Creating Cuteness To Combat the Cruel World of Instagram
Surface Design Sundays are a thing for me now. Sunday mornings I make breakfast for me and my husband and then have some coffee + computer time to design a whole bunch of cuteness for my new Society6 store Marshmallows and Suds. These designs focus on kawaii-esque subject matter like smiling suns, happy bumble bees, and cute puppies. Lately, I have been focusing on creating mugs and other accessories for Camp Cupcakes, a magical outdoor space with pink tents, pink hiking boots, and a compass for your heart. These designs are very different from my abstract artwork and that is very much the point: Marshmallows and Suds is a creative release for my creative release as well as the antidote to some of the "new kid in town" uglies I have experienced as a brand new business.
As a new business owner, I am learning everyday. For instance, I listen to entrepreneurial podcasts during my commute to and from work, digesting as much as possible before a day busy with many other commitments officially begins at 8:00AM. Daily, I am impressed by the knowledge and experience that so many bring to the table and am grateful for the opportunity to learn. This is an important part of why I am launching my own business: to learn, to grow, and to fight stagnation. I am also learning the kinds of lessons that may not be taught in a classroom or podcast. Unfortunately, sometimes what I learn is a bit disheartening as it reminds me that the world does contain tricksters and those not especially transparent about their intentions.
To be specific, Instagram has proven to be a rather coquettish tool in my self-marketing utility belt. Two months ago, when I first joined Instagram I was so excited and optimistic; all I needed to do was come up with the "perfect" hashtag and I had followers and likes and sometimes even website visits! My "followers" grew daily. I equated "followers" to possible customers and was very pleased with this. I made a goal of obtaining 5 followers a day. I thought all of us on Instagram were "in this together", you know #follow4follow, etc. So, I followed back. At first this was working, then I noticed something: I would go to bed with one number of followers and actually wake up with less. While I was following a lot of people, less and less people were following me. At first I blamed it on my product (they didn't like it), and then I blamed it on bots and fake accounts. While the first is possible (just can't go there, then why even bother doing anything, right?) the second, was true in some instances. Then I discovered an ugly third possibility...
It turns out that there is actually some sort of program or app which people are using to gain followers and the methodology is actually exploitative of the #follow4follow mindset; the app finds users on Instagram to follow, follows them, and then drops them like a bomb several days later. Why? The answer is two-fold: 1.) Again, exploiting #follow4follow, the assumption is that the person they followed will follow back, thus increasing their followers and 2.)By keeping one's followers higher than the number of people being followed (hence the inevitable drop), the person/business/entity appears to be in high demand, is sought out, and doesn't need to seek followers. So there.
That is just one of several little mean-spirited practices I have encountered. I also have had fake invites to "collaborate" on tote bag designs (watch out for the "save the turtles" people) and many compliments followed by solicitation via DM. There have been many, many other hustlers as well.
All in all, Insta is a good place to get the the word out about your product and to see what others are doing. However, the game playing reminds me of middle-school lunchroom politics and the desperation of all of its "phonies" brings to mind Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. Perhaps the patrons of his diner are so down because they were #followed and then #unfollowed too.
Hence my escape. When all of this marketing feels more like a street corner shell game (your dream becomes the ball) that is when I need to create peaceful cartoon scenes set in beautiful Camp Cupcakes located in Fort Bliss, Colorado.
If you don't like my pink tents, happy suns, and smiling bumble bees then just don't #followme. So there.