My first month on Red Bubble

My first month on Red Bubble
Subtitle: Info for Newbies
February 27, 2011

This has been an exciting month for me. Not necessarily the over-the-top excitement depicted in Saturday morning cartoons, but the simmering anticipation of knowing I have planted a seed that has the potential and opportunity to grow into something really good… And it has been a satisfying month, in that I have taken on a new challenge, learned what it requires, made a “solid start” with a level of quality that I feel I can be pleased with. Perhaps that sounds like I am blowing my own horn, but I don’t mean it to. It just feels very good – and, had you known me for, say, the past five or six very rough years you might understand this better – it feels very, very good to be able to say, “I’ve had a good month.”

Even with all my time as a professional photographer (I sold a greeting card last week! Woohoo! I’m a professional!), my nature still has roots in my career as a computer network manager and the (fewer) years I spent as a teacher. As a technically-minded guy, I was immediately interested in learning How Red Bubble Works; as a former teacher, I would like to pass on some of the tidbits that I have picked up this month that may help my fellow newbies as they set up their Red Bubble profiles and interact with other folks here. Note that none of this is “original” information – everything I am going to share below I have learned from someone else, or from reading FAQs or other documents. I just haven’t found it all in one place, so hopefully this will prove useful to someone…

1. Say Thank You. None of us probably need to be told this, actually – we just need to be told how. When people compliment your work, or ask you a question about it (“where was this taken?”), don’t add a comment below theirs; if you add a comment, they will never receive your profuse thanks or answer to their question. Instead, notice that there are options to the right of the commenters name:
reply | report | delete

If you click on “reply”, they will be notified that you thanked them, and not think you didn’t appreciate their taking the time to comment on your artwork…

Of course, I still sometimes mistakenly enter a Comment rather than a Reply. When I do that, I just highlight and Copy my comment, delete my comment, and paste my text into the Reply box.

2. This page is a very useful reference; you probably don’t want to memorize it, but as a Newbie you want to at least know where to find it: Text and Image Links on RedBubble
You can also get to it by clicking Text formatting help when you are editing your profile, and various other places. It has handy information about how to make things bold or italic, as well as how to add an image and create a link on your profile. Strangely, it does not show you how to combine them, but I will do that below.

3. Initially, it may sound silly when I say that I don’t believe anybody is on Red Bubble to sell pictures, but bear with me. We aren’t. If we wanted to just sell pictures, we would be uploading our photos and artwork to Getty Images or some other stock-photo site. The reason we are on Red Bubble is to sell Greeting Cards, Laminated Prints, Framed Prints and the like. I don’t just want my friends to look at my pretty pictures – they can do that in my Facebook albums. Here, I want them to buy stuff, spend money, make me incredibly wealthy! With that in mind, one of the first things that I wanted to learn when I noticed other people doing it on their pages was how to create a “Product Preview”. That way, when my friends and other potential customers are perusing my portfolio, and click on my HMS Bounty tall ship rigging, they are immediately shown what my (astoundingly beautiful) image will look like as either a greeting card or framed the way I think they should see it – with wood (not black), and with a black matte (not off-white).

…and this…

Go ahead, take a look at my HMS bounty page, I’ll wait. Click here.

I want to do that on my pages!” you exclaim. I know, that was my reaction too, when I saw the Product Previews on my friend Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos’ portfolio. Here’s how:
(This is easiest if you know how to work on and switch between multiple tabs in your browser.)

We’ll start from MyBubble. Assuming you have already uploaded a photo, and you want to add this Product Preview to it, right-click on “edit work” and choose “open link in a new tab”, then do the same for “public view”. You now have two new tabs open in your browser so that you can edit your photo’s description by grabbing information from the public view. We’ll put the image at the bottom of your poetic description, but first switch to your “public view” tab and click the buy/preview button. .
Choose the frame and matte that best compliments your photo or art work. When the preview updates, right-click on the framed image and select “Copy image URL” (in Firefox, it is “Copy image Location”).
Switch back to your editing tab. Paste your link into your description, so that it looks like this:

Add an exclamation point (!) immediately in front of and immediately after the address so that it looks like this:

Make sure you didn’t inadvertently include any spaces. You want those exclamation points to “hug” that address (URL). Save your changes. Now go to the “public view” tab and click the title of your photo/artwork to return to the initial viewing page. You should have a Product Preview just below your description. Isn’t that cool?

4. Product Previews are great, but there is an (ever-so-slight) downside: when my customers click on the buy/preview button, Red Bubble always defaults to showing them a greeting card, even though I would like to encourage them (whenever possible) to purchase a framed print, thus converting more of their hard-earned cash to my hard-earned cash. I think one way of facilitating that is to reduce the number of clicks for them. If they are convinced that my framed picture is the most beautiful thing they have ever seen, and they absolutely must have it, why should they have to select Framed Print in the buy/preview screen when I can select that for them? My Product Previews are not just pretty pictures on my image pages; they are links to purchase my photo in the form of the product that they are showing.

With a big Thank You to my friend Nicole B. for the idea, here’s how to turn that image into a usable link:
You already have your link address safely ensconced between two exclamation points. Now, add quotation mark (") to the left of the first exclamation point and add a closing quotation mark to the right of the ending exclamation point, so that it looks like this:

Remember not to let any ‘stray’ spaces creep in, and type a colon (:) immediately after the closing quotation mark, as here:

Now switch to the buy/preview tab we opened a moment ago and highlight the address in the address bar. It should look something like this (with your name instead of mine):

Right-click the highlighted address and select Copy.
Switch back to the tab you were editing in, and paste the address you copied right behind the colon (:). Your beautiful link now has a bunch of gobbledygook after it, and should look something like this:

Note that it is okay if it “word wraps” to another line, just make sure that you don’t introduce any errant spaces, and save your work.

Go test your handiwork – isn’t that cool? You now have a Product Preview that actually links to the product!

5. Tags. These seemingly insignificant little bits of information are what make it possible for people to find your work. If you have a picture of a butterfly, then you want your picture to be one of the ones that shows up when people search Red Bubble for pictures of butterflies. If you don’t have “butterfly” listed as one of your tags, it won’t. But what if people are not searching for butterflies? What if they are searching for flowers? Well, I hate to sound mercenary, but if you manage to make it past point #3, I’m going to assume that you agree with me that we are not just here to be artists, we are all on Red Bubble to try to make sales. That includes “impulse sales”. If somebody is searching for a picture of a chrysanthemum, then they will probably not type “butterfly” in the search box. But I would like them to buy my picture of a chrysanthemum, which happens to have a butterfly on it, rather than buying someone else’s picture of a plain old, unadorned and unvisited chrysanthemum. My chrysanthemum is obviously superior. That means I need to include another tag: chrysanthemum.

Right now, Red Bubble limits us to 10 tags. Use them all, if you can, keeping them relevant to your artwork, of course. Bear in mind that some people may not know how to spell “chrysanthemum”, so include “mum” as one of your tags.

Perhaps your picture is not of a butterfly; you have a lovely shot of local fishermen pulling their catch into a wooden-hulled sailing vessel. You might use some of these as your tags: fishermen, sailor, boat, wood, hull, net, fish, sail, rigging, mast, catch, ocean, sea, bay, lake, or nude (if the fishermen happened to be particularly daring that day). (I was just checking to see if you were paying attention…)

6. Tags (revisited). I have no illusion that I am going to be the next Ansell Adams, fame-wise, but I would like to build up some name recognition. If I’m going to bother with “this photography thing”, then I’d like to think I will get some return business, and also some referrals! Someone will walk into my [doctor’s/lawyer’s/stockbroker’s] office, see a picture of mine, and declare, “That looks really nice! Did you take that?” Or, “Where did you get that?” My doctor or lawyer will, of course be glad to refer him to me, since I have paid her vast amounts of money over the years…
“My client Ben Waggoner takes all kinds of amazing photos. Just search for him on Google.”
Try it. Take a look here: Google

I’ve only been on Red Bubble a month, but my “Fine Art Prints” shows up on the first page of a Google search. Why? Tags.
“Why bother making sure that my work can be found by an external search engine?” you ask with a quizzical expression on your face. Because not everyone in the world who wants to buy a picture of a butterfly (or a chrysanthemum) has heard of Red Bubble, so they may not realize they should go to the Red Bubble start page and search for my butterflies. It may sound mercenary (again), but I want to sell more Greeting Cards, and I want to sell them to a wider clientele than just the people in the world who know that Red Bubble is where they should be looking. My very first tag on every one of my photos is my name, and I think if you are looking to build a clientele that will continue to buy your work – and refer you to others – your first tag on all of your photos should be your name.

7. Why just make one sale when you can make two, or four? If someone has gone to the trouble of searching Red Bubble for greeting cards with pictures of dragonflies on them, then clearly (whether they are conscious of it or not) they want to buy more than just one card, preferably from my portfolio rather than from some random competitor’s portfolio. It is my duty to show them as many of my dragonflies as I can in the short time that I have their attention. How do I do this? I do this by putting related Product Previews on my photo-display page.
See examples here Dragonfly and here Butterfly
In the first example, I show other colors of dragonflies. In the second, I show the same kind of butterfly on different kinds of flowers. And I am doing my potential customer a favor by encouraging her to buy more of my Greeting Cards, because she needs to buy at least eight to get a 20% discount, or at least 16 to get a 30% discount. I’m helping her to get that discount! (Isn’t that sweet of me?)

8. Cross-pollination. I feel fortunate that, even only having been here a short time, I have already made a number of friends on Red Bubble. If I’m going to expect people to refer my work with word-of-mouth, why wouldn’t I engage in some of that myself? “Because it would decrease my sales,” you might respond. That could be true, but I believe that in the long run, the net effect will be to increase my sales, along with my exposure – which will increase my sales…

Imagine I have a customer who, for whatever reason, is really anxious to get that 20% discount, but can only find seven of my Greeting Cards that she wants to buy. She doesn’t want to double up, and she won’t buy any unless she can get the discount. I want to make sure that she buys that eighth Greeting Card, and I would prefer that she buys from “a friend”. How do I do that? Well, if she is buying my products, then I already have a fair idea of the kind of Greeting Cards she is looking for. I can streamline her “buying experience” by making it unnecessary for her to go to the search box in an attempt to find the specific kind of Greeting Card she prefers. I can link right to that “similar product” on my friend Diane Blastorah’s page. For example, see what I’ve done here: Click here (scroll down to the bottom Product Preview)

If my customer is one of those people who just can’t get enough purple dragonflies, then I know where she can find another one, and that is on my friend’s page. What if my customer likes that other one better than mine? Well, then my customer is happy – and hopefully, so is my friend… happy enough to refer some of her customers back to me. My hypothesis is this: we sell more by cooperating than we do by trying to “fly solo”. So don’t be surprised if you are perusing my portfolio one day and run across a link-back to one of your own photos staring you in the face. This is why Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up and all of the other soft drinks are on the same aisle in the grocery store. If we make the “shopping experience” easy for the customer, then hopefully more items will end up in her shopping cart. After all, isn’t that why we’re here?

I have a feeling that this one is going to be controversial. People are either going to like the idea of cross-pollination, or have a strong dislike for it. That’s okay. For those who like the idea and want to try it, go back up and read #3 and #4. Those paragraphs will give you all the tools you need to insert “live-link” Product Previews on your pages, whether they are previews of your own products or of mine. The process is the same. But remember, this is a hypothesis. Don’t run wild with it, but try using it and see if you like it.

9. Just one more thing (for good measure). Making your “themes” or collections a little more accessible. I just picked up on this one within the last day or two, when I ran across Hélène David-Cuny’s profile. Take another look at my profile. (Remember about opening multiple tabs by right clicking… it makes it easier to jump around different pages like this as I talk about them.) Notice that under my second picture I have a line of links that looks like this:

What is the purpose of that, you might wonder? Obviously, my potential customers can get to the collection of my butterfly photos by clicking on Portfolio and then selecting Butterfly from the “Top Tags” listed at the left-hand side. The reason is that I want to, as I’ve mentioned before, make my customers’ “shopping experience” as comfortable and streamlined as possible, with whatever tools Red Bubble will provide me. If I can cut the number of clicks in half, I want to do that. The last thing I want to have happen is for my customer to come down with a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome in the middle of placing her order and be unable to make that final click on the “proceed to checkout” button. That, my friends, would be a tragedy of epic proportions, particularly if she had her heart set on achieving that 30% discount level by buying 16 of my Greeting Cards.

That’s all I have for now… Thanks for reading! I hope that one or more of these things I’ve learned in my first month on the Red Bubble will prove useful to you as well. If you like my little article, feel free to show your appreciation by purchasing 10 or 12 of my greeting cards, and I will work directly with Red Bubble to ensure that you get the same 20% discount that you would have gotten if you purchased only eight – how’s that for value? ;-D

Happy Bubbling!

Journal Comments

  • NicoleBPhotos
  • Ben Waggoner
  • chasingsooz
  • Ben Waggoner
  • Ben Waggoner
  • Ben Waggoner
  • Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos
  • Ben Waggoner
  • Jacqueline Ison
  • Ben Waggoner
  • Gordon Taylor
  • Ben Waggoner
  • whisperjo
  • Ben Waggoner
  • whisperjo
  • Ben Waggoner
  • whisperjo
  • Ben Waggoner