United Breaks Guitars, A Lesson in Social Media For Artists

Is Social Media Important to Businesses in the Arts?

Today I had to take my junk PC to the doctor.  I re-booted it so I could get a tad quicker response time while working on a painting.  When I tried to re-start it the overgrown lummox decided to rebel…it would not re-start and thought it funny to throw a FATAL ERROR message up.  No biggie, I was looking for a new doorstop for the studio anyway.  Ok, so I decided to let it live and took it to my good friend Brian who is a PC doc.  When I dropped it off his mom was there and was watching a video on Youtube.  The musicgeek in me liked the video but the business geek in me freaked when I saw it had almost 8 million views.  So I decided I would follow up and write about it.  Here ya go.


Most of you know I live in the great plains, Nebraska to be exact.  Last year I heard some hoopla about a band that was coming here to play.  Seems that they choose to fly United and the ground crew had a blast heaving guitars around.  In the melee they broke a very expensive guitar.  As I heard the story I thought of that awesome scene in Ace Ventura where Jim Carrey is playing soccer with a UPS package.  Anyway, Dave Carroll is the artist that had the unfortunate issues with United.

Dave decided he would keep his viewing audience in the loop of how the whole thing played out in terms of having to deal with a major company and encouraging them to take some responsibility.

Below is the first video.  Check it out and then lets look at some things.

I love this story for a variety of reasons.  First, most of us can relate to it because we all have had something happen with a big company at one time or another.  We all have experienced the arrogance of a company that refuses to hear our issue.  The other thing I love is that there is a underdog component to the whole thing.  I always cheer for the underdog.  Big company vs one person, U.S. Govt. vs. private citizen, all of that is intriguing to us and we tend to root for the little guy.

What I want to point out with this video though is the volume of traffic it has produced.  It went viral.  Between this first vidoe, the other two produced by David Carroll and all of the spin offs it is over 10 MILLION views.  Wow.  That is 10 million votes FOR David and a gaggle of people who empathize with him that most likely wont be traveling United, not to mention they (United) totally look like schmucks.

One of my mentors in marketing is Dan Kennedy.  He calls large corporate structures “big dumb companies”.  I wish I had thought of that because it is true in so many cases.  How hard would it have been to have systems in place that would allow the management on the ground in the location of the incident to make a decision…the right decision?  How much less money would it have cost United?

The point is this, if you are a business owner social media can be your friend or it can really work against you.  What is cool is that social media is the embodiment of capitalism and free enterprise.  As clients we vote with our dollars.  The more we like a companies products or services the more we vote….and talk.  No longer is communication from companies one way.  It is a very distinctive two-way conversation with a client base.  We as clients have a say in the process.  If customer service is an issue and we first try the most amenable and judicious route without success, we now have options that are stronger that a mild passing complaint at a soccer game or bridge party.  Be careful here though because if you don’t personally do the right thing in trying to work out an issue with a company it can make you look like a ding-a-ling.  In other words be fair in your approach and try to get it worked out before you slam someone.  Once it is out there in cyberspace you can’t take it back.

As business owners we have the opportunity to see what people say, unbiased and stripped of sugar coating.  Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it heals because people are people.  Overall though, it gives us the opportunity to discover challenges we might not have known to exist.  Then, we have a chance to fix those issues and move on to the next level.

As a small business owner if you are not involved with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. you should seriously get on board.  The conversation about you is out there, you might as well hear what is being said.

You can hit YouTube and see the other two vids in the series.  David’s career has been positively affected by his brilliant videos and dealing smartly with a big dumb company in the public’s view.

Social Media and Web tool Art Project

Group Digital Art Project

I have been thinking about doing something for awhile with art from various social media properties. I have been inspired by various social media applications and the unique personal images people use for there profile pictures. Very cool.

If you are a people person this will be a fun exercise as you will have a chance to study some folks from a unique perspective. A few days ago I came across a blog post from a blog I had not been reading for awhile, lines and colors. In the article Charlie profiled artist Matt Held and his Facebook project as well as Bill Guffey’s Virtual Paintout. I will write and article on those fun projects in a few days.

So here is what we will do. The first month we will use Facebook. The exercise is to find and paint an image from a profile picture listed on Facebook. Image size at this point doesn’t matter although a small image is what we want sent to us (2×3 or so at 150 would be fine.)

The goal here is to continue to develop our digital chops and improve our digital art while getting to know the very useful and awesome marketing power and SEO chutzpah of some social media sites. You can use artrage or Corel Painter, even do a photoshop painting, the use of any art software or plugin is welcome.  Digitally paint or draw a portrait and send the image to tim@digitalpaintmagazine. Tell us your name and website or URL as well as the software and any plugins used. We will post some of them on the blog here.

For those who chose to participate I will send a special report specific to the social media site we are using. If you want to participate without publishing your image that is ok also, just let us know you dont want your creation published.

Ok so here is the schedule for a few months.

September 11-October 11 Facebook Profiles

October 11-November 11 Landscapes from Google Maps Street Views

November 11-December 15 Twitter Profiles

BTW-Mark K. made a comment on a different post about copyright infringement. He is  correct, I am certainly not advocating that you just snake someone’s image and paint it without permission. I made an assumption that people would use common sense and ask first. Bad to make assumptions. Make sure you have permission from the person who owns the profile. Don’t be a ding dong.