Social media - useful or evil necessity?


There are many many people much better placed to discuss this topic than I am, but my usual state of annoyance with any form of social media is at a particularly high pitch of late so I thought it terribly helpful for the state of the planet to share my thoughts on this weighty topic from the perceptive of a maker who feebly attempts to use it to 'boost her presence."

Firstly, it always seems to be slightly last year. Yes there are committed users, rather like the ageing fans of Happy Days who still think the Fonz  is the epitome of cool, not to mention the marketing specialists who can roll out hundreds of excellent reasons as to why you should, including compelling examples of fortunes made, reputations enhanced and products sold in their, well, dozens but what if, at the end of the day, you're just pretty rubbish at it.

Allow me to snap at the hand that one day may offer crumbs from its table...

Facebook

This is obviously modelled on the second circle of hell. You have no control over what you see on your feed as the mysterious algorithms of Facebook's making deem what is visible and what is not. This also means that no one else can choose to see your content either, except by endlessly liking it and sharing it and therefore boosting it and ensuring it will pop up in their feed. If you post irregularly, Facebook helpfully reduces the number of people who will then see that post.

Call me cynical, but it seems very focused on 'encouraging' you to pay to boost your posts. Strange, I thought there were laws against unfair restriction of trade, but hey....

And of course there is the endless dross that populates your feed which has paid for by some entity or another to make your eyeballs bleed, who, having mastered the art of clickbait, hoover up the cents from online advertising.

I do have folk whose content I enjoy and share, but most of what passes for content on Facebook is just awful and makes the winnowing laborious and frustrating. It also makes sharing between the personal page you have to have in order to manage a business page and that business page impossible without four hours of research and 3 hours of fumbling in order to accomplish this.

Score: 2/10

Ah Twitter how I would love to love you baby but I just don't have time. In order to truly revel in your glories I would need to have sixteen pairs of eyes and nothing else to do so as to monitor all of the little gems popping up on your feed. 

Don't use Plume as your Twitter platform - it cuts and dices your content in even stranger ways than Facebook but the old Twitter app and feed allows you to sanely follow content in something like temporal order as understood by most humans for the past 100 000 years.

Brilliant if you're looking for info on exhibitions, festivals, workshops, research work, nifty articles but you need to choose your sources well and keep editing them. Completely unable to ascertain what reach my own Twitter posts may have, but it appears that ranting about the behaviour of the AFL and Channel 7 in relation to the AFLW garners more retweets than you've ever previously achieved.

Make sure you use your hashtags etc well - it will repay you in kindness. And a bit of judicious use of peoples/institutions/organisations' handles can result in most excellent retweets.

Score (provisional): 7/10

Hands up those who remember Flickr or Picasa? When I first glanced at this as the new wunderkind, it still employed the Apple specific square format. It was where the cool kids hung out, and it had a charm that was a bit hipsterish and self-conscious but it was fundamentally a photo sharing platform. I ignored it for as long as I could, engaged when I had to and both curse and enjoy it. 

There's a lot of great content; people are astonishingly generous with in progress shots which to a maker are visual lollies. Big bags of lollies, often really well shot. There also lots of object shots which are also really well shot and very interesting. It took me some time to realise that these were not casual mobile shots - often they are properly lit and staged. Or considerable time is spent editing them. Which makes sense as this platform has evolved into a shopping arcade for some makers. 

But for me, well, generally my images suck, I'm rubbish at even remembering to take a photo of something as I'm doing it (portfolio - hah - there are an embarrassing number of pieces I've made over the years that I have no record of whatsoever) I have no lighting set ups and when I do attempt to be semi-serious such as shooting images for the website rebuild that is taking longer than the NBN, they're still awful. I seem to have a special talent for ending up with a bluish cast. Apparently the camera in my Nexus 5x is decent so I can't blame it.

So what I've posted is usually not very edifying nor helpful and probably does more harm than good. 

And as its owner Facebook starts introducing more ads, edited feeds and worst of all, suggestions of accounts you might like to follow, it's becoming irritating. Very irritating. All in all, my initial dubiousness has only strengthened over time. For a small time maker, this may be less useful than it appears in terms of showing off your work and your 'brand'.

Score: 6/10 but sliding toward 4/10



This is heartbreak territory. When I first came across Pinterest four years ago, I was delighted. Somewhere to build a digital sketchbook! How wonderful! And I used it for slightly more professional purposes when labouring at an arts centre as a way of documenting the centre and making available each exhibition and the included works. Great for artists to be able to link to; great for promoting your exhibition programs and the exhibiting space.

And like Twitter and to some degree Instagram, you could have delivered to your device really interesting content through your curated feed. Which images appealed you added to your boards as well as being able to hunt up subjects, objects, makers, artists as required. The links embedded in the images were usually useful, taking you to the original source. 

It still plays the role of digital sketchbook, but someone in the accounts department has taken over the feed and it is now just dreadful. First they started dropping in items 'you might be interested in' - usually no. Then accounts you should follow were added - again more likely to be no. Now the feed is entirely swamped; I can no longer identify who posted what and it's just a jumble of rubbish. 

Yes I should research how to wrest back control of the feed, but frankly, I haven't got time. With so much other material spilling in, Pinterest has lost its great advantage - its tight curation by the account holder. Plus the source of many of the images is now very opaque which is also less than useful.

Score: Digital Sketchbook 8/10 Source of material via the feed 1/10


Tumblr
A cross between micro blogging, micro websites and Facebook with MySpace, it hasn't really taken off in Australia. It does have a bit of presence elsewhere but seems to be pretty irrelevant here. Somewhere, I have a Tumblr account... god knows what has been posted on it. If you find it, can you let me know? Thanks.

Score: Unable to compute.


Google+: Hello!Hello!Hello!Hello!Hello!   


Score: We are unable to ascertain if there is any data available.


Etsy: Bwhawhawhawhawha......

Score: Please don't even ask.



Vero
By now, I'm beginning to feel like Suzanne Vale - can there be any escape from the vice like grip of social media? And then rumours began - a Shangri La had emerged, shrouded in mist, promising enlightenment and harmony. Well not really, but in what is likely to be one of the smartest marketing moves this year, Vero had its moment in the sun, claiming it would not doctor your feed, nor collect your private data. It would also allow you to control who saw which post. But best of all, this platform which would make money by having annual subs, would offer lifetime free subscriptions to the first million subscribers.

As annoyance levels with IG and FB were pretty high, this seems ideal. The rush began, no doubt helped by key endorsers and the tale that it was favoured by creatives. Whether or not, I signed up, and well it's sort of what it promised and then again not.

It has features that IG hasn't - you can add a URL to an image which is mighty handy. Plus management of content looks cleaner, but apparently there are gremlins lurking in the terms and conditions. Who would have thought it? One comment I've seen a bit is the hope that it will allow conversations / chat between makers without having to cater to every possible eyeball that may glance upon your content. Not having to worry about offending or confusing the customer is a blessing.

I've signed up, followed a few folk, got a couple of acquaintances, had a couple of chats - it's not quite the microblogging that some claimed it to be but that obviously depends on the number of linkages you have. I prefer less is more, the old quality not quantity but in reality, almost no social media platforms work that way. We shall see, but I suspect it will end up in the same place as my Tumblr account - forgotten and lost in the cyber buzz of social media.

Score: Pretty.

  
And then there's websites specialising in exposing particular areas of craft. Exposure exposure exposure supported by initial frenzies of social media activity. Chat would have it that they resemble LinkedIn - for some it's useful, but for most of us, we just get requests to link with people working in Uzbekistan who can instantly raise our FB likes to 104 876.

And finally there's your own website and possibly ecommerce site as well. Bless the soul who said to me that really I should just treat my website as an electronic business card. Which of course requires kickarse images which would be best provided by paying a professional photographer. Which is unlikely to happen as I am flinty in my thrift. Besides, after a while you grown quite attached to blue tinted photographs. I'm currently trying to finish a new site so as to migrate from Google Sites to new Google Sites and add PayPal shopping where necessary. We'll see how this plays out. As there's a new obsession focus lurking in the wings, I've also got to allow for flexibility around that. 

So overall, what does social media give us and what does it mean for the small maker? A lot of effort and extra time spent which, if executed really well, can be great. But if you can't do it stonkingly well, it may be best to follow the words of design's evil uncle, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - less is more.

Now, has anyone posted on Vero today?  

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