Title: Salam Arts – Art for your soul!
Organization: Salam Arts
Industry: Online art/calligraphy gallery and design house
Salam Arts, the brainchild of Sameer Shabbir, its founder and creative director, is an up market online art and calligraphy gallery and design house based in the United Arab Emirates, a hub of sorts for Arabic art. Sameer set up Salam Arts in response to his unique passion for niche, high quality Arabic and Islamic art and calligraphy.
Clients can buy or even commission Salam Arts’ beautiful, traditional works with modern design concepts, such as wall decals, and canvas custom art for personal or corporate/branding needs, created at the hands of the gallery’s various skilled calligraphers.
In order to meet global demand for good quality Islamic and Arabic art, Salam Arts is also located in America and Canada, thus making it ‘always available.’
The design house is always looking to meet the desires of an ever-evolving art-client, through combining the well-known Arabic calligraphic tradition with contemporary fine art, as well as providing wide-ranging customizations.
The beginning of an art-venture:
Sameer faced the immediate challenge of how to stand out in an industry where calligraphers and their works are already available in large numbers. He began by creating focus groups among family, friends, and contacts through social media. The feedback gained through them was integral, according to Sameer, in not only shaping his business’ direction, but in also connecting with, and employing skilled artists who could meet his unique vision of art.
Art is subjective, and thus Sameer, once he had new calligraphy art or concepts in hand, began by setting up private-viewing focus groups online through social media. His purpose was to gauge the tastes of people throughout the world, and his social media focus groups were specifically chosen to be made up of those in different countries. The use of Facebook, Whatsapp, and regular video-Skype sessions proved vital in connecting with these carefully-chosen global contacts. Especially with Skype, the reactions were immediate to designs members of focus groups were shown.
Through his such efforts in finding calligraphy-gems, Sameer was approached by one of his social media focus group contacts in the U.S. with a request to create a special piece for a wedding, consisting of the to be husband and wife’s names. It was through this that one of Salam Arts’ most successful calligraphic designs was born, that of ‘Salam Souls.’
On the heels of the positive response his Salam Souls received, Sameer ventured into creating Family Signatures, consisting of a family motif consisting of each member’s name.
Each of Salam Souls and Family Signatures designs are sent out as digital files, allowing clients to use the customized calligraphy in a number of different forms, and for a variety of purposes.
Sticking with what works
In an interview, Sameer confirmed that he’s never really stopped using social media focus groups, which he said are integral to research and development, even today. When allowed for by clients, pictures of customized work are also posted on the website and throughout the social media presence of the design house, in order to gauge reactions, in hopes of influencing and directing future design concepts, calligraphy.
Sameer finds that social media is a good way to also keep an eye on the competition, to keep on top of, specifically, others’ public client feedback, always good for measuring which direction the world of calligraphy is heading in.
Sameer can think of various instances in which social media has impacted future development plans for Salam Arts. As a gallery which began with vinyl calligraphy, many have pointed out to him on social media that they want to be able to take their such vinyl-sticker art to another house, and have sometimes been unable to do so.
Yet others want colored backgrounds for their vinyl art.
And this has quite significantly changed Salam Arts’ direction to one of concentrating on up market canvas art, which is both more colorful, and portable, both of which clients have expressed a desire for.
Sameer says it was only through social media that he would’ve ever been able to get such vital feedback on his vinyl and now canvas art, which has been well-received.
Internal team work through social media
As a perfect example of the importance of social media for his business, Sameer says that of the three suppliers he has spread throughout the world, two he has never met in person. He’s relied solely on social media, and Skype sessions to be able to build up a business relationship based on trust.
Social media, then, has been a means of quality control as well for Salam Arts, as it has allowed communication without time-limits.
This form of communication also provides safeguards of things like proof of delivery and eases record-keeping of all discussions. All this is important, especially when it comes to ensuring that clients get what they want, when they want, through the suppliers, or directly.
Suppliers abroad, in the UK, US, or even locally in the UAE gain their own feedback from clients often, and those internal discussions always take place through the various forms of social media available.
Sticking to what works on social media
When pushed on why Salam Arts is primarily only on Facebook, Sameer is open about the small size of the team, and the desire to not spread themselves too thin. As one can notice, Salam Arts does a good job of engaging with potential clients online, and Sameer believes being focused in this manner, for now, on one social media site such as Facebook is important.
Facebook clients also provide important information through their own personal timelines about if the target audience of Salam Arts is being successfully delved into. Facebook statistics, such as Insights, have been vital in providing Sameer with a break-down clarifying time-zones, target audience, etc.
This does not mean there hasn’t been a push to venture onto Instagram, for example, but that is being taken as a step-by-step process, ensuring that engagement rates and feedback are properly addressed and tackled.
Sameer has a very clear business strategy using Salam Arts’ social media. While efficiency is approached more holistically and long-term, for custom works the opposite is the case. When customers have an idea in their minds and they express it through Skype or Facebook, Sameer believes that must be responded to quickly, and if impractical an alternative must immediately be presented. Custom-clients often are unable to appreciate measurements and ratios, but yet in showing them on social media Sameer and his small team have to be convincing enough.
The goal is to provide good enough social media customer service that clients need not look elsewhere for the same works.
Beyond that, Sameer understands algorithms as used by Facebook, and appreciates that posts online should be limited enough that customers do not both forget the design house, nor feel like their news feed is being spammed.
In fact, most posts on Facebook are of customer pictures of Salam Arts artwork as put up in their homes or businesses. This both increases engagement and contextualizes how the art looks in different settings, thus ensuring more prospective customers are attracted towards Salam Arts.
-Sameer, throughout the interview, repeated that social media, and Salam Arts’ online presence is all he really has. As in, social media has been vital to growing his business to an extent where it is now accepted as an up market good quality gallery and design house for Arabic and Islamic calligraphy.
-Online, feedback, either private or public has been carried through focus groups, and continues upon that path. Art is, as Sameer says, subjective, and relative to each place and time. It is vital to have the reach within each such setting, provided by social media.
-Internally, Sameer is able to take advantage of social media to ensure quality control, even with suppliers whom he’s never met. Clearly, Skype and Facebook relationships have worked wonder for Sameer in growing his business in this regard.
-Social media is providing space for future strategies at Salam Arts too, in increasing relationships with artists. Sameer says Facebook provides the perfect medium for observing, even from afar, those who are into calligraphy.
Submitted By: S. Waqar H. Rizvi
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