Social Media: How Much Should Artists Engage?

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Recently U.S. movie star Leslie Jones of Ghostbusters fame publicly quit using Twitter. The decision followed a particularly hateful, discriminatory string of tweets and engagement from others on the platform, acting anonymously. The insults are not worth repeating here but were the types of things people only under the protection of the internet would say to another human being.

Jones isn’t the first star to face harassment and threats through social media but her case is so particularly awful, so specifically difficult to comprehend, that it brings a lot of social media issues to light. For its part, Twitter has released a statement saying that it plans to ban the offending tweeters but is it too late for Jones?

Social media has made it easier than ever for artists and their following to interact. Twitter is one platform, but WeChat, SnapChat, Facebook and Instagram are also in the mix. What responsibility do artists have to their social media audiences though? At what point is all of it too much?

Social Media for Promotion

Social media has made it possible for free publicity in the form of shares, likes, and retweets. Small artists who are hosting a gallery opening and big artists who are releasing a big-budget blockbuster can use the same media to spread details about it – and get others to share it too, with a few simple clicks. In this way, social media is making it easier to talk about upcoming projects, but the flip side is that people can speak negatively too.

A good example is the upcoming Trolls movie in the U.S. Some of the stars of the movie, including Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, took part in a promotion that announced the movie release date in late 2016. There was some backlash though, from people who thought the promo spots were so ridiculous that they had to be fake. Instead of building hype for the movie, it made a mockery of it in some ways. Will that ultimately help the movie do well in theaters at release? It’s tough to say but it will be an interesting lesson in social media use by artists for promotion either way.

Companies use social media for promotion too, of course. In the past year we’ve seen Taco Bell and Burger King using emojis on social media platforms to garner attention for their brands. Social media IS an effective way to market, but it is an interactive, two-way streets.

Social Media for Good

Artists have a lot of influence over fans and that can make a positive impact when channeled in the right way. By using social media to spread awareness about causes of importance, artists can get the word out in a viral way. Emma Watson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Rashida Jones are just a few big names who use their celebrity to further important social causes on social media. This is another avenue artists should explore, particularly if what they do for a living is connected to bigger causes.

Social Media as a Choice

There is nothing anywhere that says artists need to use social media. Like all people, the choice to join is just that – a choice. Artists should weigh the benefits against the potential for negativity before joining, and should remember that like Leslie Jones, quitting is always an option. If you find that you are spending more time arguing with internet trolls than you are actually putting into your art and positive promotion, social media may not be the right fit for you.

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