Janie McMillin, member of the LOG OFF Writers Group, delves into the perspective of small business owners and the creative side of social media, to offer insight into the ways in which many are using their platforms to fuel their passions.
Without a doubt, social media has sparked a new age of creativity. As we start to become aware of our population (as well as ourselves) spending time scrolling, watching, and seeking validation, we are also being exposed to the other side. A side working towards creating--businesses, self-help videos, blogs, contests, auditions, websites, music, art. By nature we are consumers, and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing if we can learn how to harness it towards creativity. So, as much as social media is a breeding ground for negativity, it has also inspired millions of people to become artists through a pursuit of passion.
When I was in 8th grade I became interested in acting. Unfortunately, every play was filled with intense theatre students and local auditions required a resume (which I didn’t even think to have because I had nothing to put on it.) One night, I was watching YouTube videos about acting with no experience and one comment mentioned an app called Scenebot. I downloaded it the next day, became familiar with it, and began to film the provided monthly monologues. My curiosity surrounding acting grew daily and I spent hours utilizing the “anonymous question” portal, maybe a little too much (never would I have asked these questions in person because of a fear of seeming unknowledgeable). Scenebot was my primary outlet for acting, and I used it for a little over a year until my friend introduced me to a local theatre class, and we began creating a script together. Through consuming what social media had to offer, I was able to explore my own interests with minimal fear. This led me to begin creating and to start to absorb my inner courage to do something I knew I wanted to, and I am not the only one.
Social media has fostered creativity for ages, giving individuals all the tools they need to not only to strive for greatness, but to reach it. Instagram has a whopping 1 billion users, increasing daily, and a large portion of that billion are aspiring artists who use this platform to promote, learn, and most of all, create. The hashtag “smallbusinesses” has 44 million posts (and counting), and the hashtag “artist” has 215 million. According to a 2018 survey, 70% of small businesses use some type of social media platform. For many small artists, these numbers are not intimidating, but encouraging : they are provided a platform with millions of resources, all easily accessible and free. Social media can be credited with helping some businesses thrive and enabling them to build off the various platforms it provides--Instagram, Etsy, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit.
I asked two individuals who use social media as not only their creative outlet, but their business outlet as well, to share some insight into the world of creating and consuming. “Lev UFO” is an aspiring musician, using Instagram and YouTube to launch his desired career. His songwriting as well as music videos were curated in his basement, and soon exposed to the general public through social media. When asked a few questions about social media and creativity, he provided an inside perspective on how social media actually sparks creativity through connections, inspirations, and similarities.
Share a little bit about your creative process and what it is you do.
“I write and record my own songs, my goal is to build a fanbase and play big shows, sell big albums, and be able to financially support myself through my art!”
How did you get started?
“I got started by making music in my basement, I wrote and recorded all of the songs myself, so it only made sense at the time to promote them myself. Developing a community of artists through social media and other methods has allowed me to release and post content, music and art and have it reach many people!”
Do you consider social media a creative outlet, and how would you say it has influenced your music career?
“Social media is for sure a creative outlet for me and my artistic community, it has been helping my career by allowing me to reach people very quickly to promote and inform about the songs and art I’m working on.”
Would you say you consume or create more?
“I probably consume more but I’m working on creating more. Social media is crucial to the music industry, now more than ever. Artists are personalities and icons and Instagram is the strongest way to communicate that!”
I then contacted Shallyn Michelle, a wedding and engagement photographer who promotes her business primarily through Instagram (and gains clientele this way too), about her experiences with social media.
What is your business? How did it start, and how has social media played a roll in it (if at all)?
“I own Shallyn Michelle Photography. I photograph weddings, engagements, families and portraits. My business started in January of 2018 after I got laid off from a job. Social media and networking have been the sole sources of how I have gained clients. I use Facebook and Instagram to share my photos and promote my work!”
Do you feel consuming on social media has helped you create?
“Personally, no. I actually think social media steals from a lot of creatives because of comparison and competition. I feel a lot of times that a lot of people's work looks and feels the same, because they are trying to mimic what they see trending, rather than what their creativity opens up. In some ways, yes, it can be inspiring and motivating! But overall, I feel like the consumption aspect of social media is not helpful but can hinder.”
What has social media helped you do (expand, promote, connect) that you feel you could not have done without it?
“My business has grown exponentially because of social media and I am so thankful for that! It has helped me get connected to so many clients that I otherwise would not have. I love the people I get to work with and I feel so honored when people find my work on social media and want to work with me!”
Feel free to add in anything else you feel people should know about the creative process/small businesses/social media in general.
"I really think social media can help so much in gaining attention for business and clients/followers of what I am doing. Though I rely on it heavily for this, I also try to create the best in person experience to go along with the quality of my work. Social media won't be able to hide if someone has a terrible experience working with you face to face. I love what social media has helped me do, but I really don't ever want it to be the main place where I consume information + inspiration."
Gaining a slightly greater perspective on the creative and “inside” parts of social media has made me realize that as bad as consuming can be, it does not always translate to addictive self-destruction. As I have grown to see, a lot of the "consumers" have become the creators. Platforms inspire creativity all over the world as artists continually work towards creating something bigger than themselves. This has reminded me of something that director of the Social Dilemma, Jeff Orlowski, has brought up. Roughly, he has asked : how do you want to use your time on this planet? Do we want to use it consuming or creating new relationships and positive influences?
I’d like to think, at some point, we will all be motivated to use social media the way these two artists are: touching others lives, and creating content that leaves an everlasting imprint.
I want to thank both Shallyn Edgar and Lev UFO immensely for their cooperation and insight! Please check out both these amazing creators on their platforms linked below:
Shallyn Michelle Photography: @shallynmichelle (on Instagram)
Lev UFO: @LevUFO (on Instagram)
Lev UFO (on Youtube)
“The Easy Guide to Social Media for Small Business.” WordStream, www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2019/03/19/social-media-for-small-business .