This is a recent article I wrote for Lori McNee about social media and the roll it has played and is playing with my business. I don't consider myself an expert on the subject by any means but I have learned a few things along the way in my brief time working social media.
A little about myself first. I'm 51 years old and was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As a kid I wanted to grow up to be an illustrator like Norman Rockwell. I've been an artist as long as I can remember and sold paintings in Junior High and High School. I was a passionate artist as a young man and worked hard at it. I was and still am a dreamer and saw myself as a professional artist one day. Well, my Dad, the economy and the negativity that surrounded me finally convinced me that it was just a dream and wasn't practical. After two years of struggling to make it as an artist in a city that sells no art, I joined the military to get away and make a living. I did my four years and when I got out, I stumbled into the car business which led to marriage and kids and life, ultimately setting my art aside for nearly 30 years.
Two Years ago I picked my art up again and the passion returned.This time with digital art and Photoshop. Shortly after joining some Photoshop contests, my friends started asking me to join Facebook and some other social media platforms. After about 6 months of badgering, I decided to join Facebook. I had started a blog just prior to that and I set my blog up to syndicate to my Facebook profile. I saw the increase in traffic right away. I wasn't breaking any records but there was an increase. I decided to test the waters and set out building profiles in art directories and portfolio sites. I started seeing the Google search results turning up more and more of my images and driving traffic to my blog. Things were going so well, I decided to test out this social media thing I kept hearing about. I started a Facebook fan page, joined linkedin, twitter and a couple of other sites. I realized pretty quickly that there was some serious potential in social media driving business my way.
A little over a year ago I decided to jump in head first and make some waves in the social media world. I knew absolutely nothing about social media or where to start so I first signed up for every directory and portfolio site I could find, some of which turned out to be social media platforms in the making. My Facebook following started to increase right away. I guess I should mention that by this time I was fortunate enough to have been picked up by some magazines and realized my hobby had quickly become my career. I decided to start a Facebook fan page which was very slow growing in the beginning. I opened a twitter account which was also very slow in the beginning. I then pretty much just went nuts on the web, joining every social media or potential social media platform I could find, ultimately ending up with over 300 profiles on the internet. Well, by this time I have created a very unorganized mess but my name and my work was started to gain some recognition but there was no order to it.
I then set out to connect the dots. I started satellite blogs at every site that would accept an rss feed. I revisited all of these sites I had joined and did an enormous amount of work cross linking everything and attempting to funnel all of the traffic to my blog. I am not much of a blogger. My blog is sort of the headquarters of my business and a place where I can post my work and share to my many sites and platforms having as much of it automated as possible which is becoming much easier these days. After a solid year of working my tail off, I started noticing tremendous increases in blog traffic followers and work. I think that is the key, hard work. Everyone is looking for the trick to making it big in social media or the service that will get you there. Although there are some great tools out there to help you to automate, optimize, organize and simplify the process, the simple truth is that there is no magic trick or formula. You have to be willing to work long hours and be totally dedicated to reaching your goal.
The latest big move I made joining every beta testing program I could find. I started many but wasn't seeing much happening with most of them …yet. It wasn't long before I received an offer from Google to beta test Google+. I had no idea what that was but I jumped on the opportunity anyhow. Little did I know, this in combination with my hard work would turn out to be a real game changer.
My journey with Google+ started in Beta or what many referred to as "the golden ticket". It was evident early on that this platform was going to grow at a tremendous rate. I have used social media to promote my business and passion in digital art, caricatures and illustration, and google+ was initially just another of the many social media sites I belonged to and another way of potentially gaining exposure with my art. I quickly realized that Google+ was something special. Nothing like anything I had experienced with other platforms. Through the Beta stage, my followers grew at a rapid pace, especially compared to what I had experienced before G+. In the first week, I gained as many followers as I had at Facebook in over a year, so I was excited about its potential. There were a few higher-ups on Google+ who helped me along the way. Christina Trapolino was the first person to lend a helping hand. She shared my work and from the enormous positive response I received, I learned not only how beneficial this site could be for my business but for the first time realized how important the people are in this great sharing community. My presence on Google+ grew rapidly as did the many relationships I was building along the way. When I was finally talked into joining a hangout by my friend Tim Jones, I learned just how meaningful and intimate these relationships could be, ultimately leading me to my first HIRL "hangout in real life" in New York City. The personal relationships I've built there are just icing on the cake because to my total amazement, not just social media but Google+ specifically became the driving force behind my business. Google+ has become the hub for my budding business as a freelance humorous illustrator and is now steadily supplying business connections and 90% of my actual commissions are coming directly from Google+. My circles have grown to over one million followers now and are continuing to grow at an exponential rate. Google+ is definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me as far as social media is concerned. Thanks to Google+ and a lot of hard work, I am now at age 50 living my life long dream as a humorous illustrator.
After joining Google+, I continued to connect those dots from the hundreds of profiles I created. I found that many of those obscure sites I joined had grown and I had growing followings at many of them. The following are a few statistics showing the power of social media in less than two years and totally from scratch for me:
- Google+: Over 1.2 million followers in one year
- Blog: 665,000+ views from every nation in the world / 1,500+ public followers
- Web site: 240,000+ views (Brand New)
- 500PX: 245,000+ views
- Facebook profile: 5,000 friends / 4,000+ subscriptions
- Facebook fan page: 5,500+ likes
- twitter: 16,000+ followers
- Linkedin: 3,400+ direct business connections
- Xee.Me: Social Presence
Those are just a few but pretty good numbers for such a short time at it. I'm nobody special so if I can do it, anyone can who has the same determination. This is just the beginning. If you are looking to do the same, don't waste your money and time on all of the nuts out there who says they have the secret to social media success but for a price. They have no secret accept that the purchase of their material is what is making them rich, not their knowledge or experience. No one person can tell you how to do it because we are all different, our careers are different etc. so your path to success is going to be different. You have to do what works for you and you are the only one who can figure that out. Just be prepared to work your tail off to get there and then be willing to work your tail off to maintain it. No social media platform will make you successful on its on. They don't work by themselves. You have to engage, interact and work it to make it work for you and grow your social presence. Also keep it as personal as possible.
I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I'm one of the hardest working and I'm just dumb enough to believe I can make it big in this world of insane competition. Someone has to be on top. It might as well be me…. or you.
Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day and be inspired!
title post: My Journey With Social Media by Rodney Pike
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