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by Jim Calder
Its a phrase thats sweeping the nation and now the world. If you arent a member of the popular networking site www.myspace.com, you might want to think about jumping onboard quickly because you may be missing out on a great opportunity to promote yourself and your craft business.
The media is constantly portraying MySpace in a negative light, creating a climate of fear around the site. However, the reality is that MySpace is no more dangerous than the Internet itself.
The Web site was started in California and is free to join. Basically the site allows you to post your own Web page in a matter of minutes without needing any knowledge of HTML. Once you join, you can upload photos, information, links to other Web sites, post bulletins of upcoming events, join groups, host a blog and start collecting contacts. As of press time there were more than 86 million people with accounts on myspace.com.
Craft artisans and galleries along with all businesses are quickly discovering that finding an audience of 86 million people (and growing) for absolutely free is no laughing matter and something to explore.
Amber Gutry (www.myspace.com/neverenderreno) of Reno, Nev., owns a gallery, which sells art in all mediums by local artists. MySpace has helped us get the word out about upcoming events and artist opportunities. Using the event invites area of MySpace has helped us get more people to our art shows, Gutry says. She uses the site to promote her own Web site www.neverenderreno.com, invite people to events and post information.
Julianna Qualls (www.myspace.com/paisleypieces) of Anaheim, Calif., is a craft artist working in mediums such as sculpture, sewing, beading and fabric art. Its amazing. Theres so much traffic. People view your profile all the time and there are so many groups to find information, Qualls says. She uses the site for free advertisement and selling her work and often puts a slide show of her work in comment boxes when she is added as a friend.
Bekki Harris (www.myspace.com/pinkbird) of Honolulu, Hawaii, specializes in making jewelry using wire, metal, glass, gemstone and plastic beads as well as unique found objects like recycled bottle caps, records, CDs, toys, etc., for her business PinkBird Creations (www.pinkbird.net).
At first I thought making a PinkBird MySpace was kind of silly, but then the more I thought about it, well I just jumped right in, Harris says. Its been really great for networking; finding not only other crafters, artists and DIY-ers in my area, but to meet people all over the world. She also started to blog on her MySpace page to announce sales, display new creations, promote friends Web sites and let others know about general PinkBird happenings.
Some people are MySpace people and some arent. It has its pros and cons, says Harris. The site has really helped me meet people and network but also I do get the occasional annoying friend request or bulletin, but those people are easy to delete and block.
Harris suggests if you want to keep in contact with your friends and old classmates; make a separate account for yourself, and one that is solely for your craft business or gallery. I think because my MySpace page is solely devoted to my jewelry shop, weirdos and perverts dont tend to hassle me, Harris says.
So why do you need a MySpace site if you already have a Web site? My MySpace site allows me to be more in-depth or show more of my creations on one page, and show more of my PinkBird philosophy than my actual site, Harris explains. She finds that people who otherwise would not have found her store are learning about it, checking it out and buying her work.
Modern Business Card
MySpace has been great for our group, it is a quick and easy way to network with other people like us, says Mandy Jouan one of the founding members of the San Diego Craft Mafia (www.myspace.com/sandiegocraftmafia). The San Diego Craft Mafia is an extension of the Craft Mafia formed in Austin, Texas, in 2003 by a group of nine businesswomen with a love of craft. The group developed into a forum for networking, promotion and sharing ideas and others have popped up across the globe.
Its almost like we all have our own trading card and are collecting everyone elses, Jouan says of Myspace. Id say its the modern business card.
The main focus of our organization is to help each other with our established businesses. You could say it is like a support team that keeps you motivated and aware of crafty things going on in the world of today, Jouan says.
Reach Lots of People with Little Effort
MySpace is clearly a youth-driven format of networking and its power is growing daily. Katrina Zerilli (www.myspace.com/kzerilli), a student at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, is a textile major working in weaving, crocheting, knitting, wearable art and fiber sculptures. Since I am still in school and dont have my own business, I use MySpace to let my close friends see what I have been up to, and to meet other crafters who share the same interests, she says.
Zerilli is among the many who love the site and feel that any negative press is due to a fear of new technology and its capabilities. MySpace is harmless. The only bad press I ever hear about it is about young kids and MySpace predators, which was the same story that was all over the place when Instant Messenger first came onto the Internet scene, she says. If you can check your e-mail, you can handle MySpace.
Zerilli believes the biggest advantage of MySpace is that you can keep in touch with a large number of people, putting in very little effort. People in the craft world are so busy, especially those with their own businesses, but on the Internet one can let a large group of people find out about what you make with the click of a button, she says.
In an industry where keeping in touch and updating customers, gallery owners and artists is crucial to survival, the question isnt Why should I join MySpace? its How can I justify not joining MySpace?
Jim Calder is the associate editor of "The Crafts Report."