Never underestimate the power of social media to put two-and-two together. Whether you employ content marketing strategy or kismet, it works.
Those who know me know how much I love art. Paintings. Bronzes. Crazy yard art. I like to say I collect artists, rather than art, because it’s fun to meet the people whose work makes me smile.
One of my favorite artist friends is Thom Ross, who is perhaps best known for his Western art—check out more of his gunfighters, outlaws and Indians here. We met, of all places, on Match.com. I was looking at a profile and saw a familiar painting. So I messaged the gentleman: “Are you Thom Ross.” His response: “Are you Nancy Drew?”
And so our friendship began. As I said, art, and artists, should make you smile.
Last spring Thom, who is also a huge baseball fan and historian, shared his vision of painting a major exhibition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He’d always had a fascination with the tragedy of Shoeless Joe Jackson, who along with seven Chicago White Sox team mates (the subjects of the movie Eight Men Out starring John Cusack), made the ill-advised decision to throw the 1919 World Series. Thom had begun feverishly sketching and painting the story, but the one thing he lacked was a gallery in Chicago to host the show during the summer of 2019.
Thom’s network of family and friends were wracking their brains and their connections to find a willing gallery partner in the Windy City. As he shared this dilemma with me, I had an idea.
Let’s see if social media can help us find a gallery.
Thom gave me a skeptical look, but after considering it for a minute, said simply, “Go for it.” That was all this content marketer and aspiring art promoter needed to get going.
It’s worth noting, I wasn’t starting from ground zero. Several years earlier I’d taught a three-day social media marketing course for artists in New Mexico. Since then I’ve coached a number of artists on how to use social media to build a following of collectors and sell art. Now I had the opportunity to put my skills to work for a friend.
So what was my winning strategy?
Pretty simple really. Using Facebook’s demographics tools, I targeted upper income adults in Chicago who liked baseball and/or art. I created a conversational post asking for recommendations on art galleries in Chicago that might be willing to host Thom’s Black Sox exhibition. I used my business Facebook page, Lux-Writes, as the launch pad. My ad spend? $25.
When the post went live, the response was immediate. Many “thumbs up.” Some gallery suggestions. Others wanted more information about the show. The mini campaign ended with a few leads on gallery spaces, but nothing firm.
Two weeks went by. I was sitting at my desk doing my day job (freelance writer) when my phone buzzed. Who did I know in Chicago? I’d nearly forgotten the Facebook posts. I answered the call and nearly fell out of my chair when the woman identified herself.
“This is the creative director of the Beverly Arts Center. I saw something on Facebook about Thom Ross. We’re interested in hosting his show on the Black Sox centennial next summer.”
I listened in amazement as she went on to explain that the Beverly Arts Center is just a stone’s throw from Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox. Convinced of the show’s potential drawing power among Chicagoans, baseball fans and tourists, the Beverly offered to give Thom a seven-week run, June 9 – July 27, complete with a grand opening night and full-court press on marketing and publicity.
As calmly as I could, I said it sounded great, but that I’d have to get confirmation from the artist. I bet you can guess who I called next?
Thom was ecstatic; the 1919 Black Sox exhibition is the culmination of his 40-plus years artistic career and his life’s passion, baseball.
Over the last nine months, Thom has painted the entire saga; the players, Sox coach Charles Comiskey; the gangsters; the lawmen; and even the Cincinnati Reds, the eventual World Series winners and recipients of the White Sox’ largess. Patrons of the show will be treated to 71 paintings; 40 pieces of Black Sox memorabilia; a life-sized “Field of Dreams” in which show attendees can pose for photos wearing replicas of 1919 Black Sox jerseys and ball caps alongside Shoeless Joe, Eddie Buck Weaver and Eddie Cicotte; and get their own coffee table book recounting the entire saga in rich historical detail. Of course, all of the paintings are available for purchase.
Interest in the show is already building. Recently, the San Franscisco Chronicle published this feature on Thom, a Bay Area native, and his upcoming show.
Thom, his family, friends, and collectors plan to be in Chicago for the opening night celebration on Thursday, June 13. (There’s room for you, too. Contact me for details.) Thom will be there in period costume to personally share Black Sox lore and intrigue with guests.
Think about this for a minute. Nine months ago this exhibition didn’t have a home. Then a creative idea and a targeted $25 Facebook post results in what promises to be one of the hottest art events in Chicago this coming summer. For Thom, the publicity alone is priceless. It’s a total home run.
In closing, never underestimate the power of an experienced content marketer. You just may get the answer to your wildest dreams – and your business goals.
Speaking of dreams, – I wonder if Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams) or John Cusack (Eight Men Out) would like to come to opening night? Maybe if I tag them or boost some more posts they’ll come to the big show…