It's time to get more social, by locking yourself in your office.
Not to get too philosophical on you, but sometimes I feel as though "online community" is a bit of an oxymoron. Let's face it; it's the meeting place of random users at random intervals that post random things.
There are a variety of places like Dribbble, DeviantArt, Coroflot and PsdBucket.com where you can geek out upload your work and showcase it to prospective clients. Because they are art and design communities, you'll probably also be pretty close to your competition. Keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer, as they say.
Here's how to make a good impression and maybe even drum up some new business on these online communities.
Populate Your Profile
First impressions tend to count for a lot. A user that doesn't take the time to add a neat picture, write a fun description, list relevant links and other such isn't going to get noticed as much by other users. It isn't just about shameless self-promotion after all. Huh.
It's like that time my friend Diane showed up to my house party stinking to high heavens. No one at that party ever invited her to another party. Poor girl. She just likes dumpster diving. Literally.
So yeah, setting up your profile always takes a little bit of upfront work, and, depending on the online community you sign up for, you may have to re-tool your text a bit to cater to that specific audience. Still, it's pretty easy to predict the kind of information you're going to need. It may be worthwhile to make up a bunch of documents and image files (in various sizes) and save them in a folder so you can copy and paste and upload on the fly.
Or, you know, you could improvise and waste a bunch of time. That would be good.
Interact With Other Users
Again, this will vary a little bit depending on the community, but you can usually spam other users interact with other community members on these sites. Why would you want to do that? If you're asking that question, it's probably time you got out of the basement.
Look, it's great to add all of your profile information. It's great to post your best work. However, if you don't put yourself out there, you probably won't generate the kind of results you're looking for. It'll be like trying to set snow on fire or breathing underwater. Futile.
So go on, go make some friends. It's not that hard. You can comment on other people's work or even direct message them (*gasp*). It's usually a good idea to ask for help from the big guys too. Experienced users might be able to help you improve your profile, connect you with other community members, or give you links to some worthwhile resources.
Get Involved In The Community
Besides interacting with other users, there are other ways of getting involved in the community.
Depending on the site, there may be contests, topical groups, or even forums where you can geek away for hours. Getting involved gets you noticed by others, which in turn gets your work in front of more eyes.
Again, getting involved (and staying involved) is going to take some effort, but it's just like anything else; you have to work for it!
Add Value To Others
Strange that people would have expectations for you, right?
Still, those who go out of their way to make a fool of themselves add value to the community are typically those who are seen as trusted experts. A site like DeviantArt allows you to publish posts (or journal entries), which means you could write tutorials and how-to guides to attract various users.
Many of these sites allow you to comment on, favorite and/or 'like' other people's work too. It's a good way to connect with other users and become known in the community. Leaving constructive feedback and relevant comments can only help your sorry reputation.
And, just so we're clear, adding value is not spamming. Trust me, I should know. I've been banned from my fair share of online communities.
Create New Postings Strategically
People sometimes forget to bring their brains with them when they're trying to promote their work. What has the world come to?
Look, a lot of these art and design sites have a "featured" or "new" section on their main page. In order to take advantage of this, you're going to need to be strategic about when you make new postings
First of all, you should probably stage your postings. It might be tempting to upload your entire portfolio all at once, but then you would miss out on significant exposure. Instead, try spreading out your postings.
Second of all, you're a moron. Sorry, no, that wasn't it. I'm thinking of another blog post. What was it...? Oh yes, you should also think about when to post. Your designs will be seen by more people if you post when there is a big influx of traffic to the sites (morning, lunch time, after work, after supper, etc.). If you're really anal retentive, you might even post new stuff daily or weekly.
Showcase Your Best Work
So it might be tempting to post every doodle, every scribble, and every finger painting you've ever made. But that would be a mistake. You need to develop a filter of sorts.
You should showcase your best work. That means that you're going to need to be selective about what you post, even if you make fewer postings.
Moreover, you should probably think about targeting your work. In other words, to attract the type of customers you want, you should demonstrate your expertise in particular style of designs (even if you're good at other stuff).
What online communities do you use? Leave a comment, graphic-tee, and get involved in the community!
Image by william couch