There are many different types of artist in the world but in my experience, when it comes to social media, they divide into roughly three camps:
1) The Enthusiasts
These are the artist who jump into the social frey with great enthusiasm: blogging, tweeting and Tumblr-ing with daily religiosity. For many, this work is part of their digital practice – they might be proponents of ‘Weird Twitter’ (a movement which is characterised by the tweeter’s aphoristic missives which are a heady mix of the mundane, the depressed, the surreal and profane) or they might be obsessive gif and esoteria collectors, juxtaposing their findings on Tumblr pages that often harken back to the blocky, cluttered aesthetic of early MySpace. These aren’t the clean lines of the Apple acolyte, these are the messy designs that speak to a DIY aesthetic and a love of chaos. For this kind of artist, social media is part of their practice, not a separate tool to promote their work. These people are well away, they don’t need any help. Examples: @jessedarling @crispinbest George Lazenby on Tumblr
2) The Disgusted
These people don’t touch social media or the internet in general. If they do have a website, it is maintained stringently by someone else and is purely a portfolio/information portal. Twitter is something alien and rather pointless, Tumblr is just incomprehensible and they’re happy for it to remain so. These people don’t need need any help – they’re happily luddite and good for them.
3) The Curious & Confused
These are the people that can be helped. These artists are the kind of people who ‘kinda like the idea’ of social media but think they don’t have the time to do it properly and so embark on a depressing once-every-few-months Twitter habit solely to promote their current work. They might have a Tumblr but they use it like a static website. These are the people that I am trying to reach. With that in mind, here are my top tips for artists who like the idea of social media but they don’t know what they’re doing.
The key is to identify the social media platform that works best for the kind of work that you do. Here’s a rundown of what Twitter and Tumblr do and the ways they can help particular types of work shine:
Tumblr is great if you’re all about process. Think of Tumblr as an ever-rolling image/text/gif library where you can amass followers by showcasing not only your own work but also your aesthetic. The most effective Tumblrs are ones that are frequently updated, so if you’re of the archival bent, and you already have a mass of interesting images/gifs/videos gathering dust on your desktop, gathering dust and waiting for the day when you finally get around to building your Official Website, then why not start a Tumblr? They’re incredibly easy and because the sharing principle underpins the whole enterprise, it’s an incredibly compelling and effective way to disseminate your work.
Twitter is the most frequently misused of all the social platforms. Too many artists and writers use it as a promotional news feed which is sort of missing the point.
If you want to use Twitter properly, you have to enter into conversations and build a follower base. You probably know the basics – search for the subject areas you care about, follow a bunch of interesting-looking people and then get tweeting. The biggest problem is the “get tweeting!” is pretty meaningless advice unless you know what you want to say. My biggest tip is don’t agonise – part of the nature of twitter is its ephemeral nature. If you’re nervous of speaking out into the ether, start a conversation with someone who looks interesting by replying to a tweet.
Smart phones are your friend
One of the annoying things about Twitter’s own web-based app is that it doesn’t alert you very well to when someone is talking to you. If you have one of them fancy smart phone suggest you install any one of the twitter apps available and tweet this way – it feels a lot more like texting, along with the attending feeling of casualness. It should be casual, it should feel like a real conversation and it shouldn’t feel like work. That’s the way the tweets rack up, my friends. The way to transition from a nervous/curious user to an enthusiast is to take your social media use and integrate it into your practice in a way that feels natural and intuitive to the way you work. Good luck!
- License: Creative Commons image source