I will go off on a limb and risk a generalisation based on my personal experience - the majority of artists / creatives are introverts. We are the ones behind the camera because we dislike exposure and wield a pencil because a picture is worth 1000 words. Where does that put us in relation to social media? How do we use it?
The most successful artists on social media appear to be extroverts but note a caveat that under the shroud of anonymity everyone can gain a few extra pounds of courage. Most artists I looked at a little closer use several platforms at the same time, trying to reach a wide audience. Some remain faithful to one or two platforms only.
So what is the recipe for (online) success? Does virtual success translate into a busy offline career? If at this point you feel yourself holding your breath for a definitive answer, stop reading – I don’t have an answer, but can offer a small overview.
Some illustrators would argue that success can, at least in part, be crafted online. Their common denominator?!? All those people have found themselves a niche or showed a rare determination to succeed at everything they turn their hand to and communicated this convincingly to their following.
I plan to give you 3 examples:
Emma Block. I first heard of Emma while reading Martin Ursell’s book on Illustrating Children’s Books. I have followed her on Instagram since and really enjoy the way she uses the live feature to stay fresh and interesting to her audience. Instagram is also a great way of showcasing a portfolio or communicating your news. That said, Emma also has a well-designed, easy to navigate website and blogs regularly. To read Emma’s own words on becoming an illustrator (and on the importance of blogging) head here.
Kerry Lemon gave a talk on how to make it as an illustrator, at the University for the Creative Arts (Farnham). Her method can be summed up in the words ‘business-like tenacity’ and she doesn’t appear to have a niche either, as you can see for yourself here. With a huge passion for drawing but also a very practical approach as to what drawing can do for an artist in terms of the finished product, Kerry takes on new challenges with great gusto. Her tot tips were: always pitch at least 3 ideas you would like to work on and make sure to have a solid and consistent internet presence. Those are not empty words either. Kerry blogs weekly, has a website, Instagram and Twitter presence and a bi-annual newsletter for anyone subscribing to her mailing list. You can also find her on LinkedIn, a platform that I don’t see many illustrators making enough use of, although it is a fantastic networking platform for business.
Pam Smy is a lecturer in Children’s’ Books Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University and a children’s book illustrator. To see some examples of her work you really ought to head to her blog here. Her method is sheer hard work and her preferred platform is Twitter. Pam’s advice is that very illustrator should network on Twitter because that is where all the other illustrators and publishers are. To put that to the test, I opened my own Twitter account (here) where I managed to find over 200 active industry professionals in just 2 days (and I didn’t even spend that long on the platform). That said, Random House were live on Instagram only this afternoon so do try and keep an open mind about the similar possibilities of all social media platforms mentioned.
Having looked at real life examples without a mention about Google +, Facebook, and DeviantArt and Vero and all the other platforms out there, I imagine you wondering about them. If they are not mentioned above, don’t loose heart. They are also used even if perhaps to lesser effect. People do tend to have Facebook pages to advertise their work and any workshops they offer but Facebook for business appears (to me) to be less of a common feature.
Finally, it is difficult to draw a conclusion seeing as approaches to social media vary among illustrators. The best piece of advice I ever received was to choose what works for you and pursue that avenue consistently. If words are not your forte don’t feel like you should write a mediocre blog just so you can say that you did it** and don’t torture yourself on Twitter either. You are still left with a website (everyone should have one!) and an Instagram presence, both of which are largely image based.
**self-disclosure: I love words and enjoy writing although I don’t feel qualified to judge objectively on the quality of my blogging so please do drop me a line of encouragement if you have a moment.