering my painful legacy lead my decision to embrace my heritage and convert to Judaism

An Open Letter to Canadian Media – in light of Bill C-51, I consider this article to be among the most important pieces I’ve ever written. This piece led to several alternative and mainstream media interviews, as well as speaking engagements.

Race Traitor MEDIA LIBRARY – a comprehensive but not complete media library to detail the situations described in my memoir Race Traitor

The Dubious Adventures of Grant Bristow, or How CSIS Taught Me Everything I Know About Phone Hacking The truth about what really happened in the 1990s and CSIS’ role in creating a white supremacist pseudo-terrorist organization in Toronto. This article depicts what agent provocateur Grant Bristow did to stir up criminal activity, and what I did as a teenager to shut them down.

Memories of my Communist Childhood – Growing Up Under the Red Banner is one of my most emotional pieces. It has been quoted in various online journals and is about growing up as a pioneer in the Romanian communist utopia of Nicolae Ceausescu, during the Golden Epoch of our Fatherland.

Doing a Midnight Run without Getting Caught – the title says it all. A practical how-to guide on escaping from Korea while bound to an E2 work visa.

The Brutal Truth about Being a Writer – the most important ingredient you’ll need to make it as a writer, and it ISN’T talent

Psycopath vs Sociopath Psychological profile traits to help you discern if anyone you know could be categorized as such – there is much confusion on what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. This article is going to clear it up.

The Artist’s Basic Guide to Establishing a Social Media Presence – Part 1: Build your Brand If you’ve ever wondered where to start to build a platform as an artist, read this first.

The freedom to dream, the courage to belong  If you’ve ever had a dream worth fighting for and you searched within yourself for the courage and resilience to move forward, you’ll want to read this.

Why I Defaulted on my Student Loans – and why, if you’re suffering financial hardship, you should too

If you enjoyed the read, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂

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The Artist’s Guide to Establishing a Social Media Presence – Part 2: Crowdfunding Your Project

Posted by E on August 27, 2015

Marc-Chagall_I-And-The-Village

About ten years ago I stumbled upon a revolutionary website that introduced me to the concept of microloans: Kiva.org. With as little as $25, I could contribute funds to individuals all over the world, and especially in impoverished third world countries, in order to help them achieve their business goals. People who wouldn’t normally have access to traditional banking systems were now able to obtain loans and expand their income, providing better lives for their families. Within a year, my partner and I had contributed to more than a dozen businesses and were rewarded as our funds were paid back both monetarily and through the sense of joy we experienced each time we were sent an update or photo from the person we’d funded.

community treeAfter my introduction to Kiva, I started wondering if there wasn’t a way to contribute financial resources to individuals in need without the need of a payback. Sure enough, within a few short years, the concept of crowdfunding exploded. Crowdfunding is, in essence, the potential to leverage the power of social media in order to build widespread support for a project. Crowdfunding builds upon the idea of crowdsourcing: “the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a “crowd”), through an open call.” (Wikipedia)

The basic concept of generally goes like this: you pitch an idea, set a fundraising goal and choose a deadline for raising funds – typically 30 to 45 days from start. (The last point has been rendered obsolete with the introduction of new, never-expiring platforms like GoFundMe).

A 2014 Forbes article quotes a Crowdfunding Industry Report by Massolution which states that an estimated $5.1 Billion was raised through online crowdfunding in 2013. 2014 brought new crowdfunding sites that further accelerated the rapid industry growth.

crowdfunding umbrellaKickstarter was the major crowdfunding website that started it all – whether needing the cash to fund an innovative consumer product, a CD release or to get an indie film made, people who might never have had the ability to see their dream in action began to connect with others who understood their vision and, more importantly, were willing to bankroll it with as little as a single dollar.

Kickstarter’s unique concept still rests in its all-or-nothing approach – if your financial goal isn’t met by the end of the campaign, everyone who contributed gets their money refunded and the project creator walks away with nothing. This was meant to encourage 1) realistic fundraising goals, and 2) the public’s trust that their money would actually be used for a project that got enough funding to actually get made.

Because of their history and the public’s familiarity with its concept and reliability, Kickstarter still remains the most popular platform for crowdfunding. However, the competition for funds is fierce, and now there is such demand for campaign creation that Kickstarter’s team has implemented a system of pre-approval – which means you compete with other idea pitchers before you even have a chance to be featured on the site. Due to the fierce competition, having a high-quality video that explains your pitch is pretty much a necessity.

However, there are a couple of other newer crowdfunding sites that are rapidly gaining in brand name recognition and giving people a chance to raise funds without forcing them to take an all-or-nothing risk. The most reliable competitors to Kickstarter are Indiegogo and GoFundMe.

Crowdfunding_Future

This spring I launched a campaign on Indiegogo for a new memoir project, and two months later I continued it using GoFundMe as a platform. Both sites have a lot of similarities, and while I chose Indiegogo initially and would still recommend it to start with (I’ll explain why in a minute), I found that GoFundMe offers the most flexibility via their open-ended campaign platform. This means there is no expiry date to the pitch, and you can keep the link live and continue receiving donations over time, as long as people are still willing to support your project.

It’s no secret why I chose not to go the Kickstarter route – the all-or-nothing approach was a deal-breaker for me. I’m not a gambling person, and I don’t have thousands of fans and family members to solicit from. I also dreaded the figures – as of today’s Kickstarter stats, only 37.12% of projects are successful. I feared having to beg everyone for donations for a month and raise only a portion of my needed amount – only to lose it all. It wasn’t a gamble I was willing to make.

So I went with Indiegogo because they have a beautiful and intuitive website interface and lots of the artists I know were using them at the time to fund their project. I think I set a deadline of 45 days for my campaign, and then it was live and searchable within minutes. No glitches, no staff preapproval process – just smooth sailing all the way. They also have a much larger international presence than Kickstarter, and aren’t as North American-centric. An important factor for me, given that my book research involved travel to eastern Europe.

The thing that makes GoFundMe third in my view (behind Kickstarter and Indiegogo) is the fact that you need to raise a threshold of $500 before your campaign can be featured and searchable on their public site. The link still works, but it’s not searchable via their website. However, GoFundMe makes up for this major flaw by allowing you to withdraw the donations as soon as they come rolling in, instead of waiting for an expiration date.

There are, of course, other websites where you can raise funds for humanitarian cause or a charitable purpose – the most popular among non-profit organizations is FirstGiving. But since this is a Basic Guide for Artists (and since my word-count for this article is reaching epic proportions) I’m going to limit myself to these top three sites.

Infographics-CrowdFundingIf you take a moment to visit my crowdfunding project pages at Indiegogo and GoFundMe, you’ll see how I set them up and the kinds of thank-you Rewards (or Perks, as Indiegogo calls it) you can provide to your donors. It’s extremely important to offer something back – because people need to see proof of their donation in action. Even if your project might be delayed in completion – and one of the biggest complaints about Kickstarter and other platforms is that the projects often run late in delivery – you still need to keep your backers informed as to how things are going.

All in all, I raised close to $2000 for my book using a combination of Indiegogo, GoFundMe and private donations via Paypal – I’d set up a donation button on my website and sent the link to anyone who expressed discomfort over registering on a crowdfunding website. I was actually surprised at how many people opted to donate directly to me. Although I still came short of my goal of $8000, the money I did raise was invaluable and helped cover my flight ticket to Romania, as well as part of the cost of accommodations.

crowdfunding hands    crowdfunding steps

A 12-Step Battleplan on how you can get your project funded:

1. Do Your Homework

Look up the most successful campaigns on Kickstarter – after you watch a few pitches, a pattern starts to emerge. The best campaigns will use humour or emotion to elicit a response from their potential backer audience.

2. Develop a Social Media Strategy

Identify any particular target audience and figure out how to reach them. It might involve joining new groups and discussions on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, Yahoo Groups, Google Plus and anyplace in between. If you have any media contacts, try to line up interviews as soon as the campaign goes live. Remember that it takes time for a story to be developed, approved by an editor and then broadcast on television or in print, and a campaign can go by really fast. So make sure your media exposure will take place while the campaign is still live.

crowdfunding tree3. Appeal to your Friends and Fanbase

If you already have a fanbase or following built around your artistic or professional profile, you need to leverage it. You may need to contact each person individually, so start early. Customize your promotion to suit your platform. Don’t just ask your friends and fans for money – ask them to spread the word among their own friends and contacts. Asking them to donate a moment of their time to share your link (especially if they don’t have a job and money to contribute financially) is equally important.

4. Create a Winning Pitch

Be passionate about what you’re trying to create. Show your emotion and let people feel how important this is to you. Don’t hold back, and don’t just assume others will understand how critical it is. This isn’t a time to be subtle, so go forth with all guns blazing. Try to make an impression from the first paragraph. Don’t assume people will scroll down and read your entire pitch, so try to grab them from the first sentence.

If you have the ability to film your pitch – do it. The added human factor of your audience seeing and hearing you speak from your heart about what you want to accomplish will make a huge difference. I’ve seen fantastic videos and poorly-made ones, and in my opinion if you don’t have the skills or equipment to produce a good video, it’s probably better to skip it and focus on other visual imagery such as photos. At the bare minimum, you absolutely must have a photo of yourself so that people can see who they are backing.

5. Project Confidence

whether-you-think-you-can-henry-fordIt’s crucial that you maintain confidence in your vision. You have to believe that you can accomplish this – because if you show any doubt, how are you going to inspire confidence in others?

Above all – can you deliver on your pitch? Do you have the experience or credentials to get this done? If you’re pitching for a movie, do you have any knowledge of media production or camerawork? If you’re pitching for a book – have you ever written and/or published anything before? In essence – are you qualified or equipped to get the work done?

“People don’t want to back a campaign that’s not going to work,” says writer and entrepreneur Seth Godin about his crowdfunding experiences. You have to convince your potential backers that you are a winner, that cool kid who’s going to re-enact a David vs Goliath epic battle and triumph in the end. Most people want to support others succeed and vicariously join in that feeling of triumph and success.

6. Show How the Money will be Spent

Don’t just talk about how important this is to you. people need to see a detailed explanation of how exactly you’ll be using their money. The more detailed the plan, the more credibility you’ll gain for your project. Make a ballpark figure on what it will cost to supply materials, or what the travel and research costs might be, within reason.

7. Get your Hands Dirty – Promote Every Day

It still surprises me how many people think they can just launch a crowdfunding project and it will magically get funded. For every idiot who wins the Kickstarter lottery by pitching a harebrained concept like making potato salad and gets $50,000, there are thousands of worthwhile, well-thought-out projects that go unnoticed and unfunded. So don’t assume that yours will be the one that gets lucky, because the odds are against you.

This mentality of “If you build it, they will come” is just plain wrong, because it enables you to get lazy about soliciting donations from everywhere around you. Remember: close to 50 percent of donations will come from people you know. Yes, you read that right. For campaigns to go viral, your friends have to share with their friends, who in turn tell all their friends and relatives about it.

Email everyone in your contacts list. Tweet about it every other day. Contact people who aren’t normally on social media – email them at their regular email addresses. Ask them to check out your campaign link and tell you what they think. I’ve received cheques in the snail mail and Paypal donations directly. Don’t just rely on Kickstarter or Indiegogo – money can come from unexpected sources!

8. Don’t use Social Media exclusively as a Promotional Tool

crowdfunding offlineDon’t start friending new people and joining new groups to just post a link to your crowdfunding campaign. Some group moderators might consider such an approach as spamming. Worse yet, new friends and potential new acquaintances will see your approach as not entirely genuine. So take the time to build new contacts and relationships with people before telling them about your campaign. Build meaningful engagements that will last well beyond your campaign’s expiry date.

It might take a lot of time, but you have to make the time to contact people individually. Personalize your emails and Facebook direct messages to each person – don’t just mass-email a “Hey guys, I need your help” message, because it will be ignored. It’s much harder to ignore a personalized request than a spam-type message. Yes, this involves tailoring your messages to each person in your Facebook or LinkedIn account, but you’ll likely get people’s attention that way.

9. You might need to use Social Media Advertising

The average crowdfunding campaign earns less than $10,000. If you have a significant goal, you will need to buy ads. From my experience, Facebook ads (and to a smaller degree, Twitter ads) are likely the best option to target consumers, but getting the right key words to target a particular audience is crucial. Don’t make your reach too broad or too narrow, but also remember that you can’t spend too much money – the whole point of this is to earn donations for your project, not spend for advertising. Create a budget for the ads – say, $50 – and stick to it.

10. Set a Reasonable Intention

If the project costs will be very high (say, over $10,000) consider breaking up the crowdfunding campaign into several chunks. This is especially important on an all-or-nothing platform like Kickstarter, where if your goal is too high you risk losing everything you’ve already raised. It’s something I’ve seen over and over, and it’s really sad considering how much energy and hope people put into their fundraising.

Even if your funding model is flexible, such as on Indiegogo, don’t consider it an invitation to set an unrealistic goal. I’ve recently seen an Indiegogo campaign for a book by a first-time author set its goal at $40,000. This is excessive and will be perceived as unreasonable by almost anyone who reads that pitch – the author didn’t mention any travel plans or particular reason why he would ask for such a high figure and, given his lack of a writing background, it appeared like a delusional request. When it comes to crowdfunding books – where there isn’t a high cost for manufacturing materials and the most expensive item on your list might be a laptop or word processor, you have to be especially careful to be realistic. Even if the project involves travel for research, try to keep your budget as tight as possible.

Remember that people naturally and subconsciously want to side with a winner. Don’t let them smell the possibility of a failure by making an unreasonable demand.

11. Your Success or Failure at Crowdfunding does Not Reflect Your Project’s Intrinsic Value

light brightlyThis is the most important thing I can tell you – don’t take it personally if people you thought you could count on don’t come through for you. In my mind, this is the most important thing to remember – it hurts far more to be ignored by people you’ve been friends for years than by casual online acquaintances.

There were girls I went to school with, women I had histories with, old classmates who were employed in good government jobs. People who frequently posted photos of fancy restaurant dinners and weekends away at exotic retreats. People who always seemed to be online on Facebook….except for the month I started posting about my fundraising campaign. It’s a phenomenon I’ve read about on other people’s blogs — your so-called friends mysteriously vanish, make up some excuse about not having seen your post, or promise to take a look later and then never respond to your messages….until your campaign is finished. Then suddenly everybody is talking to you again. There’s no more awkwardness about not wanting to cough up $5 or $10 to support your vision.

I don’t consider people like these friends anymore. It’s a harsh statement to make, but in this age of social media we often fool ourselves into thinking we are more popular than we really are. You can boast of a thousand Facebook “friends” but in reality have less than ten people in your close circle who really “get” who you are.

tree dont give upCrowdfunding has a funny way of revealing who is really in your court. I can understand the reluctance of people who don’t know me personally to get involved in supporting my campaign (although donating a single dollar wouldn’t kill them). But I have to admit that yes, I did experience disappointment and feelings of betrayal when individuals I considered friends for decades (and who were gainfully employed) wouldn’t even acknowledge my messages or offer a single dollar as a donation. Even as a gesture of faith.

In fact, I noticed an interesting juxtaposition between friends in lower-income brackets and those making higher figures – in general, the ones with less money actually donated more to my campaign. With a couple of exceptions I’m very grateful for, many of those who considered themselves upper-middle class or in the highest income bracket were actually the stingiest.

It’s next to impossible not to take this personally, not to see the lack of donations as a correlation to someone’s lack of faith in you. Because it is. I’m going to be frank here, but if someone who’s known you for most of your life, is privy to your hopes, ambitions and passions and recognizes what this project means to you and still makes an excuse or refuses to help, it’s not about not having $5 to give.

Support comes in many ways – people can still share the link to your campaign on their Facebook wall, with their friends or Twitter network. They can send you a message of encouragement, if nothing else. Someone who doesn’t offer a single dollar and doesn’t share the link with anyone cannot claim to have any support for your dreams. This is a hard fact to accept, but in the end you must understand that it’s not to do with you. Their unwillingness to help is more due to stinginess, jealousy or perhaps one’s lack of faith in their own ability to crowdfund successfully. No matter what the reason, it’s not your fault.

Forget the nay-sayers and the unsupportive. Show them how they missed out on being part of something truly wonderful and possibly even revolutionary. Above all, remember this: Someone’s rejection of your dream isn’t a judgement on the strength or worthwhileness of what you are trying to accomplish.

The famous Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, ‘In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; in adversity, nothing is so difficult.’ When you’re popular and on top of the world, everybody is your friend. But when you’re down and need support, be it emotional or financial, the herd thins out and you begin to see who your real friends actually are.

12. You’re Not Doing This Alone

Whether you get all the funding you need, or a small portion of it – it’s important to be grateful. Even if you asked for $10,000 and received only $100, it’s a hundred dollars you didn’t have before and it brings with it the knowledge that others have faith in you. Don’t think about those who didn’t support you – think of the people who did. Persevere and get the work done. Over-deliver on everything you promised.

Even when things get rough, remember that you have a crowd of supporters behind you – these people implicitly understand and support your vision. Some will be close friends, others new acquaintances and even complete strangers who donate anonymously. This is the beauty of crowdfunding –you are embraced by a strong circle of supporters who are your motivation and a battalion for your self-esteem. Your campaign backers are walking with you at every step of the way. You’re doing this for them as much as you’re doing it for you – so use their willingness to take a chance on your dream as fuel for your fire.

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Posted in crowdfunding, media, social media, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Artist’s Basic Guide to Establishing a Social Media Presence – Part 1: Build Your Brand

Posted by E on August 22, 2015

PART 1 – Build your Brand

Social-Media-Branding social media ideas

There is so much to say about this subject that I couldn’t do it justice in a single blog piece, so I decided to break up my points into a series of articles that I will be posting over the months to come. There are literally thousands of useful articles all over the internet on the topic of social media and developing an online presence, so I will mainly tailor this series to the artistic community – writers, media artists and anyone in the arts who is interested in building and/or expanding their artistic platform.

In my mind, there is no better place to start this conversation than at the very beginning – as Maria Von Trapp would say in Do-Re-Mi, it’s a very good place to start. And when it comes to the ABC’s of social media marketing, in my view there is no place better to start than the art of establishing your personal Brand.

Most of you are already familiar with using internet search engines like Google to expand your knowledge and drive your own self-taught process – that’s how you probably stumbled onto my blog. But I write this basic guide for the people I’ve met over the years who, on various author forums, boast with confidence that there’s no need to develop their brand until their books are complete and ready for publication.

That’s what a publisher and their marketing department are about,” is a phrase I’ve heard over and over. “I’m not going to be one of those shameless self-promoting ‘indie writers’. I want to go the traditional route so that all I concern myself with is my writing – and someone else takes care of everything, i.e. the editorial work, cover design, marketing, building my website, taking care of my press releases and book tours.”

Regardless of whether you plan to publish independently or have secured a trad contract (or are a hybrid author like me) if you still believe that someone else is going to hand you a career simply because you wrote a great book – and that’s earned you a free pass to publishing stardom – you are living in a dream world.

I am here to shatter that myth – both as an independent writer and as someone who was courted by a traditional Big Five publisher. This is not the case. Unless you’re already a bestselling writer, a highly-grossing celebrity or nepotistically connected to a publisher – in which case ghostwriters will actually write your books for you – everybody is expected to perform well past the moment you type “The End” on your manuscript.

 

pink typewriterIn my meetings with the editorial and marketing department heads at Penguin Canada prior to me deciding to self-publish my memoir Race Traitor, the most recurring questions were related to my social media platform. The expectation was that I would bring my own fans and branding to the table – this wasn’t an optional thing. It was a necessity and an expectation.

Their marketing department was going to assist with arranging media interviews and that sort of thing, but they weren’t going to build me a website, a blog or anything like that – in fact, they wanted to make sure I already had those things already in place and ready to go.

So where do you start? Do you have to enroll in a college course on marketing, or hire one of the infinitesimal droves of self-described social media consultants out there in order to develop your presence? As artists, we don’t have the budget for this sort of thing and more importantly, these are skills you’re best to acquire yourself rather than pay others to do for you. Of course there will be a learning curve – isn’t there one in everything? – but the sooner you learn these basic tips, the faster will you be on your way to having your own platform.

world before social mediaThe wireless world is expanding at an exponential rate, and whatever has been taught in a social marketing course two years ago is often obsolete or replaced by a hot new medium – Periscope and Snapchat, for instance, are products of the last couple of years. Social media, in general, is all about the next great fad. It’s about buzzwords and ideas, newly revolving angles that give birth to new opportunities.

In other words, social media changes on a daily basis. Everything you knew yesterday is now wrong. That is what’s most exciting about it – having to stay on your toes. So unless you are continually learning and keeping up to date in the field, degrees in social media marketing (which cost thousands of dollars) are going to become useless rather fast.

A 2015 article featured in Business Insider titled “The 10 Most Useless Graduate Degrees” placed marketing at number 2 on their list of the most degrees one can possess. And according to a 2013 Workopolis article that included a segment titled Ten jobs that won’t exist in ten years, ‘ Social Media Expert’ topped the list. Given all the contradictory media coverage of what constitutes an “expert”, it’s easy to see where anyone could grow confused.

Social-Media-ConfusionThere is nothing inherently wrong with hiring a pro if you’re stumped about what to do next – the right publicity expert, strategist and PR firm can be worth its weight in gold. But no matter how you proceed, you owe it to yourself to acquire the basic set of skills that you’re going to need in order to maintain a public image – and this goes far beyond having a Facebook Page and an Twitter account.

You can ask questions and acquire skills just by sitting in on a #hashtag Twitter discussion or participate in a LinkedIn group. You can look up new trends on Reddit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! By doing your research online, you can develop enough expertise to navigate the turbulent waters of the ever-evolving social media world – you may not become an expert, but you can attain many of the skills needed to establish a successful platform on the world wide web.

confusionSo where do you start? Simple – buy your own name domain. If you have a common name, put your middle initial in it, or use a diminutive. But no matter what, have your own domain – this is crucial. You don’t have to build a website – but you can point the URL to your own blog, or Facebook page, or wherever you want it to redirect.

If you’re developing a brand along with your name, buy the url for that brand. Don’t just assume that you can wait until you’re ready to build a site, because good domain names are hard to come by, and even if you own a trademark patent on a term, it doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already purchased the domain.

It’s not necessary to buy every url extension you can – but if at all possible, buy the .com. Let’s face it, .com is where it’s at – it’s the oldest and most recognized domain extension you can have. I strongly encourage you to also buy your own country’s extension – for instance, as a Canadian I own both the .com and the .ca to both my name AND my blog, as well as publishing company. Why your own country extension? Well, it wouldn’t really matter to me if there was an Incognito Press in Australia, would it? But I certainly wouldn’t want to compete with another Canadian company by the same name – this could lead to my own brand’s dilution and confusion among clients.

The first step I took before I started this blog was to make sure that incognitopress.com was available for purchase. It was only after I had purchased the domain that I began to develop my blog and brand identity. I own a couple of dozen domains – both for my real name and my pseudonyms, and various businesses. It might cost me a couple hundred dollars a year, but it’s a business tax write-off and a vital part of my brand development.

Few things are more heartbreaking than to have spent years building up a brand, put in the hours to write blog posts, form connections on social media platforms, and then realize that you didn’t pony up the $10 or less to register your brand name url. Sadly, this sort of thing has been overlooked even by people with degrees in social media marketing.

I’ve seen this type of situation happen over and over – with business owners having to fork over thousands of dollars to a cybersquatter and/or lawyer in order to recover their brand. However, if you haven’t patented/trademarked a title and you are not a well-known brand (i.e. your name isn’t Disney, Coca-Cola, Michael Jordan or Kevin Spacey – who incidentally spent over $30,000 to get the rights to kevinspacey.com back) you might be out of luck.

social media  social media expert

So to sum up:

1. Educate yourself online. Make sure you have a Facebook account, a public Facebook Page (these two are actually different things, don’t confuse them), a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account. For people trying to build a professional brand, these four things are no longer optional. Remember that most sites have built-in tutorials and Help sections, so if you can’t figure out how YouTube, Reddit, Pintrest or Instagram work, they make it easy for you.

2. Start a blog if you can. My favourite platform is WordPress, but Blogger is very reliable as well. I’ve used both, and each has a plethora of customizable templates to choose from. I’ve heard good things about Tumblr.

3. Start a website. The most idiot-proof platform I’ve found to create a speedy website – even if you haven’t a clue what HTML is – is weebly.com. I’ll discuss it at length in a future post, but suffice it to say it’s a beautiful and very affordable drag-and-drop web-builder system that will have you online in no time.

4. Buy a) your name domain, and b) your business name domain. Either of these will help people reach you. You can point them to your blog or weebly website.

5. Make your business name easy to remember – that means NO dashes. People won’t remember if you tell them “my website is Elisa-dash-the-dash-writer-dot-com”.

6. Don’t make your domain name too long or confusing to spell.

7. If people constantly misspell your domain, consider buying the misspelled domain as well. (For example, if your surname is MacDonald vs McDonald). In my case, the Romanian form of my first name is Eliza. When Romanians google my name or enter the url (I get a sizeable amount of traffic from Romania), they often type “elizahategan.com”. So guess what? I bought that url and now point it to my current website. No more confusion – and no other Eliza can steal away my name domain!

8. Don’t let your domain ownership expire! There are lots of people who wait for domains to expire and buy them up, only to resell them at outrageous prices back to business owners desperate to get their branding back. Do you really want to be at the mercy of this new owner? Worse yet, what if they take your domain name and point it to an x-rated site? What if it’s a competitor who works in the same field as you?

9. Your social media skillset should not consist of merely posting to Facebook or Tweeting about your weekend. Nor should it take the form of constant self-promotions. When all I see in my feed is an author screaming ‘BUY MY BOOK! ON SALE TODAY ONLY’ ad nauseam, I either mute them or unfollow them. Some self-promotion is obviously okay, but why should I buy your book if you’re not interested in getting to know me and my own work? We’re all trying to establish a significant presence in our field, and there are good AND bad ways of going about it. Do not risk alienating potential friends and readers by badgering them with non-stop advertising. It’s transparent, it doesn’t work, and it actually hurts your brand’s self-respect.

10. Not all marketing takes place online! Old-fashioned human interaction is still one of the best ways to sell yourself and your work. Look up your local writing circles and artist networking groups. Read the flyers pinned to billboards at hipster hangouts, go and attend poetry reading nights, have fun at street fair events.

11. But before you go to all those conventions and register for those free talks, you’ve gotta have yourself some cool merch – i.e business cards or any kind of stuff to hand out so that people remember you. And for business cards, it’s Vistaprint all the way, baby! I’m one of their early adopters. Ten years ago I started buying business cards for practically nothing – just the cost of shipping. The quality and price are unbeatable – I’ve used them for business cards, postcards of my book covers, holiday cards and everything in between.

12. If there’s nothing in your area, start your own group! When I first joined Facebook, I didn’t see any GLBT writers groups present in my area (Toronto) so I started my own group, GLBT Writers in Toronto. Now we have about 200 members, and some of us have actually met offline!

So ultimately, remember that it takes a lot of time and effort to be an ‘overnight’ success. Here are some of my social media profiles, if you want to check them out for reference – and if you are active on any of these platforms, I would love to connect with you 🙂

My Author Website

Incognito Press Website

My Facebook Page

My Twitter

My LinkedIn profile

My Instagram

My Blogger Blog 

Me on Reddit

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READ PART TWO: Crowdfunding Your Project

READ PART THREE: The Importance of Blogging

READ PART FOUR: The Author’s 10-Step Guide to Creating a Media Kit

If you enjoyed the read, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂

Posted in art, artist, life, perseverence, politics, press release, publishing, thoughts, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »