art business without social media

My Journey From Over-Using Social Media to Being an Artist Without It.

Let’s be clear. When I talk about social media, I mainly think about Instagram, though technically platforms like Facebook, Twitter or TikTok count as well. But with any of these, I’ve never had a closer connection. I’ve outgrown Facebook a looong time ago but once have used it for a blog. Or tried to use it, but it failed, because as long as you don’t provide money, Facebook will do nothing for you. Zero. Doesn’t matter how good your content is. With Twitter and TikTok it’s simply a NO, because they seem too noisy, too political. It’s simply not my thing. However, Instagram had me for a while, but not as much anymore. Read on and discover why I chose to be an artist without social media.

Instagram caught me, but now I slowly move forward

 Instagram and I had a relatively short relationship so far. I’m not the typical smartphone user, so I was a bit late to the party. My private account was only opened about 5 years ago and I didn’t use it that much. Anyway, lately I found myself spending about 2 to 3 hours a day on my phone (according to the “Digital Wellbeing Device”), whereas half of the time was spent on Instagram (ups!).

Then, months ago, I listen to a podcast episode of Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon interviewing Seth Godin, who said some very intelligent, mind-changing things that sticked with me. I even wrote some quotes on post-its. What sticked with me the most was this thought: “Where do I take the time from – in private or in business – when I am on social media, mindlessly scrolling?” To put it differently: What would I do in these 1,5 hours? 

What would I do with my time usually spend on social media?

 When we check our phones every now and then, we might think it’s not much time we lose, but the algorithms are built to keep people within the app, so sometimes time flies by and BOOM 20 minutes are gone. And in the end of the day, we lose 1 to 3 hours just for looking at other people living their life. Without minding ours.

Afterwards, I was getting more and more aware of my habits and wanted to change them. My feed was already filled with people that are my friends and family, inspire me or provide me access to information that I would like to consume. Still, I wasn’t happy anymore and increasingly annoyed. More Videos, more reels, less pictures, less slow consuming, more noise, more ads (I don’t want to have my Feed 2/3 full of ads and only 1/3 of the content I want to see). Scrolling Instagram left me with a racing mind and heart, problems to focus and being annoyed by myself and my uncontrollable habits.

The big question: Use it for my art business or being an artist without social media?

 In the meanwhile, I was planning my art and writing business: Mareike Heil Studio. So, at one point I needed to ask the question where and how I wanted to market it. My artworks, my texts, my courses. Growing visible, because only if you are visible people can find you, right? Though some parts of it where clear for me from the start, others like how to deal with social media weren’t. If the whole world seems to rely on it, use it – though complain about it – then it would be a brave step to opt out of it.

On the other hand, I know how it works as a user. You find something interesting and immediately check if they have an Instagram account to follow. Through that you can have a look if you really like the brand (or be entertained, inspired, informed, etc.) and then think about buying something. Or not, because why not spare the money and “support” through following? Let me tell you: It doesn’t work that way. You can’t support through following. You can only support a business through buying things.

 Therefore, I sat there and discussed this issue with a friend and business pal over and over again. Until I joined a wonderful membership by Jess Collins, which’s first chapter of tasks asked us to have a social media sabbatical. I took the chance, dived in and returned differently and with at least some answers. One was: NO, I won’t use social media for my business. At least not the traditional way. Doesn’t tradition only exist in our minds anyway? So why not change it.

The reasons why I (almost) don’t use social media for my art business

 The social media sabbatical changed me. I know myself, so on the first day I moved the app from its forever and always place into a folder, so I can’t see it. You wouldn’t believe how automated our fingers slide over the screen and open it. So, no room for that.

 Before that, I also observed, when I use it most often: when I watch TV in the evening and during breakfast. So especially for breakfast I changed my morning routine. The place where I sit, with a book or magazine at hand so I can still do something. Then it meant: endure it and persevere.

 As I wanted to use the time to learn how to have a healthy relationship with social media, set boundaries and find answers on how to use Instagram for my art business, I read blog posts and books. I read about the current developments on Instagram and what the difference between all those social media platforms are – the NO for Facebook, TikTok and Twitter grew bigger. One holiday and over four weeks later, I dared to look again at my private Instagram Feed.

Coming back to Insta after a sabbatical.

It was horrible. Noisy, too many impressions, too many colours. My heart rate rose immediately, my mind went restless again – it had calmed down a lot before. I went offline again and was devastated. How could I use this daily for so long? How had I been able to produce content for my other blog for so long?

That feeling changed everything. And I realised, though I had missed some of the accounts I followed, I felt disconnection. I feel connection to the people around me, to people I know and who know me. Who ask me questions as well.

 When imagining my business, I want to have a connection to my customers. They are welcome to get to know me, but I also would like to know them. At least a little bit. (Who is by the way you, who is reading this. Hello! Any questions? I would love to hear from you!).

 However, connection can only be built when you feel comfortable to share your story authentically, wholeheartedly and feel that it’s fine to be you. Yet, I don’t want to try to build any connection while being ruled by an algorithm, which’s aim is to raise money, make people addicted and forget about their real lives. That’s not me. I want to honour my time, so I also honour your time.

8 reasons for not using social media for arts in short

 Before I keep endlessly going on, I give you a short list about why I’m not using social media for my business.

  • It’s a noisy place. I can’t stand noisy. It feels like being screamed at through the eyes.
  • I don’t want to follow the rules of an algorithm that demands A LOT.
  • I don’t want my customers to shade away and lose themselves in the world of others (who would be me then). I want you to be in the midst of your life, sailing it, wind in your hair, feeling the feels.
  • It increases the likelihood of comparison, which kills creativity, innovation, and play. I struggled to get it back, I don’t want to lose it again.
  • I want true connection. For that, I want you to engage, following isn’t engaging. It’s being passive. And shouting into the world, without response feels lonely. Therefore, you need at least to subscribe to my newsletter. I get in your inbox, and you can get into mine. We both have time – to create and read it. All letters will forever be yours. Make a folder and look at them whenever you like. This is where you get to know me.
  • I honour my time and yours. It’s precious.
  • The time I would dedicate to a proper, working Instagram appearance would probably be taken from creativity time, though as an artists and writer it’s one of the most important things… NO.
  • It’s not sustainable. It’s not yours. Apps can be closed down, accounts hacked. It’s not sustainable to rely on something this unsafe. Also, engagement declined a lot, as even big accounts noticed, so it’s getting more and more difficult to either find followers or get them to buy your products. While having customers who buy your products is vital for having an art business.

 I realised, I find more inspiration, information and connection in reading books (I mostly exchanged private Instagram time against reading) and books are much more forgiving if you ignore them for a while, they don’t give you FOMO and they are full of wisdom. While at the same time you can support a writer instead of a huge company.

But wait: You still have an Instagram account!?

 Yes, right now I have two. One for Mareike Heil Studio and another one for private use. As I said above, many people still have a first look into social media, when they approach a new brand. Thus, I decided to keep the Mareike Heil Studio account, but under conditions, which look as follows.

I use the account to create a portfolio.

 That means: If you go there, I want to give you a short overview, including important news, on what I do. That also means: No stories, no regular posts, no videos. Just what needs to be there, for you to see what I do. You can follow and get the bare minimum, but if you want to find out more, have first access and behind the scenes, you need to visit the website and subscribe to the newsletter.

Social Media Ads?

 Maybe I will try ads sometime. Just to see what happens (I’m curious and read that someone else does it that way. On the other hand, I don’t want to give my money to companies like that …). I’m open, but also sceptical.

Saying goodbye to followers and numbers.

 Not using an app and its algorithm the way it is intended, will lead to my account not being seen. Which means the posts will probably never generate any likes and I won’t be able to build a steady following. Sounds like a sacrifice, but that’s fine for me. The big things happen elsewhere.

How I use Instagram in private

Right now, my use changes. Sometimes a look at it every day, then once in a week. However, after my sabbatical I didn’t use it for a long time and came up with some ideas, but they didn’t work the way I imagined. I had been there for the photography, now Instagram thinks it needs to be like everyone else and focus on videos. I don’t want to watch videos. Too much noise, too loud.

 What I do instead? Reading books, reading newsletters, taking care of my plants, spending time outside, observing nature, journaling, redecorating, daydreaming. It feels slower now, away from the hustle. My bubble shrunk even more, maybe I will subscribe to a newspaper to still notice what happens in the world. An actual one, not digital.

 Stepping out of this world of social media makes you first realise how addicted you are and how crazy your habits have become. Then life slows down and you can decide about how you want to spend the re-gained time. For sports? Daydreaming? A hobby? Writing a book? Just imagine you suddenly spent 1,5 hours each day on writing a novel, instead of doom-scrolling! Maybe it would be a great one.

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Get first access to original paintings, studio insights, and latest blog posts. It's my studio's journal for you to read. Open and honest, stress-free and always accessible for you.

PLUS: get this booklet for free.

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