Fun & effective social marketing from Ikea

I love this creative use of Facebook by an Ikea store in Sweden.

Because:

  • It’s easy for people to use and understand
  • It uses features on Facebook that people already use and trust
  • It offers something of real value to users (free furniture!)
  • The game activity (win free Ikea stuff!) is directly tied to one of the goals of the organization (get people stoked about Ikea stuff!)
  • It allows people to easily share the game with others, and gives them a compelling reason to do so
  • It allows fans and potential customers for a real business to self-identify, and gives the business a way to contact them with future promotions
  • It’s fun

As an old professor of mine used to say, very simple, very easy.

[via Mashable]

A Good Day For J.C. Hutchins

JCHutchins_portrait

It’s a good day for author J.C. Hutchins. You? You get a pretty sweet free download, if you want it.  J.C. becomes an “officially” published author. A good day!

Today, St. Martin’s Press releases the first book in J.C.’s new technothriller trilogy, 7th Son: Descent.

Today, J.C is celebrating by offering a free download of the first TEN chapters of his book. You want it? Scroll down to the cover image and click away.

Doing things differently

So here’s what J.C. did:

  1. He wrote a book.
  2. He was unable to sell his book to a literary agent or publishing house.
  3. He shifted gears.
  4. He produced and published his books as free, online audio books. People listened. They liked. They loved.
  5. He worked his tail off for four years, and built his community, slowly and surely, using the power of free podcasts, free downloads, word of mouth, events in the virtual world Second Life, blogs, and oh, lots more.
  6. His books attracted a nifty international fanbase. (Who then created a pretty nifty online fan community.)
  7. He eventually attracted the attention of a major publishing house, which is now pleased to release the first book in the trilogy.
7th Son: Descent - Special Edition

7th Son: Descent - Special Edition DOWNLOAD

What’s it about? Here’s a snippet from J.C.’s website:

The president of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy…

As America reels from the bizarre presidential assassination committed by a child, seven men are abducted from their normal lives and delivered to a secret government facility. Each man has his own career, his own specialty. All are identical in appearance. The seven strangers were not born, but grown — unwitting human clones — as part of a project called 7th Son.

The government now wants something from these “John Michael Smiths.” They share the flesh as well as the implanted memories of the psychopath responsible for the president’s murder. The killer has bigger plans, and only these seven have the unique qualifications to track and stop him. But when their progenitor makes the battle personal, it becomes clear John Alpha may know the seven better than they know themselves…

Play to your strengths

Whale, by Melissa Averinos

What is it that you can do that others can’t?  What do you think is like falling off a log, it’s so damn easy?

Why aren’t you selling that?

No, really. Why not?

It seems like the simplest advice in the world:

  1. Figure out what you’re good at and enjoy
  2. Make sure it is something that others need or want
  3. Sell it to them

But you’d be surprised at how often you (yes, you) ignore this basic truth.

Here are some of the things you like to tell yourself instead:

  • It’s so easy to do, it’s not worth anything
  • Nobody really needs this
  • It’s so easy to do, people could teach themselves
  • Nobody really wants this
  • It’s wrong to make money off of something that is so easy to do

It’s this last one that I think lies at the heart of most creative people’s problems with making a living by doing what they do best: you think that “work” should be “hard.”

We have a hard time wrapping our heads around the idea that work — work that you get paid for and everything! — can be fun, can come naturally, can be truly enjoyable, day in and day out.

Or we get caught up in “filling in the gaps” — working like mad to balance our “soft” skills with “hard” ones.

(How come we always think the things we can do are “soft,” but the things that we can’t are “hard?” Let’s stop doing that.)

Sure, you’re a good painter, but you should really get better at accounting, so you can do your own bookkeeping.

Sure, you’re a great writer, but you should really learn how to code websites, so that you have a “marketable skill.”

Nonsense.

Do what comes easy.  Do what you love. Find the people who need that thing.  Sell it to them.

It’s really, truly OK to make a living doing what comes naturally. I promise.

Interview with Kate Beaton

Mermaid, by Kate Beaton

Mermaid, by Kate Beaton

This week people of all ages are returning to school, which means that lots of folks are thinking harder than usual about what they want to be when they grow up, and how they might reasonably try to get there.

I thought it would be a good time to talk to someone who seems to me to be doing it right, in terms of making a living as a creative person, on her own terms and in her own way.  People like this inspire me, and I think it’s good to keep their stories in mind as we forge our own creative paths.

What follows are excerpts from an interview I did recently via email of the author of my very favorite webcomic, Hark! A Vagrant!

Kate Beaton and Hark! A Vagrant!

Kate Beaton lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and she writes one of the funniest and, yes, most erudite webcomics out there, Hark! A Vagrant!

She is clearly fascinated by history, especially of the Canadian, American, and European variety, and her comics present a quirky, often hilarious take on the many topics in this rich vein of content.

Her interests include the American Revolution (click on the images to enlarge*):

Hark, a vagrant 140

Naploeon’s fateful campaign on Russia:

Hark, a vagrant_ 41

Robespierre and the French Revolution:

Hark, a vagrant_ 52

And, of course, Jane Austen:

Hark, a vagrant_ 4

Kate earned her undergraduate degree in History and Anthropology at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. She began drawing comics for the university newspaper during her 3rd and 4th years at school, but then stopped after graduation.  She picked it up again after about two years, when she started what would eventually become Hark! A Vagrant!

After showing her growing catalog of new comics to her closest friends, she was eventually persuaded to start posting them online. Now she lives in Halifax, where she earns her living primarily from her webcomic, its related merchandise, and other artistic projects.

I asked her how the process of posting her art online and making it public had changed the style and content of what she did:

Well, the style has changed because I’ve been drawing consistently since I began the comic.  It’s improving, I’m happy with that.  As for content, I used to do more personal things, journal comics and inside jokes because it was just myself and my friends reading the comics.  That mostly went away with a bigger audience, no one wants to read a comic about pointless inside jokes.

One of the striking things about the world of webcomics is the tightly-knit support network they have formed.  There is a tremendous amount of cross-promotion and publicity that goes on among the emerging crop of webcomics artists, and they seemed to embrace Kate’s endeavors right away:

When I started, I got a lot of encouragement, and that was a big boost.  Online comics artists are often friends in the same way that any peer group would be, they do the same things, have similar interests and experiences, and are usually fans of other creators too.  There were a lot of people helping me who I became friends with – Emily Horne, Joey Comeau, John Campbell, Ryan North, Richard Stevens, Meredith Gran, John Allison, Jeff Rowland – a lot.

What do you do during a typical day, now that you are back living in Halifax and making your living from your art?

I’ve yet to settle in to a typical day here in Halifax, it’s been such a busy summer and I’ve hardly even been around.  But days vary widely, sometimes it’s all reading one day, sometimes it’s making comics and failing, sometimes it’s making comics and getting it right, sometimes it’s making comics for other things, sometimes it’s answering mail.  Sometimes it’s all of those things!

I noticed that on some of your earlier strips, you wrote in a line at the bottom that says something along the lines of “this is so dumb.” I think it’s a common thing for creative people to do, metaphorically or otherwise, to hang self-deprecating disclaimers on their work.  This practice, as you know, has a number of drawbacks. What advice would you give to other creative people who do this?

Don’t do that.  I’ve done it once or twice under something that is especially ridiculous, but I still put it up, it’s funny because it’s so bad, people enjoy it.  But you see a lot of people putting stuff up and saying about it “this is my shitty comic” or making excuses like “oh I only did this in 10 minutes so that’s why it’s so bad.”  They’re scared people will make fun of what they are doing, but you have to put it out there, you have to let people judge for themselves.  If it’s bad, it’ll get better in time, that’s the way it always is.

Where did you get such a sinister view of mermaids?

Mermaids were always sinister, they drowned sailors!

Who do you think really killed the princes in the tower?

Henry Tudor, baby

Why I like Kate’s story

The lessons I take from my interview with Kate are the usual reminders of how to live a creative, satisfying life:

  • Do what makes you giggle, gives you joy, or however else you describe happiness
  • Trust that it will resonate with other, similarly-minded people
  • Find your support network and become a part of that community

In short, share your actual, authentic self with the world, and don’t worry about the traditional or approved way of going about things.  Find other people who share your take on things, and support them.  Follow it where it goes.

What do you think? Who inspires you?

*All images reproduced with permission from the author. All images are copyright of Kate Beaton.

Putting Passion Before Profit

rosieI had a great conversation the other day with Michael Katz, author of the blog It Sure Beats Working.  He mentioned something to me on the phone that he later blogged about:

The importance of putting your passion in front of your profit model.

Those are my words.  Here are some of his:

“… put aside the question of how you’re going to make money… and instead spend time (a lot of time) on three things:

1. What am I really good at?
2. What do I love to do?
3. What does somebody else need?

Get clear on that and then look for the business model.”

I suppose I could elaborate on this at length, but it’s a simple concept, really.  Perhaps it’s best illustrated by way of example.

A Passion That Leads to a Profit

Stacey Hedman is a friend of mine, a really talented marketer who was put on mandatory partial furlough at some point last year as a result of the economic downturn.  She took that extra free time and filled it with the relentless pursuit of what she truly loves: dogs and photography.  She started a part-time pet photography business called Cold Nose Photo, and she spends a lot of her time volunteering at local shelters, using her photography skills to help homeless dogs find adoptive homes.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent profile of Stacey in the Barnstable Patriot:

“Pet photography is something most people haven’t thought of before, but dogs and cats – even horses – quickly become true members of the family,” said Hedman. “It’s a dream come true that I get to roll around and spend time with so many pet personalities, seeing what unique images we can come up with.”

FYI, her business is really taking off. She’s really good at what she does, as it turns out.

One thing I think is worth pointing out is that Stacey started off by volunteering at the shelters.  She did not begin by writing a business plan, or doing a competitive analysis, or by building a bunch of revenue model spreadsheets, although she certainly could have easily done so, as a professional marketing consultant and an MBA.

She started by giving it away, giving of herself, and of her passion.  This actually served a practical purpose, by allowing her to see what it was that worked for people, want people wanted, and what they might be willing to pay for.

It’s counter intuitive, but the more time you spend around us social media types, the more you will hear it: you have to give to get.