Friday 13 November 2009

Let me be your fan (Part 1,000,000)

Yesterday I went along to the first day of the Engage Your Community conference (this afternoon I'm delivering a 3-hour workshop on using social media as part of the conference: my slides & resources are available here but you'd need to be at the workshop for the really juicy bits).

Many of the speaker touched on themes I harp on about a lot: Colin Jackson noted that the Internet has always attracted and fostered community; Chris Brown argued that social rules and mores are as important online as off; Nathalie Hofsteede talked about the web and transparency, and how it can work for you or against you. It was really interesting though to hear the issues, strategies and experiences I live and work with discussed through the lens of another sector.

Andrea Walker is the Online Communications Manager at Oxfam NZ. In her presentation she talked about Oxfam's experience of using social media sites, focusing on Facebook and Twitter.
One of the stories she told was about their Twitter account.

When the Twitter account was launched, Oxfam mostly focused on ways to drawn attention to our spread their key messages. Then one night the partner of one of the team came along to team drinks, and said that he thought the stream was good, but he'd like to know more about what's happening in the office. He thought he'd find this interesting.

Now Oxfam does tweet about workplace stuff - like birthday cake - in a way that still subtly draws attention to key messages (birthday cake made with fairtrade ingredients). It adds personality to their stream - it brings out the real people behind the brand, and it encourages real, human connection.

I enjoyed Andrea's presentation, and I was really glad she made this point. It matches with a point I feel like I keep banging on and on about - that people *want* to be your fans.

As an example; I've recently become a little bit obsessed with Berg's weeknotes blog posts. Berg is a London design consultancy who do things that are, frankly, a little magical and (often) a bit beyond me. [Tangent: Berg's work reminds me of Clarke's third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic only it's not just technology, it's the thinking and the way they communicate those thoughts]

Back on track. The weeknotes posts are recaps of what everyone in the office is doing. For example:

I’m liaising with builders to get quotes for the conversion of the new studio space, with accountants to answer queries on the year end and move to better book-keeping software, and researchers for: Ashdown; Silicon Roundabout; cybernetics. There are two contracts to chase and two proposals to complete. I know I say this every three months or so, but I’m busier and more productive than I’ve ever been.

I love this kind of detail. It's a little irrational (I'll never work with these guys) but I do. The same could be said for Stamen. I guess the nub of this is: I'm interested in their work, and they give me stuff to be interested in - not just the final ready-to-ship product or campaign, but the human side, the stuff that explains what they do and how they do it. The stuff that makes me feel involved.

Why can't more museums and galleries do this? Some people would doubtless argue that they're to busy working to blog or tweet about it. To which I'd ask: are you really too busy to engage with the people who you're working for?


peter madden said...

haveing just listened to your radio nz rant o rama re buying suggest that the secoundry maket a better buy than the primary market nuts and poss damaging in a deflationary way and trade me huh geesh and yes you can haggle with dealers .I think i am dissapointed with you and I am suremy peers will feel the same way

Courtney Johnston said...

Hi Peter

I'm still working out the radio stuff inside my head, so genuinely appreciate the feedback.

I do think it's true to say that on occasion you'll see a contemporary work sell at auction at a price below that which it sold for through a dealer gallery. (Or works simply going for less than what they are "worth"). That's the nature of the market. It is potentially harmful for the artist's primary market or reputation, and that's unfortunate. In the bigger scheme of things though, periods and types of work go in and out of fashion and prices vary correspondingly.

Kathryn was keen to look at other ways art changes hand outside the dealer gallery circuit and think what you will of it, there's a thriving art section on Trade Me. I tried to suggest it's definitely a buyer-beware situation, but it's important, I think, to acknowledge that the dealer galleries that you and I frequent and are represented by respectively (which we talked about in more depth last week) only make up part of the market, and that there are other markets, artists and buyers operating.

HMS said...

I have tweeted on this idea that Galleries aren't using online media in an inclusive way, I think this is a really important question. It's one of the reasons that I started a blog along side my current project *sightseeing* to talk and share the research involved in making an exhibition. For better or worse.

claudia said...

It's nice to see people asking the same questions I have.

Art galleries were always "beyond" the internet thing :)
As and industry we lost precious time, and since '00 we're catching up.
I guess it's up to us, right?

Anonymous said...

I still think to claim as you do and did that one would get a better DEal from the secoundry market alienating and damaging quote "I'd actually say if you are buying on the secoundry market you can probally spend less money often" unquote apart from being blatatly untrue, you seem to make a particular experiance into a general one .But you try to clear up my confusion with some even more general truisms in your blog response "thats the nature of the market" huh & "its in the bigger scheme of things...." oh please my peers thats other artists dealers and consultants debated at length the merits of your errant ravings, and to be frank general openion is you are wrong in fact and assumption.
this culture suffers from a lack of participaion at a primary level, of art shows and exhibitions of contempory work now , not some whittled off part & not at some mixed bag o lollies secoundry level.
I wish this debate could happen at large and then a few things could be cleared up!!!

Courtney Johnston said...

Thanks... Anon.

I should have noted earlier that Kathryn and I talked extensively (or as much as you can in 10-15 minute slots) about dealing at dealer galleries in an earlier spot, and I would always advocate that people who are interested in buying contemporary New Zealand art should start with dealer galleries - to build their knowledge, to discover where their tastes lie, to find new artists and simply for the sheer pleasure of it. Because of this earlier discussion, we didn't talk about dealer galleries in the spot you're referring too. If you're a regular reader of my blog you would hopefully have picked up the fact that I'm a pretty committed supporter of the dealer gallery circuit.

AS to my errant ravings - I'd love to see some stats on primary and secondary market sales, trends, and price/value differentials, if you can link me to them or provide them for my information?

Courtney Johnston said...

doh - mis-type above. that should be 'buying at dealer galleries'.