Did you know, way back in 1934, the US created a plan that they could use to invade Canada? Yes, the very same poutine-covered land of maple syrup and apologies that I'm from.
In fact, the highest-priority target in that plan was my home province of New Brunswick, which today, is famous for its incredibly high meth use and number of illiterate people.
...Good choice, America.
Oh, and don't think the Canadians didn't have their equivalent plan to invade the US. Their plan was called "Defense Scheme Number One."
Canada's first target in their plan? The very city I live in now: Seattle.
I would have died no matter which side I was on! Hooray!
While these plans were just speculative and (obviously) never came to fruition, it's kind of fascinating to see what sorts of barriers each country would have put in place to prevent too much damage from happening.
And most of the time when we think of barriers, they're seen as an impediment to progress - something that holds us back and keeps us from making headway.
However, there are some barriers that make things better. For example, we wouldn't marry the first person who we go on a date with, nor would we be interested in joining a group that's for literally anyone. And when it comes to social media, having a small barrier to entry is ideal. Twitter and Facebook allow anyone to post whatever garbage they want - which is why those spaces are some of the most toxic out there.
However, Instagram requires people to post a picture or a video with every post. That barrier makes it so there are far fewer jerks and weirdos - it's just way easier for them to yell at people on Twitter or Facebook, so that's where they stay.
And that one tiny barrier is what makes Instagram the absolute best platform to network online, find projects, get paid work, and share your stuff. Here's what we're going to cover today
Part 1: Why Instagram is the best place for creatives to be right now
Part 2: How to use Instagram to find projects and network anywhere in the world, even during a pandemic
Part 3: Auto-posting, cross-posting, and app suggestions
Instagram, contrary to popular belief
Isn't just for your food pictures. Sure, you can use it for that, but it's easily one of the most powerful business tools you can use right now.
It's a place where people can authentically talk to one another (you can direct message anyone, even if you're not following each other), share their work in a visually appealing way, and find work no matter where in the world they are.
Yes, that's right. It's easily one of the best place to network online, even if you live super far away from a game industry-focused city.
Creatives of all sorts are on there, seeing one another's work and hiring each other all day every day. Unfortunately, next-to-no-one in the game audio space has picked up on this, but hopefully this guide will change that.
There is a ton of nuance on how to use Instagram
But we'll cover some of the super important basics here.
Before we get into this, I'm writing this with a few assumptions:
1. You want to find more game projects to work on
2. You want to grow your network regardless of where in the world you are
3. You're not already an expert on Instagram
4. You want to find work even during a global pandemic
Firstly, when it comes to Instagram
Posting on a consistent topic is absolutely key. Most people will make the mistake of mixing their personal posts with business-focused posts.
For example, maybe someone will show off some of the sound design that they're creating, but they'll also mix in pictures of their vacations and pets. This is a huge mistake. The more consistent you are with the topic you post about, the more Instagram will surface you and recommend you to other people.
Granted, if you can tie a personal picture/video back to your work/your portfolio, then that can work perfectly well. Just be sure to use your caption below your post wisely (covered later in this article.) If you take a look at mine, you'll see that it's 90% sound design and education focused with only a few pictures of my dog.
Having a few bits of purely personal posting here and there is fine, but keep that at a bare minimum if your goal is to find new clients.
When you do post
Make sure you use hashtags.
Hashtags are the way to categorize your posts. For example, you might add the hashtag "#gameaudio" to all of your posts that have to do with music/sound for games. That way, when someone searches for #gameaudio, your post will be one of the results that comes up.
At the time of this writing, you can use up to 30 hashtags per post. You don't have to use that many, but I do recommend using them super liberally. Use as many as you want that are relevant, really.
Here's an example of hashtags on the bottom of one of my posts:
But what do you even post?
The key here is (in the words of Gary Vaynerchuck) to document, not create. You don't need to make posts specifically for Instagram. Personally, I just record the various sound design things that are already happening in my day, and then post them to Instagram.
Have a camera (I just use my phone nowadays) ready, and/or some screen capture software if you're making videos of your screen (Screenflow/Camtasia are great paid options. OBS is a decent free option), and just record/take a picture of the work you're already doing.
If it's a video that you need to edit, use DaVinci Resolve (which is free), then post your masterpiece.
And yes, self-promotion on IG is totally okay. Do a few helpful/educational/funny posts, then add a self promotional post every so often.
For example, you could post 3 sound design pictures/videos, and then post a picture of your website and mention that you're available for hire on the 4th post. And don't worry about how often you should post right now. Just get started. What's funny is
That posting isn't the only way to gain attention and followers. The best way to make Instagram work for you is to comment on other people's posts with thoughtful, positive remarks.
99% of people on Instagram never comment on other posts, which means you'll automatically be noticed if you do leave a comment. Just make sure it's thoughtful, longer than just a few words/emojis, and kind.
Here's an example of an ineffective comment:
As you can see, it's just an emoji, which is what most people do when they're commenting. It doesn't add anything and the original poster probably isn't going to care.
And here's an example of a great comment:
It's thoughtful, talks about the content of the post, and is enthusiastic. Absolute perfection.
If you do this enough, then the people who's posts you're commenting on will start to notice. At that point, as soon as they like your comment or respond to it, you can direct message them on the platform and start chatting with them on 1-on-1.
There's a ton more nuance to this, so I'd recommend that you use the $1.80 strategy by Gary Vaynerchuck right here. Pretty much all of your questions about this will be answered in there.
And when you do post, you have to realize
That Instagram isn't just a photo or video sharing platform. It's also a blogging platform.
Whenever you do post, make sure that you write a caption underneath your posts that are 2 paragraphs or longer. That drastically increases the chances of getting more followers and engagement.
Here's an example of the caption of one of my posts:
Always do this, no matter how simple your photo/video is. Many people read the captions in people's posts, so you should give them something satisfying. It doesn't have to be overly long, but definitely add more than just a line or two.
With all of this talk of posting, it may be dawning on you that this is a lot of work. It is! So, if you're clever, you may be thinking "well, certainly I can automate all of this posting."
And it used to be that you couldn't automate your posts on Instagram
But that isn't the case anymore! Thankfully, providing you have a business or creator account on Instagram, you can use Facebook Creator Studio to start automating your posting while also doing it right from a computer. No more posting entirely from your phone! Granted, you get way more features through posting on your phone over using Facebook Creator Studio, but it's still a great way to automate your posts for free. It helps you take this whole "online networking" thing much more seriously with a lot less effort.
And when you are taking social media seriously
You'll find that you'll be posting across multiple channels at the same time.
For example, perhaps you'll post the same video of your music on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
You'll see that Instagram has the option to cross-post your stuff across multiple platforms. Cross-posting to Facebook is fine (though not ideal), but never cross-post to Twitter.
Post all of your content manually to Twitter itself. When you post to Twitter via Instagram, it inserts a giant (and undesirable) link to your IG post into your tweet. Twitter will bury those posts because they don't want your followers going to a rival social media website.
"But Akash, you tall drink of artisanal single-origin hot cocoa" you say "I hate social media and want nothing to do with it"
That's totally fine! There are some serious downsides to social media, especially when it comes to our mental health.
It's wise to be careful and not get addicted to this stuff - which is why I recommend you curate the people you're following to a very low number. Most people follow thousands of other accounts on Instagram. I only follow about 100 to keep things more sane.
During non-pandemic-times, you also need social media a lot less the closer to a game development hub you live. The further away from a big game dev city you are, the more you'll need to use it to build a career.
But right now? During a pandemic? It's extremely useful no matter where in the world you are.
What about Reddit? TIGSource? Twitter? LinkedIn? Snapchat? Ello? Mastodon? Tumblr? MySpace? Friendster? Peach? Newgrounds?
Yes, there are TONS of other social networks out there, and some of them are very handy and useful.
Some, however, won't help you if your quest is to build your network. Reddit isn't built for this sort of thing, TIGSource is practically dead, Newgrounds is great to gain experience, but is almost entirely for hobbyists, Twitter is fine but everyone is angry, and LinkedIn is super useful, but it should be used somewhat differently from any other social network.
Don't worry too much about these right away. Just focus on Instagram for now if you're new to this whole "self-promotion" thing.
Whatever you do, don't act like self-promotion doesn't matter
Making sure people know you exist is key to having a career in any field. Don't get into the mindset of "I'm going to get really good and never go out or share my stuff or talk to anyone ever! Then they'll notice and love me for sure!"
That's what most artists do.
And surprise surprise, most artists are doing very poorly exactly because of that mindset.
So let's recap all that we've learned today
Instagram is easily the best place for people like us to find work and share our stuff right now. Because of the slight barrier to entry to post on IG, it filters out the community a little bit and makes things much more pleasant
Instagram is also a blogging platform, so it's a good idea to post longer captions under our posts
Commenting on other people's posts with positive, thoughtful comments is just as, if not more important, than posting your own content
Social media is less essential the closer to a big game development city you live... unless there's a global pandemic going on, in which case it's incredibly useful no matter where you are
Canada would totally kick the USA's ass in an invasion. Yeah, I said it
While we may not be planning for a North American war
We can still make good use of the barriers-to-entry that are in front of us. In this case, the barriers that Instagram places on itself benefit everyone on the platform immensely.
So if you don't have an account already
I recommend creating one and checking things out. And if you have a personal account, I recommend creating a separate business account. That way, you can still post all the pictures you want of your 100lb cat, while still having a separate account setup for showing off your work.
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