Great excitement ensued at Studio Conway this week when my friend Mardell Rampton put me onto Rebel Mouse. At it’s most basic, Rebel Mouse is a free service which allows you to gather all your social media activity in one place. It’s brilliant. Not that you would know that from the company’s obtusely written home page and well hidden sign up button. But don’t let that put you off (I’ll demystify it below) because Rebel Mouse has some real benefits I am loving. It is a problem solver. Let me explain.
Until a few days ago I would say that I lived on Facebook, used Pinterest enthusiastically but not daily, tweeted sporadically and got on Instagram when I can be bothered which was not that often. Don’t even talk to me about Google +. I’d run out of energy trawling around the various social media sites. There is only so much time available for social media and I felt like spreading myself thin across them all was fairly pointless. The occasional appearance would not be enough to entice people to follow me and was like spitting in the wind. Who would even see those posts and tweets? Who cared? It was better to be at large on one or two networks and ditch the others
Even if I took a self-focused approach and viewed the networks as a source to mine for inspiration, without trying to write participatory posts, I would just lose stuff. Pinterest is fabulous and I can organise that to please myself. But like something on Instagram? That’s where it’s stayed, separate from Pinterest and I’d have to remember what I saw where and not confuse it with a tweet or a Facebook post and…. Well, I wasn’t prepared to spend the mental energy. I stayed with Facebook. But even there saving more than a handful of posts cluttered things up. And I’d write my daily Urban Scrawl diary and then it would vanish down the lenghthy news feeds These social networks were a veritable mine of inspiration but, apart from Pinterest, are set up for fast and transient consumption not archiving of material.
So when I found Rebel Mouse I was excited because, despite some weaknesses, it helps me do the three things I wanted to do the most:
1. Have people who came looking for me online get to know me as an artist by allowing them to see everything I was saying or expressing an interest in on social media right from my website.
2. Curate for myself a record of all the things I plucked out of the social network ether so I could not only find it again, but I could look at it alongside everything else and see themes and visual comparisons.
3. Highlight the work of other artists I admired and hopefully increase their coverage.
Once you sign up for Rebel Mouse ( see below) you can have your own Rebel Mouse page with its own unique URL you choose. So let’s say you want to call it All Things Helen your page will be www.rebelmouse.com/allthingshelen. You then authorise it to link whatever social networks you like and it will curate them so your activity is all replicated on your page. You can choose various settings so that not everything gets published automatically but goes into a drafts folder so you can select what is on your page. This is very handy when you have a binge pinning session of images of chocolate cake on Pinterest and don’t want your Rebel Mouse page swamped with them. Or you are pinning to a private board.
Of course no doubt you are saying to your self, well what use is that? All it does its create yet another internet place to worry about. Well, yes and no. Yes, in that it can be reached as a freestanding web page so if you want to direct people there you can. But No, in that the general idea is that you then embed the link to that freestanding page in your existing website or blog. It can be a dynamic front page for your site if you like or you can, as I have done, create a separate social media page. You can see mine at www.helenconwaydesign.com/socialmedia. I am on self-hosted WordPress and it was exceedingly easily done. There is a link below for other blogs.
Whether you want to do this of course depends on how you view the Internet and what you use it for. I want people who come to see my art to also be able to find the stories behind it, the images that get my creative juices flowing, the art biz tips that have helped me. In short, I want them to know me as an artist not just to see what I produce. And I want to have material on the site that will help them. ( I could do even better with that, I know, but I working on it!) I am told that people buy more art from people they feel they know and like but that’s not my motivation. I get encouraged and inspired by seeing how other people live an artistic life and that’s what I want to give back.
One of the weaknesses of Rebel Mouse is that you can only link one Facebook page or profile per Rebel Mouse page. (Although you can have more than one Rebel Mouse page). For me that worked well as I want to use Rebel Mouse to reveal my art life so I linked to my HelenConwayDesign page which has my art diary on it, rather than my personal profile which has inane witterings of general life on it. (If you want that send me a friend request!)
A strength however is that if you favourite a post on Instagram it appears on your Rebel Mouse page and from there you can share it.. Including to your own Pinterest page. It might well be me but I never found an way to get direct from Instagram to Pinterest.
To get a Rebel Mouse page of your own go to www.rebelmouse.com
Do not search for a sign up button. There isn’t one. Ignore the Request a Demo Form which is meant for businesses. Instead click on ‘Log In’. Then log in with any one of your social media accounts using the icon buttons.
From there you will get to a page with a button that says +Launch New Site. Click on that and enter the user name ( say, allthingshelen) you would like in your page URL. Assuming it is not taken, in which case choose another, press launch and, bingo, you have your page. You can follow your nose from there using the pull down menu to explore how it works ( else this post would get book length). But a big hint is to start with the menu item ‘Content Sources’ which is where you link your social media accounts to Rebel Mouse and set the rules for how they post to your page.
Once the page is set up, viewers can subscribe to it to get alerts when you add to it which means that if they can’t be bothered to follow you on every last social network but are happy with your curated collection of activity they can get it all from one place. Another weakness as far as I can see, is that Rebel Mouse has no way of finding people who are using it. Or if they do its well hidden. To start you off though I found it via a referral to a page run by a Polish blogger at www.rebelmouse.com/textile-cuisine.
The help or FAQ pages on Rebel Mouse are also truly horrible being in a blog with no index I could find. However if you start here it will give you links to all the articles you need, including how to embed the Rebel Mouse page into your blog. For WordPress users just search for the plug in RebelMouse.
For mobile users there is a Rebel Mouse App from where you can manage your page including pub idling from that drags folder I mentioned. You can also add extra information to your social media posts – for example you may want to explain why you favoured an Instagram post or how a tweet you retweeted helped you. You can even create brand new post and use your page like a blog but I think there are better places to do that.
I recommend that you register pages with all the names you are likely to want go use in your art career now, even if you think you may not use the site yet. Take a look at my social media page to get an idea how it works and remember – if you are more interesting on social media than I am your page will be even better!