What, two blogs in two days? Surely you jest.
No headings in this one, just pure, uncut facts!
I use social media in a variety of ways, and for very different purposes. At my day job, it’s a drill-down numbers game. What’s our ratio, when do we post, who do we boost, what affinity partnerships can we create?
My “personal” account – in quotes here because I’m still using it for work, it’s just comics work – is a different story, and I don’t stress about the numbers as much. Do I wish sometimes I had 25K, or even 5K followers? Yeah, sure, but attrition is real and I don’t like tracking the ratios or getting tactical in that way. I’m a constructed version of myself online, but I try to keep it as close to who I actually am as I can.
Because it’s me out here, I’m also going to act as ethically as I can. I have my moments, like anyone, but I try to keep a clear head when it comes to “building an audience.” I’m not going to blanket follow people, play the follow-unfollow game or spam other people’s threads with my own stuff. Frankly, it’s beyond annoying when other people do any of this to me. It’s tacky. If you want my attention, there are more genuine ways to get it. Like submitting your work, for example.
I logged on several years ago after starting at a small pop culture site and was overwhelmed. I followed all the “big accounts” without any real aim or defined strategy, because I strategize enough already elsewhere. I knew how this stuff worked, and after a couple weeks I decided I was going to do it the old-fashioned way: piece by piece. Let it grow by putting the work out there. If it was good, people would read it. If I could show that I was here to offer criticism in good faith, and demonstrate a willingness to try to improve on my own craft, then the right people would find me.
I looked in other people’s feeds for comics I was interested in, tried to cover them and tried to tag folks if the review was a positive one. I asked questions, and requested review copies when the calls were put out for coverage. I put my head down and worked. I shared jokes and enthusiasm for what I was reading, and tried to be as kind as I could be when folks approached me. And, guess what?
I made friends. A large subset of them make puns at me and drive me batshit (and you all know who you are,) but I adore them and our weird little basement where we can goof off and put out the best possible work we can. On the TL I’m treated to a plethora of amazing work almost every day, and I’ll take that even as I try to escape the constant #discourse that erodes all of our brains. Behind the scenes, I get to see our awesome writers at CBY growing into their voices and expressing so much enthusiasm about the wild, weird world of comics. I get to pitch to places I never would’ve dreamed of approaching when I started, because I’ve built up enough confidence in what I can do, and I’m fostering a healthy attitude toward rejection (rule #1: it’s just not that personal.)
I believe authenticity is key, especially when you’re engaging with people’s art and work. A large segment of comics journalism is a clicks game, and I get it, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. Folks are submitting something they’ve sweated and dreamt over for months, even years, and every piece deserves an honest look to see if it’s ready for that critical spotlight. If it is, it deserves my time and attention to make my lil’ part of that spotlight as real as I can manage.
What I have to offer the comics community is a close read and constructive criticism, and nothing about that translates to thousands of views or the big splashes that hot-take writing can generate. I knew I wasn’t going to shop myself around like that or really try to fit into that mold. I also knew I didn’t have it in me to be a die-hard cheerleader, because that’s not a balanced take either. And I knew I wasn’t going to be a bona fide comics scholar, because I don’t have any all-consuming historical leanings, or compelling lines of inquiry to follow.
So, what am I? I’m just a cabbage, rustling my cruciferous tendrils merrily in the void. I want people to read what I write, sure, but I’d really like if they read the comics I write about.
After all that, here’s my do/don’t list. Take what you want, leave the rest:
DO: be enthusiastic about your work, and share it in threads where people are asking to see new stuff!
DON’T: roll up on other people’s accounts to try and get them to promote you.
DO: be vocal and appreciative of the people you work with, especially in comics!
DON’T: treat your creative relationships as transactional, or demand reciprocity.
DO: read and consume media outside of comics, and tell us about it! People love to hear about what goes into creative processes.
DON’T: become a media hot-take account. No one’s going to take you seriously if you dunk on other people’s work from a fan perspective.
DO: follow people you genuinely want to engage with, and be nice when you do!
DON’T: force familiarity with those people at any point, or ask them to do something for you when they have no idea who you are
DO: be confident and genuine about your work. Enthusiasm is infectious.
DON’T: cop an attitude. Ever.
DO: work how you can, where you can, to make the industry you want to be in more inclusive.
DON’T: engage in bad-faith behavior or power dynamic pile-ons for clout.
The key takeaway here is to be kind, be constructive and share whatever joy you’ve got. You had an idea that’s so compelling and so consuming that you had to get it out on paper or on the screen and make it real. Your people and your audiences will come, and if you’re committed to building relationships with people and putting out the best possible work you can, sky’s the limit.
And remember: everyone can smell it when you’re bullshitting. Doesn’t matter how good you think you are at it.