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Essential Social Media Sites for Science Illustrators

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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One of my final slides from my talk at the Association of Medical Illustrators annual conference.

During my recent talk at the AMI conference about social media and illustration, I skimmed this slide near the end. Talks were intended to be 20 minutes long and I don’t like to rehearse too much: I don’t read off of my slides so I tend to remind myself of the critical points and fret about how far to let myself go on tangents. I tried to limit myself to 4 or 5 overall topics. When I delivered my talk I had 5 coffees that morning and knew I may end up skimming some material quickly.

The slide above was one of a few I put in where I knew I could shorten or lengthen the talk. I kept it pretty short, since I think my yellow light was on by then. So let’s break this one apart and look at the nitty-gritty. To keep it interesting, I will try to comment on each social media site, left to right in tweet-length form (140 characters or less). All of the links lead to my profiles because vanity.

Twitter: Essential. Use images & links for best results. Connect to science communicators, potential clients on common hashtags. It’s conversation.

Google+: Not a ghost town. Vibrant science and art communities. Hashtag search on Google helped if you use it. I use it like long-form Twitter.

Facebook fan pages: Waste of time. Recent changes mean you must pay to have fans even *see* a post. Use FB to keep up with family & friends, not your business.

YouTube: Make how-to tutorials and become essential. Use sharing buttons to post videos straight to your Twitter stream.

LinkedIn: It’s the business card. Use it so people can check out your cred. Not best for sharing art or for illustration blogging.

Instagram: Fast, has fun retro filters. Show work-in-progress: talent gets views. Make separate art & personal accounts. Boo: links ineffective.

Vine: Short stop-motion video has great chances of going viral. Stunning work in progress on a loop = hella fun. Loops on Twitter, not FB.

ArtStation: Huge potential. Still in beta. Lead site creators incredibly responsive to suggestions.Would love to see sub-#sciart community sprout here.

Pinterest: Best thing: reshared images always link back to your site, so pin from your portfolio. Do it before people pin from Google Image Search.

Notes about things not covered above:

  • If you are worried about specific rights and Terms about your art, make sure to actually read the ToS for each one. I do. Generally, a lot of them will have scary-sounding language about “reusing” your work that amounts to them optimizing your work for different platforms: an image on the Twitter app on an iPhone needs different compression than Twitter on desktop, for example. Even Pinterest is pretty typical nowadays.
  • If you are one of the people who approached me to say that “Google stores images without permission/payment” all I can say is yes they do and this is the stream we walk in. And library card catalogues type out your name without asking. I would not trade either opportunity for people to discover my work.
  • This post doesn’t cover Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, Squarespace and other blogging platforms. I realize Tumblr is a chimaera of blogging and fast sharing.
  • I included Artstation because it’s new and I’m interested in seeing where it goes: so far it’s a sleeker cousin to DeviantArt. And it’s absolutely fantastic.

What successes or fears about each of these sites do you have as an illustrator? Let me know!

See also: How To Talk To A Roomful of Artists Who Are Better Than You for more about my recent talk at the AMI!

Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite and is on Instagram. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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