BEST PRACTICE: The One Who Puts Community First

One thing I love to show my clients, is examples of 'Best Practice', these are the creators and channels that I usually follow myself, for inspiration. Exploring the accounts and content of others is a great way to spark new ideas for your own channels, and figure out what type of social media user you want to be.

In this new blog series, I will explore several 'Best Practice' accounts in my industry, delving deep into their content strategy to demonstrate how and why they're the cream of the crop - and hopefully share some insights and tips YOU can adopt along the way.

For the third post in this series, I will be discussing how putting the SOCIAL in social media can pay off, this is: The One who Puts Community First.

To demonstrate this I'll be breaking down the Content Strategy of @SadGrads2020 - an uber Community Creator, whose platform was created recently during the coronavirus pandemic.

'Sad Grads' was founded by Jody Mulvey, a final year Art Student at the University of Edinburgh, to bring together Art and Design graduates from across the UK, whose degree shows, and studio time, had been affected by the pandemic restrictions. The account shed light on a collective experience, and offered an alternative place for graduates to share their work.

'Sad Grads' quickly became a voice for students in the UK, by aiding other organisations to advocate for the needs of Art students / emerging Artists, and generate action plans from Universities. Jody continued to use the page to share the many 'online degree shows' that many students turned to during this time - garnering the attention of those already well rooted in the Art industry - such as The White Pube (Writers and Art critics), and online media outlets: Elephant Magazine and Dazed.

In less than a year, the @SadGrads2020 Instagram account has collected over 7.5k followers, and Jody has successfully secured funding from YoungScot in partnership with Creative Scotland to continue to support and advocate for those in her community. Including a programme of IG Live talks with 'fountains of knowledge' within the Art Industry called JUST ASK...WITH SAD GRADS.

I caught up with Jody, to ask all of the burning questions I had about her approach and success with social media, as well as her thoughts about Instagram. Here's what she had to say...

1. Why did you choose Instagram for SadGrads?

I chose Instagram because it was the easiest for me to use. It's the platform I'm most familiar with and I just found it the most straightforward for me to start a platform on - within like 5 minutes, I had set up the account (after getting help with the username from my friend Natasha Moody)! I also already had a good art community follow me on my personal Instagram so I knew I could get the word out to some people who would be enthusiastic about the idea early on. 2. Was there any 'strategy' of sorts when you created and grew SAD GRADS?

I don't think I had any particular strategy for growing SAD GRADS! I remember when I started the account, I was telling myself "if I only have 50 people follow the account, then that's still a community that I've built" and now I'm at over 7,500 followers which still blows my mind. I think it's been really organic how it's grown. I was really fortunate at the beginning that I received lots of positive press. I was featured in Dazed (by The White Pube), 10Magazine and the Elephant Mag. I just really grasped any opportunity that I was given to promote the account and I've also been really lucky to have such a wonderful group of people that follow the account because they always engage and share posts from the account. It has been a lot of hard work but it's been so rewarding! 3. What has been your best 'social media moment'? (e.g. someone you adore followed you, an amazing shout out/share that made the account explode)

I definitely think it was very early on when The White Pube followed me. Then just after that they featured me in Dazed and on the 11th of February Zarina Muhammad is doing a live Q+A with myself on the SAD GRADS Instagram; if you had told me a year ago that this would happen, I wouldn't believe you! They've been so supportive of me throughout everything and I'm really grateful for it. I don't think I'll stop having those 'social media moments' though, because everytime I get shared by someone or get an email about something, my mind is always blown that people know about what little ol' me is doing! 4. Do you think that Instagram is a good place for artists to network?

Yes and no... I think Instagram can be good to easily connect with people but it definitely has a lot of negatives to it as well. I definitely do think that Instagram is good for promoting work, it's also (I find) easy to connect with artists; you can just follow someone and send them a DM to tell them you like their work! It can break down boundaries in terms of geographical distance too, which I think is lovely. There's a lot of people all across the world that I wouldn't have known about if it wasn't for connecting through Instagram.

I think Instagram, however, can pose issues in terms of some artworks being more compatible with being presented online and some forms of artworks can struggle to be translated onto a digital platform. Equally, some work looks more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ on Instagram which means it gets more likes or a better response and this can be bad for your self-confidence if you think you're not getting a good response or you're being beaten by the algorithms. I also think I often struggle with how toxic Instagram can be sometimes. You always need to remember that what someone shows on Instagram isn't their full story, but this can be difficult in terms of artistic production. If you see someone constantly posting their work, it can make you feel like a failure in times when you are demotivated and can barely make yourself feel creative (which is a feeling which has been particularly heightened within the pandemic). It's important to remember that all this is mostly a facade - I don't know many people who have a constant artistic output! I also think this constant consumption of material and ideas can be really bad for us in terms of causing burn out. So yes, although there's huge positives, I would always say that Instagram should be used with caution!

Whilst @SadGrads2020 wasn't born from a premeditated social media strategy - there are things to be learnt from Jody's success on Instagram...

One of the key pillars of SadGrads social media ouptut is VALUE.

That is, value to her community.

In sharing the works and ideas of those within her collective experience, as well as allowing them a voice through her content (see the SAD GRADS Instagram takeovers from recently graduated Artists) - not to mention the resources, open calls and opportunities that Jody shares often to SAD GRADS Instagram stories - the account devises content that puts the community first.

Providing 'Value' to your audience is a key driver of good engagement - especially on Instagram. If we think about how 'Saves' have become key indicators of a post's success and affinity with its audience and that the majority of people save content that includes something they want to buy, or something they find helpful, giving back to your audience makes sense!

So it is really no surprise, that the SAD GRADS account, which is based on giving constant value to its community, has a high engagement.

But, how can you implement this into your strategy and strengthen your community?

You might be thinking: this is all well and good for Jody and SAD GRADS, but how does knowing this help you with your content ?

Below I've put together a few content ideas for Artists and Art Orgs to implement on their own channels - that provides value to their audience and puts their community first:

For Artists:

* Create a video that shares some tips that are specific to the medium you use - and ask your audience if they have any tips they'd like to share

* Share the works/content of the Artists around you to your Instagram Story

* Create a video that shows the potential collectors who follow you, how to install a work like yours in their home / space

* Create a post that asks for advice on a particular subject / dilemma you may be facing

* Add your most engaged - loyal followers to your 'Close Friends' story and share exclusive insights with them into your creative process and Works In Progress (and don't forget to tell those not in the inner circle, all about it).

For Art Orgs:

* Routinely create posts that share the works of Artists / Creatives that you don't work with, but would like to / are inspired by / or you think your audience would like

* Have an Opinion - and share it. Is there recent Art News that has started a discussion you have a particular view about - if so, do an Instagram Story talking about your view.

* Same as above, but if your organisation has particular expertise in an issue - do an Instagram story / Live that discusses this issue in depth

* Create a post that asks for feedback - especially if you're organisation is in the business of offering a service, expertise, or guidance to your audience

* If your organisation is putting on any events / talks - give your audience the opportunity to shape these events: this might be by asking them to submit questions for a particular speaker or vote on the content of an upcoming even

If you decide to implement any of my ideas / create content that offers something back to your audience - let me know, I'd love to see your posts!

In the next post in the 'Best Practice' series I will be discussing how one Artist with a medium that can be tricky to display in the Instagram format, breaks expectations and creates a lasting impression through their social media channels.