I really appreciated the feedback on my first post about this topic; it encouraged me to continue! And, after adding to my original post this morning, it occurred to me that it was getting a bit long and that it might be easier to chew if it were served up in smaller bites. So, I've given Point 3 its own blog entry.
Reasons 1 and 2 covered having your own online gallery and getting maximum exposure for a minimum of effort. The third point is: Cross Linking.
3. Positive Cross Linking*
Thanks to Victor for pointing out the necessity and value of keeping your FresnoArts page updated, and changing the content. Cross linking is not much use if there's nothing interesting behind the link!
If you haven't maintained a page before, start small and build up. Pick three things that are easy and interesting for you and set aside a time each week to update those areas (use your blog, upload photos of new work, add a little video, answer a question in the forum, add a post to one of your groups). Pretty soon, you'll be responding to people's comments about your work and answering questions: this creates valuable content that others want to read and draws people to your page and your work. This gets you listed on the search engines!
Cross linking is the practice of making bridges so that people can travel from your content on one site to your content on another site, and back again. It's kind of like the intentional traffic patterns built into a mall; they welcome people entering from different points and then encourage them to linger and shop.
In flickr, I belong to groups that keep me in touch with my active handcrafted jewelry friends, regional photographers, and Fresno Famous. Each time I drop a photo from my collection into one of these group pools, it entices new visitors to my flickr. One of the first things many people do is read my profile. My profile has a very prominent link to my FresnoArts page and to my website. People travel from flickr over to FresnoArts to see more of my work and find out more about me. Getting to know me adds value to my work. They may also visit your site while here, if the content is interesting and up to date. Linda posts to me regularly and if I were a visitor to my page, I would certainly go have a look at her page, just out of curiosity.
My Facebook has links to FresnoArts, my flickr, and my website. Who knows which one will catch somebody's attention? My Facebook connects me to university people and local moms. Again, I belong to several interest groups and drop posts when appropriate, curious people visit my page, see my links...and you get the picture, they end up here. I also have this blog fed to my Facebook via RSS, so there's an even bigger enticement to come have a look. My website repeats this pattern. On nearly all of these sites, I've now also got a link to my Etsy shop, a venue for selling handmade items, online. I've created the traffic and now I can use it to entice people into my store.
As I close this point, I'd like to give you an idea of the power of cross linking. I belong to two online groups, one for ceramic bead artists and the other for wire jewelry artists. The first has several hundred members and the second, several thousand. My postings always include links to my homepage, my Etsy, and my FresnoArts page. On the sixteenth of July, I responded to a question in one group and asked a question in the other group. As a result, I posted over 1,000 visitors to my website and, no doubt, an equally notable amount of visitors to my FresnoArts page. Some of those vistors went on to visit your page and look at your work. If everyone here will do the three updates a week, and get a flickr account, you can imagine the exposure for everyone.
(*I've called this Positive Cross Linking because there is a form of cross linking in which people create several identical websites and cross link to their own material, in order to drive up their search engine ratings. This is a no-no and can actually get them dropped from search engines. In the example I'm providing, each component should increase visitor's knowledge and add to their perception of you as an artist. I can't blog on flickr or my website, so I cross link to Fresno Arts, in order to expand the value of both.)
Next Installment: A Professional Tool