Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to Get Started on Twitter

Twitter is a good way to discover and build connections with other artists. It's kind of like a big party, where everyone is mingling and meeting new people. While I can't say that being on Twitter has brought me paying work, it has allowed me to participate in collaborative projects and zines that I probably otherwise wouldn't have known about.  (Also, one time I won a ticket to the ICON conference by retweeing a tweet. So that was cool.) Occasionally I see art directors tweeting about what kind of art portfolios they're looking for, so I do think it's possible to land paying work through Twitter.

If you're interested in getting started on Twitter as an artist, let me invite you to the party and show you around.

  • Follow artists who work in the industry you're interested in. If you want to do Magic the Gathering cards, look up some MTG artists on Twitter. If you want to do children's book illustration, look up your favorite book illustrators (and SCBWI) on Twitter. Through their conversations and retweets they'll start introducing you to new people to follow, and voila - you're building a network!
  • Follow employees of companies you're interested in. Obviously this varies depending on what industry you want to work in, so do your research. Search for terms like "art director" or "senior designer" on Twitter. Go to a dream client/employer's website, check out their staff page, and search for those people on Twitter.

  • Post your finished artwork. Duh. Just make sure that you have permission before you post any work done for clients.
  • Post your non-finished artwork. Sketches, works-in-progress, "sneak peeks," animated process GIFs, etc. Something that tends to do well on social media is a photo of your hand holding a pencil/stylus, hovering over a drawing.
  • Post encouraging thoughts and advice about how to improve at drawing. People love to retweet that stuff.
  • Post photos of art-related stuff. That can be events that you attend, photos of your studio, of new art supplies or books you just bought, paintings you just had framed, a show opening at a gallery, etc.
  • Compliment other artists when they post artwork. Just a quick "looks great!" or "this turned out really well!"
  • Retweet other artists' projects. Spread the word about their blog posts, webcomics, articles, giveaways, Patreons and Kickstarters. This means a lot to people.
  • Participate in art-related trending hashtags, challenges and communities. If you see the artists you follow are tweeting stuff like #inktober, #hourlycomicday, #mermay, #meettheartist or #witchsona, join in! This is a great way for new people to find you. If you're interested in children's books, check out @Kidlitart and participate in the weekly conversations. Participate in the weekly challenges at Color CollectiveAnimal Alphabets or Sketch Dailies. You could even start your own hashtag or community. Game developer/pixel artist @eigenbom grew his Twitter followers by starting a daily art challenge called @Pixel_Dailies.
  • Show some personality. Occasionally post non-art related stuff, such as a picture of your fancy coffee or that drunk squirrel you saw vomiting on the sidewalk. Just keep it upbeat and fun, and limit this to maybe 25% of your posts.

  • Don't ask people to follow you. It's seen as desperate. If you regularly post using the list above, people will start to follow you on their own.
  • Don't fish for compliments. Don't tweet or direct message your art directly at individuals, saying "hey what do you think?" It's awkward.
  • Don't post anything negative about clients or customers. Never do this, or you may scare off potential clients who were checking you out.
  • Don't only self-promote. If someone visits your profile and sees nothing but "pre-order my book!" and "back my Kickstarter!", they will ignore you. No one likes a sales bot. The occasional sales pitch is fine, but the majority of your posts should come from the list above.
  • Don't auto-post from other social media. Because of Twitter's character limit, the auto-posts are usually cut off mid-sentence and people will ignore them.
  • Spend five minutes scrolling through your feed. Read tweets, re-tweet interesting things from other artists, follow new artists who interest you. If you feel like your daily Twitter feed is boring or impossible to keep up with, maybe you're following too many people. Try using the app TweetDeck to organize your feed.
  • Post at least one thing per day. Use the "what to post" list above.
  • Repeat. Networking is about building friendships - give it time.

If you're already on Twitter, what has your experience been? Do you have any other tips for newbies? Do you disagree with any of the points I've made above? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section!


  1. Thanks for this! I've always felt overwhelmed by Twitter and often I feel that I can't join in a conversation without being invited. This list is super helpful - I'd love to start a following.

    1. Let me know when you've got a profile and I'll be your first follower :)

  2. Support MY KICKSTARTER! It's an anti-government graphic novel about religion and the oppression of white people! Just kidding.

    Another good thing to avoid is only posting "fan art"... you will only get likes from the fans, but you won't get followers.

    also. Follow me: @manleycomics

  3. Lots of great tips, all good ways to start! I've been on Twitter since 2009 and I love the platform. Good tip about using their search function. I need to do that more often ��

  4. Having just signed up for Twitter about a month ago, I appreciate this post a ton - it's so intimidating to join a new social media!


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