I consider myself lucky. I was born at exactly the right time, in my opinion. The technology boom started to hit stride as I was in high school and college, making it easy for me to adopt easily. My relationship with social media started with my first email account, spreading to AIM, AOL’s instant messaging app, which was all anyone used before texting became affordable on phones. I dabbled in the waves of early Internet communities- MySpace, bulletin boards, Digg.com, along with being early adopter of Facebook back when it was only available to current college students. I took some of the first online courses offered by my college, was one of the first users to get a Gmail account, and became so techno-savvy that by the time I graduated, I was running the departmental IT services and computer labs.

I say I was lucky because, being so young in a way I grew up alongside this technology, and thus I was willing to experiment freely. I was lucky because I hadn’t been raised in a share-it-all social media environment like some of my students are now, so I did have an idea of what I wasn’t willing to expose. I wasn’t afraid of failure, though. I learned how to use social media by using social media. There did not exist any how-to manuals or Social Media for Dummies texts. It was all by the seat of your pants learn as you go.

I am often asked “How do I even start?” by users new to the idea of sharing on social media. There’s not an easy answer to that. I have used and abandoned many platforms because I didn’t care for them, didn’t like the design, or they simply did not suit my purpose. Using social media is all about experimenting and finding out what works for you. On that note, I have here a few good starting points for some of the most popular platforms.


Courtesy U Waterloo, Canada

Facebook. By far the most popular social media site worldwide, Facebook is fairly easy to use at whatever level you wish. All you need to sign up is a valid email address. If you desire more privacy, create a new address not linked to any personal accounts for an extra degree of separation. One popular aspect of Facebook is business pages- you can create a space for fans of your work, whom you do not know personally, to interact without being subject to the intimacy of being “friends.” A personal page is required to run a business page, or any sort of group, but the amount of information or interaction you do with your personal page is up to you. Facebook tends more towards discussions than any other media because of the ability to comment and share, though most people have such large feeds that they will simply “like” a status. Use Facebook to share stories, post news, create pages and invite friends to your events, upload photos and create albums, and connect with people, friends and colleagues, worldwide- and keep in touch.

Twitter. At a 140 character limit, Twitter is great for brief updates, photos, links and quotes. A lot of people are now using integrated social media and “pushing” posts from one platform to another, so you are able to post a link to a Facebook post on Twitter, or vice versa. The Twitter feed moves quickly and unlike Facebook, statuses do not get bumped to the top when someone comments, so the lifetime of a status is relatively short. Twitter does tend to have a slightly distinct crowd from Facebook- a more immediate, news-oriented platform that is all about the “right now.” Of late Twitter has become the go-to platform for breaking news, live updates on conflicts, and social commentary. Use twitter to share brief updates, link to articles, photos, and other websites, and keep up with the world second by second.

Instagram. An entirely visual app, Instagram is incredibly popular with artists as a way to share their work with a visually-minded audience. The only linking available is through your profile page, which prevents spam and focuses the attention on the image. Followers can comment and like posts, and there are multitudes of ways, within Instagram and with other apps to edit images, create photo collages, and add other personal touches to your posts. Instagram is only available on mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, Android) so it’s not as tempting of a distraction while you’re working on the computer, though it is viewable through a web browser now. Use Instagram to post process photos, visual inspiration, share images and short videos of your life and process, and shots of your work, collection, events, shows and more! (Just keep the selfies to a limit.)

YouTube: The home of video on the Internet, YouTube can be as simple as a platform to view interesting, educational and funny short films, a place to upload and share your own videos, and even a way to make money through paid advertisements. You can upload videos directly from your phone or camera, or use software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. There are now a plethora of apps, both free and paid, that will make different types of videos, from time-lapse to stop-motion with the push of a button. Use YouTube to learn and teach with originally created videos and user-generated content!

Pinterest: Everyone has had one at some point- whether it be the inside of a locker or the wall over your work table. A pinboard of ideas, inspirations, aspirations can be a wonderful thing to have, and Pinterest provides just that. Users can create idea boards on any topic and pin images from all over the Internet or upload them from their own computer. A handy aspect of Pinterest is that the images can be linked back to the original website, which is very useful for pinning blog posts, recipes, articles- anything you find and would like to come back to. By linking through images rather than text, it’s a site of particular use to visual artists. Use Pinterest to pin your inspirations, ideas, recipes, and promote your own work.

Blogs: Not a specific platform, blogs can be hosted anywhere from personal websites to free blog-specific sites such as Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr. Blogs are the most non-specific format; they can be short snippets to long articles, photos, links, reposting of content from another webpage (with of course linking and crediting to original sources, to be proper). Blogging can be a job in itself, as some very popular blogs are able to sell advertisement slots to generate revenue. These are rare, however, and blogs are best used as a platform for fairly regular but usually informal communication. Use a blog to post your thoughts, reviews, projects, recipes, et cetera, and then share across all your other platforms to generate views.

My first Facebook profile picture. Pink pants, random foot, college dorms. 2005.

My first Facebook profile picture. Pink pants, random foot, college dorms. 2005.

Want to learn more about social media and how it has been utilized by members of the ceramic field? Check out the 2015 NCECA panel The Social (Media) Experiment. Amanda Barr [moderator], with Leslie Ferrin, Brian Harper, and Justin Rothshank.
“The ubiquity of social media is undeniable in today’s world. This panel will address the myriad of ways social media can be utilized in ceramic education, studio practice and by curators to further the conversation beyond the physical world.” Thursday March 26 in Ballrooms B/C at 1:30pm – 3:00pm.

Amanda can be found posting for the NCECA Instagram account as well as under her own name. You can find her on all sorts of media here.