From Facebook, to Instagram, to Twitter, and Pintrest (the list goes on and on) there are so many different social media platforms you can be on. I will be the first to admit that I am not a social media expert. My Twitter and Instagram accounts have only 150 followers, so this blog is not going to be a “how to” become a social media genius. I am not really sure what that would even entail. What does a successful social media profile look like? Does it contain thousands of followers, lots of interaction, and clever and funny pictures of your cat in a box? Or can you simply avoid the baggage of a lot of followers (most of whom are strangers) and instead stick to people that you know personally?
The issue with social media is that it is filled with people who want to increase their celebrity or visibility. Which means you can get bombarded with information you simply cannot process, as well as those people who add you just because they are trying to increase their own numbers/followers, with no real interest in what you are doing. Very often I get baited into clicking a link only to find out its garbage, or a viral video disguising itself as news. With social media there is so much happening, that making a real impact or getting noticed is a difficult game. I recently grabbed a coffee with a friend whose Instagram @oneyoungboy is popular and filled with beautiful photos, in the hopes that I could learn some of his techniques. In his opinion a good Instagram contains simplistic, well-lit photos, clever hash tags, focused on a particular topic, and interacting with people of a similar interest. Your Instagram name should be distinct and easily hashtagged and you should post regularly. Of course this advice is great, however this time commitment adds up over time. Constantly liking and hashtagging things on social media can become a distraction. If you are waiting for the bus perhaps this is a good time to catch up on social media, but if you are at dinner with friends maybe not. People with gimmicks (or six packs) tend to get a lot of followers, but if you are seeing your Instagram as an extension of your art practice perhaps keep it focused on your artwork. People who want to get updates on your practice very likely do not care about selfies, photos of your grandma, or what you had for breakfast. I think there are some subjects that work well together, cute dogs and art photos work, while pictures of your butt hashtagged #bootylicious might seem strange mixed in with your art.
The more followers you have the more open you are to criticism so representing yourself accurately on social media goes a long way. You can’t put a filter/crop in real life, so if you are representing yourself as a busy/talented/successful artist it should be true. There is a difference between sharing information and gloating — it is a thin line to walk — so while its important to let your friends and followers know about significant events or advancements its also important not to rub your success (or fabricated success) in anyone’s face. I think we all know of a couple of people posting about things that seem less then true, or come across as simply annoying. When it comes to social media, people can build an audience and make great advances in their career, just by convincing people they are making good art. This reminds me of a quote by General Idea who despite being active before “social media” used other mass media to build a following and identity:
“We wanted to be famous, glamourous and rich. That is to say we wanted to be artists and we knew that if we were famous and glamourous we could say we were artists and we would be. We never felt we had to produce great art to be great artists… We knew that if we were famous and glamourous we could say we were artists and we would be. We did and we are. We are famous, glamourous artists.”
Of course I disagree slightly, I think becoming famous and glamourous before becoming a great artist will only get you so far in life. There still needs to be a focus on the work, while other forms of marketing and social interaction should be seen as tools to enhance your visibility.
Twitter is challenging because you have to condense what you are trying to say. However Twitter is also great because it links you to people you wouldn’t normally have access too such as celebs. One of my highlights of the year was when I found out Big Freedia the queen of bounce followed me. In terms of working the Twittersphere to help your art practice, tweeting upcoming events, saying congrats to a fellow artist, or reacting to what is going on in the art world could gain you some notoriety or perhaps a new buddy to go gallery hopping with. The best times to tweet are early morning and mid afternoon because that is when newscasters are browsing social media for reactions and opinions. Having your tweet on the morning news will for sure bump up your numbers.
Other hints with Twitter include keeping a calendar of upcoming events to tweet, giving updates on events that other people can not attend could be a great service to offer, and could gain you a retweet by the organization. One great use for social media is to promote your event or spread the word about calls for submissions. But don’t forget your friends that don’t use social media, because they might be unaware of the event. I think it is still important to use other forms of marketing when promoting event, such as flyers, posters, and invites. I think it makes it more personal and less like you clicked on all your friends inviting them to come to an event even if they don’t live in your city.
Ultimately social media can be used as a tool for building an audience and becoming more visible in the art community, but it comes with some issues, such as sharing too much/ too little, being vulnerable to criticism, and coming off as a egomaniac. The balance is tough to find on social media. I think it’s important to keep some stuff private and personal and not to over share. Plus it is always important to remember that the world is way larger then the social media you can find on your cellphone.
By Humboldt Magnussen
follow me on instagram at humboldtmagnussen
or twitter @Humboldt_M