With all the commotion around Instagram’s new features, I have been thinking whenever I feel happy being on the platform and if my time spend there is worthwhile.
Using social media is part of my marketing strategy as a business, how commercial that may sound – it is something to review every now and then. In a recent newsletter Rengin Tümer wrote how she analyzes her social media strategy every year and leaves platforms that don’t perform well. After all, being on social media takes a lot of time and that time cannot be spend on other things.
So let’s do a thourough analysis of my social media strategy and platforms I’m on! Let’s start with why I’m even spending time there: my goal is to gather a community of people interested in my (personal) work and be visible for freelance opportunities. It’s a twofold goal, which creates a problem: these two different target audiences may not be interested in the same content I share. Posting about tabling at a comic convention is interesting to fans of my work, but clients not so much. So for each platform, it is important to keep in mind which target audience is present and what content or information is most interesting to them.
|Social Media Platform||Followers (11th August)||Joined since||Inquiries||Engagement|
|504||December 2016||No inquiries whatsoever, only spam||Less and less (20 likes per post)|
|137||October 2020||2 inquiries, too little budget||Little (0-5 likes) unless #artshare posts or trending hashtags|
|6||June 2021||None||Around 8k views per month, 50 saves to boards|
|DeviantArt||577||May 2009||Two tattoo inquiries||Little, but ongoing likes on evergreens|
|Tumblr||155||July 2016||One unpaid inquiry, sold one zine||Very little, unless Etsy review (?) or random evergreen post|
|ArtStation||29||2019?||1 inquiry, too little budget||Very little (0-3 likes)|
|487||2017?||3 inquiries, 1 job||10-15 reactions on posts|
This table shows all the social media platforms I’m on, in order of active-ness. I use Instagram the most and LinkedIn the least. There are some patterns visible: the platforms I’m the longest on seem to have gathered more followers, which is understandable. But it also shows that engagement and followers do not always collerate, and some platforms are much better in showing my work to prospecting clients than others.
Let’s have a more in-depth look at each platform.
I check Instagram three to five times daily. Though looking at the table, it seems that freelance-wise, it is a waste of time to be on there. Though I have the second most followers on that platform, it never has led to a paid opportunity. All I got were scammy DMs telling me I was selected for a sponsor deal to promote jewelry or makeup, but I had to “react fast as there were only 3 places left!!!!”. Yeah, sure.
Thing is, I don’t know how much of the following I have on Instagram is part of the community I’m trying to build. So it might not generate leads, in business speak, but does it foster Etsy sales for example? Google Analytics and Etsy’s analytics also don’t seem to strenghten that hypothetis, unfortunately. And engagement wise, I get on average about 25 likes per post, which is less than the recommended 10% of your following count. And it keeps dwindling down.
So all in all, I could say I should either 1) improve my strategy for that platform, meaning I would have to post a lot more, and probably videos too. I don’t want that as videos are super time consuming to create, which leaves 2) leave the platform and focus my efforts somewhere else.
A lot of friends of mine use Instagram and no other platforms I use regularly, so I’m stuck on there if I want to see their updates. But I should think about putting my focus elsewhere.
Looking at the table, the follower count I gathered on Twitter in less than two years isn’t half bad, it took me way longer on Instagram to reach the same number. Follower count is not everything of course, I don’t have much engagement on my tweets (yet); still I had more conversations about tweets than I had on Instagram – there seems to be more community there.
Apart from that, people have found my work via Twitter, which is one of my reasons to be on social media in the first place. And additionally, I have found numerous opportunities through it’s search and in my feed through people I follow. That’s all making quite a strong case to start using Twitter more.
So far I’ve only used Pinterest to promoting my Etsy products. Many Etsy marketing Youtubers suggest its by far the best platform to promote your products on. Pinterest is very lifestyle focused, 80% of its user base is female and fashion, home design and crafts are top interests. I’m not sure how far I’ll get with my fantasy illustration and game art, but for Etsy I see traffic coming in through Pinterest, and I’m sure that I sold at least one product through Pinterest.
I think it would be worthwhile to try Pinterest for general interest in my work, not just products. Why? Because Pinterest is first and foremost a search engine. That means that content has a much longer lifespan than less search-centric platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. I rarely get likes on posts older than a month on Instagram, but on Pinterest my best performing pin is more than a year old. That means that in the long run, it’s less about being constantly active and more about creating a lot of content so you have more opportunities to be found. To paraphrase Kelsey Rodriguez: where Instagram is a grind to keep appearing in your follower’s feeds, every pin (like every Youtube video) adds to your collection of findable content.
And as Pinterest lets you link towards your own website or other platforms, I think it could work quite nicely in addition to other platforms.
DeviantArt I have mostly abandoned since 2018, but it was the first place on the internet I posted my art. A lot of the people I followed moved to other platforms and the community has changed since then. Now I’m not active at all and new posts get little engagement as a result.
Older work keeps getting found, though, as I have been contacted twice by people wanting to get this old Zelda piece I made in 2015 tattooed and that person was willing to pay for a licence fee. So I feel checking it every now and then doesn’t hurt.
I joined Tumblr when it was the first platform competing with DeviantArt, and many users started to move to Tumblr. I never gave it as much time and energy as DeviantArt, which is probably why it underperforms in terms of account age and follower count.
I also feel like I have never gotten the hang of Tumblr. New art posts never get much engagement, but posts about Etsy reviews always do. Is my following more interested in that? Or does a post with a link always better in terms of likes? Whatever the case, I was approached for an unpaid opportunity recently, and older posts sometimes get attention out of nowhere, which makes me wonder if it is more search-centric than I initially thought. There are also visitors on Etsy coming through Tumblr, but they are so little that I wonder if it actually is worth the effort. It won’t hurt to post new work on there, though I’m not expecting too much of it.
I rarely post work on ArtStation. To be honest, I don’t like the site very much. It is the celebrated art platform for the entertainment industry, and while they organise great contests and sponsor events and things, the site itself is still treated as a portfolio. I just don’t see how I can be active on there without posting non-portfolio work, which defeats the purpose of the website, doesn’t it? When people ask me if I have an ArtStation, I tell them “yes, but please follow me elsewhere too because I post three times a year there!”.
That said; I have a personal portfolio website, so I don’t have to keep ArtStation ‘clean’ of less-than-perfect work and studies (which everyone seems to post on there anyway). And yes, because it is the celebrated industry platform there will be relevant eyes on my work. I suppose it would be better to post more work on there.
One could discuss whenever this is a ‘social’ platform or whenever it belongs to the list, but as I have started to post on there since beginning of this year, I have to review it too. I check in every week or so and only post about project releases with my art or other ‘professional achievements’, so wouldn’t call myself active on the platform.
Freelance-wise, it has been the most fruitful: people have reached out to me three times, one of which I had met earlier during a network lunch (so she hasn’t found me through LinkedIn but I’m not sure if she had found my email without it). And it did lead to a paid opportunity! One opportunity I respectfully declined as I wasn’t the right person for it, and the other is still in limbo. All in all valuable leads so far, which is to be expected of a ‘professional’ platform.
As for ‘followers’, these are all people you actively connect with, which makes them much more valuable than followers on other social platforms. LinkedIn is quite search-centric too in design, so I will definitely keep posting about these ‘professional achievements’ and add projects I’m proud of so I keep appearing in search results!
Looking at my two goals; building a community around my work and being visible for freelance opportunities, it is clear that some platforms work for one goal but not for another. It is safe to say that clients find me through Twitter, Artstation and LinkedIn. Especially the latter two are valuable for being visible for opportunities.
When it comes to building a following, Instagram could work, but not for me. I’m putting my hopes up for Twitter and Pinterest, while occasionally posting on Tumblr and DeviantArt too. Overall, I’d like to focus on search-centric platforms more.
- Checking daily, posting multiple times a week: Twitter
- Post any new work but not checking daily: Instagram, DeviantArt, Tumblr
- Post new work when relevant: Artstation, LinkedIn
I want to end this article with a disclaimer that your mileage may vary. What works and doesn’t work for me is not the one-and-only way to use social media. I know plenty of illustrators getting a lot of opportunities through Instagram, for example. If you like creating videos, go for it. Still I hope my experience and attempts to measure succes in my social media strategy helps you weed down through the things that only cost time and focus on things that actually bring you something!