Social media isn’t the same as it was ten years ago.
Back in the days before Google bought YouTube, creators could go viral and make decent money from it; now so many people are trying to do the same thing – get ‘internet-famous’. And the social media sites are wise to this. We frantically churn out post after post, slaves to The Algorithm – which is specifically engineered so that you have to pay money to see any reach.
How many of us creatives stress out because we don’t have as many followers as our peers – our numbers are stuck and won’t increase – our posts have hardly any interaction – there’s too many hashtags to keep track of – the drama and DISCOURSE – ‘how does Tiktok even work I’m too old for this’ – the list goes on…
You rush out pieces to catch the latest fandom/hashtag. It might give you a little spike in interest, but did you really enjoy making it? Or do you feel pressured, all the more anxious because you feel you can’t take the time to make a really polished piece? Are you always trying to churn out art, burning yourself out because The Algorithm will punish you for only posting once this week? I know, I’ve been there. I’ve lost sleep trying to please Instagram-senpai. It’s grim.
We’re suckered into thinking that we need social media to promote our art. Everyone uses it, right? So we have to be on it, we have to be involved in this huge trend. But, though social media can be a useful tool, it’s also causing creatives to burn out and become depressed.
So… how do we stop this?
OK, let’s stop doomscrolling and think about this rationally. When you look at big-name creators who are ‘internet-famous’, very few of them really struck it lucky in the way we’re led to believe. Many had financial support that isn’t open to a lot of people, or invested money they had from elsewhere. Even so, the ones who did get viral out of sheer luck (organic reach) are probably less than 1% of the people who were actively posting on those platforms at that time. Not everyone can be Keyboard Cat.
Also, pretty much all the big artists you know hustled like crazy to get to where they are. They worked in the industry, they took lots of crappy freelance jobs, they marketed their work, sofa-surfed, paid people to market their stuff, heck Robert Crumb got his wife to sell comics out of a pushchair to random people on the street. Indeed the comics boom (and spectacular bust) of the 90s was a one-off event that got a bunch of people rich. It’s never going to be replicated in the current market – this Twitter thread explains why.
Suddenly, pinning all your hopes on that big social media break seems a tad…. unrealistic.
I’m sorry, that’s probably really depressing to realise. It was for me!
But don’t worry. You don’t need social media as much as you think you do. What you need is to make art you enjoy, as people will recognise that when they see it. You help yourself do that by focusing your online presence in a way that doesn’t bring additional stress. This is how I’m doing that.
Social media & me… AKA I’m literally too old for this
It started when I deleted my LINE Webtoon account a few years ago. I actually dreaded logging in. I got waves of rude comments – young kids demanding that I make more pages faster, or just straight-up telling me my art sucked. There were some nice readers, but the userbase was used to daily updates from comic studios, not sporadic updates from solo indie creators.
So I pulled the plug. Why put up with rudeness, and host on an unsuitable platform, when I was getting hardly any readers anyway?? I also disliked that the site made you upload in .jpg format which compressed the images terribly. Now they’re introducing new censorship rules which only makes me feel better about leaving.
I then deleted my Facebook page, as they refused to change my page name and it was getting no reach whatsoever. I also made myself miserable comparing my stats to others… so I binned it.
In an unexpected twist, I did create a new page last year as my following increased; mainly to claim the page name, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that sharing via my personal page gets me a fair amount of organic reach. It’s also handy for Facebook groups, which have become a good way to network without using Facebook ads. I’ve found that the Stories feature is good for letting people friends know when I’m streaming, same as Instagram.
It’s OK to re-evaluate which platforms work for you, and to find that you may return to platforms you previously left when new features/improvements are added. You don’t belong to anyone, and you sure as hell shouldn’t be lining the pockets of social media CEOs with your hard-earned money.
I also nuked my Patreon recently. It’s probably fine as a platform if you do art full-time, or have lots of commissions and have plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff to show. For me, trying to think of more art to do alongside a full-time job & other hobbies became a chore. I didn’t want Patrons to feel like they weren’t getting their money’s worth, so I moved to Ko-Fi/BuyMeACoffee as a casual way for people to support me financially.
However there is platform which I’ve tried out for the first time and enjoyed a lot – Twitch. I don’t pay too much attention to working towards affiliate/partner – I just stream when I can, usually once a week. It actually forces me to work on projects, knowing I have a couple hours a week set aside for drawing!
Ultimately, I realised that I was spending energy I could be using for art on ephemeral social media posts that are immediately forgotten about. Since narrowing my focus and getting rid of the platforms that caused me the most stress, I can now spend more time on art that I really enjoy creating – and this art has been well-received. People can see when a piece is made with passion.
I must say that joining the Collective Studio has really helped me too. I’ve found much more success networking with local creatives/groups. Attending events and joining in with projects/exhibitions is fun, unlike stressing over social media numbers. Making real-world connections, even just over a Zoom meeting, is much more rewarding than shouting into the social media void. And those real-world connections tend to have social media accounts where you can stay connected…
Some things for you to think about, dear reader:
- Think about all the accounts you use right now – do you really need them all? How many are ‘successful’- that is, at least getting some engagement, it doesn’t have to be in the thousands. Do you actually like using these platforms?
- It’s better to consolidate your efforts into 3 or 4 channels rather than all the social media. Even with something like Tweetdeck, posting across lots of platforms each time you make something takes up time and energy.
- Be ruthless. Cull what isn’t working for you. Tell followers where to find you elsewhere. You can leave the account open, and just have a link to your Linktree (what a great tool!) with your active accounts.
- Don’t make art just for a hashtag (unless one particularly inspires you) – think about which current hashtags/keywords match your most recent piece.
- Don’t feel that you need to spend hours crafting a social media strategy (ew ew ew ew ew). There are plenty of best practice guides for posting on each social media platform. Have a Google, make some notes, don’t get too wrapped up in it.
- Alright, a little bit of strategy helps. Think about who your audience is – age, social class, subculture, common interests your fans could share. What hashtags do they use? What times do they tend to be online? If most users of a site are based in the US, try to schedule/boost posts when they’re likely to be active. But most of all, be yourself and be authentic. True, devoted followers respond to this more than a finely crafted persona.
- Learning about SEO optimisation is super useful, especially if you have your own website. Lots of hosting sites include SEO apps in their hosting software, and/or there’s Google Analytics.
- Make your own website – it’s not as hard as you may think! You can get a custom domain name through the likes of Wix or Weebly relatively cheap. I chose Namecheap for my custom website, but there’s plenty of hosting companies to choose from. It’s your own little corner of the Internet, and SEO tools work much better than social media algorithms.
I hope these points help you think about ways to manage your social media use. Happy creating – together we can overcome The Algorithm 😉
- B.J. Mendelson, Social Media Is Bullshit (St Martin’s Press, 2012 – an oldie but boy is it a goodie)
- The Social Dilemma – Netflix documentary, 2020. A chilling look at the seedy underbelly of social media companies and the effect this has on users’ mental health.
- There Are No Guarantees – Or Exact Statistics – For Going Viral – Robert Wynne on Forbes.com
If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a hot choccy (I don’t drink coffee much).
Also, obligatory plug of my Twitch, natch :p you can find my other socials in the top left. The icons are tiny and I don’t know how to make them bigger. Any tips appreciated.