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7 Lessons in communicating with your target audience.

If you want a successful brand, you need to be able to communicate effectively with your target audience. Skateboard artist Mark Rivard is the case study today, where we look at seven lessons we can learn when looking at his communication strategies.

1. Know your target audience

Lesson: Understand the interests of a particular group within your target audience and work with that.

The first lesson we learn comes from looking at his Facebook page. There is no denying how popular Facebook is, with Statista showing there is over 2.3 Billion active monthly users worldwide. Mark Rivard posts content here targeted towards activities for children and teenagers, showing how he recognizes the large amount of parents that use Facebook and has adjusted his content to suit his audience. He has made sure that Facebook is a place for connecting with parents who are interested in getting their children involved in extra-curricular activities. It is more important for his Facebook page to show parents the latest events their family can attend, instead of his latest Tre-Flip Frontside Crooked video.

2. Sometimes Quantity of Quality works.

Lesson: Sometimes a wider reach is more important than quality.

Rivard has used Twitter to promote his posts on other social media platforms, mostly Instagram. His posts on Twitter are a basic text post with a link to another platform that has images and details. While this technique may not be as powerful as running a Twitter account that posts complete content, this technique means that he doesn’t have to spend extra time on creating posts here because whatever he posts on Instagram get’s a link posted on Twitter. This technique means he can still reap limited benefits from the Twitter user base while being able to focus his effort on his more valued communication strategies. He has decided to use Twitter as a page to link to other platforms, meaning more exposure with minimal effort, at the expense of larger rewards if he put more time into it.

3. Effectiveness of being Personal

Lesson: Having a way to show your audience yourself and the behind the scenes work is a great way to form a stronger connection.

Instagram features a predominantly young user base with SproutSocial showing 68% of those aged between 13-29 using Instagram. This is a good place to create excitement for your product and to form a connection between you and the younger user base because art and skateboarding are popular topics among young people. Rivard has used Instagram as a communication strategy to reach this target audience show them how what he does. His page looks clean and crisp, serving as a blank canvas for his art. His content is a mix of his artwork, student work, videos of him creating his boards and the occasional food picture to give the page some personality. It is clear with the quality of images, descriptions, tags and 2300+ posts and 1800+ followers that this is a strategy that Rivard views as important and works on keeping up to a professional standard. Having a more personal page that shows the background work of what he does is a great way to form a deeper connection to your audience because they see more about you as a person and learn how you do what yo do. This is an effective strategy because he needs to have groups of younger people willing to participate in his workshops and to learn from him. Rivard has used Instagram well to present a very creative and exciting side of his brand where everything looks fresh and interesting.

4. Don’t hide your best

Lesson: Make sure your hardest work is easily visible.

Admittedly I am nowhere close to an expert on Tumblr. According to the Pew Research Center, Tumblr is used by 10% of internet users, with 20% of them being aged between 18-29. Tumblr is a place Mark Rivard uses to show people his talent in art. This is essential in building up your status as an artist because it gives you a solid portfolio of work to lean on. Rivard’s page layout is well done. His content is structured in a single vertical line, so each image is the only one fully visible, keeping it clean from any distractions. However, he only has this page linked at the bottom of the website, meaning he is relying on people to either randomly stumble upon it or spot the icon down at the bottom and decide to click it. This is a shame because it is his best looking social media page but also the most hidden.

5. Keep your accounts separate

Lesson: Don’t use the same YouTube account for business and personal activity.

This is a great example of a bad communication strategy. I have seen this happen a lot with companies and organizations that you would expect to know this by now. YouTube is known as the Go-To for all video related content and this is where you will find Mark Rivard’s videos. He has had a strong start to the channel 9 years ago, with a short from a documentary about the ‘Sharpie Squad’ featuring him, which brought in 19,000 views. He failed to capitalize on this and the channel is being buried as we speak. The main issue is that this is his brand account, but he has multiple playlists of more personal videos. Scrolling through his playlists, we see a mixture of the Duck Song, David goes to the Dentist and vloggers in Mexico. Sadly, this isn’t the worst, as between the only two documentaries about his art, we find a video of a ginger man with a mullet smoking a cigarette ‘dance-battling’ his friend also possessing a mullet. Using a combination of leg jumping, jumping jacks, handstands, sassy walking and out-of-control cartwheels onto the road, this video does provide great entertainment, but it’s definitely not something you want to see on a artists professional YouTube channel.

6. Websites are great at looking professional

Lesson: A well made website is key in turning an interest into a professional brand.

Mark Rivard emphasizes the skill he has through his website. The homepage greets you with a selection of his best art and a simple navigation bar above. His website is the main hub for finding the his official products, art, merchandise, events and contact options. If you are more personal on social media like Rivard, you need a well-made website to retain the brand professionalism. The website is effective because it is a great source to get a more detailed look at who he is and what he has done. His website centers his brand and communicates to his audience what it is he does, instead of relying on them scrolling through his Instagram feed to find out themselves.

7. Be open to collaborations

Lesson: Collaborating with brands that may share a target audience is a great way to boost your own brand.

Collaborating with a company in a different field that shares portions of a target audience is a great way to expand your reach. For example, Mark Rivard has collaborated with the Minnesota Brewery 612-Brew to host an event where adults can come design skateboards while drinking the new local beer. Dubbed ‘Boards and Beers’ this event donated a dollar for every pint of beer purchased (First one is free) towards the ‘Be a Boarder’ non-profit organization. The event was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota where both 612-Brew and Mark Rivard are based. Because skateboarding is popular and well accepted within Minneapolis, this is a great way for Rivard to connect with the locals. This strategy also raises awareness of his skill and the art he sells. The combination of markets is a good plan because they are encouraging those to take a part in something that is valued in their community, they may also be or have been a skateboarder. Combining popular local activities with supporting local brands this creates a win-win situation for both Rivard and 612-Brew as they draw upon each other’s target audience and have positive interactions with the community.

Links for Mark Rivard

Featured Image obtained here.

Skateboard Overhaul

My current project I am working on is fixing and repainting old skateboard decks. I first find old, ruined decks that I can take and fix up, such as removing grip tape and stickers from the board, cleaning it, and then letting the dry for a few days if it is waterlogged. I then sand off the previous paint, getting a finer and finer grain each time until the board is a nice, smooth and lovely blank slate of wood. Once this is done, I apply the primer and sand it again once it is dry. Next step is to begin creating and designing what will go on the board. Finally, I apply the design by whatever means that suits the design (e.g. a stencil for a Black & White photo design or using markers for a freehand drawing design). After letting it dry, it is good to go. I am beginning with old skateboard decks primarily because they are low cost and not special in any way, instead of sanding off a new $120 Pro Deck each time.

A drawing of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge I plan on incorporating into my design.

I began this project for 4 reasons: 1) For a long time I have been wanting to be able to get my art and designs out of my books and onto something else, 2) One of my favorite artists Mark Gonzales is the lead artist for Krooked Skateboards, and looking at all the decks he has made is like looking at an amazing art gallery, 3) A potential career path I want to follow is becoming a skateboard designer, whether for my own company or a  company that needs some new designs or as a guest artist and 4) There is something about riding a board you have had a part in creating or have customized that makes skating so much better. This project is a great way to improve my skills in Art & Design. For the art, I need to create pieces that are appealing and interesting. Design comes into play with board layout, making sure everything works as intended and elements aren’t causing unintended conflict. The end-goal for this project is to be able to gain skills, knowledge, experience and understanding on what goes into creating and applying artwork to physical objects such as skateboards, not just keeping it on the canvas or paper. While I don’t intend to sell them as of now, when I move into higher quality boards I may begin to sell them if there is interest found. If not, that doesn’t matter as I will just ride them, because in the end I am using this to learn and gain experience.