In theory, yes. But it’s not as easy as you’d think …
The internet came into my life in the mid to late 90’s when social media wasn’t really a thing. It took 5 minutes (if you were lucky) to ‘log on’ and what felt like an eternity to download images. As a shy and anxious teen I sought solace in the internet. It allowed me to socialise without awkwardness, communicate with people who shared my interests and in all honesty, a world to get lost within when the ‘real world’ felt too much.
As the years have progressed the internet is more and more a part of everyday life. I use it for shopping, work, networking, streaming music, watching movies … and social media!
I have three active Instagram accounts; one is a personal account, one is used as an online portfolio for my doodles and my final one is to share my love of Disney.
So the question is; do I have a career in social media? No. But, I can certainly give you an insight into the world. Here are my tips for a successful social media presence.
Know your niche and stick to it
In early 2018 I needed an outlet, work/life had been difficult and I felt myself withdraw from my usual activities. I’d been struggling with my mental health and knew I needed to do something to lighten my mood. I already followed multiple Disney bloggers and they made it look fun. I’d just come back from a Disney trip and had a pretty impressive Disney mug collection - I had enough content to get me started so I decided I would give it a go.
I soon realised it was not as easy as I thought. It took me a while to figure out suitable hashtags, what constituted a good photo, how often should I post… the list of things to get right felt endless. It took ages for any of the ‘big’ accounts to take notice of me and I would often find myself spending hours trawling for new content to keep my new followers engaged. Try and avoid comparing yourself to other accounts - the temptation is always there but it doesn’t help anyone!!
It took a few months but eventually able to promote and sell my Disney sketches which meant I started to generate a small income from my page.
Engage with your followers
By February I'd hit 1000 followers - this felt like success. I held a giveaway to celebrate which encouraged more accounts to follow me - i’d caught the bug and decided I wanted to take this more seriously.
I knew I needed to build my own community. Not only will this lead to increased follows but your engagement will improve and that's great for the algorithm. My favourite part of my page was being able to connect with so many different people, through my account I have met people who have gone on to be really great friends.
A word of advice - don’t fall into the trap of ‘follow for follows’, concentrate on generating an audience who enjoy your content and not just follow your account on the basis you will follow them too - it’s a quick way to gain followers but an equally quick way to lose them!
I researched events to attend in order to network, I’d quickly realised this was crucial to succeed. I spotted one of the ‘big’ bloggers at a free Cath Kidston event. This blogger has almost 40k followers, was always invited to the big events, received merchandise from companies all over the world and has just recently been involved in Disneyland Paris’ first ever Pride event.
If anyone knew how this worked it was him - I took the opportunity to pick his brains. He taught me to think about my brand, showed me what I needed for a successful photo and most importantly how to use hashtags! We soon became friends and that started to open doors. This was exciting.
Freebies are not a right
2018 celebrated Mickey’s 90th Birthday, this allowed further opportunities to network at the many events that took place throughout the year. During one of these events I befriended a blogger had been able to do what I thought was impossible - she was able to quit her day job to pursue a career as a Disney blogger.
A mum of three with 175k followers; paid to make posts, invited to all the big events, so much merchandise she has to give most of it away and receives all expenses paid trips to Disney! Living the dream!! She was quick to let me know this didn’t happen overnight, it took lots of work and whilst the perks were fantastic, it didn’t bring in a steady income.
I’ve encountered a lot of accounts who feel hard done by when they haven’t been invited to events or received freebies. It’s worth knowing companies use accounts to promote their product, it is their decision who they use. If you don’t get picked, don’t be offended - they may have had something specific in mind. Follows don’t always matter so don’t be surprised to see some ‘smaller’ accounts promoting products too.
Armed with my new contacts and with the knowledge I'd built up I had a new focus. The effort started to pay off, earlier this year I finally got the message I was hoping for - Shop Disney had added me to their bloggers list! This was a big deal! Especially as I was still a small account, more emails soon followed.
A PR company representing big brands contacted me to see if I wanted to promote their clients merch - it was actually happening! I received merch to promote on my page - how exciting!! Things were on the up - what could possibly go wrong? The answer; algorithms and trolls.
What to watch out for
Algorithms are the bane of everyone’s instagram existence, posts disappear, accounts can struggle to retain their followers. This was a road block I had not anticipated coming into this. My steady increase in followers had halted and the likes were beginning to trail off.
On top of this I came to learn that any gains you make will attract negativity from parts of the community. Whilst difficult, I had to develop a thick skin - sadly this comes with the territory. My advice for this - don’t feed the trolls!!
One way I found to combat the algorithm issue was to post during key times so not to get lost in the mix - this will vary depending on your audience but I find lunchtime/ hometime commute a good time to catch the ‘scrollers’.
My dip into the social media entrepreneur world was fun but it turns out it wasn’t quite for me. I don’t regret it one bit as even though I wasn’t able to monetize my page I got A LOT out of it. I gained confidence, I made some fantastic friends and it was a positive focus when times were hard. Today I have found a balance that works for me and I am happy. I still post online but not as regularly and I still receive commissions for my drawings.
If you are interested in pursuing social media I say go for it as you never know where it can lead you! It could be a career, a hobby or a way to network with like minded people. Just remember to have fun with it!