On July 12, 2018, embroidery artist Jessica Grimm lost access to her Instagram account used for her business. She immediately contacted Instagram for help, as well as Facebook, since both profiles were linked.
“Contacting Facebook and Instagram is a nightmare, as we all know,” said Grimm, who runs her business from Germany. “Up until today, they have done nothing to help me. They keep sending me the link to their scant help pages. Unfortunately, following the steps detailed there did nothing to help regain control of my account.”
Up until the hack, she made sure to post almost twice a day onto Instagram and share those posts on Facebook, photographing handmade items from her shop and works in progress. She was also blogging and using Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube to grow her embroidery business.
“At first, I went into hyper gear to solve the matter,” Grimm said. “I had a careful look at all my online accounts and geared up on security.” Knowing that her social media accounts were used solely for business purposes, she went to the police and reported the hack, worrying that the hacker might do something harmful while using her identity.
Then the anxiety gave way to hurt.
“I had worked so hard to grow my followers and was still a little short of a 1,000,” she said. “It was all so unfair! I did create a new account, but the realization of what it would take to build up a new account made me lose heart.”
Although getting hacked is a horrible experience, there could be a silver lining of sorts. Some creative business owners find that easing up on social media frees them up to focus on their primary handcraft, and allows them to plan, strategize, and research effective business practices, while still marketing effectively enough.
A Forced Social Media Break
As she did not get her accounts back, Grimm was forced to go on a social media break. During her hiatus, she decided to focus more on her weekly newsletter and blog. “It became clear to me just how many hours a day I spent behind screens instead of creating embroideries.” After a few days, Grimm noticed that she became calmer and started to get fresh ideas for new projects. “It seemed I was pretty stressed out about keeping up with all the people I was following, or grooming my followers who expected a reaction on their comments,” she said.
And the financial side of it all? “Thanks to focusing on my newsletter (around 480 subscribers) and offering a coupon every now and then, I am actually making quite a bit more money than before,” Grimm said. “My newsletter subscribers are my most loyal customers. My social media followers were primarily after free high-quality information, asking very detailed questions about projects instead of booking a workshop or buying my digital content.”
Grimm says she is not against using social media—she plans to continue using Pinterest but has deleted her Facebook and Instagram accounts—however she advises creatives to take an honest look at what they are using. “I have the feeling that not using or limiting the use of social media will mean that your circle of followers will grow far more slowly, but this growth seems to be far more sustainable,” she said.
Watercolor trees by MG Camacho.
Photo courtesy of MG Camacho
A Voluntary Break
Some believe a break from social media is the key to personal growth. MG Camacho runs her multi-craft blog, The Ambidextrous Crafter, from her home in Colorado Springs. She took a break from all social media in February 2018 for 40 days during the religious season of Lent.
“During that time, I was able to reclaim time for myself to reflect and be thankful. I read books on my to-read pile and was able to focus on what I was actually reading and not have my mind wander about what my social media feed looked like or if people ‘hearted’ or ‘liked’ or commented,” Camacho said. She also enjoyed a break from some of the negative comments.
Camacho admits that for her, social media had taken up so much time and had become an addiction. “I was at the point where all I [would] do on my phone is scroll through social media feeds, ‘liking’ posts, and commenting on posts, which ate up a minimum of 4 hours in one sitting,” Camacho said. “I could’ve read a book, played and recorded music on my piano, painted watercolors, or worked on a crochet project. I could’ve spent all that time being productive or learning something new that would help me be a better person.”
Camacho suggests taking advantage of automated tools to set a time limit for social media use. After her 40-day fast from social accounts, she has reduced her use overall. “It was very liberating to have all that extra time to do what makes you happy and productive. I noticed an increase in how frequently inspiration strikes me, and how much happier and Zen-like I’ve become,” she said. She is thinking of completely getting rid of her social media accounts, keeping only her blog, and Ravelry and GoodReads accounts.
Hanging Up Her Facebook Groups
Quilter Leah Day, of Shelby, North Carolina, recently archived her Facebook groups, which she’d been actively growing since 2014. After launching the successful Building Blocks Quilt Along, many followers asked for a place they could hang out and share pictures of their blocks easier. “We decided to try Facebook groups . . . as a place to answer questions, link up videos and articles, and stay connected with everyone,” she said. She later launched a Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along group, and a Leah Day Quilting Friends group where quilters could post about anything, not just about quilting.
Though the Facebook groups generated interest and sales in the quilt alongs, they were difficult to keep up with. “A question asked in the morning might be at the bottom of the feed by the time I checked it unless other members chimed in,” she said. “I began missing questions, and that was the whole purpose of creating the groups in the first place.”
Moderating the groups for fake accounts was also a problem. “In 2018, 2 out of every 5 people asking to join were not real quilters,” she said. Her husband, a business partner, spent 1 to 2 hours daily vetting members. “And even then, we’d have spammers leak through. “
Even the “real members” that joined were problematic, often joining the group just to link up their own websites, blogs, or Facebook groups. “Sometimes quilters would join who had no idea who I was, or where my website was, and then get irritated when I shared a tutorial,” Day confessed.
“I also think there’s a general negative culture on Facebook and a mentality that you can say anything you want,” she said. “On my blog, I don’t usually get a comment along the lines of ‘I don’t like Leah’s new quilt along. I’m not going to join in next year.’ But this was almost a daily occurrence in my [Facebook] groups.”
A Reality Check
Time spent on social media is time spent not quilting, Day realized.
“While sure it’s great to post nice images and try to share your work online, I’m not sure the time and effort expended on these platforms is really worth it.”
She instead spends her time making quilts, taking nice pictures, and sharing them on her blog and website, so “they will be naturally pinned by quilters who like them.”
According to the numbers, Pinterest has been the only platform that has ever shown solid results in sales for Day. “My Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts have never translated to steady traffic or sales, largely because I think these platforms are designed for you to hang out on those platforms, not go to other places.”
Day even tried an expensive program to help her schedule posts to 7 or more platforms a day, nicely branding the photos, and resizing for the platform. “I canceled my account because it just seemed ridiculous,” she said. “If I can’t even maintain posting myself, how authentic is this? We are all being told the same thing. Get all of these social media platforms set up and post every day. I’d rather continue posting new quilting tutorials on my website and blog, and occasionally share a picture to Instagram and have it push to my Facebook business page.
Day will continue to blog and will post videos to her YouTube channel as her main social media platform. “I’m currently posting five video quilting tutorials per week and plan to maintain that through the end of year.” She also tries to answer all questions and comments every evening on her blog, website, and YouTube channel. “I think it’s best to encourage quilters to interact with me on my blog or website, where I can help them the most. It’s also the place where my products are sold, so that makes the most sense as far as sales.”
If you measure your social media efforts and they aren’t generating sales for your business, Day says it may be best to spend that time elsewhere. “Writing magazine articles, guest posting on other blogs, writing more articles for your blog, posting videos, working on a book or online class–all of these things are a better use of your time,” she said.
“But I still firmly believe the key to success online is to make beautiful things, and share beautiful things, and to share always with an open heart,” Day said. “Focus on educating and building a shop or business that supports your education and you’ll be moving in the right direction.”