As I sit here planning a couple of weeks worth of social media for the agency I thought now would be the perfect time to touch base again and answer a "Just Ask" that came in last year from Janelle Barone. Janelle is a talented illustrator who I have been lucky enough to have help me out in busy times. 

Hey Kelly, I thought this might be a good topic for your blog...

You’re an artist with a pretty healthy following on Instagram and you have used social media effectively to promote yourself and your work. Which is rad, by the way.

The value of being on photo sharing sites like Instagram, or folio sharing and networking sites like Behance seems obvious at first. You may get exposure, and the motivation to keep up the posting momentum can equal the motivation to keep creating, there is also of course, pure unabashed ego-taming narcissism (cough).

Regardless, from the ‘Thank you for providing us with your life story, this information is going to help us take over the world’ LinkedIn to the, ‘Yeah, we’ll feature your work twice in one week, cause you’re just that ace!’ Loop; I’ve tried, been told to try, or considered trying, almost every social media platform there is, without gaining a whole lot from it, aside from a colourful digital footprint.

Whilst I believe social media presence is important in maintaining a brand, (perhaps your brand too), I wonder if it is equally as good at helping you to build one.

I suppose I am asking as a relatively unknown creative inundated with other relatively unknown creatives online: What has your experience of social media been like? To what extent has your online presence breached the wall of insta-robot comments and transformed your art into business? Lastly, do you have any tips for creatives on how best to use social media?

Thanks for reading my ramble,

— Janelle
  Photographer unknown

Photographer unknown

So as you can see it's a big topic to start the year with!

Firstly I have to say that social media is so much different to how it was when I first started out. When I first started Myspace was cool, Facebook started a bit later and there was no Instagram, no Squarespace and you really did approach things a bit differently, but in return got more in-depth engagement and more milage for your exposure. When I was first building my "brand" it really was magazine articles, exhibitions and some seriously engaged Facebook fans who made it happen, I'm not sure if it would be the same if I had been starting now.

My experience with social media in the first years of my career were all very positive, I think this is because I was lucky to be starting at the same time the social media boom was kicking off, so I managed to ride it for a bit when everyone was very new to it and excited by it. At that time I found it easy to gain new followers, people were so genuinely engaged and supportive and actually read things and it was a great community to be part of. Now my experience of it is changing, and I am finding as many negatives as there are positives.

The Negatives 

People lose attention quickly - If you take a holiday and post different content followers leave. There doesn't seem to be the same involvement with "you", only your most recent picture which means a lot of artists feel pressure to be constantly creating for social media which is not necessarily good for the quality of their work. 

People don't read things anymore - Everything is a flash in the pan, gone in six seconds and forgotten, it's hard to start conversation, build awareness and real involvement.

Numbers count too much for some people  - People become obsessed with the count instead of what they are saying and showing, unfortunately numbers don't necessarily equate dollars...or happiness


The Positives

A new kind of interaction - The ability to Instagram message people you admire and sometimes have them message back has really broken down barriers and makes for great camaraderie, particularly with creatives. I've made some pretty lovely insta-friendships with people I may otherwise not have had the chance to chat to.

It's easy to find people like you - Search a hashtag, follow a regram and boom a whole new world of people are there with similar interests for you to engage with.

Occasionally a great client finds you - probably not as much as you hope, but it does happen sometimes.


Back to the other questions

 To what extent has your online presence breached the wall of insta-robot comments and transformed your art into business? 
To be honest the majority of my work does not come through Instagram. I rarely get an "I saw you on Instagram and I'd love to work with you".  Most of my work comes through word of mouth from clients I have already worked with. Clients who I got either through my agent, through friends, through exhibitions, my own direct contact, or from other work I've done and they have seen somewhere in print or online. 

Do you have any tips for creatives about how to best use social media?
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the person to answer this question, I feel like I get worse as I get older and that my social media growth has come to a standstill! Overall consistency is definitely key (something I don't always succeed at). Post regularly, think about how your post relates to the posts before, but don't feel pressure to post if you have nothing to show! I've found that since letting go of the feeling that I had to post, I enjoy social media much more and get better engagement from it. Make sure your images are good quality, and don't post an image you're not happy with. I like to use Snapseed to edit my photos, it's a great little app from the app store..

Overall I would say don't get too hung up on social media, high followers is not a measure of financial, creative, or emotional happiness, so just post when you feel like it, and work hard when you're not on it. It's good to engage, but don't let it be the centre of your life or work.