Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have become active parts of our communication strategy as a species. Evolutionarily speaking, we've significantly transformed the way (and amount) by which we communicate in the last few decades. This leaves business, art, creativity, relationships—you name it—in a weird limbo. We're all just figuring out how to communicate with our thumbs, and that's not something we've ever done before. (Thumbs were made for opening doors and other things, remember?) On top of that, when it come to these new technologies, there are so many ways to leverage our use of them (so many ways to engage, so many ways to present ourselves in a public forum, so many ways to get started) that it can honestly be a little overwhelming. Where do we center our energy and how do we use social media to improve our careers, our lives, without spiraling into an existential crisis? Social media has become a huge part of our day-to-day lives, and many of us aren't equipped to navigate all of the information we absorb each and every day. On top of that, if you're a creative, these platforms constantly expose you to new ideas... and the world can become a bit much. So how do we leverage these digital tools to better position our art and our work? To better the world? To create sustainable infrastructure for artists and creators?
People are not numbers, and although it may not feel like it, the relationships you develop online have real-world impact. Yes, your stats are important and your reach can determine what sort of clients, projects or opportunities come your way, but first and foremost social media is a conversation. Much like starting a conversation in person, you don't become friends with someone overnight. No one owes you their friendship, and you have to earn community trust. Focus on the value, individuality and presentation of your work first.
If you're struggling to keep up with every social media account you own, center in on strategy for the sites that work best for you (in my case, that's Instagram and Facebook). As a creative, freelancer or small business with limited resources, it's unreasonable to expect overnight success across all social media platforms. Your content, service, community, etc. may not even resonate on that platform or in that medium. Find methods that work, stick to them, then experiment with new platforms.
Social media is also a chance to listen, not just to share and promote. Take an interest in the people who follow you because they're interested in you; demographically speaking, they can probably tell you a lot more about the way you're presenting yourself than you can. So, reach out! And if you're a creative, follow people you want to work with, spend time researching what they're interested in, the kind of work that they do, then strategize your strategy for working together; you can also use social media platforms to find events that may turn those DMs into IRL conversations.
Collect content for your platforms, and plan it with tools like PLANOLY! Research algorithms, hashtags and campaigns you may be able to use to your advantage. Use social media to leverage short-term AND long-term projects. Drive your followers toward email lists, find new collaborators, research, discover, get inspired, etc. But don't expect yourself to be everything to everyone. Social media should be PART of your strategy, not your whole strategy; think about how it fits into your goals as a whole. How can you best use the platform to accomplish your goals without making unrealistic assumptions?
Social media should be part of your plan, not all of your plan; leverage your content and identify where you get the most traction. Is your organization or art centered on throwing events / performances? Focus your energy on Facebook. Are you trying to connect with brands and businesses? Focus your energy on Instagram. Are you trying to gain clients in design? Head to Behance. (Again, you do not have to be everything to everyone everywhere.)
You need time to think. Treat social media like work; schedule an hour then stay offline and engage in the real world. Your creative side will thank you.
Jane Hervey is a creative producer, activist, entrepreneur, writer and performance artist. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley, Hervey moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas. After earning her Bachelor's of Science in Journalism and pursuing a career in freelance writing and startup management, she began searching for creative resources and a space to ask professional questions. She hosted her first #bossbabesATX meet in 2015, hoping to foster community and connection between self-identified women in Austin, Texas. She now runs the nonprofit and its festival, BABES FEST, manages her own production studio, Group Work and writes about creative entrepreneurship for Forbes. As an intersectional feminist, her personal and professional life are dedicated to improving community infrastructure, retooling systems of collaboration and changing cultural economies to create equal opportunity for women and girls.