Social media often gets a bad rap: we're all attached to our phones these days! People should interact in the REAL world! Instagram flat-lays are a lie! And well, those points aren't wrong, but when used in the right way, social media doesn't have to be the bane of your existence. With the right attitude and a little bit of structure, it can be a really fun way to express your personality, expose your work to a wider audience, and find clients in a totally organic way.
First of all, you're going to want to narrow your focus. There are a lot of different social media platforms to choose from, but we're trying to keeping things fun and not totally life-consuming here, so it helps to just pick a couple. Pay attention to the platforms that people in your location and industry seem to use the most, and decide that is where you'll spend your time. I've made use of Livejournal, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance, Twitter, Periscope, Vine, Snapchat, and LinkedIn over the years, and who knows which apps people will be using in the not-too-distant future? The social landscape is always changing, so just pay attention to larger trends and stick where the people are.
Once you've decided which platforms are right for you and your audience (personally I'm a fan of Instagram and Facebook), create a personal account first. Post pictures of your dog, follow friends, artists, and cool local businesses, share memes that make you cry-laugh. Get a handle on how to use these services as a follower first, and you'll start to pick up on trends and patterns without needing to read a bunch of articles on social media for dummies. Who are you "liking" the most? What captions turn you off? What types of posts make you actually enjoy scrolling through your phone instead of worrying that it's melting your brain?
Then, it's time to create a secondary account for your creative pursuits. I maintain a personal Instagram (@kimgeesays) where I can post a picture of a hamburger, or my dogs, or whatever other nonsense I come across without much thought given. But my professional Instagram (@kimgeestudio) is a place where viewers can take a quick glance at my recent posts and see what my business is all about. It's a portfolio, a branding exercise, a peek at my creative process. When someone follows @kimgeestudio they have ticked yes for art and design. These people are welcome to follow my personal account too if they want to tick yes to hamburgers and puppies (and I mean, who wouldn't), but there's that line between Kim the person and Kim Gee Studio the business, so that each can grow in their own way.
Now, even though you've separated your selfies from your sales pitch, you still want to bring your personality along to your business account. People are much more likely to engage with your posts if you write them in your own tone of voice, preferably when you're in a good mood. Go ahead and use those exclamation marks, sprinkle in some emojis, be sarcastic and dry if that's your thing. A little humour goes a long way in creating a connection with your followers, and feels a lot more interesting than begging people for likes. Have fun with it!
The next challenge is to keep consistent. Your Instagram Insights provide some helpful data about your followers: their gender divide, age range, location, and more importantly, what time of day they're most likely to be on Instagram looking at your post. My data says that my primarily 25-34 year old female audience from Douglas are most likely to be on Instagram at 9pm (#me #me #me), so a best practice for me is to write up a bunch of Instagram posts when I'm in a good mood, keep them in my drafts, and maybe every other day at 9pm push one of them live. Of course, having something share-worthy happen each day would be lovely, and sometimes you get a particularly exciting week, but banking a few good drafted posts just in case never hurt anyone.
Social media might seem intimidating when you're just getting started. Your 14 year-old cousin has more followers than you, everyone's artwork is more complex than yours, you can't compose an overhead product shot to save your life. But let's take some of the pressure off!! Let's be honest, you might still be perfecting your craft (aren't we all?), but that's no excuse to stay hidden in the shadows. The more time you spend on your work and how best to share it, the more your work and your presentation will improve. There are billions of people out there on the internet, all with different life experiences and personal taste, and what your work is like right now might be exactly what someone else is looking for. How will people find you if you don't put yourself out there?? Think of posting on social media as a favour you're doing for your future fans. Give them the gift of your unique perspective, personal voice, and passionate creations. What you seek is seeking you, so get online and share your vision with the world. Preferably at 9pm.
Kim Graziano is the New York-born founder of Kim Gee Studio, providing graphic design, illustration, and art experiences in the Isle of Man. She founded the Isle of Man Drawing Club, a social event series for friendly creatives, and holds twice monthly life drawing sessions supported by the Arts Council. Follow her on Instagram @kimgeestudio, or else.
See our other guest article from Derek Richardson as part of our blog series on social media and marketing for creatives!