These words hit me like a bolt of lightning: “I personally believe that humans aren’t built to have relationships with thousands of people. We can care for a core group of friends and family, and beyond that our interactions will be short and shallow, and relationships will inevitably fall between the cracks.” It’s from Nick Fancher, a brilliant photographer, author and podcaster, and is one of the highlights of a recent post on his blog entitled Ghosted. I’ve read it and reread it a handful of times and it’s one of the catalysts behind this post.
There seems to be a rising tide of discussion about the benefits and detriments of social media. Writer Robby Brumberg makes a compelling case for taking a break from social media in this article for Ragan.com. While not advocating for a complete unplug like Nick does, Roddy does provide 3 well-articulated reasons for taking a closer look at our social media usage. For a lot of us creative types who’ve seen social media as a necessary tool for growing our online businesses, Roddy makes this observation about time management and social media: “Pumping out worthwhile content across an array of platforms requires hefty chunks of time. No two channels are the same, and each requires nuance, expertise and cultivation.” This article sited a report that highlights a number of studies on the effect that social media has had on mental health, including one study by the University of Missouri on depression and Facebook usage.
I don’t think most of us in the creative community are unaware of the effects that social media can have on our minds and emotional well being. Let’s face it, when sites like Bustle and The Root are publishing articles about breaking up with social media, you know it’s time to reevaluate our personal usage. Going back to Nick for a moment, if you read his post and check out the comments, you’ll see one from yours truly. I repeat a claim that I’ve personally held to for way too long: “I think the biggest issue that most of us who are trying to make a living online face when it comes to the pros and cons of social media has to do with exposure and promotion. As an artist or maker, it still seems that social is a necessary window and medium for generating site visits and sales.” As of today, I’m kicking this one to the curb. Let me explain.
The Way We Were
While it’s true that social media has been one of the greatest ways to discover and celebrate makers, artists and designers, I think it’s important to note that those days are mostly over. In the early days of Twitter, on which I’ve been active since 2010, I made some connections and discovered talented creatives who have contributed greatly to my growth as a writer, designer and artist. Folks like Jessica Colaluca of Design Seeds, the Queen of Color Palettes, and Kai Brach, the mastermind behind Offscreen Magazine and the Dense Discovery newsletter, have been constant sources of inspiration, motivation and in the case of Jessica, long-term friendship. (Jess and I have been web friends for over 10 years, which is truly remarkable.)
Like Twitter, Instagram also offered, in its early days, an incredibly robust platform of discovery. Pinterest used to be the go-to for finding new and exciting makers, artists and designers as well. Then there’s the monster that is Facebook. While I know a ton of creatives who counted on Facebook for growth and exposure, I personally found it to be my least favorite. My relationship with Facebook has been a conflicting one, especially since I’ve managed (and continue to manage) social content for a handful of successful companies. For personal use and for growing IAMTHELAB, I’ve never found Facebook to be beneficial. Worse, I saw the handwriting on the wall years ago regarding Facebook’s ability to draw out the worst in people. There is a powerful case for Facebook being the launching pad for many folks to exhibit what is called the online disinhibition effect. In essence, people say some pretty crazy, crass and cruel things that they’d never say in person. All in all, all the social platforms have taken a turn for the worse, and that’s only considering the change in content and the access to vitriol. We haven’t even started on the algorithm problem.
All the major social networks have tossed aside the traditional reverse-chronological feed in favor of an algorithm assisted one. Regarding this change, I don’t know of a single topic that has caused more issues for creatives than this one. Simply put, it feels like human curation is being swallowed alive by some shadowy computerized overlord, rendering any attempt to control content useless. Sure, you can play the game, like this one suggested by Sprout Social, but who of us has the time to create and wrestle with the Great Algorithm Beast? In the end, it seems that social media’s usefulness has entered its endgame.
4 Ways To Grow Without Social Media
Between managing our mental health and growing a sustainable business, it appears that social media is no longer a healthy place to be. Like many others, I’ve decided to take a break from it. If you’ve been thinking about doing the same while trying to maintain your creative endeavors, you might be wondering how to make the leap to a less social media driven life. Here are a few suggestions as you plan your escape.
One suggestion is to start a mailing list. I’ve seen makers and other creatives establish really robust site traffic with regular newsletter output. Most e-commerce and website building platforms allow for newsletter integration via Mailchimp or other services. A regular newsletter can keep your fresh creations in the minds of your potential customers and help establish customer loyalty. Some businesses have been so successful with newsletters that they newsletters have become businesses of their own! I mentioned Kai Brach’s Dense Discovery earlier and it’s a great example of how powerful a newsletter can become. Subscribe and enjoy.
Another suggestion is to start blogging regularly. Content is still king and you’d be surprised how many people still use search as their primary way of discovering new makers and artists. By keep a regular blog post, you contribute to your site ranking higher organically in search. Plus, blogging is a great way to keep your customers informed of the latest and the greatest offerings from your creative business.
A third trick is the trusty autopost technique. OK, so you’ll technically still be on social media, but if it’s a must for your business to grow, why not try a service that lets you autopost? That way you reap the benefits of exposure without having to be exposed to all the noise. I love that WordPress allows for autoposting to the networks of my choice and I’m sure Squarespace and Shopify do the same. Plus, services like Hootsuite and IFTTT makes sharing across networks relatively painless.
Lastly, grow offline. Many makers are rediscovering the power of networking and building a wholesale customer base. After all, the primary goal for you online life is to grow your creative business into a sustainable one, right? Getting your goods in the hands of potential customers by means of brick & mortar shops is still a very powerful way of doing so.
I’ll touch on each of these tools in a later post. In the meantime, are you thinking of taking a break from social media? Let us know why in the comments below.