Social media is a beast that many creatives have no clue how to tame!
We are constantly scrolling, liking, and commenting on other people's work, but sometimes we get lost on how to build a following around our own design work. There are a lot of articles and courses that explain how to get engagement or how to break through the algorithms, but what really works? Perhaps, we should go back to the basics.
Over the last few years, people have developed shortcuts so they can get the most significant dopamine response for the least amount of effort. Social media's primary use has always been about connecting with other people. We knew this in the early days of Livejournal, Myspace and Facebook. We enjoy connecting with other people and sharing our stories. Instead of building connections though, we started talking at people. It's challenging to make your mark on any social media platform when you have to compete with Instagram models, meme lords and YouTube superstars.
Here are top ten strategies you can implement today to grow your audience on social media:
1. Pick two platforms that work for you.
Every social media platform has its own purpose and a different native language. You need to know the difference, to focus more on the platforms that will work best for you. It's better to succeed on two platforms than spreading yourself too thin on all of them. If you are like most people that have a million social media accounts, it might be time to hone in on the top two platforms that work best for you.
For example, one visual and one conversational platform might be all you can handle. By focusing on Instagram and Twitter, you have one visual platform to show off your portfolio and another conversational platform to talk with potential customers and clients.
2. People engage more with WHY something was created.
When designers post descriptions of their work, they usually cover what it's for and maybe how they made it, but rarely do they discuss the reasons behind it. This is really important when you're posting personal work because people want to know about you. They want to know about your struggles, fears, and accomplishments. By shifting your thinking to why something was made, you're able to be more authentic with your followers.
3. Quantity is better than quality.
This phrase does not apply to your curated portfolio or services, but rather, your feed. Since engagement levels are lower, it's essential to remain consistent. By posting daily or even a few times a week, you can grow your following organically.
As long as what you are posting aligns with your message, post it! It may seem like you're constantly feeding the beast, but it's a lot easier to create content when you lower your expectations of perfection. Sometimes done is genuinely better than perfect. If all else fails, you can archive or delete your posts later.
4. Reposting your work is okay.
Let's be real. You won't be able to create new artwork and designs every day. Those are unrealistic expectations that will ultimately lead to burnout. Being a creative person takes more than posting on social media. Plus, you need to make room for things like your day job, client work, emails, and everyday life.
To fulfill your daily content commitment, worry less about making new stuff and more about how to show the same work in different ways. For example, if you're selling a print, you could show the process behind it. Then, you could show the final image. You could also mockup what it would look like on someone's wall. If you want to experiment with motion, animate some elements and post it. You can easily take one piece of work and spread it across ten different posts because most people aren't going to see your first or second post. By reposting your work, you are reminding people what you are up to in terms of new work.
5. Create more of what works for you.
Every month, you should review your analytics and see what posts worked for you. When you take the time to review your analytics, you can quickly improve your content and build your audience. You can also see what posts didn't work by examining the timing, description, hashtag and the photo itself. All platforms have some sort of analytics function, so you don't have to keep track of your engagement manually.
6. Always write and speak to one person.
Writing attention-grabbing descriptions can be hard. It's normal to think, "I have nothing to say about this," but you would be surprised how much you can put in the description with this little writing trick.
When you're out with friends, you naturally talk about yourself and your day. Your stories are full of details on what you made, the challenges you faced, and the enduring highlights of the day. Why not think about the description as an email or text you're sending to a friend? By doing this, you're able to open up to your followers like your friends.
7. Give your audience a chance to be heard.
Make an effort to get feedback from your audience. Try asking open-ended questions when you post on social media, your website, or newsletter. By doing this, your post turns into active dialogue. The replies and conversations that people have on your post lead to content generation and greater engagement overall. When you listen to your audience, you can also develop work centered around their enjoyment.
8. Focus on giving back to your community.
Kindness always goes a long way. This is especially true when it comes to building your creative career. You should strive to post work that provides value to your audience. Not everything you post is going to be awesome, but if you're kind and genuine, people will enjoy interacting with you, and they will gladly support you.
One way of giving back to your community is by providing tutorials or sharing resources for free. Share a trick you learned in Photoshop in your Instagram stories or when someone signs up for your newsletter, offer free downloads through your website. If you have a large enough following, you can even start a Patreon or subscription service that allows you to deliver content to your audience every month. Next time you plan to launch a new product or passion project, think about how you can give things away to prepare people for the big favor. The more you give, the more you grow as an artist.
9. Put yourself in your feed.
If you're like me, you're going to hate this tactic but hear me out! Many artists and designers are introverts, so it's hard to show their face online. When you hide behind your work though, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to build a following. How would you feel if your friends wore a paper bag every time you went out in public? It would be weird, right? This is the same principle online.
Now, there is a fine line to oversharing on social media without being annoying, but there is also a middle ground worth exploring. For every five images of work you post, try posting a shot from your daily life. People want to get to know you. That's why they're following you!
10. Connect after you post.
On your two platforms, you should engage daily. Do more than just double tap for a like or insert emojis in the comments. You should try to make a real human connection either by commenting or direct messaging.
Reply to every comment you get, check out the commenter's profile, and try to find ways to connect with them. Tell them what you like about their content, what you would like to see more of from them, and ask them questions. You might be surprised by how many replies you get.
There is no harm in trying to connect. The worst possibility is people will ignore you, and if they do, they're not your people. So, why not try?
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk
How to Get Popular on Social Media for Artists and Illustrators by Dina Rodriguez
Audience Building Tips by Perspective Collective
1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly
Which Social Media Platforms Should You Use for Your Business?