The art of science and the science of art.

Essential Social Media Sites for Science Illustrators


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!

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

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article