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Social media is so incredibly prevalent in today’s world, and it is a great tool to advocate for your teaching and your art program. This episode is a long list of incredible ways that you can use social media to your advantage. Cassie talks about her love of Instagram (4:00), why social media can inspire both teachers and students (9:00), and the reason she doesn’t worry about her number of followers (15:45). Full episode transcript below.
Way back in 1998, I start my very first adventures in art teacherin’. I had a classroom in a portable, which was just to the left-hand side of the school, and it honestly could’ve been like 20 miles away. I literally never saw anyone. The teachers would stand at the door of the school and just wave the students on to my portable. I felt like a lonely island. My only resource for art teacherin’ was a stack of vintage school arts magazines that were in the back of my portable, which I devoured. It was all that I had. When it came to sharing the amazing things that my students were creating, all I could do was hang them on the walls of my portable or in the halls at school. That was the only way to really get my students’ artwork out there, at least in my mind.
Flash forward to today. Holy moly. If my students are creating something that they’re proud of and that makes me smile, all I have to do is snap a photo and thousands of people can instantly see what’s happening in my art room. I’m talking about social media. It’s such an amazing tool to promote the arts, to share what you are doing with your students in your art room, and today, I’m going to share with you my top six ways to use social media to promote your program. This is Everyday Art Room, and I’m Cassie Stephens.
Disclaimer: Before you snap a single photo of student artwork or of a student working, please for the love, make sure you have permission. I don’t want anybody getting themselves in a pickle because they didn’t have permission from the parents to share students’ artwork. I know at my school, we send out permission forms, social media permission forms at the beginning of every school year that parents have to sign off on, so just make sure you’re in the clear before you start sharing. Disclaimer over and out.
Before I chat with you about my top six ways to use social media to promote the arts, let’s talk about why. Why advocate? I know what you’re thinking. “Stephens, that is a ridiculous question.” It’s my job to advocate the arts. I know. I understand, but I think if you really spend some time thinking about why you want to advocate your program and what social media platform or platforms will work best for you, it’ll help you really get much more out of that experience. While you chew on that, I’m going to share with you why I advocate.
I advocate first and foremost to stay on my toes and to stay connected. I love being able to see what other artists and other art teachers are doing in their studios and in their art rooms. Sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming and in which case, I take a social media break, but for the most part, I find it so stinking inspiring. I also do it to promote the value of art education so that all the followers that I have, not that I have that many, but so that they can see exactly why what I do is valuable to my students and the community. I also do it to meet like-minded art teacherin’ types. Honestly, social media has allowed me to meet some of my dearest friends. That’s why I advocate.
Let’s now dive in to my top six ways to use social media.
Number one. You need to figure out which platform is best for you. There are so many social media platforms out there, and let’s face it, you can’t do them all, not without making it your full-time job. You need to think about which ones you enjoy using, you enjoy scrolling through because those are probably going to be the ones that you’re going to want to share on. Let’s go through them real quick and break each one down because I think that what you’re going to find is that time and preference is going to be your determining factor in which platforms you use.
I’m going to share with you my favorite: Instagram. I find that Instagram is my favorite because it’s a visual, and that’s just perfect for me as an art teacher. I’m going to dig really deep today about Instagram because I feel like it is probably the most popular with art teachers right now, so we will definitely circle back to Instagram here shortly. I also really love Instagram because of Instagram Stories where you can share what you are right that very moment doing in your art room with your students. I also love Instagram Live because it allows me to not just share what’s happening like Stories does, but it allows me to chat and engage with other artists and art teachers.
My next one I really enjoy is Facebook. I think a lot of people have either Facebook classroom pages or Facebook art reacher pages. Before you decide what kind of page you want to create, decide who do you want your audience to be. I have a Facebook Page that’s for the readers of my blog, which are usually art teachers. I love having that platform because I can reach those people directly, but my favorite thing to do is do Facebook Live, where I can, once again, like on Instagram Live engage directly with other art teachers in realtime. Just a little self-promo, I do Facebook Live every Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. You should join. It’s a ton of fun.
Now, let’s talk about two social media platforms that I don’t use because they’re not my favorite. I don’t use Twitter very much. It’s not a visual for me, so for that reason, I don’t love it. I can totally appreciate the value of Twitter. It’s great for chatting with other art teachers and engaging in Twitter chats, but that’s just not my favorite way to spend my time, so I don’t spend my time on Twitter.
Another one I don’t really spend a lot of time on is Snapchat. I haven’t quite figured out how to make that useful in my art teacherin’ world, so I’ve kind of steered clear of that platform; however, Twitter users and Snapchat friends, if you want to share what works well for you in your art room via those two platforms, please comment in the comment section of this podcast below. I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.
Now, two platforms that do require a good amount of time, blogging and YouTube. Blogging is a big suck of time. I’m not even going to lie. You have to really enjoy writing, taking photos, putting all that together, and popping it up on a platform like Blogger that maybe people will or will not see. That’s the only thing. With Instagram and Facebook and these other platforms, there’s already an audience sitting there, waiting, but if you create a website, there is no instant audience. You have to build that audience yourself, which takes a lot of time. Blogging, while I feel very passionate about it, it does require a lot of patience.
YouTube is great, but it does take a lot of time as well to create and edit videos that you want to share.
Those are the social media platforms, and like I sad, you do you. The social media platform that you feel most comfortable using is probably the best one for you.
Let’s talk about tip number two. You need to know what you want out of your social media experience. Me, personally, I want to feel inspired, excited, influenced, and connected, and that’s also the same feeling that I want to give to people when they are looking at my social media platforms. I think it’s very important to know what you want out of that experience and what you want to give back. Once you have that figured out, then you can move on to tip number three.
Let’s face it, you want people to find you via social media, and you want people to understand what exactly it is you are about, and so my tip number three is, create your own social media brand. Think of, let’s say Instagram, think of creating a signature look. That way, if people are scrolling through their Instagram feed, and your photo pops up, they immediately know, “Oh, that’s that one Instagrammer that I follow. I can tell because of that very specific look that he or she has created.”
How do you create a signature look so that you have kind of a brand that people understand and like to follow? Well, think of this way. Come up with a color scheme, come up with content that kind of makes sense together. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, pull out your phone, open up your social media of choice. I’m chatting about Instagram, so if you have that Instagram account, look at it. Now, just look at your photos. If your photos, a group of, let’s say six of them, were on a business card right now, those top six photos, would people immediately be able to look at those photos and understand what your, quote, “brand” or signature look is about?
Now, if they were looking at mine, they wouldn’t have a clue because currently, it’s chuck full of Halloween pictures and photos of my cat and some random pictures of my art room, so please don’t do as I do, but you should really do what I’m telling you to do because when you have pictures that look like they belong together, the color scheme is similar and the content makes sense together, people will understand what you are about, and they’ll be better able to follow you for that reason. They’ll get you. That’s my tip number three.
Tip number four. You need to know how each platform works and how to make that social media platform work for you. Here what I would recommend. Find your preferred social media platform, I’m still thinking Instagram, and then think about your favorite ones to follow. Pay attention to your favorite blogs, Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, Twitter people to follow because after you’ve paid attention to them, you’ll start to figure out what it is about them that you like, and take note of what it is that you like, not so that you can copy them but what you’re probably going to notice is that they are consistent, and they have a specific voice, and kind of like that brand I was chatting with you about.
Once you have your list of favorites and you’re determining what it is that makes them your favorites, start to take note of what gets a response on your preferred social media platform. For example, I’ll share with you what gets a response mostly on mine. If I’m thinking Instagram, what really strikes a chord with people is when I share photos of my art room. That often gets a lot of likes and a lot of comments. What doesn’t often are photos of my cat, and that’s perfectly fine. I will make sure never to tell Asha that she is not loved as much as my duct tape art in my room, but if you pay attention to what gets a response, that’ll better help you know what your audience is looking for, not that you have to pander to that, but if you are curious, it will help you know.
It’ll also help you make sure to declutter your social media account, meaning every now and then, those images that didn’t get very many likes or much of a response from your viewers, get rid of them. Declutter. Pull the weeds that is your social media account. That’ll make it so that you’re staying on, quote, “brand”.
It also helps to understand the audience behind each platform, especially your audience. Who’s looking at your account? It is very good if you can, and I have found this to be mission impossible, but it is also great if you keep a schedule of when you are posting. I know on Facebook, there’s specific times of day when there are more people on Facebook than others. Usually, if I share something in the morning or midday, it doesn’t get nearly as much of a response as when I share it later in the evening.
Think about when you are online and scrolling through your feed. For me, that usually is after hours, after school, sitting on the couch, trying to unwind from my day. If you want more eyes on what it is you are sharing, pay really close attention to when you post something and how many comments and likes that it receives. That’s how many eyes have actually seen it. If you can keep a schedule, that’s fabulous. There are actually apps that you can use that can help you post things at specific times.
Remember, keep your media looking on brand, be consistent and fresh, and if you are using Instagram, it’s super helpful to know your hashtags. Hashtags are super important. Why are they so important? We’ll talk about them in just a moment.
Let’s talk about number five: Cultivate a following. It can be kind of distracting and pretty much detrimental if you pay too close attention to your followers and numbers and who has how many followers, and I got two new followers today, and oh my goodness. Let it go. Enjoy your social media experience, have fun with it, but let’s be honest, we don’t post things for nobody to see them, so in order to cultivate a following on your chosen social media platform, might I recommend the following: Make sure that your phone lens is clean. Wipe it off every single time you get ready to snap a photo. There’s nothing worse than that weird, hazy, fuzzy photo that shows up in your feed because somebody has a fingerprint smudge on their lens, so clean your lens.
If you’re snapping photos, take a ton of photos, and take a ton of photos from different angles. Get really close, get really low, pull back. I always snap Instagram photos in the square format of my phone. That way, I don’t have to worry about cropping later. I’m able to crop as I snap my photos. Snapping a ton of photos will also make it so you have a wide variety to choose from when you’re getting ready to share. That way, you can pick the very best.
Remember, if you’re going to try to cultivate a brand, to stay on brand, try to keep with your look. If you always use a specific color, I use a lot of blues and yellows in mine, then look for that when you’re getting ready to snap a photo. That will help you stay on brand. If you use filters on your photos, then use the same filters. Be consistent. Like I said, remember somebody scrolling through their feed? When your photo pops up, people should be able to know, “Oh, that’s so-and-so’s Instagram. I love how she always uses X, Y, Z colors, or it’s a really bright filter. I recognize it right away.”
Let’s talk about hashtags for a moment. Hashtags are super important to help you cultivate a following. What I have done is I’ve created a little bit of a hashtag cheat sheet. Go to a person who has a lot of followers on, let’s say, Instagram, and see what hashtags they’re using. Then, open up your notes section on your phone and just type up a bunch of hashtags. That way, every time you snap a photo and you get ready to put it on, let’s say, Instagram, all you have to do is cut and paste your giant paragraph of hashtags. This will make it so you’re not having to type brand new hashtags every single time you share on something like Instagram.
It also helps if you tag people. If you tag companies, then sometimes, they will re-share your photos, which will also help you get a larger following. For example, if you take a picture of your kids using Elmer’s Glue or Royal Langnickel paint brushes or a specific brand of paint, always tag all of those companies. You’ll be surprised, pleasantly so, when you hear a response from them.
My last tip is, like I said before, most of all, have fun. Social media should be a way for you to joyfully advocate your program. It should not be a stressor for you. It should not cause you to feel anxious. When, like I said, when I do, when I’m scrolling through my feed and I feel stressed because I feel as though I’m not doing my best when I see all these other amazing things art teachers are doing, or when I feel the pressure to constantly be sharing, I just take a break. Social media should be a fun experience and a happy way for you to advocate your program, and when it’s not, just step back from it.
Thank you so much, whew, for letting me share a whole lot with you today about social media. I hope these top six tips of mine help you out.
Tim Bogatz: Hello. This is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio. Did you know that you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Art Ed PRO, the essential subscription service for professional art teachers? PRO members get instant access to a comprehensive on-demand library filled with hundreds of expert trainings, hands-on tutorials, and rich, printable resources. It is the professional development you need when you need it. With topics ranging from assessment to classroom management to literacy and budgeting, Art Ed PRO has what you need to be the best teacher that you can be. Check it out start your free trial at artedpro.com, and let’s get back to the show as Cassie opens up the mail bag.
Cassie Stephens: Now it’s time to take a little dip into the mail bag. Psych. I’m not taking a dip into the mail bag. Instead, I’m going to share with you a question that was asked of me this weekend when I was at the Kentucky Art Educators State Conference. Thank you so much, Kentucky, for having me as one of your keynote speakers at your conference. It was so much fun. A little side note, if you are an art teacher and you have not attended your state conferences, then you should really do so. Talk about a great way to stay connected and to meet other like-mind folks. Y’all get you to a fall art teacherin’ conference. They are some of my very favorite things ever.
That being said, one of the questions that was asked of me this weekend was this. “Have you ever always made your own clothing, and have you always dressed the way that you do?” I’m assuming that last part meant, “Have you always dressed this crazy?” Answer: No. In fact, when I first started teaching back in 1998, I had it ingrained in my head that teachers had a specific uniform, and that uniform involved shopping at The Gap, wearing khakis and several unfortunate jean jumpers … Shivers at the thought.
It wasn’t until a couple of years into my art teacherin’ that I just kind of have to give it up. I think it started, maybe, with a silly T-shirt that I noticed my students really responded to, and then it just spiraled out of control from there. I’ve always loved fashion. I had always wanted to learn how to sew, but it wasn’t until about 10 years into teaching that I taught myself how to sew my very first apron.
From there, I then taught myself how to sew clothing. Patterns are really easy to follow. Sewing is actually quite simple. Those of you that have always wanted to learn how to sew but you’re fearful of doing so, here’s how I got myself out of it. I think of sewing as like collage with the sewing machine as being my glue, and the cool thing about it is, is if you mess it all up, they have this magical thing called a seam ripper, and you can just take it all apart. Seriously, I haven’t always dressed this wacky. It’s been a gradual process to this point, but I really enjoy doing so, and I have found that my students enjoy it as well.
Thanks so much for that great question. If you have a question for me, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com.
… That was a long, winded chat today. My apologies, but y’all, there’s so much to share with you when it comes to using social media to promote the arts. I’m going to roam through them again right quick.
Number one, you need to figure out which social media platform or platforms work best for you. Take into consideration how much time they do take. Think about the ones that are your favorite because those are probably the ones that you’re best suited to use. Number two, know what you want to give and receive from your social media experience because that will better help you cultivate your following and your brand.
That leads me to number three. Create your own brand or signature look. This will make it so people better understand what it is you are about, and you’ll get the followers that respond best to you. Number four, know how each social media platform works. Knowing that will help you better have a following. Number five, I really went deep with how to cultivate a following. It goes back to creating that signature look, taking beautiful photos, making sure to use your hashtags and your tagging people correctly. Last, but not least, have fun. When you stop having fun, then take a break. Stop doing it.
All right, guys. Thank you so much for letting me share with you my top six ways to use social media to promote the arts, you, and your art program. Thanks, guys.
You will leave this class full of inspiration for direct application into your art room. Even better, you will have dedicated time to explore the medium of watercolor and advance your own practice as an artist and as a teacher.