Creators have a platform problem. So many platforms, so many choices, and a chilling effect brought on by corporate ownership of platforms.
As a creator, whether you make video, blogs, books, podcasts, photographs, visual art, or code, you need to self-promote. Not only is promotion a way of life, it’s a good thing. All creators can take control of how they are discovered. (You can also remain private if you want, but what is the point of that?) You can discover and build an audience. You can get paid or give everything away. (It’s good to b e generous when you can.)
Social media has been the go-to channel for promotion. But it’s not as easy to work it as it used to be. Corporate ownership of some platforms has corrupted them. There is hate speech and too much advertising. Not only can you get lost, in the echo chamber online, you can get trolled.
Still, artists need to promote, and social media is the best way to get started. First, let’s assume you have chosen a home base for your work, a website on Squarespace or WordPress, a blog on Medium, a video channel on YouTube or Vimeo, a podcast on Simplecast, Podbean, or Libsyn.
A home base is important: All your work appears together. You can put up a mission statement and tell people how to reach you. You can accept payments.
Let’s look at the channels you can use to lead people to your home base. You can’t — and shouldn’t — post to all platforms. You need time to make art! Plus posting everywhere would drive you crazy. You will want to focus on one or two social media platforms. Certainly you can test all of them and then see what works for you. What platform is the most fun? Where are you getting the most engagement? Most importantly, are there people like you on the platform?
Here’s my list of platforms and my highly opinionated take on each.
- Facebook has value for personal news. Business coaches have used it to get business. But it has sunk into corruption, become a conduit for propaganda and hate speech and has a mission that involves spying on you and selling your personal information. Recommendation: Stay away.
- Twitter also has problems with hate speech and trolls, and so is not a safe platform for free expression. Nevertheless, it remains an open platform. You can reach people there. People can find you. Conversations are still possible. Recommendation: Worth exploring.
- Instagram only works if you have strong images and don’t need to link to anything very often. (You can put a link in your profile, but that’s it.) On the edge or corruption by advertising (it’s owned by Facebook) but you can build an audience quickly and it’s fun. Recommendation: Worth exploring.
- YouTube owned by Google and heavily involved in corporate surveillance. The platform sells your personal data. The upside is that posting videos on YouTube will increase your discoverability. They are indexed by Google (the owner, remember) and when people are searching for how to do something they turn to YouTube. Recommendation: Try it, but stay clear of the conspiracy theorists and hate mongers.
- Vimeo works for video artists and filmmakers. Doesn’t have the discovery reach of YouTube but has a creative, welcoming vibe. Recommendation: If you make video, try Vimeo.
- Tumblr is still viable as an artists platform, but corporate ownership by Oath has had a chilling effect on free expression. Cool factor: the previous owner was a high-school dropout. Recommendation: Probably a walking-dead platform. Avoid.
- Ello is for artists, an open platform, and a safe, free space for self-expression. Everyone is welcome. Diversity and inclusion is a core value. Recommendation: If you’re looking for a community of artists, this is the place.
- Mastodon is a Twitter alternative that made me ask “where is everybody?” Also tends to be populated by crabby coders telling me that it is not like Twitter. *Recommendation: Has potential; see if it develops.**
- LinkedIn is for business self-promotion and job hunting. Okay for writers posting business-oriented blogs. Recommendation: Good for job-hunting and promoting your company services.
- Pinterest is aspirational, commercial, and noisy. Stick with strong visuals. Recommendation: Good for lifestyle posts.
- blot is a minimalist platform that captures the fun of blogging. Recommendation: Works for writers, thought leaders, and those who have something to say.
- micro.blog is a cross between Twitter and blogging. Recommendation: If you’re a writer it’s worth exploring.