We're counting the Five Things You Need To Be Successful.  Here comes Number Three

AN AUDIENCE
Feeding off of discipline, you need to build an audience. Some may call it "Having Fans." When you have fans you need to nurture them and take care of them. Fans follow you because they like what you have to say. They want to hear from you. If you aren’t committed to them, why should they be committed to you? So, smarty pants, why is an audience important?

Think of something you truly love, say a food or a type of clothing. And somewhere, out in the world, a place exists that sells the food or clothing you really love. How do you find them? 20 years ago you’d probably go to a phone book or the Yellow Pages. Today, you would go the Internet. You would Google something about the stuff you like in the area. You’d search for it on Facebook and “Like” it. You’d follow twitter feeds that had to do with the subject. In a world where we fast forward through commercials and have given up on printed media to help us find things, the Internet has filled the void. But if you are out there and you don’t shout out at the top of your lungs where you are, you will get no business.

Now, as a model, the print on demand style of online stores such as CafePress and Zazzle have built in marketing tools in the form of tagging images and a search engine. You tag your designs with keywords that might speak to buyers about the type of product you are selling and the search engine collects the buyers keywords and returns matches to them. So, you don’t exactly have to do a lot of the work. But as you shout at the top of your lungs about your cool or funny designs, a million other people do as well and if you are on page three of five pages of results. Their shouts get heard more times than yours do.

When I opened my first store I did so to sell merchandise based on the likeness of my avatar, Mongo. He’s an angry guy who likes to smash things. Knowing that my little guy couldn’t carry the full weight of launching my empire, I decided to make him a mascot for my pop culture ramblings. I launched a blog to just go off on Hollywood and the world around me and figured if I could find an audience then maybe that would drive them to buying Mongo stuff. It didn’t really help that my blog was only receiving around 20 hits a day. But then I decided to turn it around and put Mongo out in front and use the blog to talk about the shop, like I’m doing now. I launched this blog that just handled the business side and left the original one as a place to just be who I am. I don’t know how many people actually read this blog because the counter I had disappeared or broke. I really need to fix that one of these days…. There’s that discipline thing again. But the blog takes time because I kind of customized it to have a different look and feel than the standard OOTB blogs that come with a blogger account. So, if I’m lucky I get maybe three or four posts a month devoted to my shops while my other blog gets twice that amount of attention because it’s just “Watch an episode of LOST, bullshit about it, see a funny news story, bullshit about it, lather, rinse repeat.” If I could spend that amount of time and effort building up posts that speak to my shops, maybe I’d get more sales. Maybe, I’d get more of an audience.   Maybe I'd get up off my dead ass and do the work.

So, I doubled up my efforts and opened a twitter feed. Then I started a facebook fan page. I use it to post designs that have links back to my stores. The blog posts get imported into my news feed on facebook and facebook wall directly feeds into my twitter page.  This creates a full circle of social media networking win. Once again, I don’t know how many fans have actually bought my stuff based on my fan page. I think at least two and those were friends I had from before Mongo took shape. But they suggested their friends and soon people I didn’t know were joining my fan page. I think, at last count, there is 139 fans. And that fluctuates from time to time.

Does it hurt to see that number drop? Of course it does. But considering the issues with social networking sites and privacy and online profiles, it could be more business than personal. That’s something else I have to learn. This is business. Just because I lose a fan doesn’t mean I lose faith. I don’t rely on my fan base to buy my stuff.  I can hope, I can pray, I look up at them with Puss in Boots eyes and beg, but I am not going to force them.  I just want them to enjoy my psychotic ramblings and maybe push the old like button from time to time. Perhaps they will tell some of their friends to check me out and then I will conquer the world. Um, yeah, delusional much?

But beyond the walls of the Internet is the real world and you can be your own best advertising. How? How about walking billboards?  I wear my shirts everywhere. I buy my own stuff and wear it when I’m out and about, making sure I get seen. I am going to the Outer Banks for vacation and will be taking along a few beach themed shirts to hopefully turn a few heads. Last year, I did the same thing and had a couple people ask me about them. When I told them all about my stores they wanted see more. I had to write down… okay scribble… my website address. You know why? I didn’t have number four on the list.

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