Mosaics and Social Media.
Part I: The Hows and Whys of Writing a Mosaic Blog
Two years ago I started writing a mosaic blog. Up until then I had been an avid mosaic maker for at least eight years but, except for forays onto Flickr and Contemporary Mosaic Artists, I pretty much kept myself to my mosaic self. I knew that there was a world out there of Facebookers, Twitterers, Tumblr users, Pinterest fanatics and Instagram senders, but somehow the thought of throwing myself into the fray was less than appealing. Mosaics, for me, were about being in my studio surrounded by the tools of the trade and quietly getting on with what I loved best. Social media seemed like nothing more than an irritating distraction from the real business of mosaic making.
But as the years rolled by I got to thinking that maybe I should launch myself on the mosaic scene. Maybe I should mix and mingle. Get to know other mosaic makers. Find out what was going on in the larger mosaic world. Maybe doors would open, opportunities would arise. Maybe, just maybe, I might even sell a few more mosaics. I knew that the wider mosaic community would provide not just potential buyers, but advice, tips, ideas, suppliers and the comfort of connection with people who are completely potty about the same thing as me. So I sat down and started writing a mosaic blog.
A blog/interactive web page which is frequently edited and updated is quite a different thing from the old fashioned website that I had had up until then. For one thing my website was woefully out of date. Years ago, I worked out what I wanted the site to look like and then paid a website designer to do all the coding or programming or whatever website designers do, and left it at that. The photographs were of mosaics I’d made before the site went live and although I contacted my designer a few times over the intervening years to add new photos, I always dreaded the process of getting someone else involved (and paying more) so the site was a static thing. I felt it didn’t reflect me, the mosaic maker, as I evolved. It was just a microscopic calling card in the vast universe of the internet.
A mosaic blog, on the other hand, seemed like the way forward. I would be in charge. Although a mosaic blog in many incidences is really just another name for a website, it’s one that you are in control of and which you can update as often (or as rarely) as you wish. It can have pages for the things in your life that don’t change much (your background profile, information about commissions, about how the mosaics are made and so on) and posts for things you want to tell your readers about such as new mosaics you’ve made or exhibitions you’re taking part in.
Step One: Choose a blogging platform and learn to use it
Sounds simple, eh? Well, it is. Sort of. First you choose your blogging platform; I went with WordPress which is a free blogging tool used by mega corporations as well as small timers like me. It has some great free templates that you can use as a framework for your blog and if you want to get fancy you can buy premium templates which offer a little bit more flexibility. The only drawback is that if you are planning to get the most out of it, you really have to roll up your sleeves and learn how to use it properly – in other words, fully. And, if you didn’t know already, learning how to do anything properly takes time.
And then I discovered what an amazing thing Youtube is. Just sit down, type in ‘How to set up a WordPress website’ and there you have it: all the information you could possibly need to get you going in the world of blogging. I am a huge fan of Josh Jackson of www.wpsculptor.com who has posted a 2:30 hour video called How to Make a WordPress Website and Blog – from Scratch! Make a pot of tea, take notes, do exactly what he says and you’ll soon have the thing under control.
Step Two: Set up other social media pages
But what I hadn’t fully appreciated when I set out to build my own website was that other social media, from Facebook to Pinterest, are a standard part of blogging. In theory, you could just write your mosaic blog, forget all the other things and hope people will eventually find you. In practice it’s very hard to get noticed out there on the internet, so once you’ve got a blog site it makes sense to add a few social media buttons (which click through to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc pages) and try and reach as many people as you can.
Starting up your social media pages is so easy that it doesn’t need explanation. Once you ‘sign up’ to the individual sites then you just follow the on-line instructions to get your page up and running and off you go. I set up Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest pages all with the same name as my site. I also have a Flickr account, which is a photo sharing site, but I dont update it much.
I resisted Twitter the longest. Twittering – with it’s connotations of ephemerality – seemed so alien to what mosaics are about, that I couldn’t see that it could be helpful in any way. Oddly, however, it is. There are mosaicists and specialists in the ancient world who have accounts on Twitter but whom I haven’t come across on other media and it’s kind of fun scrolling through the day’s ‘tweets’ from the people you follow to see what they’re up to. Overall, though, a business page on Facebook is the most efficient way of reaching people and is the most rewarding because you can instantly see how many people have seen your posts or ‘liked’ your page. Also, it’s the best way to get a quick over view of what other mosaicists are doing – just ‘like’ their pages and their latest posts will automatically appear on your home page.
Step three: Enjoy a whole new world
It’s two years now since I started writing a mosaic blog and opened accounts on various social media sites, Since then, I have written 73 posts (seventy three?!) about all sorts of mosaic subjects from stumbling across the stunning Roman mosaics of Nikopolis in Greece, to tutorials on how to make mosaics and an article on how long it takes to make a mosaic. The more I write about mosaics, the more I find that there is to write about and the more I want to explore the mosaic world.
Keep it under check and writing a mosaic blog and getting involved in social media won’t be wasted time. You’ll ‘meet’ the world wide mosaic community, find out about all sorts of mosaic events, see the amazing work being produced by fellow mosaic artists and be inspired to get back to your own work, after just one more click….
This blog post is adapted from an article I wrote for the Autumn 2014 edition of the British Association of Modern Mosaic‘s Grout magazine.
Coming Up: Part II – Mosaic bloggers and social media users I never miss