It 's been nearly a year since this saga of mine began. In ten long months I have crammed so much information into my well worn middle-aged brain that I wonder if my headaches aren't brought on by swelling from so much additional information inside the small cavity of my skull.
Like Chicken Little, I've bought the laptop, I've learned to use it, I've bought the camera, I've learned to use it, I've set up the web site and learned to use it, I've started the blog and learned to use it. I've planted the wheat and baked the bread and though it doesn't feel as though the sky is falling, I regret to say, I'm not sure what to do next. While I spent all those months in the mosh pit of digitalizing my life, I spent little time reflecting on how it all works in the realm of physical life and practical things - like sales.
The amount of intensely focused time I spent learning all of these skills and creating this shiny new universe for my work to live in created an illusion that when I was done, the world of the Internet would just function whenever I turned on the computer. Like opening the door and walking in. Like, somehow, the fact that all this information, all these zeros and ones, would plug themselves in and work like the dickens to make me a successful business woman. If you post it they will come sort of thing. Now of course, when I step back and think in an organized, one foot in front of the other sort of way I know that setting up shop, whether it is in quaint little fancy-pants village or a virtual co-op, the work has only just begun. But I guess that because I had to learn sooooooooo many new skills, I fooled myself into thinking that I had done so much more than I really had. At the end of the day, all I had really done was rent the space, paint the walls, make the signs, stock the store and opened the doors for business. Unfortunately, I am the only one there most of the time.
It's an interesting paradox, this cyberspace and physical space. The computer has the ability to organize our ideas in such tight little spaces with such dazzling visuals that it makes us giddy with the notion that we have done way more than we have. When once I would have had to cut and paste and draw and xerox and erase and bind and staple and tape and go to the printer (not the one in your office, the guy) I can now sit on the couch and conjure like a shaman. I can do things with keys and mouses (meece?) that give me the impression that I am better than I am. It looks to me like I have many more skills and talents than I actually do. Don't get me wrong. I don't discount the value of an idea and the computer is like a magic wand the way it makes it all happen before your very eyes. Yet, if I had not done all this virtually, I would have had to hire a staff or die of exhaustion trying.
But yea for me and here I sit all by myself wondering what to do next.
In the olden days you would have bought some advertising. That would have meant that either you had the skills to lay out art boards with computer generated type and hand drawn rapidograph artwork with velum covers to give to the publication for your insert, scaled to the size of the ad you were purchasing or wish that you had a friend that worked at a design studio and would do it for free after the boss had gone home. And if this sounds like a lot, it was and not cheap at all. Advertising was a gigantic expense.
Now, I can do my own ads. Now I can use photos and my logo, do it myself and not have to produce a physical representation of the ad. And there are a myriad of places to post my ad for not much money. In fact, the most sensible use of resources is to advertise on the Internet. Okay! Cool, simple and I don't even have to leave the house. This is yet another wonder of the modern age. The democratization of commerce. Everyone and anyone can open a business with a little drive, a computer and something to sell. Brilliant.
I love Facebook. I say it with no reservations and not a lick of shame. I love it. It has opened a whole new world of social interaction and I have met some very interesting people that I would never had met were it not for this innovation. I have even had the pleasure of meeting, face to face, two fascinating and intellectually stimulating sisters that I had befriended through my dear friend Dinah (who insisted I sign up for this thing a couple of years ago - she didn't know what it was about, really, but let's do it) and during the holidays we all met for lunch. It was truly a 21st Century moment for me. I was married pre-Internet so I had never done any online dating (though I had answered a few personal ads in the back of New York Magazine and The Washingtonian - ohmygod) and was not in the mainstream business world so had never developed a virtual relationship with a coworker and then met at a meeting. This was a defining moment for me.
Okay, so the reason I bring up Facebook is that it seemed a likely place for me to dip my toes in the water of virtual advertising since it was a community that I was familiar with and a part of. Yes, I had some reservations about it since I had already been targeted for women my exact age being eligible for a free pair of Uggs and skin care products that were going to make me look ten years younger and remove age spots (are you talking to me?) so why would I want to inflict that on others? Business is business and everything I read about FB advertising said that the ability to target and the flexibility to only pay for hits made it a no brainer for advertising a small business. The idea that I would create an ad to appeal to a highly specific crowd with a very narrow commonality to get them to my site to see a particular item in hopes that they would stay and look around and maybe purchase something was a little astonishing. Yes, hard copy advertising had a targeted approach but it was not like the hairdresser I read about that focused on young women who loved red lipstick and were fans of Lady GaGa. Holy smokes! Now that is zeroing right in on just who exactly you think would be interested in the very specific type of hair designs, that you personally think are the bomb (but may have very limited appeal) and would be interested in sporting your personal fashion sense as all the rage! The object is to come up with tags (for those of you that don't know, we'll talk later) to attract the buyer that you think is your best clientele.
I'm overwhelmed again. Now I'm not just looking at demographics like age, sex, financial and marital status but I'm trying to determine if everyone that likes my work also listens to the Ting Tings! I'm trying to psychoanalyze the keyboard choices of millions of people in order to get a few sales on my little Internet site where I sell my humble wares. This is out of proportion. It is mixing the modest with the grandiose. It is asking me, the artist, to try to figure out the buying habits of potential customers when I usually have no idea why I made such thing except that is seemed like a cool idea at the time. I am not calculated. I am impulsive, particularly when it comes to what I make. There are not enough hours in the day for me to address all the ideas that come into my head for every medium I am able to work in - and them some. I am a bit all over the place sometimes and for me to zero in on my best customer is like trying to determine how someone takes their Starbucks, just by looking at them. If you study it enough I suppose you could become pretty proficient at it but who wants to drink coffee all day and take notes about what the chick in the trendy outfit is drinking today - and is that what she always orders or is she as hard to pin down as I am?
I'm trying to untangle this. I believe that things in life are at their best when they are simplest. I am not adverse to editing and I believe in common denominators. I don't think that what this means is that there are more determining factors out there than there ever were. I think that access to the virtual world of others has just highlighted how many different variables there are in one single human being. We can choose to have the massive amount of information that has been compiled about every single person that has logged onto the Internet overwhelm us and send us to the couch for a nap. Or we can realize that everyone belongs to a tribe and we recognize our tribe members when we see them and that what is required here is to rally the call for our tribespeople and bring them together in a place they may recognize. I am choosing the latter. Well, that's what I'm doing on my good days when I get enough sleep, wake up on the right side of the bed, make particularly excellent coffee and have the router work the minute I log onto my computer. Some days though, things don't go as smoothly and the router just won't let me in and I have to crawl under the desk and unplug 46 tangled wires, count to 30 and then try to reconnect them properly without my glasses. Those are nap days.