How to Get Popular on Social Media for Artists and Illustrators
Social media is a monster that many artists still have no idea how to tame
We feel the addition of the scroll, likes, and comments, but we are still left in the dark on how to move the needle on building a following around our work. With so much advice on engagement, consistency, and breaking through algorithms, how do we know what works and what doesn’t? Easy, we go back to basics.
Social media was originally created so we could connect with people. In a time where cell phones were becoming smartphones and new social platforms like Myspace and Friendster were on the rise because we liked this feeling of being heard by people all over the world.
Over the years we have discovered new ways to take shortcuts so we can get the biggest dopamine dose for the least amount of effort. Somewhere along the way, we forgot that we are supposed to be having conversations with people, not just talking at them. It’s no wonder it’s hard to make a splash on any of these platforms when you have so many people taking the shortcuts of money, beauty, and what seems as an endless supply of productivity.
A better approach to social media for artists
Not all of us have the luxury of being a model or having top-notch camera equipment in order to portray that “perfect life” feed. At times it can feel like we need to hire a full-time social media strategist just to break a 1000 followers on Instagram. But there is an easier way to get your name out there all while building up a fan base of loyal customers.
I’m in the process of creating a new social media online course specifically created for artists and designers that will guide you to a more authentic approach to social media all while building up the confidence to do your best work. By getting back to the basics of connecting with people, I’ll show you how to find your creative niche, get more of the work you want to be hired for, and create an advertising funnel so you can finally get paid what you’re worth.
Since I’m such a believer in free content, I thought I’d give you a highlight reel of the top 10 things creatives need to know to be successful on any social media platform. Then if you're interested in signing up to my future online course, you can get first dibs by joining here.
1. Pick your top 2 platforms
Every platform has its own purpose, demographic, and rules. You need to know the difference, in order to focus more on the platforms that will work best for you. It’s better to be killing it on just 2 platforms than to be spreading yourself too thin on all of them. So if you are like most people that have a Facebook, Instagram, Dribbble, Behance, Pinterest, Twitter, and Snapchat, it might be time to hone in on just the top two that are working the best for you and figure out why.
Personally, I think one visual and one conversational platform is best. That way you have one platform to show off your portfolio and another to talk with potential customers and clients on who you are.
I hate to break it to you, but you are much more than what you create which can feel a little personal because it is. People want to see the cool stuff you make sure, but you can only get real connections from letting people get to know the person behind the art.
2. People like the why more than the what
We are so good at being vague. When posting our work we’ll cover what it’s for and maybe how we made it but rarely do we talk about the why. This is especially important when you are posting personal work because typically this will be the best work of your career that people want to know about.
Tell me about your struggles, fears, and wins so I can understand your method behind the artistic madness. This shift in thinking will not only help you write more meaningful descriptions when posting your work but it will help you focus on making work that’s authentically you.
3. Quantity is better than quality
For the most part, this phrase is bullshit. When it comes to things like your curated portfolio, services, and employees, quality should always come first, just not in your feed. With engagement levels lower then ever, consistency is the only thing that seems to still be the untouched method for growing your following.
As long as what you are posting still makes sense with your message, post it. Platforms like Instagram you need to be posting daily and even worse with Twitter it’s recommended to post at up to 8 times per day. That's a lot of content to make, but it’s a lot easier when you lower your perfectionism to switch your mindset to “done is better than perfect”.
4. It’s okay to repeat yourself
To make new original artwork and designs every day is going to make you pull out all your hair, and is just plain unrealistic so stop trying. Being a creative takes much more than posting on social media and you need to make room for things like a day job, client work, on-boarding, emails, and everything in between.
So in order to fulfill your daily content commitment worry less about making new stuff and more on how to show the same things in different ways. If you are selling a sticker, for example, you could show the process of making it like thumbnails and unused versions. You can show the final static image, and a butt done with mock-ups of photos of it being used in real life. You can take one piece of artwork and spread it across 10 different posts easily as long as the image and the content that goes with it are unique and you are not posting them in a row.
Most people aren't going to see your first or second post anyways, so you might as well up your post count in an effort for your audience to know about your newest thing.
5. Make more of what works
The only annoying marketing thing I expect from a serious artist is to take the time to review your analytics on a monthly basis. That way you can take the time to review what worked and what didn’t to figure out ways to improve. Look at not only the numbers, but try to guess why a post wasn’t getting any traction whether it was the timing, description, hashtags, or the photo itself.
Almost all platforms have analytics function so you don’t have to manually keep track of your engagement. Even Instagram allows you to make a business account to get access to these numbers just by connecting it to a Facebook Business page. I personally never use my Facebook page, and just use it for more stats on my Instagram. HAHA Facebook, nice try.
6. Talk the way you would to a friend
It can be really difficult to start writing good descriptions that get people’s attention. It’s normal to think “I have nothing to say”, but you would be surprised just how much you can put in the description box with this little trick.
When you’re with friends, you are going to naturally talk about yourself and your day. You go into story like detail on what you made, the challenges you faced, and the highlights that made enduring it the whole day possible. So why not think of a description as an email to a friend giving them your daily download. This is after all the way you talk to your friends, so why would your social media be any different?
7. Be you, not them
When we follow so many talented artists we tend to feel smaller in comparison making us focus on the wrong things to post. Feeling like we’re not good enough, we try to take popularity shortcuts by following a trend in an effort to climb the like ladder faster. We see something cool and popular, so we copy it in an effort to feel cool and popular too, which at the end of the day makes you an imposter, hence Imposter Syndrome.
There is a crazy easy way to avoid the trend cycle by just being yourself. I know cliche advice, but in my experience, something is only a cliche when it’s true but we’re too sarcastic or busy to take it seriously. I get it, it’s hard to draw from your experience. You don't know what to make, and you feel like you have to be “on crack inspired” to make anything good. WRONG.
The things you think are funny, the hardest parts of your life, the everyday annoying parts of being human, that’s what you make. Art and design have always been about the unique perspective of an artist. Don't let social media rob you of the one thing that will get you the farthest in it, your voice.
8. Give, give, ask
Kindness will always be the number one thing to help you build up your career so you might as well get used to it. From the very beginning, you should be posting work that provides value to your audience. You can’t just expect to be so awesome people are just going to flock to your page. That's the cocky artist voice inside you talking, ignore that fucker.
To provide value you can do things like show the process behind your work on Instagram, share the latest trick you learned in Photoshop in a short video tutorial on YouTube, or promote a helpful article you read on Twitter. By making giving a big part of your social media strategy you are going to develop a following of thankful people that will go out of there way to pay you back. The more you give, the more you grow.
So next time you have a new product launch, a new passion project you are trying to promote, or time slot you want to fill with client work, think about how you can give things away in order to prep people for the big ask.
9. Put yourself in your feed
You are going to hate this so get ready. Artists are naturally introverted, so it can be hard for people to even show their face as their profile pic on social media. People hide behind their art, thinking “they’ don’t matter, but they are missing out on a huge opportunity to build a following.
How would you feel if every time you hung out with your friends they would only talk about work and even worse had a paper bag on their head covering their face with their latest piece of artwork. Wouldn't that feel weird and create distance? So why do people think that’s okay to do online?
There is definitely a fine line of oversharing on social media with annoying feeds filled with dog selfies and perfectly choreographed meal plans, but there is a whole middle ground that is being unexplored. Please, let me get to know you, because you are worth knowing.
Pepper in your everyday life in your feed. With every 5 images of work, can I at least get one of you just being you? I hate the fact that there are artists out there that I followed for years that have given me so much inspiration in my life that I know nothing about or even what they look like.
10. Connect after you post
On those main platforms you choose to be apart of, I not only want you to be posting, but I want to see you engage daily. I’m talking more than just a double tap for a like and a fire emoji in the comments, but a real human connection.
Reply to every comment you get, check out their profiles, and try to find ways to connect. Tell them what you liked about their content, what you would like to see more of, and ask any questions you might have. You might be surprised on just how many reply.
No one is ever offended by a compliment and the worst thing that will happen is that people just ignore you. So why not try?
If this article hit a nerve for you, consider signing up for my social media course that launched last winter. Don’t think of it as a course to help you grow your social stats, but rather a guide to finding your unique voice and a creative community to support you.