This one weird trick keeps people scrolling through social media feeds. Read on to find out!
Story by Barry Kaufman
At this point, it’s almost not worth pointing out how much social media has impacted our collective consciousness. After all, while there are many of you who will read this story on the printed page, there are countless more at this moment reading these words on the screens of their smart phones, computers or other devices. (Maybe even their refrigerator because the future is kind of strange like that).
Essentially, it’s the new form of communication. You can scoff all you want at the millennials who always stare down at their phone, but they’re not alone. The instant gratification of scrolling through a feed for all of our daily interaction has ensnared the whole world, and created whole industries in its wake. Here you’ll find three locals who have made this new medium their own.
Meet our three…
Vision and connection
It only makes sense that a photographer would gravitate toward Instagram. The platform was, after all, originally conceived as a means for sharing photos and short videos run through filters to age and hue them to a nostalgic patina. The site has come a long way since then, slowly overtaking parent company Facebook as the king of the social media rock, but visuals are still a major part of its DNA.
And as a visual artist with photography as her medium, Lisa Staff is a perfect fit for Instagram. Even if some of her exquisite shots don’t go as viral as some of her other work. “I’ll have a shot that I did that I love, one where I think the lighting and the aesthetic and everything is beautiful,” she said, “and I’ll put it out there and, ‘meh.’ Then I’ll put out a candid shot of myself doing nothing remotely artistic, and I’ll get a whole bunch of engagements.”
There’s business for everyone, and it’s all about collaborating and connecting with people more than competition,”
That, however, is just a function of the algorithm and the unpredictable hive mind that is the audience, two of the biggest X factors for anyone looking to promote their business on social media. While Staff does look at her analytics to determine what content draws the most likes and comments, she prefers to post anything that happens to move her in the moment. She’s obviously doing something right, with 20,300 followers. And it’s paying dividends in more ways than one.
“I probably started my Instagram two years ago and people were like, ‘It’s a waste of time, why are you putting resources into it?’ Now, it’s one of my biggest sources of inquiries. I get a lot of business from it,” she said. “And even if not, it’s still a way for me to connect with other people.”
Those connections are proving to be even more valuable than the new clients she attracts for her photography business.
“There’s business for everyone, and it’s all about collaborating and connecting with people more than competition,” she said. “We’re already in a small community, but through Instagram I’ve made a lot of connections with people.”
Those connections begat speaking engagements and workshops in which Staff guides businesses through the ins and outs of social media, as well as branding and digital. Using her own feed as an example, she shows them how to create the kinds of engagement, brand recognition and ultimately conversation, that her Instagram feed has allowed her.
One of the oddest new job titles created by this new digital economy is influencer. Part online ambassador, part digital celebrity, their job is to create inroads among consumers so brands can establish a more direct connection with buyers. And before you write it off as superficial, know that one of the biggest requirements of the job is being genuine. An influencer’s audience can smell phony a mile away, and aren’t shy about sharing their disdain. Part of cultivating that influence comes from connecting to an audience, something that requires letting them into her life. There’s nothing superficial about it.
Oh, and don’t think for a second that being an influencer isn’t hard work.
“When I first started, I was on the phone for eight hours a day,” said Hannah Baggott, whose Lowcountry Blonde Instagram page reaches some 15,700 people. “Just so I could be engaging and talking with people. People don’t care about you if you don’t care about them.”
When I first started, I was on the phone for eight hours a day,”
Once those connections were established and her personal brand of upbeat and fashionable Lowcountry living had found an audience, turning it into a profitable enterprise meant turning to brands seeking partnerships. She found one of her biggest partnerships, Kroger, when she tagged them in a photo she took at the opening of their new store. In some cases, it’s a matter of agencies reaching out to her.
Sometimes, she reaches out to them. But it’s definitely hard work.
And it comes with a degree of uncertainty that other jobs simply don’t face. For Baggott and other influencers, a simple tweak to the algorithm can upend their entire business model.
“Instagram has started talking about taking away likes, where the person who posted would be the only person who can see the number of likes,” she said. “It doesn’t scare me as much because I have a full-time job.”
As director of sales at Hilton Garden Inn, Baggott can keep her role as an influencer as a side hustle, something that not only frees her from the uncertainty of the job but also the pressure to always be on. That’s not to say she isn’t always on.
“I don’t typically ever unplug. But at the end of the day it’s fun for me,” she said. “It’s changed me for the better.”
Shadowboxes and Porcelain Faces
There are few groups who have made social media their own like musicians. After all, when all of us abandoned MySpace, it was musicians who stepped in and helped the site find a new direction. For the working musician touring from town to town, it’s a great way to make connections ahead of the next gig and keep fans interested until the next time the tour brings them back around.
That said, Hannah Wicklund is not like most musicians. The 22-year-old artist cut her teeth on Hilton Head Island, performing with her band The Steppin Stones when she was just 9. All these years later, she’s taken her band international, having just wrapped a European tour. But despite her youth, she doesn’t fit into the mold of the “typical” millennial.
“I hate social media, that’s my platform,” she said with a laugh.
She’s only slightly kidding. Her Instagram reaches just over 12,000 followers with a mix of candid photos, deep thoughts, concert videos and merchandise promotion, and she is quick to connect with fans through the platform. But it’s something that she views as a necessary evil.
I hate social media, that’s my platform,”
“It’s something that I have to do that definitely does help me connect to fans, but it does a disservice to an artist. There is something to be said when you’re out playing shows and talking to your fans and getting that inspiration and stories people are telling you. That’s the stuff that I love,” she said. “I really feel like it’s better to work on creative stuff when I’m hiding from social media. But it is the way I let people know about stuff.”
And it does allow her, as an artist who thrives on connections with fans, to deepen those connections. “I had a younger girl reach out and ask if I could make a music video showing her how to play, ‘Shadowboxes and Porcelain Faces,’ which is ironically my anti-social media song,” she said. “That’s my favorite message on the album.”
The anthemic song is anything but subtle when it comes to Wicklund’s disdain for social media, with its lyrics, “These shadowboxes and porcelain faces / don’t tell me what I want to know / these highlight reels ain’t real life / they’re just for show.”
“Your Facebook or Instagram profile, where you put all the best things, whatever’s most exciting is in your shadowbox. Porcelain faces was meant to represent all the filters, all the striving for perfection,” she said. “It’s about shedding the need to edit ourselves. That song is kind of how I try to think about my platform. I don’t want to overshare and I don’t want to be fake. I don’t know; it’s trying to find the right balance.”
(click on gallery thumbnail for larger photo)