So from the title you can gather what this is going to be about, don’t really need to get too in depth there. What I would like to do however is preface with a note. Obviously if you have found your way here or looked at my work in the past, you know I am in the pursuit of many artistic endeavors. I would like to add that I am, at best, a slightly above-average user of social media. I use the outlets that I deem worthwhile for a variety of purposes–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn–but I do not consider myself exceptional in my ability to exploit or utilize them. Nor do I consider myself an early adopter of new media. This post isn’t about me. This is about an appreciation for what the world has become and a call to arms for those who doubt it’s power.
I know a lot of friends, artists, contemporaries, and the like that refuse to join various social networks out of some sort of undefined–and quite frankly unfounded–moral code. Posturing as if they are acting in defiance of the current system and that the masses engulfed by this phenomenon are a horde of mindless lemmings. They are wrong. By removing yourself from the social media conversation you aren’t defying anything, you are simply eliminating a tool that could prove paramount to your success.
This seems like as good a place as any to state that I am talking primarily about aspring/evolving artists not necessarily those who are already an established commodity. Jay Z could sit out of every social media endeavors this entire year and still have an album debut at #1–he doesn’t do that, but he could. Look up Banksy on Twitter. He’s not there because he doesn’t need to be. The point being that when you’ve reached a certain level of equity, the benefits of social media use become marginal compared to the success you’ve garnered through your established brand. Emerging artists don’t have that luxury. Emerging artists are building and evolving their brands and social media outlets are insanely potent means to achieving that brand development.
A bit obvious from their name that social networks help you network. But it’s still important. Do some people just use Facebook to post drunk pictures, baby photos and nonsensical quotes from their favorite songs? Without a doubt. But you know who can find you on Facebook through groups, pages, and mutual friends? Other artists. Tastemakers and moneymakers. People who can actually help you climb in your industry. I have “met” multiple directors, producers, gaffers, cinematographers, musicians, photographers, etc. through FB, Instagram or LinkedIn whom I have gone on to collaborate with, or meet on a set. I have had friends of friends of friends reach out to me for projects simply because the barriers to connection and introduction are all but non-existent.
It’s not novel thinking here but I am baffled by the wide number of people I come across in my and other industries who are missing out on resources that have been around for over a decade. Your network is only as deep as the people you know and are in contact with. If you limit that to the number of people you actually text, call, or run into on a daily basis you’re looking at a very finite number. Think about people you previously couldn’t reach due to geographical distance or time difference. Those barriers are gone. You now have access worldwide network instead of one in a 25-50 mile radius from your home or office.
We make art to express things, sure, but we make art primarily for other people to see that creation. Art requires and audience. Yes, Mom and Dad are glad to show up at your art show for the umpteenth time, but you aren’t really getting out there in the world when the extent of your “new audience” is Phyllis from down the block. Sorry Phyllis.
Some really successful articles on that:
It’s like striving to be a pro basketball player but you only play by yourself in your driveway, the people playing pickup in the gym aren’t wondering why you didn’t show up because they don’t know you exist.
The birth of apps like Instragram, Vine, Vimeo, and about a billion others have given artists new means of creative expression in short bursts. Even Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, blogs, and such offer writer’s new places to express themselves. We are telling stories and creating content in new formats without even thinking of it as art. This furthers the idea of connection and allows us to find inspiration in the creations of others without having to physically seek them out.
This vast accessibility to countless other artists has created an explosion of inspiration. Inspiring imagery, inspiring writing, inspiring ideas and collaboration on those ideas is so easy now. I know of comic book writers who connected with admirable artists through sites like DeviantArt to bring their creations to life. Filmmakers can gather revolutionary stock footage that allows them to create and tell stories that were heretofore unachievable. Writers can share and edit stories in communal forums.
In this regard, Twitter is one of my favorite things in the world. I start each day learning about the world, learning about new techniques in my craft and connecting with the thoughts of countless other inspiring individuals who I may have never met and could not have accessed otherwise. This goes into some of my musings up top–people don’t understand what a lot of these platforms are actually created to do. The bulk of the technologically developed world has an understanding of what Facebook is, and social media naysayers seem to think that every “social platform” is a derivation of that concept. A place to share photos of you at parties and complain about politics–once again, that thinking is beyond archaic. Get in the conversation. The whole reason we have new social media platforms and apps released every day is because there are actually a variety of different functions that they serve. Some we don’t even know that we need until they are created. Obvious to those that use them Not so much to those that don’t.
LinkedIn. YouTube. DeviantArt. Pinterest. Twitter. Facebook. Yelp.Tumblr. Soundcloud. The list goes on…
Through current social networking tools artists have an unfathomable amount of free options that will help them build their brand. We have seen insane brands built with time, effort and a talent for maximizing these and other platforms. Look at the current run of YouTube TV for examples.. What used to cost quite a bit in terms of money, time and resources now can be accomplished in your Mom’s basement while watching House of Cards. As creatives, we already know how to build the content. Designers can design ads for themselves, filmmakers can create film and video content to put online, everyone can use the customizability of any platform to help create a brand.
This isn’t about exposure only. This is also about the Public Relations opportunities social media provide. People sometimes complain that on the social level, there is a fakeness about how we present ourselves through media. We only put up the good and happy moments, we control what we say, we sensor and edit our reactions to certain thoughts or topics–this is what you WANT to do as a business. An aside–I’m not going to debate art v. commerce here, if you are in the business of creating things for a living, you are a business whether you like it or not.
We want to create an equity in ourselves as creatives. We want people to look at us and say, “look how cool he/she is” or “check out this amazing artist/musician/photographer/filmmaker” I found. We are trying to create a brand through our work. A catalog of content or products that people want to attach themselves too and can learn more about. Presence across multiple social platforms gives us so many opportunities to achieve this. Facebook pages alive with the artist at work, Twitter interactions with like entities, Instagram accounts that simply make you look cool or artistic. This is only the surface level. Do you want people to think you are the next Andy Warhol? Jim Jarmusch? Tupac Shakur? You have the tools to make that happen without spending a single dollar on PR or advertising. When you can shape how you are observed by the world, you can shape who you are in the world.
We’ve basically broached the exposure idea in the topics above. The opportunity for to reach out across the world as an artist is something that has never been more attainable. Even one year, two years, five years ago the world wasn’t this small…and it’s only going to keep getting smaller.
My company has had clients from Europe, the Middle East, and all different parts of the U.S. track us down simply because we posted something like a “behind-the-scenes video” on the web, or created a small blog post about our work on our website. It’s something I probably still don’t fully grasp the power of. For people who communicate and profit from expression this provides so much value. Being an artist is very much about finding the appropriate audience–not everything is for everyone.
“He’s huge in Japan.” This type of thing. We can now find communities, cultures, and individuals who “fit” our work. We can find our own audience.
I know that I’m not providing incredibly new information. I’ve said that several times over. My contemporaries, my students, my friends and relatives…many of these people are light years ahead of what I can do or comprehend about the tools in our modern world. I simply feel a need to express some things here. Express an appreciation and an excitement that I was born in this generation. That I am ALLOWED to be a creative thanks to many of these technologies and tools. I am so thankful for this fact. I guess what’s kind of amazing is that there is no one person to thank…it’s simply a societal evolution.
Thank you, any and all of you, for creating the conversation. I’m proud to be a part of it.