Online reputation management for artists – notes and slides from talk at Brighton Digital Festival

These are the notes and my presentation slides that will kick things off at this evening’s discussion evening at the Fabrica gallery in Brighton. This is the first in a series of events called Brave New World – A New Arts Landscape. is part of the Brighton Digital Festival, which continues until September 24th.

Obviously, I’m not a professional artist, so my theme is very much going to focus on managing reputation online: why artists should do it, how to take their first steps and how using the social web can become part of how they work. A lot of the discussion is likely to focus on how much to share / give away…

I’ll blog about the contents of the discussion afterwards – the notes and slides below relate tot he opening twenty minutes and are for reference…

Fabrica presentation

Reputation and social networks

Reputation is the sum of what you do and what others say about you. The value of reputation can sometimes seem as bankable, as valuable as cash. It is the sum of your value within the social networks you connect with.

How does this change online? The tools for conversation, for sharing, for gaining reputation or assessing the reputation of others mean that everything can happen faster and on a greater scale. Online social networks are still human social networks – but supercharged, going beyond the design limits, sweeping aside things like physical presence and geography and only being able to talk to a few people at a time.

Human social networks are how we get things done, how we have always got things done. Sometimes we create hierarchies to do big things, but they are always surrounded, supported and often rely on the permission of the networks to exist and function.

Whether it is the business of art or the art of business, understanding how the social web supercharges those social networks and our ability to take part, to benefit from them in terms of ideas, inspiration, opportunities, collaboration and attention is obviously very important.

We wouldn’t get very far in our lives, in our work, without social skills. Well, today we need to extend those skills, translate them into the online layer that has been woven around the world we live in… Social media skills, social web skills, if you will, are something we can all benefit from developing.

Online reputation, then, is about managing your presence, the bit of your reputation online about which you have a say, and keeping an eye on what is said about you…

How to begin

  • Learning: Using online networks requires new literacies. Learning to use Twitter, for instance, can be as tricky as learning to drive or play an instrument. Make time to learn, to practice.
  • Listen: Listening is a good place to start. Use news readers and search tools to find the interesting stuff. Understand where your networks are, how they work, where the people and the conversations you want to connect are going to be.
  • Establish presence: You need to have a presence where people are going to look for you. That starts with Google, which means developing your own web presence, and probably some social networks/platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Ways of working

Sharing as default, which means deciding what not to share rather than what to share. This is much easier a way of working in social networks as it requires less effort and yields greater rewards.

The tension between sharing and giving away your work is difficult and important. In business we face the same challenges, and it boils down to understanding where the value and where the monetary value is in the work we do.

When we gave away a free e-book at my last company without even asking for an email address in return it was hard for a lot of my colleagues – but the returns (high rankings in Google, leads, links and reputation) were far higher because we had given that away.

The knowledge and ideas we had were more valuable when they were shared – the monetary value came from the relationships we had with clients, which arose or were often deepened because we’d shared that work.

Working in public

There’s an excellent blog post about the art of working in public which is I think relevant to this, by Robin Sloan on a blog called Snarkmarket. Comparing two posts which he says are “thinking in public pieces” he says:

They… let you inside their heads.

But! – they don’t let you all the way inside. There’s plenty withheld here. in fact that’s the genius of the style: they don’t tell you much at all. What’s BERG’s next big project? Uh, I don’t know. What’s Alexis’s strategy at the Atlantic? …Even thought their writing feels so revelatory, this isn’t radical transparency at all.”

Working in public like this can be a lot of fun, for writer and reader alike, but more than that: it can be a powerful public good. The comments on Matt’s post all go something like this: Hey, thank you. I’m running a small studio myself, and this is really instructive. When you let people inside your head, they come away smarter.When you work in public, you create an emissary […] that then walks the earth, teaching others to do your kind of work as well. And that is transcendently cool.

Further reading:

  • For Writers (& Artists): a page of resources to accompany the article on online reputation I wrote for Writers & Artists 2011
  • Opening chapter from Me and My Web Shadow: How to Manage Your Reputation Online, which contains some basic advice and rules
  • Howard Rheingold’s video about his workflow
  • Notes and podcast from The Story session by Graham Linehan and Cory Doctorow

* * Update: I also posted these beginners’ guides to Twitter following a request from someone at the Fabrica event * *

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