Why Your Social Media Posts Should Start a Conversation

And how to do it! (For Artists and Creatives on Instagram)

I am an introvert. In social situations, that means I will be closest to the wall and I will rarely approach new people and be the one to initiate a conversation. When I walk into a party, I usually observe conversations until someone says something I find interesting. I’m too lazy and too awkward to be the one searching for what makes each person in a room interesting. So I wait.

On social media, you need to assume that everyone in your audience is like me. We don’t care about you until you show us why we should and you have to invite us into your bubble. It seems a little cold when I word it like that, but really it’s just an effort in energy conservation. Most people don’t have the time or energy to dig into what makes every random person special on the internet. You are that random person, and you have to show them.

As an artist or creative person on social media, starting conversations with your posts is a great way to reach out to your quiet audience members who just creep in the background until somebody mentions a topic they care about.

There are two reasons why you need to create conversations on social media:

  1. Conversations= engagement and engagement= more eyes on your work/more followers. Getting meaningful comments on your posts helps show social media platforms that your post is popular and it should be boosted to other users. Basically, you need to get genuine comments that are more than 4 words on your posts.
  2. Conversations help your audience connect with you and your brand, which builds trust, and trust helps lead to sales.

More engagement, more followers, more trust, more potential to make money from your craft. Yay, conversations!

Every Social Media Post is an opportunity to have a conversation.

Every caption doesn’t need to be meaningful, deep, profound, or anything like that, but many of your captions should invite people into a simple conversation at the very least. Your goal should be to create space for your audience to connect with you and add their own voice.

First, let’s look at the wrong way to start a conversation. Look at these three sample Instagram captions that an artist might write:

“Here’s what I’ve been working on in the studio today.”

“A little update on my progress with this piece.”

“18”x24 acrylic on canvas. DM to purchase.”

From the three examples above, do you feel like they are an invitation to participate in a conversation? What kinds of responses do these captions ask for? Maybe “looks good,” or “love it.” If you’re lucky, you might get a few emojis, but you’ll likely get silence from most people unless your photo REALLY speaks to them. Captions like this leave hardly any room for conversation. In real life it would look like this:

“Hey, look at my art!”

“Looks cool!”

“Thanks!”

*Both of you then stare awkwardly in other directions, because the conversation died after 8 words.*

On social media, captions like this put all of the conversational burden on your audience to come up with more questions for you. You’re the creator. You’re the one presenting your work to the world. You’re the one asking for attention, so you must be the one to take on that conversational work to keep things moving.

I also want to challenge you to use your captions to complement your brand without always speaking directly about the content of the photos and videos you’ve posted. Nobody says you have to narrate your visuals in your captions. Let your visuals capture your creativity and let your captions tell the story about you as the artist. Your captions can be completely unrelated to the art in the photo as long as they are still relevant to your brand and you as an artist.

Now, look at this caption I used on one of my posts from a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting my home state:

“One of my favorite things about living in California has been the hills and mountains around where I live. Every time we take the dog for a walk, we get that good booty burn while working our way upwards. So it’s really funny to be in Minnesota and realize just how flat it really is. There was a “hill” I used to bike down as a kid in my home town and I remembered it being the steepest hill around. Seeing it now, I laughed out loud. It’s cute how much bigger the world is through young eyes.” (Original Post)

And this one:

“I wonder if I’m ever going to be a morning person… That could be nice. *she says as she struggles to hold her eyes open and roll out of bed*” (Original Post)

The first is a story from my past that others might be able to relate to, and the second is a general display of my personality. Neither of these ask a direct question, but they still leave room for more conversation beyond “nice pic”. People may respond with stories from their own childhood, or their mutual hatred for mornings. You can see that neither caption is profoundly meaningful, but they help add another layer of my story as an artist on top of the visuals I post.

You are multidimensional and you are not just the art you post. You have so much more to offer your audience than “I just finished up this piece. Check it out!” What did that piece mean to you? What struggles did you encounter? What inspires you? What weird thing happened to you while you were creating? Most people in your audience won’t actually ask you these questions so you have to do the work for them and present answers from the beginning.

Tips to Start a Meaningful Conversation on Social Media

  1. Straight up ask a question in your caption: Make it somewhat meaningful and don’t just ask for people to comment on your art. Think about your audience and what they might like to talk about.
  2. Be vulnerable: When you are a creative person, your struggles and vulnerabilities are inherently connected to your craft. Figure out how your personal struggles can work to elevate your brand and share those stories responsibly and with intention. (Example)
  3. Find meaning in the mundane: Everything in life has the potential to be entertaining. Tomorrow morning, wake up and try to view your life as if someone is narrating it. How would an author describe the way you get out of bed. What idiosyncrasies do you have that you normally don’t notice? Capture small moments from your life and share it with an audience, but be intentional with your tone (funny, thoughtful, quirky, etc.)
  4. Speak of your origins: There may be millions of artists out there trying to get attention on social media, but we all have a different story to tell. Share your experiences.
  5. Share your quirks and imperfections: The things we are self conscious about are often the things that make us delightfully different. A little encouragement to your audience to then share their quirks can start a lovely conversation.

If you are struggling to find things to talk about, imagine yourself in front of a couple of friends and run through topics they might be interested in talking about. Or, what stories would you tell them about your week? What do you find meaningful in life? What kinds of conversations do you like to be a part of? I keep notes on my phone with ideas for captions and stories to tell. That might be helpful for you as well.

You can also take note of the types of social media accounts you follow and how different captions pull you in. Then you can sort of reverse engineer social interactions.

And remember, every one of your captions should have a purpose, but you don’t have to make 100% of them conversation starters. Sometimes “New items are in my shop, follow the link in my bio” is perfect. Just make sure you are showing your audience why they should want to support you as a creator in posts before that.

Lastly, make time to respond to comments and further the conversation.

If someone takes the time to leave you a comment on social media, try to respond in some way. On Instagram, your comments are rumored to count as engagement as well. This is why I recommend going to your new post about an hour after publishing and responding to all the meaningful comments. Even if this doesn’t help boost your post to new users, it will at the very least show your audience that you are accessible and have a desire to connect with them.

(I know that you may not actually want to connect with people and you just want to sell your art–but I’m going to encourage you to fake it a little. Nobody on the other side of the screen can see the annoyed look on your face while you’re typing responses, so just power through!)

***

Many of the artists I work with in my consulting sessions feel a struggle with writing good conversation starting captions, but I promise it does get easier with time. You don’t have to be a comedian, have perfect grammar, be a story teller, or have yourself figured out in order to start a conversation on social media. You just have to be you and put yourself out there. One random little story or thought at a time.

When nobody responds to a caption you spent a bunch of time on, don’t get discouraged. Keep doing your thing every day and the persistence will pay off. Or just make time lapse videos of your art. Those are inherently engaging 😉 If your visuals can compensate for sub-par captions, then you can still find a lot of success on social media. You don’t have to be great at everything.

Now go start a conversation! Even if it’s just about your favorite paint brush named George or that time you walked around your high school all day with green oil paint smeared on your neck.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Do You Need an Art Cleanse?

Clear your mind and find your own voice.

The other morning, I woke up and started scrolling through Instagram with one eye squinted open. I’m not a morning person, so this is usually how I convince myself it’s time to get out of bed. Though, on this morning I suddenly felt the urge to mute everyone I follow. With each piece of art I looked at, I was uneasy. Antsy. Frustrated. All unpleasant things. What the heck was my problem?

I love looking at other artist’s work. I love being inspired by the voices of others, but something shifted that day. I was starting to feel smothered, and after a minute or two I realized why. I felt like my own creative voice was getting quieter with each image I looked at.

I needed an art Cleanse.

It’s hard to view your own art objectively when you have the images from other artists stuck in your head. Yes, we can be inspired by other artists, but there are also times where we need to step away during our own creative process.

The creative process looks a little different for everyone, but we often follow similar cycles. You can find a bunch of different “phases” of the creative process out there, but here’s how I describe it:

1.Research/Input: This is where your senses are wide open and you’re taking in everything around you. Nature, art, movies, books, life experiences, travel, etc..

2. Incubation: Now you have to sit with all that new input and play with it. You rearrange, edit, crop, adjust, and find new perspectives.

3. Creation: Make that art.

4. Reflection and Rest: Once your vision is complete, it’s time to evaluate the end product. Make notes of what to take to the next project and what to leave behind. Maybe take a moment to breathe.

And repeat.

Does this process seem familiar to you? When we are in the first stage of the creative cycle, we welcome all input from the outside world. Instagram and the internet help feed the cycle and give us new ideas to play with. Once you move onto stage two, there’s no room for outside stimuli. And I felt that with a passion on that unpleasant morning.

I’d taken in all I could and it was like trying to eat more ice cream even though I was too full to cram anymore in. Physically putting that spoon to my mouth made me ill even though I love ice cream way more than I want to. It was time to incubate. Time to create. Time to listen to my own voice.

Why You Should Do An Art Cleanse

1. To make space for your own ideas to develop.

Your own ideas can get lost if you constantly fill your senses with outside input. If you never disconnect and allow yourself to basically sit in a room alone with your research, you’ll never truly enter the incubation phase. If you are one of those people (I’ve been here) who constantly feels creatively blocked, you may just need to disconnect.

2. To get bored.

Boredom is unpleasant, but it’s incredibly beneficial. Boredom is where creativity can run free. Am I bored when I’m scrolling through Instagram? Most of the time, nope. Am I working on my own art when I’m doing that? Also, a big nope. Know how I made progress on this blog post? I turned off the TV, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, and I stared at my laptop screen. I didn’t have ideas before doing so, but I knew I had taken in plenty of input to get me here eventually.

When everything else around you is quiet, your brain starts making a lot of noise to end the boredom. So, disconnect from the art around you and let your mind make a mess. You never know how it will entertain itself.

3. To stop comparing your skills or success.

We can’t help but compare. Even if you aren’t an insecure person. If you are around another human, you are going to compare and contrast your traits. If a tall person walks in a room, you may think “whoa, they’re tall,” because if you’re short you can’t help but observe the difference. When you look at another artist’s work, you will make observations according to your own experiences. Whether it triggers pleasant or unpleasant thoughts, it’s still something that is taking up your mental space. Eliminate the comparison. Turn off the outside art world.

4. To separate your own style from mimicry.

When we don’t know our own style, it’s instinctual to look at the work of other artists before you and mimic their work. How else will we learn what we can do but by observing what has already been done by others? (Read about copying responsibly.) Humans mimic everything done by other humans. None of us are original in what we do, but when you isolate yourself after taking in a bunch of new information, you begin to travel down your own somewhat unique path.

You ever meet someone who was home-schooled and immediately know they march to the beat of their own drum? Or interact with someone who has lived alone for a very long time and see the odd behaviors they have developed? When you separate yourself artistically from the group for a while, you can start to get a feel for your own style more easily.

You have to know when it’s time to move from the research phase to the incubation phase. If you have been feeling uneasy or smothered every time you look at another artist’s work, it just might be time for you to cut yourself off from the outside world and “cleanse” your social experiences of anything that will quiet your voice. It’s time to incubate.

***

I hope this post was helpful to anyone out there who feels the need to mute or unfollow every creator in their life. Those of us who understand won’t take it personally. It’s just where you are in the creative cycle. We’ll be here when you’re done and ready to reconnect. I can’t wait to see what you make while you’re away!

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How to Justify Buying More Art Supplies

Treat Yo’Self, My Little Mess Maker

In 2013, I worked as a cashier at a craft store in Minnesota. I learned a lot of valuable lessons while working there. Like, Christmas decoration glitter will stick to you and everything you own months after the season ends, and there is no limit to how many pieces of scrapbook paper someone can buy in one shopping trip, but there is a limit to how many individual pieces I am willing to scan into the register before I go insane.

I ran into all kinds of creative people there. The dabblers who saw something on Pinterest and just had to give it a go. The die-hards who owned every color of Copic marker and had a dedicated craft room in their house. And the traditional artists who were willing to eat the high mark-up on art supplies to save themselves from driving 50 miles to the nearest dedicated art store.

Every creator had a different story, but one thing they all had in common was they had to go through the mental justification required to be standing at the register with a bunch of supplies convinced it’s okay to spend money on their creativity. You may be working your way through that justification process right now. I’m here to help! For the most part…

Should you buy new art supplies?

I don’t know your life. I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but I can share everything I think about before I click “Submit Order” on my Blick shopping cart.

First, do you have money to spend and are all of your bills paid?

No? Don’t buy new art supplies. Debt isn’t fun.

Obviously this is the first thing to consider. Don’t let yourself be a starving and stressed artist. Pay your electric bill and fill your refrigerator before you splurge on new supplies. (While you search for funds, you can use unconventional/found objects to make art! Consider it a fun challenge!)

But, if the answer is yes…

Cool! Now you can buy supplies!

Though, since you’re here you probably need a little more encouragement to spend money. Let’s consider a few other factors that help justify buying new supplies.

1. Do you let yourself have fun?

I like to think of art supplies as entertainment and self-care. How often do you go to the movies? Or out for dinner? How often do you treat yourself to clothes, fancy coffee, or new shoes? A new paint brush set can bring you more entertainment than a movie. New paints can be enjoyed longer than than a night out.

If you want new art supplies, but feel guilty then make a trade for another mode of entertainment. And if you don’t even treat yo’self enough to make the trade in the first place, then you definitely should buy those art supplies. Enjoy life!

2. Are you in a creative rut?

Sometimes we get bored with the same old supplies and our creativity begins to wane. If you are itching to buy new supplies because you’re uninspired with what you currently have, then buying a new type of paint to play with or a fun new tool might be the catalyst you need to dig out of a rut.

I say, follow your creative urges if you have the financial means to do it.

3. Is anyone else stopping you?

When I worked at the craft store, hunting opener weekend was huge. Shoppers would use the crazy amount of money their partner spent on hunting gear to justify the crazy amount of money they allowed themselves to spend on crafting supplies. It was a fair trade. Hobby for hobby.

When we share our finances with a partner or family members, our spending habits become their business. So, if you are getting pressure to spend less on supplies from an outside source, make sure to listen to their concerns and work to find a middle ground.

4. Are you selling your work?

You don’t have to monetize your hobby, but selling a piece here and there or doing weekend craft/art fairs for fun can help your hobby pay for itself.
Before I was a full-time artist, I allowed myself to spend everything I made (minus taxes) from my art. If I sold a piece, that gave me permission to buy more supplies. It’s pretty easy to justify buying new supplies when you make the money back eventually.

And if you are running a full-time art business, then your art supply shopping trips just become inventory restocking. Most of the time, I don’t want to buy new supplies, but I run out of paint and canvases and can’t make more art without placing an order.

5. Are you hunting for the best deals?

I’ve always been a frugal person, so I have a hard time stomaching the high prices of some art supplies. In order to make myself feel better about spending money, I have three rules I follow:

Always use coupons: Big craft stores give out coupons all the time. Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and JoAnn Fabric almost always have something on their site. Never shop without first finding a coupon. Sign up for all the newsletters so you can get coupons emailed to you.

Only shop during sales: I never buy canvases at list price. Ever. A little bit of patience goes a long way when you can wait for the big sales at each store. Back to school time is my favorite at Blick, and Michaels frequently runs specials on fine art supplies and canvases.

Don’t be seduced by “Professional” supplies: “Professional” art supplies do not make you a professional artist. And cheaper art supplies do not prevent you from making high quality art. Yes, some supplies are really crappy and you get what you pay for, but the middle road materials can be great. Those Copic markers I mentioned before are listed at $8 a piece, but you can find multiple brands of alcohol based markers that are similar and much cheaper.

6. Do you actually NEED new supplies?

Okay, now for a little discouragement.

I’ve found myself staring at my supplies in the past and just felt bored. I had plenty of stuff to play with, but I wanted new things. Sometimes this is a creative rut, but sometimes it’s just laziness.

Part of the fun of being a creative person is that you can find ways to stretch your current supplies and create with what you have. If you are feeling uninspired and don’t really want to spend money, then turn to the internet. Try searching for fun ways to work with whatever supplies you have on hand. Google different art prompts. Try exploring nature and make art from unconventional materials (Like leaves or coffee!).

We don’t always need new supplies. You might just have to look at your current supplies in a new way.

***

It’s easy to spend a lot of money really quickly while buying art supplies. It’s good to practice self control (especially if you are a compulsive shopper, or having hoarding tendencies), but I rarely regret buying art supplies. I may regret dropping $80 on dinner and drinks when I could have made something cheaper and healthier at home, but my new watercolor brush brings me joy every time I load it up with watercolors.

So, I say spoil yourself and buy some new supplies. Put your energy and resources into the areas of your life that bring you joy. But, if you are financially not able to splurge, that doesn’t mean you can’t create.

I want to give a big thanks to @janettelevota for suggesting this blog topic! If you ever have ideas for a new post, please send them my way!

Leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: