By Beth Ann Williams
Does social media give you anxiety? Do you stress about what to post, when to post, and how you will be perceived? I can relate! Like many creatives, I am by nature a very private, introverted person. I loathe being on the receiving end of high-pressure sales and didn’t want to inflict those tactics on anyone else. At the same time, I was very much aware that as a small business owner based completely online, social media was too important for me to ignore.
There is lots of great information and advice available – so much that for a while, I felt more overwhelmed than helped. What flipped the script for me was a major change in perspective. Instead of thinking about my audience as customers (or potential critics), I tried to think about them as my community – like-minded people who were as interesting to me as I hope to be to them.
I also reframed my thinking about the dreaded algorithm. Rather than viewing it as a potential adversary or obstacle to getting my posts seen, I came to the realization that it could be a powerful ally.
These two shifts revolutionized my experience of social media.
Social media platforms use algorithms to help determine which posts get greater visibility. This affects not only how many followers see a given piece of content, but also how many potential followers – people who may or may not already be familiar with you – see it.
I have a business page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/bawquilts and an Instagram account, https://www.instagram.com/bethann.williams that are tightly focused on quilting, sewing, fiber arts, and (to a lesser extent) other visual arts. (I have separate personal accounts for friends and family, although there is some overlap.) I went about educating the algorithm – showing it the kinds of accounts I like to follow and (therefore) the kinds of accounts who were likely to be interested in what I had to share.
I made a point of interacting with my community. After all, who really wants to engage with the person standing on the street corner, shouting into the void?
I also learned to ignore the “creepers” – the small minority of people (usually men) outside my community who start following my account(s) and may try to engage via comments or direct messages. These followers usually disappear, drop off, or unfollow fairly quickly without my having to do anything other than ignore them. If someone is particularly obnoxious, I learned to delete inappropriate comments. When necessary, I also restrict or block. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often.
I found a posting pace that feels right for me. I generally post at least every other day, usually at the same time each day. (For a while, I drove myself crazy trying to calculate the optimal posting time based on when my followers were online, but that way lay stress and madness – my community is spread all over the world.)
My posts reflect whatever I am currently working on. That means lots of fabric pulls, in-progress photos, quick tips, and upcoming classes. As we discussed in the podcast, I find it helpful to occasionally boost posts with upcoming class info, but I have never bought followers or paid to promote “regular” posts.
It took me 5 years of regular posting to get to 5000 followers; it took a couple of weeks for that to balloon to over 40,000 and growing. The post that went viral (9.7 million views so far) wasn’t anything special or different from what I usually post; it caught me completely by surprise. Since then, I have found wide variability in how many views a given post receives; my conclusion is that the algorithm wants to keep social media users interested and engaged, and therefore changes up which accounts get higher visibility. I’ve learned that it eventually cycles back my way.
Meanwhile, my core community and I show up for each other every day.
Meet Beth Ann Williams!
When health challenges made hand-sewing, hand appliqué, and hand quilting no longer physically viable, Beth Ann's first instinct was dismay and discouragement. However, no-nonsense Grandma Baldwin gave her a loving (but stern!) "No pity parties - just figure out a different way." So, Beth Ann turned to her trusty sewing machine and began devising ways to achieve the fine quality quilting and appliqué she craved faster and easier than she ever thought possible. A career was born!
Now an accomplished author, designer, instructor, and Brand Ambassador for Cotton Cuts, Beth Ann enjoys sharing her accessible machine piecing, "invisible" machine appliqué, and creative machine quilting techniques with other quilters and fiber artists around the world.
See more from Beth Ann William, here!
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Hear her guest episode with Quilting on the Side Podcast, here!
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