I know, I know. Another article about social media. I can hear you groaning. But listen, some of my most satisfying and lucrative creative projects of late have come as a result of using social media. I'm talking about big opportunities, like being a producer on this upcoming film. If I can get those kinds of results, so can you. Twitter, someone once remarked, is like a cocktail party. It gives you amazing access to pretty remarkable people, some of whom might enjoy what you do. The trick, as with any good party, is knowing how to: 1) pinpoint the folks you'd most enjoy spending time with; 2) cut through the small talk; and 3) mingle in a way that's both fun and connective.
With those goals in mind, here are 12 tips for having a fruitful Twitter experience that furthers your creative career.
Use that "Follow" button - a lot. A lot of people sign up for Twitter thinking people are just going to find them somehow. Nope. You've gotta follow people to get noticed. The idea is to follow people who are potential mentors, customers, collaborators or employers. For example, if you're a furniture maker, you might follow furniture galleries, interior decorators, and fellow craftspersons. Or, if you're a musician, you could follow critics, agents, managers, and other bands. Remember to use a creative headshot image on your profile page and present a well-written, informative bio, so when people click on you to see who just followed them, they're compelled to follow back.
Lists, list, and more lists. When you follow a lot of people (and you should - see above!) your Twitter news feed can get pretty overwhelming. When you separate the people you follow into lists you can see just the tweets from a particular subset of people. Examples of lists for fine artists might include a gallery owners or curators. For writers, you might have a list of publishers or a list of magazines that use freelancers. Don't feel like making your own lists? No sweat. Chances are somebody else has already made those lists for you. Just find some creative folks working in your discipline or field and check out their lists. If they have any you like, you can easily follow them (as long as they're public lists, and if you're seeing them, they're likely public lists.)
Don't just follow, lead too. It's tempting to tweet about Any Old Thing when we get on a roll, but the most effective way to use Twitter is to position yourself as an expert in your creative arena. Don't just sit in the corner watching the party, so to speak, get out on the dance floor. Tweet about your work and other people's work in the field; tweet articles about process; tweet tips for creatives. Any of these things will bring you a larger following because they'll show people that you have a certain base of knowledge about your creative medium.
Promote others. There's a great ritual that scores of Twitter folks partake in every Friday. It's called "follow friday." On this day people promote other people. Using the abbreviated hashtag #FF before a list of people's names will alert your followers to the presences of these other people. It's a way of saying, "These guys are cool. You should check 'em out." This generosity is often reciprocated and, overall, it leads to more followers for everyone. The trick is to promote people who make sense. If you're an architect, you might #FF a bunch of architecture firms. If you're into knitting, you might #FF a person who makes yarn bowls. You get the idea.
Keep your platforms separate. I know a lot of people connect their social media sites so that when they post on one site, it automatically posts to the other, but don't do it. Seriously. It's like using watercolors on primed canvas. The material has to support the medium. Nobody goes on Twitter to read Facebook status updates. Craft your content for each medium in the way it was intended to be used and you'll attract and keep followers.
Post often. Since Twitter acts as a never-ending news scroll and people use it at various times of day, it's acceptable to post the same daily content 2 or, occasionally, 3 times. Now, I wouldn't do it with a joke or observation, but I would do it when you have a new piece for sale or a course you just announced, for example. Even if you only want to post your content once, try to do so once a day. That way you keep yourself on people's radars.
Engage, and be engaged. The best way to use Twitter is to get to know other people who may be allies or, as mentioned, buyers or employers. Commenting on other people's tweets, favorite-ing them, and retweeting their content is a way to build relationship. Conversely, tweeting at people you don't know asking them to check out your creative work is the equivalent of sticking a flyer under someone's windshield wiper. Don't do it.
Take it offline. One of the ways that I've been able to build actual real world relationships with people I meet on Twitter is to take the relationship offline. Whenever possible, I try to sit down and have a coffee with someone I've already forged an online relationship with. I don't do it to get anything from them or promote my own stuff. I do it to deepen a connection and to see if we're as compatible in person as we are online. Many times those connections have lead to referrals or collaborations. It's important to be authentic when you do this. When I meet folks, I genuinely go into it with no agenda. If nothing comes of it, I'm happy to have enjoyed an hour talking to an interesting person. "No harm, no foul," as they say....whoever they are.
Don't bully people into following back. This is probably a somewhat controversial point of view as LOTS of folks are fans of "Team Follow Back." Me? I don't recommend it. While I understand the premise of Team Follow Back - "I'll follow you, now you follow me" - there's an underlying energy to it that says, "I'm only following you to get more followers." Oftentimes when you don't follow a Team Follow Back person right away they'll unfollow you. Truth is, I only want people following me who want to be following me. And, when I follow someone, I do so because I WANT to follow them. I don't really care if they follow me back. You can build a decent following on Twitter without having to engage in a game of "tit for tat."
Use hashtags. People like to make fun of hashtags (which, if you don't already know, is simply a search term). And, I totally get it because 80% of the time people use hashtags as a punchline. (See this awesomeness.) But, hashtags can be super helpful. For example, let's say you're attending a craft conference, and you want to connect with other people at that conference. Chances are the conference has an officially hashtag such as #CC2014. Whenever you tweet about the conference, you want to add that hashtag to the end. That way, anyone can search for the hashtag in Twitter's search engine and see ALL the tweets about the conference in one place. From there, people can then engage with other attendees and, even, make a plan to meet up while there. Using hashtags as they were originally intended can really expand your circle.
Don't forget that you're in public. It can be easy to think that people aren't paying much attention when you type words on a screen from the comfort of your home and send them out into the ether. But, Twitter is the online equivalent of standing in a public square and saying hello and remarking about the weather to passersby. Just as you wouldn't make a snarky or mean comment to someone walking by (yeah, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here) you shouldn't do so online, even if the other person so obviously deserves it. Despite a personal and friendly tone you might strike with your tweets, remember at all times that you're a professional.
Emulate successful people. If, after all this info, you still aren't sure what, how, and when to use Twitter, it's always a good idea to emulate other successful artists. To be clear, I'm NOT talking about ripping off tweets, or crafting similar content. I'm simply talking about looking at the ways they engage with people, the tone they use, the amount of times they post, etc. If you study the habits of successful creators, you're bound to pick up some useful tips!
Like these tips? For more like if, check out my video, Four Social Media Tips for Artists.
Photo by Rosaura Ochoa//cc