Having a solid website is a great start, but increasingly a good social media offering can really make the difference with your online presence.

I built the website for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market several years ago, and have been maintaining it for them ever since, adding new artists as they’re selected for the Market, and keeping the press releases and press cuttings up to date.

But the organization became increasingly aware that they needed to do a better job of communicating what was happening with the Market throughout the year.

Great material, no time

The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, produces the largest international folk art market in the world, and its success led to Santa Fe’s designation as a UNESCO City of Folk Art. The Market hosts an annual festive, weekend event on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico attended by hundreds of hand-picked artists and thousands of visitors.

Selecting the artists, putting on the event and tracking the impact of the money raised by the artists when they returned home produces some amazing stories. But the Market, a non-profit with a small staff, didn’t have the resources and skills to tell those stories effectively online.

So they asked if I could help.

21st Century story-telling

Together we devised a publication schedule for blog posts and Facebook updates that would lead up to the Market in July and beyond. Some of the stories introduced new artists who would be attending for the first time, while others looked at the impact the Market makes on the artists’ communities when the artists return home with the money they’ve made in Santa Fe. We also looked at the role volunteers play in making the Market happen every year.

I then wrote the blog posts, often interviewing people involved, or working from suggestions and notes from the Market staff. As the Market arrived I also photographed artists and shoppers, and kept Facebook and Flickr up to date with shots from this year’s event.

This combination of writing, photography and internet knowledge is a crucial part of contemporary story-telling, but often its overlooked or undervalued. People can see the need to spend money (or commit internal resources) on technical infrastructure or graphic design, but somehow think that good content and images will magically appear without any work or expense.

Inviting contributions from visitors

Another part of a successful social media campaign is to involve your followers as much as possible. To this end, we invited people who had attended the Market to upload their best images to the Market’s Flickr pool, building a beautiful crowd-sourced overview of the event.

The Market currently has nearly 2000 people in its Facebook group, and monitoring and replying to the posts and comments there is another important part of fostering conversation between these committed supporters of the Market.

Conclusion

In the eight months between May and December 2009, four blog posts appeared on the Market site. Once we started working on this for the Market, we published 24 blog posts in the 8 months between January and August this year. We also gained around 1000 Facebook followers in the same period. The feedback from visitors to the site and the Facebook page has been positive, and we’ll be working on another plan for the 2011 Market.