Engaging from a Distance

You can engage with your audience wherever. You don’t even have to meet them. But, you’ll be closer than you think.

When you’re an artist, you tend to work in isolation. You have to: you’ve got to be in a place where you can think and create.

The thing is, most artists aren’t necessarily social creatures. But thanks to the enormous power of all social media platforms, you can be connected today without being present physically.

This isn’t news, of course. We are aware of the online ability to interact. What’s new is the growing strength of social networking across all sectors, and of the ease with which everyone has adapted social networking into his or her daily life. A new study revealed that people in their 40s and up are equally as engaged in social media as younger folks. Younger folks – you know, the ones who can’t think in complete sentences, and for whom email is too slow and even IM is a bit stodgy. Today’s young people think they’re the only ones for whom the world of their elders moves too slowly. But this has always been the case, especially in America. Back in the 19th century, the youth of America spoke to each other in abbreviated slang (that’s where the word “okay” came from, by the way). So nothing’s new that way. (And that’s another discussion.)

What’s new is the overarching ability of social networking to give the isolated artist a platform for his or her ideas, and to engage with an audience by staying close – in terms of being on top of the discussions, etc. – but also from afar (so you don’t have to actually utilize the dreaded interacting skills you never acquired). Being interactive in today’s online world means never having to make small talk – but you can build a community regardless.

Why is this good?

It’s good for getting your message out, hearing your audience, and then getting back to work without fuss. And there are tools that enable you to post once and then have your blog content disseminated widely.

So – what do you do with this power?

You create your product, you send it out, listen to your audience, you take what they say and think about it. Then you work at getting them engaged again.

This doesn’t mean you ignore your audience – but it does mean you can refine your product without worrying about your “image,” or whatever it was that has prevented you from building a platform the old, analog way.

Eventually, you may have to get out of your cave and say hello to a real live person. But, one step at a time.

Bob Hughes
Author: Bob Hughes
Robert J. Hughes ("Bob") was a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal for over a decade, specializing in culture reporting. He was the paper's theater reporter, wrote on publishing, the art and auction markets, television, music, film and philanthropy, and reviewed books.