For the most part, if you ask people (and sometimes even if you don’t ask) for their thoughts on social media you will find that they fall into one of two opposing camps. The first, and seemingly growing camp, is those in opposition, arguing that social media is a major time waster and only serves to feed the user’s need for external validation through likes and comments. In fact, when I initially thought of writing this post it was going to be a bit tongue in cheek and all I was going to say was all you needed to do to gain followers and influence people is to be an Instagram model. Full stop. But then I realised my facetiousness was just an attempt to mask that I fall into the second camp of people who argue that social media can be used effectively and to achieve different goals. So I decided to do more of an actual post than just a silly clickbait article.
Regardless of which of the two camps you fall into, the first question I think you need to answer is why you are using the social media platform that you are using. If you are willing to admit that it is a distraction or for the likes then you will be able to address that head on. I was asked why I use Instagram in particular and after thinking about it I did manage to articulate why I feel it is a powerful platform to show my photography on and also see what other people are doing, as well as get new ideas and inspiration to get better at something that I love and I am passionate about. My posts portray that passion and someone looking at my profile would hopefully see that. The power and reach of social media is something that most people will not deny. Of course, it did not start off like that. Facebook was initially just a way to connect with people who you already knew and initially Instagram didn’t even allow pictures taken with anything other than the camera on your device (I think). In 10 years the platforms have evolved and grown and taken on lives of their own with social media followings now mostly of random people on the internet who for the most part don’t know you. So you better know the reasons why you are or are not on them so people can get to know you.
Once you know why the next question is how you use social media. You have to have a social media plan or strategy even. If that means limiting yourself to 20 minutes a day or week or month (how would you even survive!) then so be it. While coming up with this strategy you have to remember that, like with anything in life, building a social media presence takes a lot of time and hard work. Its easy to look at some of the pure social media personalities and think that they got there overnight especially because you discover most of them once they are already larger than life and going viral. But look up their back stories and you will more often than not find that this has been their hustle for years and years and the fame is just a more recent side effect. Youtubers like Casey Neistat and Lily Singh both went through periods of posting videos every day, sometimes twice a day with daily vlogs as well just to have people come back again and again. And its because of this that the payoff should not be the why because it will start making the how very difficult after two or three years of hard work for little or no rewards.
Your social media pages become a way to build your own brand. Your online presence becomes your personality in a sense so be true to who you are offline as well. And depending on your plan when using social media this could be important if you would like to use the presence to later represent somebody other than yourself. It’s easy to fall into the thinking that the internet is anonymous but it may actually be the opposite and you start getting recognized by your online presence. So consistency and authenticity are key. This will also help avoid (to some extent) your feed becoming just a highlight reel of your life. Most of us on social media are also (not yet) famous so engage, follow back, encourage and celebrate successes as you would for real friends.
That being said, I would also say that sometimes posting or sharing more than you think you should can also lead to some surprising results. Case in point, my Youtube watching trends – I got into watching a lot of drone flying since I got my own drone about a year ago, which led me to start watching Flite Test where they build a lot of RC planes. That then opened the door to several other hobby and building websites including Peter Sripol and Ramy RC. One day I found myself watching a suggested video for a channel called AntsCanada (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCONd1SNf3_QqjzjCVsURNuA) which is just a guy with different ant farms filled with different species of ants. Who would have thought watching ants in an ant farm is a thing? But with 3 million subscribers and millions view each video the channel is extremely successful. Generally if you find something genuinely interesting there will be other people out there who may also find it interesting. So posting something that you may feel won’t be interesting to anyone but you could actually surprise you.
Lastly, and I think I have said it before but will say it again, putting yourself out there on social media or generally into the public eye often takes a lot of courage and self confidence. This may be especially true for creatives who tend to use the creative process as an escape from the public in the first place. But if you think about it, it is doubly true for someone seeking external affirmation. The perceived anonymity (only perceived because like I said earlier your online presence builds a brand for yourself) of the internet and social media can often lead to comments that can be hurtful, whether intentional or not. So lets be kind to each other out there hey!
In my opinion, there is no surefire, quick way to build a massive social media following and become an influencer or social media personality. If you put in thought, the time and effort conscientiously you could eventually get there.