When I started out, social media wasn’t really a thing. The internet was there, and there were a few places where you could start trying to leave an impression and get noticed.
Myspace was my first venture into expressing a ‘personality’ online; next came Flickr, which I used to show new work, and photos of things I thought were interesting, funny or worth sharing. I guess I used it as a primitive Instagram. I collected a small following of ‘fans’ on there, and quite quickly realised the importance of ‘feeding’ them with new content all the time to keep them engaged and interested in what I was up to.
Then Twitter came along. At first I dismissed it as a pointless fad, then I finally joined it in 2009. Unlike most people’s first tweet – which is often something like, “Hi, this is my first tweet, I’m new to this thing!” – my first tweet was a carefully composed rap in less than 140 characters. I started strong.
Be honest, be interesting, tell stories, be human, be you. Put stuff out there that you think people will find engaging, provoking and that they’ll want to interact with. Ask questions. Try and think of interesting ways to promote your stuff rather than just saying, “Look I did a thing, click here.”
If you’re an arty person (I’m guessing everyone reading this will be), show process, show the creation of things, not just the finished product. Find time to talk to people who get in touch with you. At its best, social media can be a big conversation with the whole world. Be open, talk to strangers, learn things from people who are different to you. Use it to connect with people, you never know who will respond.
Since it’s such an efficient and easy way to communicate with people, sometimes it’s better to get in touch with people through a tweet than an email. I don’t really have time to reply to most emails I get (ok, that sounds self important – of course I have time – what I mean is that I’d rather be spending that time doing something else), but if someone @ replies me on twitter, I’ll always answer.
Don’t complain about how hard your life is…it’s probably not. Don’t complain about being busy; nobody cares, and it’s not something to be proud of. Be self-aware, try and put yourself in the position of the people that you’re talking to. Don’t tell people what you just had for lunch, what cool person you’re hanging out with and how amazing your life is. Again, nobody cares, and if they do, you probably don’t want those people following you.
Don’t use it as a platform to spread negativity, it’s always nicer to be positive. Don’t become utterly addicted and dependant on it. Sadly I am, most of the time. Occasionally I’ll distract myself and forget about social media for 5 hours, and remember that real life is still actually better.
Put in the time and be yourself
Don’t pretend to be someone else, it will never work. If you’re funny, people will like you because you’re funny. If you’re shy, awkward, anxious or depressed, you can be all of those things on social media and people will like you for that (see Gemma Corell). If you’re a self-obsessed, egocentric, broadcasting big mouth (see me) you can also do that. If you’re more of a background person who has opinions, you can use social media to join in conversations.
Be prepared to put effort into it. Social media can be a valid part of your work and it can take up time. For me, my ‘career’ can’t survive without social media, so I accept that it as being a big part of my day. Connect with people; social media is like a party for shy people, it’s brilliant.
Mr Bingo is a London-based illustrator, artist and speaker, who has attracted a wide following for his humour-packed, often NSFW, occasionally offensive artworks and active social media presence. Having worked commercially for clients such as The New Yorker, The Guardian, TIME and The New York Times for 15 years, he has been working independently since 2015. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter.