Pull up your most-used social media profile right now. What does it look like? What kind of pictures do you post?
Social media sites are an introduction to you as a person. They tell people who you are and what you’re about.
What do you want to be known for?
If you want to be known for selfies, pet pictures, your food, latte art, and maybe a few family photos, then by all means, carry on! If you want to be known as an illustrator, that’s what you need to be sharing.
“You’re either remembered for something, or nothing.” — Sean McCabe
People categorize- it’s our nature. We like to categorize people by what they do, then by how they look. If you’ve ever tried to get someone to remember a person they met, it usually goes something like this: “You remember John, right? He’s the one that worked with at-risk youth? No? Well, he’s kind of tall, medium build, red hair, loud laugh?”
Of course, people are more dynamic than the categories we place them in, but categories are how we function. It’s important to ask yourself what category you think people are placing you in.
“Oh no. I think people are categorizing me in an area I don’t want to be in.” If this is you, I have good news. You have more control over how people perceive you than you realize, it just takes some intentional focus.
You need to publicly project what you want to be known for.
Other people categorize you based on what they know about you, so you need to curate what you project about yourself.
“But I love posting pictures of my kids! My family would kill me if I stopped.”
Ok, so you can’t stop posting the same kinds of pictures you have been- understandable. If this is where you find yourself, I recommend creating a separate, professional-focused account. Separate your work from your life, and direct people to your work profile instead of your personal profile.
If I were to receive a business card of an illustrator with their social media profile on it, and that social media profile was full of pictures of their dog, it just doesn’t jive with me. If I meet someone in a professional setting, I want to connect with them in professional ways… at least at first.
You should project what your audience cares about. I guarantee that your audience doesn’t follow you for you food pictures when your bio says you’re an illustrator. Give the people what they want.
Things you need to evaluate:
- Your name: Is it clear who you are? Do you go by your business name, or your personal name? Is your username confusing, like “unicornflyer057?” Make it easy for people to understand who you are.
- Your bio: Does your bio describe who you are and what you do AND does your bio connect with the content you post? If your bio says you’re an illustrator and your pictures are of your kids, you’re confusing your audience.
- Your content: Project what you want to be known for and only what you want to be known for. If you can’t resist posting other photos that are not related to what you do professionally, get a separate account. This is really hard. I know because I struggled through it myself! From my own experience, I am so glad that I started curating my content instead of posting whatever I wanted and hoping my audience would connect with it.
How I share online:
Instagram is the platform I use the most and where prefer to share my work. If you scroll back far enough, you’ll see pictures of my vacations, design work, hikes, books I was reading, pictures with friends, and a brief phase where I only posted “artsy” photos. I was posting illustrations in between all of the other “stuff” and my audience wasn’t growing. In early 2015 I had about 400 Instagram followers… then I started curating my work. When I started only sharing illustration work, my audience grew to over 2000 people within a year and a half, and I wasn’t even trying to get followers! People find it easier to connect on one level than many. They can make an easy decision to follow you if your posts are consistent and they know what to expect. Don’t be a wildcard account where people never know what to expect from you.
- My name: My name is my personal name (which also happens to be my business name). I also add “Illustrator” or “illustration” after my name when I can, because that’s what I want people to associate me with.
- My bio: I share what I do, who I work with, where I live, and how I can help you.
- My content: I only post illustrations and illustration-related work on my Instagram account. Use platforms how they were intended- forcing your Twitter is for conversations. Instagram is for images. I also use hashtags to help make my work more discoverable. I used to use every hashtag I could think of, but now I curate my hashtags, too. I try to keep the number of tags to 10 or fewer.
“I’m ok with curating my content, but what if I start losing followers?”
People will unfollow you when you curate your content. It doesn’t feel nice and may feel like you’re doing something wrong, but short-term losses will pay off with long term gains. Think of it as losing followers that aren’t interested in you in the first place, and gaining followers who are. Curating your content allows for a curated audience. It’s not about how many followers you have, but the quality. Having 50 followers who are huge fans of you and your work is way more valuable than 5000 followers who could care less.
“What if I shift my focus?”
It’s ok to shift your focus. Your audience should not determine your content. They are there for you, not the other way around. My friend Sean gained a massive following on Instagram by posting hand-lettering work. Eventually, he shifted his focus from lettering to teaching business and he knew that a massive amount of people would unfollow him, and they did. But you know what? While he communicated the shift to his followers, many of them stayed! Because he was an expert in their eyes, they stayed to learn something new from him. If you shift your focus your audience will change, but you might be surprised at how many are willing to follow you through change!
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