For the aspiring artist or creative professional, exposure is everything. Someone must see and like your work before they award a commission, after all.

Social media is an unrivaled avenue for gaining notoriety. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook let you tap into an enormous user base with diverse interests to create niche followings for your work. Users build their social identities by sharing the things they discover and like, which means opportunity for tons of free press: If people like your work, they will voluntarily promote it and provide supportive feedback.

Finding followers can seem like a daunting quest for the uninitiated, so we asked two artists with big social fanbases for their best advice on how to build a social media following for your blog.

Join the Conversation

There is a common misconception, partly fueled by the posting habits of A-list celebrities, that social media is about one-way communication. Many accounts spew updates without the slightest flicker of human character and interaction. While great content can speak for itself, the most popular accounts tend to be run by people who actively socialize.

Moose Allain, an artist from the UK with 70,000 followers on Twitter, first started tweeting in 2009. “I didn’t understand it at all at first. I didn’t follow anyone, I saw it more as a way of broadcasting.” This tweeting style was not very successful. “I had about 50 followers for the first year.“

Then came his Twitter epiphany. “After about a year, I started following other people and suddenly realized you could be part of the conversation.” The more he engaged, the more people followed him. “It started to grow steadily then, and has continued steadily ever since.” Social networks are built for engagement, yet few of us truly take advantage of this

You can start engaging with your own audience by following people who follow you, and commenting on their posts. While Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr, and Google+ all have communities you can join, you can easily reach interest groups by using hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. You can even host your own discussions — Allain does this by tweeting on a theme and encouraging people to reply with their own experiences. Artists can also tap into the influencer marketing boom by sharing relevant material with celebrities, who may share the work with their followers.

Focus Your Efforts

To commit the necessary time to social engagement, it is best to center your efforts on a particular network. Elise Swopes is an American designer and photographer who has 273,000 followers on Instagram. “I found the app super early, and just got attached immediately —considering I don’t have Facebook.”

A photo posted by Elise Swopes (@swopes) on Apr 29, 2016 at 7:36pm PDT

A deluge of comments arrives with each image she posts, yet still she finds time to reply. Her focus on two networks certainly helps — “I use Instagram and Twitter mostly.” Likewise, Allain largely uses Twitter, along with Instagram and Vine. “I’ve tried other things (Google+, Ello), but none have really stuck. These work for me.”

Share Everywhere

A photo posted by Elise Swopes (@swopes) on Mar 7, 2016 at 8:35pm PST

The search for new followers should not be restricted to your social media, either. If you have a personal website, embedding Instagram photos, or videos from Facebook on it gives people the chance to see your content and follow you instantly. Likewise, you can easily create a widget featuring your latest tweets via the settings menu in Twitter.

Be Yourself, but Stay Professional

So what should you share? Of course, creatives should share their work, but there is every reason to provide diversity for your followers. Moose Allain truly takes this to heart. “I offer quite a mix of stuff, from clever wordplay to dumb jokes, as well as my art, animations, etc.” Even on the image-specific network of Instagram, Elise Swopes mixes things up. “I share anything from super spacey surreal images to self-portraits, to a simple clean unedited shot. It depends on my mood.“

That said, you should think of your profile as “a kind of real-time portfolio of your work,” says Allain. “It makes your skill set visible and, if you keep at it, it shows that you can deliver a consistent quality. It’s a great way to shortcut the whole pitching business.”

Ultimately, however, social media is something you should enjoy, which means being yourself. “At some point you’re going to have to show up and blow the world away,” Swopes points out. “I always say, ‘Don’t copy, get inspired.'”

Sharing doesn’t begin and end with social media — newsletters are another great way to get your work seen and your ideas heard. To get started, check out these best practices to grow your creative newsletter.

Top image by Kemal Taner

Need more creative inspiration? Check out our tips and avoid a creative slump.