So of course it’s easy…. Use social media, build a massive profile, watch the work come flooding in.
Love it or hate it, we are told, as creative professionals we can’t live without social media. But is it really true? I have often wondered how some manage to create a positive turnover whilst spending, what appears to be, so much time maintaining almost every available social network platform. Okay, so it’s not cash flow, on the whole it doesn’t kill your business within minutes if you get it wrong (although a hasty and thoughtless Tweet has ended political and entertainment careers); but, it could be a close second.Get too obsessed with profiles, platforms, portfolios and forums and you’ve not done what you actually set out to do: your core business.
It took two years of various suggestions and encouragement for me to start putting my thoughts into this blog. Why? Because I am a photographer, I love images: looking at them, discussing them, creating them and, let’s face it, if I can get you interested in my photographs I want you to look at them on my website, or better still in my portfolio, not read about them here. So the blog becomes about other, tangential things that perhaps I think about. And that’s one of the key things about using social media: understanding what you are about.
If I may present an argument, that we consider carefully which social media we wish to be involved with, based on what we want to do with it and get from it. To have a profile on every platform, particularly if that profile is to be kept current and well-maintained, is bordering on the impossible. So you have to choose. In the end it is all a distraction of some sort, and so perhaps it is time we looked more critically at social media and tried to balance our distraction with productivity.
Now you might be offended that I am suggesting you are not already taking a common-sense approach to social networks, but do any of us really take time to properly consider which platform we should be on? What frequency and content will give our brand the desired lift? And, more importantly, if it is a commitment we can realistically achieve over the longer-term without neglecting other elements of our business. Which platform(s) actually fit with our target ‘hit list’ for the core business and aren’t simply the latest invitation from someone we vaguely know to join the next big thing on the web. Please tell me I am not the only one that’s fallen into that trap! Of course there is some degree of common-sense, but the truth is it is difficult to critically assess where you need to be seen. Stepping back and taking a little time to carefully consider the options is worth it. This is especially true at a time when there are an obvious few and an ever-growing list of additional others that mean you simply don’t have the time to maintain a profile on all of them.
So what is ‘social media’ about? Well, in part it is to make yourself more easily accessible. You want the people who might be interested in your work (and better still might enhance your income) to be able to find you. That means being on the right platform not just for that sites core demographic, but that allows you to create the profile and brand to enthuse people about you. It also needs to be a site that allows you to make choices about your work, content, creativity and copyright, so that being on that site does not prove detrimental to your core business. For this you have to understand the site’s terms and conditions – even if it’s just the bit that relates to the copyright of your stuff. It is vital to beware of terms that give the site too much license over your work or that publish as a default under some form of Creative Commons, it might just come back to bite your profitability in the arse.
All this is difficult enough, but on top of it you need to be consistent with when and what you post as well. I would love to be more consistent with both my timing and my content, but work inevitably gets in the way. The best you can aim for is a balance you are happy to maintain and remember that social networks are an extension of us, not the whole thing. We should also not do things to others on social media that we would be upset about them doing to us, or our work. Just because a comment moves quickly down a page (often in a matter of minutes) does not mean it has disappeared and been forgotten. Social media provides a written record where derogatory and libellous comments can return to haunt you.
In the end, social networks are just another tool in our marketing and information toolkit. Unfortunately they are not the easy solution to the eternal problem of brand profile they were once promised to be.
For some further reading try this DACS fact sheet :
DACS – social media terms