Four years ago I wrote a guide to the Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People that turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever published here on Lateral Action.
But four years is a long time in social media. Empires rise and fall, old networks fade away and new ones arrive on the scene. So it’s time for an updated guide – to the most inspiring, useful and addictive social networks for creative people in 2012.
As before, I begin by looking at WHY networking is critical to your success as a creative professional. Then it’s onto the networks themselves, with quotations from the founders of some networks and success stories from users, explaining the networks’ individual cultures, how to use them, and how they can help your creativity and your career.
Why you MUST network if you want to succeed in a creative profession
Like the people in the famous scene from the Life of Brian, we creative types love to think of ourselves as individuals, but in reality we’re part of a crowd. Or as Mark Earls or Seth Godin would have it, a Herd or a Tribe. Feel free to ignore that fact if you’re happy to starve in a garret, undiscovered by a Philistine world – but if you’re serious about getting your work in front of an audience and reaping the rewards your work deserves, then here’s why networking is essential to your success.
Richard Florida groups all creative professionals together in what he calls the Creative Class. Whether or not you go that far, it’s undeniable that many creatives take part of their identity from membership of creative subcultures. This often works at an instinctive level – I remember attending my first event organised by 26, and instantly felt at home. It took a few moments for the reason to sink in: everyone in the room was, like me, a professional wordsmith.
It’s a truism that inspiration often strikes when disparate ideas, influences and materials are put together in novel combinations. Frans Johansson has written an excellent book, The Medici Effect, based on this idea:
when you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas.
The book’s title comes from the Medici family of bankers in 15th century Florence, who used their money and influence to gather a wide range of creative professionals to their city:
Thanks to this family and a few others like it, sculptors, scientists, poets, philosophers, financiers, painters, and architects converged upon the city of Florence. There they found each other, learned from one another, and broke down barriers between disciplines and cultures. Together they forged a new world based on new ideas – what became known as the Renaissance. As a result, the city became the epicentre of the creative explosion, one of the most innovative eras in history.
Frans Johansson, The Medici Effect
If you’re reading this you’ve probably noticed that at the beginning of the 21st century we are at the epicentre of a similar creative explosion. This time (fortunately) we’re not relying on the bankers, and we don’t need to physically assemble in Florence. The internet is a virtual Florence, enabling us to step into an intersection of fields, disciplines and cultures the like of which the world has never seen.
A rich network is a great source of professional opportunities. When you need a highly skilled person for an important project, your first port of call is likely to be your network of trusted contacts. If you don’t know someone yourself, a recommendation from someone whose judgement you trust can be priceless. And the more visible you are in the right networks, the more likely you are to be recommended when opportunities come along.
One of the best things about being a creative is getting to work with interesting creative people. Your professional network is a happy hunting ground for potential collaborators and partners. As with opportunities, the more talented and trusted people you know, the better your chances of assembling the perfect team.
Last but not least, hanging around with other creative people is enjoyable. For many people, ‘networking’ is a dirty word, but we’re lucky in the creative sector in that most people on the scene tend to be interesting to talk to, either because of what they do, who they are, or both.
The Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People
So where are the hottest hangouts in Virtual Florence? Where can you go to feel at home and find inspiration, opportunities, collaborators and a damn good laugh?
I’ve assembled a list of 10 social networks that should be on your radar. The list is NOT ranked in order, since the ‘best’ network for you will depend on your individual situation.
They won’t all be up your street – some of them will be like that new bar where you stay for one drink and make a swift exit. But you should at least know what’s on offer in each of these places, so that you can make an informed decision about where to spend your time.
Logging on to Twitter is like stepping into one of the illustrations from Where’s Waldo? – you find yourself in the midst of a crowd of people dashing in all directions, criss-crossing as they go about their business. Taken in isolation, each character and scene is unremarkable, but joining the crowd is beguiling and energising. Step back and look at the whole picture and it borders on the breathtaking.
More prosaically, here’s how it works. On signing up for an account, you can ‘follow’ people, meaning you receive short messages from them (max 140 characters) on your Twitter page, or your mobile device via the Twitter app. And anyone who chooses to follow you will receive the messages you put out there.
Resist the temptation to tell the world what you are doing several times a day. Unless you’re an astronaut or serial dragon slayer, your followers will probably have finite interest in the minutiae of your everyday life. The most interesting Twitter users ask (and answer) questions and share useful and inspiring content. Tim Siedell has attracted an audience of over half a million followers by posting relentlessly funny one-liners.
Twitter is a fabulous serendipity machine – you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll find when you start exploring. It’s also a great virtual watercooler – very handy if you work alone and fancy some light-hearted chit-chat. And if you blog or otherwise publish content online, it’s a very useful way to get your work into circulation.
Don’t worry if this all sounds like a colossal waste of time. I resisted Twitter for about two years, until I finally gave it a shot and loved it. I ended up eating humble pie and blogging 6 Reasons Why I Was Wrong about Twitter. Probably more than any of the other networks on this list, you have to experience Twitter to ‘get it’.
What Twitter users say
Here are the responses I received within a few minutes of Tweeting the question ‘So what use is Twitter for creative people?’:
solobasssteve – we get to tell our story in bitesized chunks & hear others do the same. There’s solidarity in tweeting 🙂
grumblemouse – camaraderie
johndodds – It’s the creative industries’ backchannel and digital watercooler
kellyshaw – trusted people (who I follow) share inspirational content. Most of my rss feeds come from sources discovered on twitter
cmartell – spark generator
Jamiec – opening up channels with Likeminded *cough* people regardless of geographical location allowing for new discoveries on a daily basis
artbizness – For me it’s a few things. i) Time away from work to recover from burnout (re: your last blog ii) Poetic linguistic practise
artbizness – iii) displacement activity iv) an opportunity to connect with other creatives
CharlieGower – a distraction to improve tangental thinking
johntunger – twitter is good for quick brainstorm responses to creative ideas… also for gauging interest in new ideas.
johntunger – the social/water cooler aspect of twitter is also good for creatives because limited. check in, then back to work.
ianshepherd – I read it over breakfast instead of a newspaper. It’s genuinely made t’internet about 100% more interesting for me
LakeMartinVoice – 4 bloggers maybe Twitter = liner notes to document / explain more fully a blog post, I do this on lakemartinvoice.com
johndodds – It’s a good way to get included in other people’s posts.
Here are some of the responses when I asked what benefits creatives have received from using Twitter.
I use twitter to connect to people outside my current network – people I probably wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise. I’ve also found a lot of great resources being shared there, which broadens my horizons and stimulates my own creative juices. Lastly, I use twitter to deepen colleague relationships and market my products/services to clients. For me, it’s an all-around perfect social media tool.
My first full year on twitter I grossed $30k in revenues that I could directly attribute to my activity on twitter. I’ve been a loyal user ever since.
Lisa Robbin Young
I got my New York literary agent via my online platform including social networks – she is using my twitter following as part of the pitch to traditional publishers for my books, and part of why she read my manuscript was based on an introduction from someone I met on twitter.
I get paid speaking gigs based on my twitter network, including international appearances in Bali, Switzerland, Australia and London.
I’d say twitter drives the engine of a lot of what I do and creates the beginning of the relationships that have enabled me to become a fulltime author-entrepreneur.
I spread news of my exhibitions, on line features and new work, link to other creatives and creative networks. The news that I subscribe to on Twitter drives my creative work.
I helped a friend who had an equestrian art exhibition, hook up with the Jockey Club on line and they promoted her show.
As someone who mainly writes for a living, Twitter is a great way to get opinions, source clients and also learn to write more succinctly without messing up my meaning – it’s as good as years spent writing headlines for national magazines!
Met a guy on Twitter, a gallery owner in Germany. It ended with a trip to Germany to visit his gallery and he came over here (UK) to meet with a group of artists which I mentor.
I have had several instances where I have been asked to speak or be interviewed after having developed a relationship with someone on social media. Usually, these connections are forged through a combination of blog comments and tweets.
I have done thousands of dollars of business with a client that was referred to me by a social media contact who lives half way across the world and whom I have never met in person.
I am a single mom, running my own business, working from home, making up the rules as I go along. I can say, without a trace of doubt, that my business would not be where it is today without the support of people I have met via social networks.
Jamie Lee Wallace
Useful Twitter resources
Follow Mark on Twitter
Love it or hate it, with around a billion users, it’s hard to ignore Facebook. It’s the network ‘normal’ people use to stay in touch with friends, which may make it more or less attractive to creatives, depending who you’re trying to reach.
If you’re looking for corporate clients, then you’ll probably be better off networking on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+. And the fact that most people go to Facebook for social rather than business reasons means it may be of limited commercial use – although Natasha Wescoat is doing a great job of selling art on Facebook, which proves it can be done.
To keep your personal life separate from your business contacts, create a Facebook page for your professional identity – this allows you to post on Facebook and interact with other users without giving them access to your personal Facebook account.
I’ve never been a huge Facebook fan, but since setting up the Lateral Action Facebook page I use the site a lot more, posting links to creative articles several times a week, and it’s now one of my biggest sources of traffic. Share content that’s relevant to your audience, and it could do the same for you.
What Facebook users say
Facebook is good when people have a page setup for their particular brand, talent, etc. It allows interaction without having the direct contact that making them a “friend” would necessitate. You can support a person without having to open up your privacy more than you’re comfortable with.
I have personally made quite a lot of new business through Facebook by providing a consistent message on what I’m about. I don’t add any apps really – and most of my updates relate to my work. A drip drip drip effect into the collective social consciousness has meant that on many occasions, people have approached me via Facebook for jobs. But that wouldn’t have happened if I’d just used it as a scrapbook of my random life experiences.
Working from home has its drawbacks… I go days without ever leaving the house, making it hard to meet the neighbors or make new friends. I tend to be a little introverted anyway – which never helps in networking.
What Facebook, and other social media such as Twitter has done for me personally is put a face to a name, taking away the anxiety of meeting someone for the first time. No longer am I sending resumes out to people who I have never met and have no idea what their background is or what they look like or like to do for a hobby. I consciously target and choose those that I follow rather than rack up hundreds of people just for the sake of having a lot of friends.
Facebook has been a life saver for my business! As a creative professional I realised that 95% of my business comes from referrals. So I started using facebook to keep my network informed about what I was doing and recent successes and awards. I call it “soft marketing” My network would see the new clients and project I completed. Everyone loves success. This “announcement” would always drive new business, It kept me in the front of their minds when opportunities came up in their life. That translated to a referrals and new opportunity for my company.
Facebook is great for finding musicians who want to play for events. If our band is unavailable on that date we can help them find an alternative easily. I simply put the offer out there and the responses roll in. I happen to be friends with a lot of musicians, most of whom I know personally or have played with in the past, so this is a great way to be connected. Sometimes someone will come out of the woodwork and reply – someone I might never have thought to email directly if facebook didn’t exist!
We created a Facebook Event which directed attendees to a poll on our website. People were then invited to vote for the name of one of our new characters. Those who voted for the ‘winning’ character name were entered into a Draw, the winner of which will be mentioned in our next book, Mosaic of Light.
As an artist, I use Facebook to keep up with other creative people and to follow mentors and creative groups. As the owner of a creative business I use it to promote my gallery and related offers.
It’s a way to start a conversation with readers, to get them on my list, to get them to taste what I’m doing (extracts, pictures), to engage them by asking them questions…
2 publishers contacted me, as well as the organizer of a book fair.
Without Facebook, my quilt ‘Don’t you love a good mystery, too?’ would NOT be in a book by Rayna Gillman. And without Facebook, I would not be preparing my first solo exhibition as an Art Quilter!
My biggest contract last year came through a former working acquaintance that reconnected through Facebook.
Useful Facebook resources
Like the Lateral Action Facebook page
Why would you want yet another place to share links, pictures, short posts and chit-chat when you already have Twitter and Facebook? I must admit that was my initial reaction when Google+ first emerged.
Guy Kawasaki provides a good answer:
- Twitter = Perspectives. Twitter is great for getting or sending immediate perspectives on news and events…
- Facebook = People. Facebook is the way to learn what’s going on the lives of people you already know (friends, relatives, and colleagues)…
- Google+ = Passions. Google+ enables you to pursue your passions with people you don’t know. Your fifty friends and family on Facebook likely don’t share your passion for photography, but on Google+ you can have a blast with a community of photographers… in short, Google+ is for passions.
(What the Plus!: Google+ for the Rest of Us by Guy Kawasaki)
Google+ allows you to organise your contacts into different circles, based on common interests or context. So for example I have a circle for ‘Writers and Publishers’ making it easy for me to follow news and discussion about publishing, without having to sift through all kinds of other stuff (the way I do on Twitter and Facebook).
After the visual horrors of Facebook, the Google+ interface looks elegant and well-organised. And threaded comments with no 140-character limit make it much easier to have a proper conversation than on Twitter. The mobile experience is also beautifully designed.
All other things being equal, I’d be tempted to say this makes Google+ the ideal environment for networking and sharing content online. Having said that, it’s an open secret that Google+ doesn’t have the same volume of active users as Facebook and Twitter, so it can feel a little empty by comparison. Some pundits are predicting the network’s demise, while others say its superior features and hardcore enthusiasts mean it will triumph in the long term.
The atmosphere on Google+ is a bit like the early days of Twitter – it’s populated by thought leaders and early adopters rather than the public at large, which makes it a good place for networking with smart people and keeping up with the latest trends.
Having an active and popular Google+ account where you share content from your own websites could also boost your search rankings. (Although this may depend on where you live – e.g. I’ve heard the ‘Google+ SEO effect’ is much less powerful in the EU than in the US.)
What Google+ users say
I use these networks for marketing and connecting with like minds. Especially Google Plus. It’s great for speaking with other artists and seeing their work. I also love the circles feature because it creates an ability to target marketing efforts.
Google Plus is vastly underutilized. There are some real opportunities there, especially as it relates to images and the Hangouts feature. Google+ shows images quite large, and they can be enlarged by clicking. On top of that, your top profile photo and header image can be used to show off your art. Google+ Hangouts is a video chat tool that can include up to 10 people, and also allows for broadcasting to Youtube. I know a few artists who teach classes this way, or who let people virtually hang out in their studio.
Useful Google+ resources
What the Plus!: Google+ for the Rest of Us by Guy Kawasaki
Circle Mark on Google+
Behance is a platform to showcase and discover creative work, founded by a company on a mission to ‘help organize the creative world’.
The network offers creatives of all kinds a place to showcase their work to potential clients, as well as to connect with other creatives. It does this by making it easy for users to assemble an attractive portfolio of their work, organised by project, which is then available for visitors to browse.
As a non-designer, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to assemble presentable projects using the Behance tools. (You can see my handiwork on my Behance profile.)
Having a nice profile is all well and good, but it’s a waste of time unless the right people are looking at it. The Behance team has evidently invested a huge amount of time and effort in promoting the site to potential clients for their members. The site generates over 75 million page views per month, and crucially, CEO Scott Belsky reports that over 90% of site traffic comes from non-members, boosting its credibility as a ‘shop window’ for creative work.
Scott Belsky, Behance CEO and Founder
With Behance, our mission is to empower creative careers with a powerful and efficient way to showcase work and get discovered. The site was not developed to be a “social network” but rather a content-centric organization engine that empowers creative people and teams to rapidly disseminate their projects, solicit feedback, and get found by some of the leading agencies, galleries, and recruiters in the world. Many top agencies now use Behance as their primary recruiting source.
Behance has become a sort of content-centric ‘LinkedIn’ for the creative community, as well as a top destination for enthusiasts to explore the latest work by leading creatives. A glimpse at the “most appreciated” projects can provide a sense of the caliber of creative work in the network.
Scott Belsky, Behance CEO and Founder
What Behance users say
I am a photographer and artist based in Manhattan, New York. I specialize in fine art wedding photography & multi-media design. Although I was skeptical to use Behance at first (considering there so many social networking sites out there), I quickly learned that Behance had created a platform like no other. Behance allows me to connect with a vast network of creatives from all over the world. Rather than simply “talk shop”, users are able to share their work and conversations tend to be centered on celebrating your fellow artist.
For me, the value of Behance is that it holds users to a set of unspoken professional standards. I will not post anything on the network unless I am truly confident in the work. I know this to be true for several other artists who use Behance as well. The Behance platform was clearly designed to focus on the artwork. This “less is more approach” makes Behance feel more like a Boutique than a catalog or meat market. For a person that just likes to be inspired by great design, amazing talent and professional presentation, Behance compliments my needs.
For new users I would suggest, taking some time to fully explore Behance. There are a lot of different sections on the platform. From portfolios, to tips, job postings, Behance Magazine…just check it out! Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share.
I post work to my Behance space and then push it out through these networks(and a couple more). People (particularly those who are connected to me in some way) see it and it creates an at-a-glance who and what is Chris doing.
I’ve received some new inquiries, in fact a contact called me based on a personal project I did just to ‘keep busy’ where I reimagined the Strava cycling app with additional features.
Follow Mark on Behance
Pinterest is like a visual Twitter – a place for pinning (sharing) images with your followers, and following other people who share beautiful and inspiring visuals.
You collect your pins into boards with a common theme – an online version of the classic ‘mood board’.
Like Google+ it’s a relative newcomer on the scene, but unlike Google+ there are no concerns about volume of users and traffic, which have grown spectacularly. There has, however, been plenty of concern about the copyright implications of a service that allows users to share other people’s images quickly, easily, and in massive quantities.
There’s an ongoing debate about whether Pinterest is an opportunity or a threat to creators. Some artists and photographers are horrified at the thought of strangers sharing their images without permission, while others have embraced Pinterest enthusiastically, as a platform for building their profile and marketing their work.
As well as sharing your own work, Pinterest is a great place to showcase your (no doubt impeccable) visual taste. By pinning works you admire, you can attract people with similar taste. And by establishing yourself as an authoritative curator of great work, you increase the chances of people checking out your work…
Pinterest has responded to some of the copyright concerns by changing its original terms and conditions, but the site still divides opinion. If you ask me, it looks like a fabulous marketing tool for visual artists, so I’d encourage you to check it out with an open mind. If you need any ‘commercial encouragement’, surveys suggest that 21% of Pinterest users or over 1 in 4 have purchased items they found on Pinterest (thanks to Shauntelle for these links).
What Pinterest users say
On Pinterest I love to pin images I find on the internet to build ‘moodboards’. Often they have links to text I want to be able to refer back to easily. As I am a visual person, Pinterest helps me to remember what articles are interesting.
It works much better than a folder in the browser, because those are just text.
Helga van Leipsig
I’m a designer, artist and iPhoneographer, so my products are visual by nature. Instagram and Pintererst are a perfect fit to display my work and visual inspiration.
For me, these image-focused social media channels are less time and energy draining than Twitter and Facebook.
I work in the gardening world – and it’s one of beauty. Pinterest is a natural for flower/landscape images and while I don’t use it for socializing, it’s a potent traffic generator when I pin my own images to the various boards I run.
With Pinterest, people use it as like a ‘wish list’ or an ‘inspiration board’, so on Pinterest, their focus is more on buying and getting inspired than it is connecting with friends (like other social media networks like fb and twitter). So their mindset is already in shopping mode and content digestion mode.
This is great for me as an artist and creative blogger because I can pin my products with a price, and also pin inspiring images that lead to my blog posts. When pinning an image for my blog post, I make sure the image has a text overlay with a tip, or the title of my post which will get them interested in learning more. For example ‘What is an Art Journal?’, or ‘Top 5 Tips for Art Journaling’. They not only get a beautiful art journal image to pin, but also a resource for more information on the topic they’re passionate about.
I’ve found that taking quotes from my work and blog posts, and creating a lovely inspiration message with the quote on it, putting it on Pinterest and then embedding that in blog posts is working wonders. I also post them on my Facebook page. These get pinned and shared like crazy and always lead people back to my website.
Useful Pinterest resources
Follow Mark on Pinterest
That’s right, LinkedIn. I know it doesn’t have a particularly creative image, but don’t write it off.
The first time I visited LinkedIn, I spent ages trying to work out how to upload a photo. It gradually dawned on me that there was no facility to do so – it was far too serious a place for fripperies like that. It has since loosened its tie a bit and allowed photos, but make no mistake, LinkedIn is for people who want to talk business.
Unlike most networks, LinkedIn encourages you to limit the number of contacts you can make. At first this might seem odd, but the idea is to prioritize quality (real working relationships) over quantity. So 50 contacts on LinkedIn could be worth more to your career than 500 Facebook friends or Twitter followers.
What LinkedIn users say
So how useful is LinkedIn to creative professionals? Is it too corporate for creative people? Those are questions I put to LinkedIn users via the site’s Question and Answer system. The consensus seemed to be that LinkedIn is indeed pretty ‘corporate’, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and could even offer advantages to people and companies from the creative industries:
As someone not in the corporate world, but someone who targets the corporate world (as well as everyone else) Linkedin has given my business more exposure than I would ever hope for. I’ve booked jobs at trade shows, corporate parties, grand openings, promotional events, etc., from having a presence on Linkedin.
It provides a platform to express artistic points of view within a business framework. If, as artists, we are commissioned to provide creative solutions to help businesses solve business problems, then have a business framework to “test” our thoughts and ideas is a critical component to our success.
LI is ‘corporate.’ Is it fair? Sure, why not? Think of it this way. If it weren’t, then it would be like so many other social sites, right? Then what would make LI unique? LI’s ‘corporate-ness’ is what makes it unique.
In starting a new business, I have found much of the whole process to be quite creative (or at least it can be). And some of the information & advice I’ve gotten can be quite interestingly applied to music as well as business. I’m working in two totally different fields, but the carryover between the two is sometimes surprising. I actually think that the LI and creative communities would both benefit from an influx of more creatives into LI. Seeing business with more creative eyes and creative projects from a more business standpoint can be quite enlightening.
I think LinkedIn gets bad rep at least with creatives because it is not hip, cool, trendy (insert your own word) as Facebook, Twitter, etc. I would counter that Facebook, Twitter and others are geared differently. The other social networks are kind of catch alls. Some use them for business, some for personal and some for both where Linkedin is pretty heavy business/professional not a lot of personal. That is actually the reason I spend more time on LinkedIn.
If this was designed specifically for creative professionals it would be called “iTalk” or “iSocialize” and probably underwritten by Apple or Microsoft.
In all, I received 10 high-quality answers, which seems fairly typical of the Q&A section. Thomas Clifford pointed out that the Q&A section can be very useful tool for creative research.
LinkedIn is never going to be a fun venue for idle chitchat, but that’s part of the appeal. It’s good to know there is a site with informed professional discussion on tap. Although the Q&A section has its share of stupid questions, compared to the free-for-all of some other networks it’s an oasis of intelligent debate. As James Dempsey puts it, ‘There’s a lot less of the Britney Spears drama to sift through on LinkedIn’.
LinkedIn is actually the only online network that I can say for sure brought me work. I’m a freelance editor, and one of my clients is a businessman who had connected with me on LinkedIn while I was still working at my day job. He contacted me through LinkedIn after I went freelance.
On LinkedIn, I like to post articles of interest, share new work, etc. This effort allows remind people about my business and my services. I have obtained several new clients through linkedin. I have optimized my profile so that I am one of the top designers that come up in my region.
I had a small business in the financial services company find me by searching ‘graphic designer’ in our region. He looked at my web site, saw I had a strong background in financial services and contacted me for a meeting.
I was contacted via Linkedin for a internship opportunity while studying. I was relatively new to that city & did not know many people. Being on Linkedin helped me get a job. Creative Directors might not visit linkedin but HR does…
Useful LinkedIn resources
likemind is simplicity itself – coffee and conversation with ‘people like you’. Every third Friday of the month, in cities as far flung as Stockholm, Tokyo and Melbourne, meetings take place in cafes as near to simultaneously as time zones will allow.
How do you know that people will be ‘like you’? Well, if you visit the likemind website the chances are that you’re either involved in the creative industries or social media, and/or you’ve been recommended by somebody who is. So you’ll probably fit in just fine and be very glad you came.
likemind was born when Piers Fawkes and Noah Brier, two ‘internet friends’, decided to meet up in a cafe, posting the details online, and inviting their other web contacts to join them. The idea snowballed, leading to the website and ‘coffee all over the world’.
A likemind meetup is more like a laid-back party than a business event. Sales pitches are frowned on, the emphasis is on getting to know people and sharing ideas and experiences. It’s okay to swap business cards, and it’s possible that concrete business opportunities may come out of likemind for you, but that’s not really the point. If you want to get the most out of likemind, treat it as a social event with people who happen to have similar professional interests.
I have found new clients via likemind, but the main benefit has been simply hanging around with others with similar interests, who are facing similar challenges and excited by similar opportunities.
Whenever I try to persuade sceptical friends that the internet is not fundamentally antisocial, likemind is one of the first examples I pick. Its website consists of the bare minimum needed to facilitate face-to-face meetups – no members or profiles, just a map showing locations, and RSS feeds telling you the date, time and location of your local likemind. After a couple of visits you might not even need the website – likemind is always on the third Friday of the month, and usually in the same place.
Noah Brier, Likemind Co-Founder
I think the purpose of likemind is to just get interesting people together for some coffee and a chat. It’s nice to talk about a great vision, but I think the real beauty of likemind is that its exactly what people make of it (luckily, so many people seem to make so much of it).
Noah Brier, Likemind Co-Founder
For more about the likemind vibe, have a look at this recent feature in the New York Times. Or simply turn up at the next likemind near you, you’ll be made very welcome.
If there’s no likemind in your area, search Meetup.com for groups organised around your interests. And if there’s nothing there already, why not consider setting one up yourself?
One person’s experience of likemind
Clive De Freitas is a New Yorker I met at likemind London:
There’s something comforting about coffee and conversation, especially in the context of a likemind gathering. For a New Yorker like me to find himself in a new city like London, let alone a new country, and just stumble upon interesting and creative people having stimulating conversations about ideas and projects…there’s an automatic connection and inclusion in a community…it’s a physical hyperlink of sorts to a social network of like minds.
Clive de Freitas, Brand Strategist, Market Researcher & Innovation Consultant
DeviantART has been running since 2000 and bills itself as “the world’s largest online community of artists and art lovers”, with 22 million users, over 65 million monthly visitors and over 2.5 billion monthly pageviews.
It covers a very wide range of art forms, including various visual and digital arts, crafts and the written word. Users can share their work and put it up for sale via collections. There are also extensive forums as well as networking features linked to user profiles. As with Behance, there is some stunning work on display, particularly in the popular collections area.
Angelo Sotira, DeviantART CEO and Co-Founder
If I could sum up the spirit of the site I would say ‘DeviantART loves you’. It’s the most emotional, sensitive, caring place on the Internet, somewhere you can put yourself and your work out there and you won’t be too harshly judged. It’s also the largest platform for artists to be seen and exposed to potential clients and employers. DeviantART who have secured high-profile deals via the site include Mark Brooks who was picked up by Marvel Comics, Space Coyote who has done work for The Simpsons, and =fsk whose Line Rider drawings have attracted 25 million views and been turned into a game for the Nintendo DS and Wii.
On a site like Facebook you are likely to spend most of your time networking with people you already know, but on DeviantART you have the opportunity to make new contacts within a focused society that embraces artistic deviance of all kinds. As well as operating on an enormous scale, DeviantART caters for a wide range of ages and levels of ability. So we have kids of 13 who are just starting out, seasoned professionals making a living from their work, and large numbers of grandparents as well. Our internal mission is to foster their creative genius, at whatever stage they are at on their journey.
Every artist is an entrepreneur — at DeviantART we provide the tools and community to support their creative and business development.”
Angelo Sotira, CEO, DeviantART
A DeviantART user’s perspective
One of the things that struck me while browsing through the collections on DeviantART was the number of tutorials on display. There is evidently a culture of teaching and mentoring among DeviantART members, which is a big attraction of the site for art director and longtime DeviantART user Waldemar Wegelin:
DeviantArt is an online web community I joined back in 2001. I used it regulary in the beginning, uploading my early design efforts and getting the opinion of other artists and designers. Nowadays it has a super broad range of users and there’s lots of stuff on there that you won’t find anywhere else. I use it mainly for my personal projects, only rarely stuff I’ve done to answer a brief. I haven’t been uploading lately but working on a few new submissions.
The greatest thing is that users are willing to critique your work and help you progress. I can use DeviantArt to experiment with various styles that I can’t use in my day-to-day job, as they have little commercial appeal. Another great thing for me is browsing through the rich archives, you find stuff on concepts that are really unique, imagery that isn’t found on flickr, Getty, or Google. So it serves as a source of inspiration as well as a playground to try out stuff.
As a social networking site DA is completely different. In the essence of it, I think, it is filled with people who love to create things, whether they are digital-paintings, photography, poetry or something completely random. Other social sites are about interacting but DA is equally about contributing you skill and craft to it. If you compare it to other art communities like shadowness, it’s less elitist, and the range of artists from all levels is amazing. It starts with complete newbies right up to the high level of uber illustrators. And everyone lives happy together.
Dribbble is an original twist on the traditional design portfolio site: instead of posting finished work, users post snapshots of works in progress, to receive feedback and encouragement from fellow designers.
It might sound like the kind of site that would only be of interest to designers themselves, but it includes a ‘find designers’ section where clients can search for designers by specialism and/or location, which makes Dribbble a shop window as well as a workshop.
Dan Cederholm, Dribbble Co-Founder
Dribbble is unique in that it provides a quick, fun way of finding great visual design and the talented designers behind the work. It’s gradually become an incredibly diverse pool of top illustrators, icon artists, typographers, UI designers, etc.
By limiting the viewport to 400×300, we’re forcing the artists to choose interesting details about what they’re working on. As a side effect of that self-filtering, browsing Dribbble as a fan for inspiration or a scout looking to hire talent, Dribbble’s bite-sized peeks are perfect for sifting through the sea of creative people out there on the web.
Most importantly though, Dribbble at its core is a community. Meetups are happening all over the globe, Dribbble members are collaborating, getting hired, offering feedback and encouragement, etc. – an incredible level of vibrant social interaction compared to the average portfolio site.
Dan Cederholm, Dribbble Co-Founder
A Dribbble user’s experience
As a self-employed designer, Twitter gives me coworkers and Dribbble keeps me from creating in a vacuum. I’ve found it extremely helpful to share my work and talk with other creatives throughout the day, though I am careful to keep that secondary to my work.
I sometimes get job inquiries through Dribbble (one only a few days after joining), though I’m not actively seeking work and don’t have a Pro account. Dribbble is excellent for this. They even have a ‘Scout’ account for clients/employers who are looking to hire a designer.
No, the galaxy of blogs doesn’t constitute a clearly defined network like the rest of this list. But if you’re looking for a sense of identity, creative inspiration, professional opportunities, collaborators, partners and sheer enjoyment, then writing a blog is hard to beat.
Anyone can create an impressive-looking social network profile in half an hour, and it’s not much work to maintain an active account. But building a blog is different – it makes a bigger and more authoritative statement about who you are, which can make it a far more powerful networking tool than any of the networks featured in this post.
And unlike the other networks, writing a blog on your own domain is a way of creating something that is truly your space. There’s no danger of becoming someone else’s user-generated content, or finding your thousands of followers have moved on to another network, where you’ll have to start building your audience all over again.
Building a valuable blog means all the networks on this list could vanish tomorrow and you would still be attracting plenty of opportunities.
Useful blogging resources
If you found this guide valuable…
If you find this guide to creative networking of value, then I hope you’ll take a moment to share it on your favourite social network(s). 🙂
And if you know anyone who knows they should be doing more online networking but are unsure where to start, you’d be doing them (and me) a favour if you forward the link to them.