Updated: Mar 15, 2022
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[VIDEO COMING SOON!]
Welcome to my little corner of the internet! I'm Kori and I'm an independent illustrator, plush maker, and business owner! It's really nice to meet you, and I hope that you can feel as at home in this space as I do <3
If you mention "social media" to an independent artist, at best you'll be met with a groan and an "it is what it is, I guess" and at worst you'll have prompted an hour long rant about algorithms, "the grind," and other pain points. Sites like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have slowly transformed over the years from a great place to find new creators and keep up with everything they're doing into a place where posts die in the dreaded algorithm. So what happened?
The Walled Garden
Well, it's a really long story, but the short of it is these platforms have become so big and so consolidated that it's in the platform's best interest to keep you on the platform for as long as possible. Gone are the days of chronologically ordered feeds where you could announce a stream in real time and have people find it. Gone are the days where you could announce you'll be at a show and know that people will have seen it. I've seen posts from some of my personal favorite creators that come in three days late and find that I've missed an opportunity to see them in person, or worse, an open call for artists that's time sensitive and I've missed a work opportunity!
But why is that? Why make your platform user unfriendly? Because it keeps you there longer! By hiding posts you actually want to see (ie: updates from friends and family, updates from your favorite creators, whatever brought you to the platform in the first place!) among ads, posts that you don't care about, and posts that create a lot of responses (read: dramaaaaaaa, because that's what gets clicks and comments), you end up scrolling longer and following rabbit holes and probably forgot why the heck you opened Instagram in the first place.
And by now it's gone beyond "we want you to stay on our site and read content that way." I think most people my age can remember when Facebook started turning into the only place on the internet for our parents and grandparents - not only can you see photos from friends and family, but you can set up groups, meetings, SHOP, and everything else. It's happening to Instagram, too. Instagram doesn't want you to click out of the app to buy something from an ad or from your favorite creators, it would much rather you shop within Instagram itself so that you can go back to scrolling once you're done. It markets itself as "you don't need your own website anymore," but that puts all the control over your business in Instagram's hands. Creators I know personally have had their accounts suspended over a misunderstanding with no recourse at all (try and find a number for Instagram's customer service - it's very, very difficult!).
While I can't singlehandedly shift the internet from operating within it's walled gardens, I can at least do what I can on my part to step out of it myself. This space is mine to do with what I wish, and I hope you'll join me here <3
Social Media and it's Short Attention Span
The OTHER thing you'll hear if you bring up Social Media to a creator is "I put so much work into this post and it just died!" And OH BOY does stuff just die! Sites have ever changing algorithms that seriously take about as much effort as a full time job to stay on top of. It's literally a full time job - as in you can 100% hire out your social media management and people make some BIG MONEY promising more reach on socials.
Let's say you've done all of your social media homework, buffed up your posts (and posting schedule) with as much algorithm food as you possibly could, and created near-daily content to stay relevant. You've created a super great post and it hits all the algorithm sweet spots PLUS you've rolled some great luck and it does well (because even if you do all the right things, it really is down to luck in the end). How long does that post "live"?
In my experience, and in the experience of other artists with both big and small accounts I've talked to, that post has at best a week where people will discover it. And that's a truly phenomenal post! Most posts last about 3 days max before nobody is ever going to see it again unless they land on your profile (or you pay for ads). If you want to stay relevant and have people find you (not even new people, your own audience as well!), you've gotta have that home-run post at least a few times a week. HOW EXHAUSTING! A common bit of advice I've seen about staying relevant is re-posting your work... meaning that if you really want your content to have a life outside that 3 days, you've just got to repost it and hope it takes off again (which also runs contrary to the advice about keeping a beautiful Instagram grid - what a catch-22). I don't know about you, but I'd rather be spending that energy making new things!
With everyone beating the drum of "social media is the only way to market yourself," I end up trying the social media rat race about once a year. I end up lasting a month or two of doing everything "right" and it's so much work that I end up burnt out and sick from the stress. There has to be a better way, a place where the Internet's attention span is longer than a couple days, tops.
Evergreen Content and Sustainability
What did the Internet look like in the Before Times? Before Facebook, people found content in their search engines or through other sites that they enjoyed going to. Blogs, forums, and webcomic sites were small and creator run. RSS feeds compiled new blog posts and webcomic links and you clicked through to read content on each creator's page. Bloggers and Comickers had ads from other blogs and comics, and supported each other by hosting guest blogs and guest comics to merge audiences together. You signed up for email notifications from your favorite sites and kept up with happenings that way, before email inboxes were graveyards of 100 spam emails a day. Search engines found keywords in those blog posts and showed them to new people, yes, but the main way to find cool stuff was word of mouth. This created wonderful tight-knit communities!
This ALSO had the benefit of a longer lifespan for content! Because blog posts and webcomic comments could be picked up by search engines, people could find things YEARS after the fact. I found Ursula Vernon's Digger about four years after the first page was posted, I've found artists by looking through blog posts about techniques that were posted years ago, and I've kept up with those artists by signing up to their email lists so I always know what's going on.
Social Media, unfortunately, falls short on that "keeping up with the creators you've liked" promise. I've been following Piper Thibodeau's Daily Paintings since 2015... but I haven't seen a post of hers on Instagram all year!
When you first set out to become an independent creator, you often hear the advice of "make sure the things you create can have multiple lives." A painting I do can be a print, a keychain design, and go in a book, for example. It's a great way to keep the business side of things running with not a lot of effort on your part (more energy for creating! Yay!).
Why not take that approach for your socials as well?
Things like blog posts, portfolio sites, and maintaining an email list give your content a much, much longer life! They're searchable, they're sharable outside of the Walled Garden, and most importantly, they're yours. Instead of making content so that social media sites can make more money for themselves, why not make your content work for you instead? That's what I'll be doing!
While I'm too wrapped up in socials to give them up entirely (Twitter is still useful for following agents and publishers, Instagram is still useful for it's website widget that can get work that's new but not "portfolio quality" up on my site), I'd like to pivot to keeping my content here, on my little corner of the internet! I'll still post on socials, but I'll be posting stuff that I'm already posting here instead of feeding Instagram's content void. I've already started gathering email subscriptions to creator's I enjoy so that I can interact with them on my time instead of on Instagram's time.
I'll be posting a tandem blog post and YouTube video once a week (so that if you like listening to content instead of reading it, you can! I love creator's that do this, since I can be illustrating or sewing while I listen), an email update 1-2 times a month, and will be hosting my webcomic here as well! I hope you'll join me outside the walled garden - it's a scary step but so worth it!
Gmail has some great tools to create multiple inboxes - I've put all of my creator subscriptions into their own box. It's honestly so refreshing to open up my email and find stuff from the people who's content I love instead of an onslaught of spam. Plus I don't have to see content from people I don't care about while I'm trying to find content from the people I DO care about.
You can sign up for my email list on the bottom of this page. I really cherish my little email fam, and send out 1-2 emails a month. You're very welcome to reply to them - I love having "e-pen pals"
Until next time,