You may have forgotten there was ever a time when you weren’t connecting with friends, family and total strangers on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube, Vine or Twitter; through online pinboards like Pinterest; and on texting and messaging apps like Kik or WhatsApp. Social media channels provide fast and easy ways to stay in touch with whomever and whatever you’re interested in, no matter where you are.
As you grow your art form, you’ll probably join other artists in using social media to announce upcoming performances and shows, connect with fans, share music or videos, raise money for your projects and even impress performing and visual arts summer programs and colleges. Perhaps you’re already doing this.
By taking the following ideas to heart, you’ll be able to use social media effectively and without regret.
1. Social media is only one of many ways to connect.
It’s easy to fall for the illusion that if you post every day or even several times a day on Facebook or Instagram or on any other social media platform, people will flock to your performance. Limiting yourself to social media to fill the seats at your concert or event will likely lead to disappointment. While that may work for seasoned artists with huge followings, it’s essential to learn additional ways to promote your creative work. Social media alone is not likely to make you a star. And make sure you understands all the safety risks of Facebook and other platforms.
2. Your proficiency level is most important.
As a performing or visual artist, the quality of your work needs to be high enough to draw and sustain interest. Social media is a way to communicate about your performing and visual arts achievements, not a substitute for proficiency.
3. To be effective, consistency is essential.
Creating a following through social media requires consistency and frequency. Your followers will expect a certain kind of presence from you, and if you let them down, they’ll go away. This requires a daily investment of time in order to consider what and when to post, and then to actually post it.
Don’t bore your followers by repeating the same thing over and over again or by posting irrelevant status updates. Figuring out what to post and how often is not easy. You can spend big bucks to hire a social media guru to guide you, but more than likely, you’re going to have to learn what works through trial and error.
It’s too time-consuming to keep up with consistency and quality on more than a few platforms at once. If you’re using social media to call attention to your music, performances and other artistic endeavors, you’ll want to figure out which platforms give you the best return on the time you invest. You’ll also want to get a handle on what time(s) of day your posts bring more return, and whether hashtags and mentions seem to create more interaction.
4. Only post what you want anyone – and everyone – to see.
Regardless of how many people do it, posting knee-jerk reactions about how you feel in the moment could very well come back to bite you in the future. A rule of thumb, before posting, ask yourself whether you’d want your parents, grandparents, younger sister or brother, teachers, college decision-makers or current/future employers to see it.
And on that last point, remember that visual arts college admissions officers, members of your audition committee and/or future employers may be rummaging through social media to learn more about you. A couple of years ago, a Kaplan Test Prep survey revealed that 35 percent of college admissions officers check applicants’ social media – an increase over previous years.
5. Assume that anything you post will NOT go away.
Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and all the others are moneymaking ventures for their billionaire founders who are constantly looking for new ways to grow their businesses. Remember that privacy issues are common. When you use social media, your information may be viewed by people you would never have imagined. It may also be stored and shared to grow the business model. Even Snapchat admits on its website that “Snapchatters who see your messages can always save them, either by taking a screenshot or by using some other image-capture technology (whether that be software or even something as old-fashioned as a camera to take a photo of their device’s screen).”
6. Remember that social media is constantly changing.
Just when you get comfortable with your favorite social media platform, you’ll find that it has changed. That’s the nature of social media. It never stays the same. So you’ve got to find a way to keep up with what really works for you. It’s not as much of a problem if you’re using social media to connect with friends and family. But if you’re using it to drum up interest in your band or to drive visitors to your dance performance, you could be in for a rude awakening. Facebook, for instance, frequently adjusts its algorithms, which may result in fewer people seeing what you want them to know about your work.
Social media is all about connecting people and ideas. By keeping your posts authentic and in response to the aspects of your work that followers are most interested in, you’re more likely to build your social media presence in a way that supports your mission as an artist in any field. And by recognizing the limits of social media tools and respecting your own privacy, you’re unlikely to wake up regretting something you posted.
“There are no shortcuts to building an online community,” says David Lewis, former director of Career and Alumni Services at McNally Smith College of Music. “You simply need to take the time to have meaningful and real conversations. If you do, you’ll give your fans a reason to come back for more.”