Create an Intentional Social Media Persona
Where do your true interests fall? Don't try to be someone that you're not, especially on social media. Everybody knows, and you're not fooling anyone. And I really, it's very gratifying knowing that because people latch on to someone who's not being authentic immediately, and they just won't follow or they'll say mean things because they sense that there isn't a true, honest relationship happening. So where do your true interests fall, and really try to post that. And what do you want people to do? This is the big question on social media. I would say, probably nine out of 10 times if I'm posting online I don't want people to do anything but engage in a loving, community-spirited way with me and other people, that's what I want. Now there is that one out of 10 times that I want people to do something else. For example, we were starting this class, I posted online, I posted a course graphic, and I said I want you to join my class, and I said exactly what I want you to do, because I don...
't want there to be any confusion on social media, there's already too much room for confusion. So if I want something from you I'm gonna tell you what I want. If I want you to sign up for a exhibition opening, that's what I'm gonna tell you to do. If not, I won't say that, simple as that. And it creates this really clear relationship between you and your viewers, so that nobody's confused about your intentions. Do you ever feel like, maybe you have a friend or something that you just know has bad intentions sometimes? And it makes them all the worse, because you just know that the intent behind what they're doing isn't right? But when somebody does something wrong but they have really good intentions, you have a much softer way of thinking about that person, 'cause you know that they didn't mean it, and so intent is really important here on social media. What is your intention, and how can you make that as clear as possible to people so that there is no confusion on the matter? Now I believe that my reason for sharing on social media is to share these core values. That you can create your own reality, something that's very important to me, that's a message that I'm going to share with people. I want people to be uplifted, motivated, and I want them to really search themselves to figure out why they're connected to a certain piece of art, or why they want to create art. I want to inspire others to create, that would be my number one thing, if I go on social media, that's what I'm trying to get people to do, is to look at what I do maybe for inspiration, to look at what I have to say, maybe to motivate them, but then to take that and do whatever they want with it, just do something, anything. And then I'm always going to respond very thoughtfully and create really meaningfully, that's what I'm going to put out there on social media. Now you might think oh, you're failing at that Brooke, you're not doing that at all, and it's a process, you know, it's a work in progress and I'm always trying to get to a place where these things are true for me. Now, diversifying content, how do we do this? How do we create authentically while also not just posting the same thing over and over again? So, if you guys had to say how many images you have to choose from to post on social media, how many would you say you have? Just ballpark. Rough. 150. 150. Anyone else? Just different pieces of content that you might have to share. 40. 40, okay. Now, I have this really great backlog of images. Not that the images are great, but that it's great that I have a backlog. And so I've got about 800 images that I've created over the course of the last few years since I started, and that's just images. I also have hundreds of videos that I could post, I also have hundreds of behind-the-scenes images and things like that, so I'm in this place where I can post different types of content frequently because I've built up this backlog of images and content. You might not be at that place yet, and what I recommend, if you're in a position where you don't have a lot of content to share yet, I would recommend diversifying your content and sharing as you go. Even if you're not confident in what you're doing, even if it's sort of a learning curve for you, tell people that. People want to know that you're trying and that you're on a journey, and then they can take that journey with you. I cannot believe how many people I talk to that tell me, well I can't, I don't have enough work to put on social media, so I'm just gonna wait until I have the content. And I think back to when I started social media, I had no sense of this being a career, I wasn't trying to do things strategically, I just started putting my work on Flickr, like every day, just constantly posting work. Some of it was terrible. There is this picture that I have of a tree branch with my head stuck on the top of the tree branch, and it is the ugliest thing, it makes me so uncomfortable to look at. It's just a terrible piece of art, like genuinely it is bad. I wish that I had shown it to you, you would've laughed hysterically. And I posted that picture, real proud, like I made this today, you know, like I posted that. Really, not just like, I post that, but like, I posted that. And I was really happy with it. And nobody said anything that mean about it, but years later I look back and I'm like horrified, like I did that? Oh my gosh, my husband knew, he was like this is bad, Brooke, you can't, this is bad. I was like, you know what, so it's bad, we'll see how it goes. And I look back at that image and the reason why I say this is because I could've stopped myself from posting that, and probably 90% of what I was making that had technical issues and wasn't my best creation yet, but the fact is that I didn't, I posted every day, I was sharing everything that I created, and that was my journey and what that led to was an amazing community of people that followed my work from the beginning who journeyed with me as I grew as an artist, and that's still how I consider my community. I still post things where I say, this totally failed, or this is why this didn't work out, or whatever. And what does that do? Does that make you say, you must be a terrible artist? Or, does it make you say, oh, you're a real human, and we are all on this journey together? Now, you might answer that by saying yeah, that makes you look like a terrible artist. Well then, our core values are probably not in alignment, and it's okay if you don't follow me. What I want are the types of people who understand that this is a journey, that this is a process that we're going through together, and that's who I want to be my followers, not the people who think that I'm a terrible photographer 'cause of this failure that I had. That's just not the kind of person I have time for in my life, so I don't want that on social media. This is just an example of one way that I've diversified my content. Now this is a still-frame from a music video experimental short that I made that was an underwater video, and I made that this year. It was my first little, tiny baby step back into film making and it was really fun. I made this content, and I made sure that it still looked like my style. I worked with my favorite cinematographer, Devin Schiro, and he's one of my great friends so we had a lot of back and forth about what is the visual of this, what is the goal here. So I rented a black bottom pool so that it would have a nice dark creepy look in the background, which would be consistent with my images. I used wardrobe that I would use in my images normally. I used a subject who was very bendy, who could get into interesting positions which is consistent with my work, and then when we got into post and he was editing this video what he did was, he said please send me your curve adjustment layers so that I can see exactly how you're coloring your pictures, and I created about five different curve adjustments that I would normally create on my images, I sent that to him in a file, and he used those exact curves to color the video. And my point in explaining all that is that this video is totally outside of my comfort zone. I was very uncomfortable making this, I didn't think it would come together, I just didn't know what I was doing, but at the end of the day I took these precautions so that it still looked like me and it had my essence in it, and it came out looking like one of my images, just moving, and that's exactly what I wanted. Diversifying your content can be fun, and fun for your audience, too. You know, if I just posted images every single day, every single day, and that's all I was posting and it got really repetitive, people would leave, because people get bored easily. Which is a little bit funny, 'cause people also love consistency. So it's like, where's the line between diversifying and being consistent? And to me that line is being very in touch with your audience about what they'd actually like to see from you. For example, is it the photographic medium or is it the visual style? Is it the story telling in general, or is it just the photography? What is that thing that people are identifying with? Being in tune with that will help you draw that line between going too far with diversifying and not going far enough. This is just some example of behind-the-scenes content that I share. Now this is an original, very baby stages of creating this image. I made this into an editing video, and I shared that. It's relevant. It's a different medium, but it's still relevant. Just a still frame from a video that I shared. And so on, I love sharing video content. This was just a photo. I had to pin together the butt of my outfit, 'cause it's one of those really funny jumpers that's just like all open in the butt, I don't know what year this was from, 1774, but it was very funny. So anyways, side note. So I'm just tying my shoe, just getting ready for my photo shoot, and it's not relevant to my visual style or really the image that resulted from it, but I'm able to post this and say, this is what the setup looked like on my photo shoot, and this is what came from it. This is just part of my editing process. I was editing this very extensive photo with all these hands and I thought, this is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever done. At one point I had four quadrants of the screen where I had hands facing left in one quadrant, hands facing right in the other, down on this one, up in this one, and it was just so silly looking 'cause it was just like these weird cut out hands in all these different positions, and I was like I have got to share this with people, 'cause this is so dumb, I just couldn't get over how silly it looked, and so I shared it. But at the heart of it, people are interested. Why, because this is a very complex editing process. So it's not only funny to people to witness, but they're also learning something as well. So how is this of value to my audience? First of all, it connects us personally, but also they get an inside look into how this picture was created, which is really great. This is very random content. This is just me reading a book, that's it, nothing related to photography. But every once in a while it's really nice to just say hey, this is who I am as a human. Not as a photographer, not as a creator, this is what I do in my down time. I sit in my pajamas and I read books, a lot, a lot, a lot. And this was in some way relevant to my content because I was able to share this very interesting process that my husband and I started doing, where every Wednesday we have a Muse Day, and Muse Day is what we call, like, our inspiration day. So from morning 'til night we do something that educates and inspires us, all day long. So every Wednesday that's what we do, and I end up reading a lot 'cause I wanna write a novel. So I've got, every single Wednesday I'm holed up in my house in my pajamas reading a book, studying, writing notes, all sorts of things, and I thought that will be nice to share. Because yeah, this is a personal image, this is what I do in my down time, but also look how this relates to my creativity. So just always relating it back somehow. Now this is one of the scariest things that I have to say, which is this word persona. Which somehow feels like, fake, do you know what I mean? And I don't like that feeling, and I don't mean it to sound like that, but I tend to think about social media as an opportunity to be better than you are normally, and that's a really good opportunity. I have a lot of friends who are gamers, who spend a lot of time only interacting socially on the Internet pretty much, and the thing that they always tell me is that they love that type of interaction, because they can think about what they say before they say it, versus having to just come up with something to say in person, and that's how I think about social media. You know, I could be in a room with somebody and whatever comes out comes out, as you guys well know, I have no filter here, and that's what's gonna happen. But on social media I can really craft my words and think about, you know what, if I have the opportunity to be better than I was yesterday, or that I am right now, I'm gonna take that opportunity, so I see social media as my chance to be the kinder version of my self, the chance to be the more authentic version of myself, whatever it may be. And that's a really a great opportunity. So when I say persona, I don't want it to sound like a fake person that you're creating, but instead like somebody that you just really wanna be, and be that person. This comes through in your tone of voice, or writing, the type of imagery that you're sharing, and what your message is to people. And these are the three things that I consider when I'm trying to build up my persona, as it were. Now this is a funny question that I'm asking. If you had an idea to create something potentially offensive, would you do it? I'm asking for two reasons. One, is to test the way that you think about social media. Do you think of it as a people pleasing platform, or do you think of it as a way of connection? And this has been my struggle lately, is I am very much a people pleasure. I don't want to make people upset, I don't wanna make people feel alienated, but at the same time I wanna create the art that I wanna create, and there is this huge struggle with social media, do I do something that will alienate some people, but it's true to me, or do I do something maybe less wild, but that will gather in more people into my circle? And I get very trapped in this, and so I think about this question, because genuinely the answer to this will determine what kind of person you're going to be on social media. I'm not saying go offend people, by any means. I mean, I'm all about promoting kindness and love with one another, but are you okay with losing people because of your vision? And I want the answer to be yes, because I see so much value in that, and if the answer is no that's okay too. That's where you are in your journey, and maybe one day you'll be okay with offending people and maybe one day you won't. But I want you to see social media not as a chance to please everybody, but as an opportunity to connect with the people who you're meant to connect with, and that's very important to me. Now the other reason why I ask this question is just to say, sometimes if I'm not sure of an answer I just ask people, I just ask people. If I think, you know what, I have something kind of a little out there that I wanna create, I'm not sure how people will respond to it, I'll just go online and say how do you guys feel about this? Why not let people into that side of your process? You know, we think that we have to be so polished and so on top of things all the time, but the fact is that while, yes, that's pretty good on social media to appear very like you know what you're doing, it's also really good to just break down that barrier and recognize that it's not me on this side and them on the other side, it's all of us trying to figure this out, and it's very confusing. So I ask questions like this all the time, things like how do you feel about this, how would you feel if I did this, and what I find is this, that I get amazing, long answers from people, even on platforms where they're typing on their phones, you know, on Instagram, and they're still engaging in this really, really genuine way. So my point is, ask questions. Don't be afraid to say something that will instigate a response. Even though some of these people responded negatively to my question that I asked, they did so in a way that was very thoughtful, and this is all about the tone that you put out there as the creator. So when you're asking a question, only ask it if you really want an answer, because if you're seeing people leaving these blocks of comments, and you don't even have the intention of reading it, I think that might be one of the biggest taboo things to do on social media ever. People want to answer you. So many of us want connection, and when we see someone ask a question we think, oh, they wanna know what I have to say, and that should be true. And then this final point that I just made, which is to invite the tone that you want your media to embody. So if I'm going to ask a question, I'm not going to do so in a really combative way, I'm going to do it in the nicest, most genuine way possible so that people feel that they can write to me and say what they need to say, but also do so in a kind manner. And this has changed for me drastically over the years. When I first started, I realized when I was posting my images that they were a little bit controversial for people. People were responding quite negatively. And I at first was like, they're terrible, what horrible people for doing this. And then I started posting more and more text that was a little bit (sighs) a little bit combative, just a little bit like punching at people, like seeing if I could just rouse them a little bit, just get them to fight back, and I became really addicted to that controversy, to creating for shock value for getting people's reactions up and seeing just what I could do with opinions and stuff, and part of that was because I felt that that's what real artists did, I felt like real artists said what they wanted to say really boldly and they didn't care about how people felt, but I realized that wasn't me at all, I was just sick to my stomach all the time, I hated doing that, and so what I started to do was instead of putting my work out there in a combative way, I started to put it out there in a really kind way, where I was sharing things and saying these are my feelings, these are my emotions, this is why I did this, and this is why I feel compelled to share, and what people started doing was mimicking my tone. Just like how we do in conversations, you know if I make eye contact with you you're more likely to make eye contact with me, we start to mimic what the other one is doing, and same thing on social media. I used to get negative emails and negative comments, and people saying mean things about me, and I get that maybe, maybe three times a year maybe now, and it used to be a very regular thing, and I attribute this to changing my tone so that people are mimicking that tone, so I think it's really important, on social media especially. So where does authenticity come from? If we're talking about being yourself, this should be really obvious, right? Like obviously just be yourself. But that's not always how it works, because we get really self conscious. So I have this really weird analogy, which is to think about your best self, who you wish you were, combined with how you would act with your best friend. Have you ever had a moment where you, maybe you're at party, you're in public, or you're somewhere and you say something that just feels so not like you, like nothing you would ever say? And often I think about my husband, would I actually feel comfortable saying this in front of him the way that I'm saying this right now, or not? And that's a really good gauge to figure out how genuine I'm being in my interaction. Would I act like this in front of someone who knows me intimately well, or would I not? And then, is this my best self? So who do I wanna be, and is that person someone that would really, truly come out in a personal situation? Analyzing your emotions, your interests, your experiences, and your reactions as we've been talking about I think is vitally important for social media. This is what people connect to, people connect to experience, people connect to your interests, your emotions, your reason for why you do certain things. But then let's channel that into types of content, and types of content would be, how you create would be one genre of content that you could put out there, why you create, asking questions to your viewers, and so many other things. So if you have something else that you're thinking would be relevant to this, share it, post it in the group, because it's really good for us to build up this sort of list of different types of content that we might be sharing, and remember to push the boundaries, too, of what's possible. You know, we get stuck just looking at what other people are posting and how they're posting it, and we think that's how we should do it, but it's not always how we should be doing it. Yeah? How are you choosing which sites to post which types of content, like the more casual stuff, behind-the-scenes? That's a great question. Versus polished stuff. So, when I'm choosing social media sites, the way that I think about it, and this comes from testing a lot of 'em too, you start to get a sense of what people are responding to and what they're not, but I generally post my finished works on Facebook, and I'm not usually sharing, like, a behind-the-scenes thing or anything like that unless it's finished, and then I'll direct people to my blog to share all the other stuff. Because Facebook only has one way of posting, you post something and it ends up in someone's feed, and as opposed to Instagram, for example, that has stories and your featured page, it doesn't have any other way. So I don't want people to get confused on my Facebook and think that a behind-the-scenes thing is a finished thing if I'm mostly posting finished images, so that's how I kind of make the distinction is, is there room for confusion for people to think that I'm posting this photo that's clearly not finished, for them to think that it's real? Because then that's gonna diminish their view of the type of work that I create as an artist, but on Instagram, for example, you can create a story, which is way more casual than posting something as your official post, you know. It goes away after 24 hours, you can put silly text with it, it's not good for long form text. So that's how I make the distinction. On Twitter it's very offhand, you can say whatever you want, so on Twitter, on Instagram stories I'll post behind-the-scenes things, on my blog where I can explain in depth, but when I'm posting straight to Instagram, straight to Facebook, straight to Flickr, it's always the finished product for me, at least personally.