Monday, 30 March 2015

How To Get Big On The Internet

I recently attended the last in a series of Creative How To talks by Amy Martin, entitled How to Get Big on the Internet. No stranger to this manner of creative career navigation session (having followed the previous Cannon Hill Lectures series at mac birmingham and generally spending time gathering as many nuggets of wisdom about how to move forward in the arts as possible), I was surprised by how much the talk gripped me by the shoulders and gave me a renewed sense of optimism towards my own online presence.

The exciting part was that the internet had aided the careers of each speaker in lots of different ways, including being asked to speak at events, run workshops and write articles directly as a result of the content they create and distribute online. It was these potential benefits to social media engagement that I had begun to lose faith in, always enjoying it on a personal level but beginning to doubt if it could help me professionally; something that this session injected with a fresh sense of possibility.

Whilst it is still clear in my memory, I wanted to take the time to encapsulate some of that positive energy and share how it's impacted my creative practice in the last few weeks, inspiring me to make some changes and to generally value what I try and do with the internet a little bit more.

Here's what I took away from the lecture:

- Find the place that feels most comfortable and grow it from there. The first piece of advice that resonated with me came from People shop owner and all round nice lady Allison Sadler. She explained that she feels at home on instagram (describing it as "like wearing slippers") so shares content on there the most, using other avenues without trying to bring them up to equal standing. She made me realise that my followers rise on twitter over other channels for a reason, reflecting my preference of how and where to share. Using which online space works best for me to the best effect seems the best way to grow, rather than trying to catch 'em all.

- Regularity doesn't have to be a chore. Allison also demonstrated that posting regularly can be fun. She will engage meaningfully with her instagram audience daily and holds a #makeitsewcial hashtag every Monday morning, meaning people always know where to find her. This really utilises her online communities and creates conversations rather than one-way posting, and made me see the benefits of keeping specific posting patterns.

- Share your passion. Hearing about charming vlogger Choncey's passions has inspired me to branch out with what I share. Whilst illustration and drawing are my core passions and the reason I have a website / blog / social media channels in the first place, I am also in love with writing, visiting new places, seeing visual art, music and wellbeing. I think letting these influences shine through might be the key to not only generating more content to blog, but also a way to show more of myself, contextualising my illustration work and letting the audience in.

Small audiences are okay. This tip came from Chris Unitt from One Further, describing how his subscribers may only be a couple of hundred people, but they are the couple of hundred people with an interest in his niche skill set and the people that could give him work. This reminded me of the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to harnessing connections online, rather than getting big on the internet for the sake of it.

Use your unfair advantage. I also really dig this advice from Chris. He's currently using his knowledge of digital analytics to put new project Artful Jobs ahead in the job website game, because this is something largely un-utilised by his competitors. Tapping into my own special skills in this way could set me apart from other illustrators and create new opportunities for me as a creative practitioner. Having had a think these could include my way with words, the strong research methodology behind my work and that I create my illustrations by hand in a largely digital industry, perhaps things that I should show off more to potential clients.

Big up to all the speakers for being themselves and for sharing such useful anecdotes. The first testament to this session is that I have actually blogged about it (and that you are reading it) and I am now zealously planning lots more posts and online creative moves such as regular online features, improving my website to reflect my broader skills and having a go at vlogging. Yahtzee.

You can find online resources from the session on the How to get Big on the Internet tumblr page.

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