Social media is a beehive.

On one hand, it’s extremely overwhelming, scary, and could cover you in painful stings.

On the other hand...honey. Liquid gold, baby.

As creatives, it’s hard to figure out the fine line between bee stings and bee honey.

This is why social media is one of our annual topics of conversation. 

Here is your recap, written by Anna Hetzel and photos by Sean Gorant.

Jump to what you actually care about:


Authentic - to be or not to be?

You are a person. We are people.

We just happen to be people selling a THING on the internet.

In order to sell that thing we need to be trustworthy, credible, and connecting with the right people at the right time.

But to be trustworthy the internet tells us to be authentic.

What does that even mean?

Do we share pictures of our cute dogs napping? (Anna, your writer, is 100% guilty of this)

Do we do an Instagram Live a day to just talk about what’s going on?

Do we share out deepest desires and fears?
Or do we just share pictures of our work?

See what I mean? 

‘Authentic’ is so inauthentic. 

If you are part of a company or an agency your decisions are a bit easier - you just follow what the company guidelines are. The company or agency has to do the hard work of deciding what authenticity means to them.

But as a freelancer, authenticity is too wrapped up our very own sense of self.

That becomes dangerous as we desperately cling to every HEART we get and think that that little tap from a follower justifies the time you put into that one single post.

And if we don’t get any feedback we feel like a failure.

What we need to do is take back control of our narrative. 

Social media is our chance to be the subject. To tell our own story in whatever way we see fit. Or to just not be on social media at all.

What a great segue into boundaries….

Setting healthy boundaries

It’s all too easy for social media to become your tether to who you really are. 

Sure, it may have started as posting photos of the best moments but it eventually turned into your expectations in life.

When was the last time you ate a fricking fantastic meal but still felt disappointed that it didn’t photograph well? 

Probably yesterday.

Setting healthy boundaries will help us tether and ground back in a reality outside of the platform.

Being authentic has unintended consequences, so you need to decide what you want to share.

One suggestion was to give just enough. If you’re on social media for your work, clients are hiring you. They don’t care about what’s for dinner or your family vacation. They care about your work. Having a spattering of personal photos surrounded by your stellar work is a great way to separate yourself personally but still show up as a bonafide human.

If you catch yourself putting your professional worth into how much engagement you get on your posts, it may be time to step away.

Delete the apps from your phone and renegotiate your boundary with yourself.

Figure out what is unique to YOU and how to better show that in a way that doesn’t eat at your soul. (let’s be honest - it does feel that way sometimes)

Which platform? (aka how to stand out and be noticed by the 'right' people

Once you’ve set your boundaries, now we have to decide where to put our energy.

Creatives, especially visual ones, can easily get caught in an insular cycle on Instagram.

Think about it - how many graphic designers, illustrators, and photographers do you follow?

They probably make up more than half of your feed.

And that means their feed looks about the same as yours.

See the problem?
We are all talking to the same crowd.

We are all trying to sell to people who live the same experience.

Our job as creatives is to take people out of their normal world and show them something new.

We can’t do that if we surround ourselves with other people that have the same world view.

So, Instagram is fantastic for some people.

But if your ideal client is a CEO, startup, or corporation - they don’t live on Instagram.

Seriously, go to LinkedIn. 

If you kill it on Instagram, you would blow people outta the water on LinkedIn.

Here’s the point of this entire section:

  1. Figure out why you’re on social media (be honest with yourself)

  2. Once you do that - decide whether you’re putting your energy into the right platform

  3. If you don’t know which platform, start researching your ideal client to figure it out

Social media should be our honey pot, not a hive of bees.

Stop stealing my stuff, d*mn it

But dang.

If you have really great work and are getting noticed, it just plain sucks that eventually someone will steal your work.

What the even hell.

Can we trust no one!!?!?!?!?!? (shakes fist as ceiling)

Protect yourself.

Read these AMAs with lawyers about copyright law.


If you could start all over again...

A few people were just getting into social media as a marketing tactic at the meeting.

Here’s what our community said if they could start from 0 with social media.

1- Figure out your motivation

Social media is frustrating and can feel like “spitting into the wind.” (direct quote, sorry I didn’t catch your name but you’re brilliant) You need self-motivation, because social media is important in building up your professional reputation.

Solution: Decide what you can do for yourself that will be fun and post it. Do a challenge, create a rhythm, whatever you need to make it easy. In short - make a process out of it. But be sure to set boundaries. One Rise & Designer set her profile to private for the first 3 months just so she could test and discover her own boundaries. < inspiration

2- Plan upfront

Updating your profiles day-to-day is exhausting. Plan 3 months out in one solid chunk of time, schedule it and just forget about it.

3 - Curation

Think of social media as your own personal gallery. If you could have a gallery wall, what would you want it to look like? You don’t need to post daily. You don’t even need to post weekly. You just need to post something

Your social media could be the most beautiful page yet because you are highly selective of what goes up.

4- Empower yourself

Do the research to understand each platform’s analytics. For real. I know numbers are toe-ing the bee sting territory, but if you truly understand your number you can get closer to that liquid gold (honey, in case you forgot). 

By understanding as much as you can you can make better decisions and not feel as hopeless.

Fighting against the Machine

Social media isn’t built to help you.

It’s built to make money for the company. For the MACHINE.

You can optimize and plan all you want, but at the end of the day it will never be exactly what you need it to be.

Feeling hopeless?

Don’t worry, we can FIGHT BACK with COLLECTIVE ACTION.

Katie Chandler, a Rise & Design regular, is a member of the Pretty Picture Club, “an international illustration studio rooted in collaboration, community, and making the world a prettier place.”

Where can you bring a group of people together under a singular purpose to slowly change the world?

Can you bring a little laughter into the world?

Or satire?

Or social commentary?

Or community?

Together we’re stronger.

Conclusion: WE ARE PEOPLE

Please remember that when you’re interacting on social media you are acting as you. 

Reach out! 

Have actual conversations, not just drop heart emojis on posts you really love. Tell them why you love it. Drop someone a heart-felt DM.

If someone comments on your posts, follow up.

But seriously, follow up.

If you’re wanting social media to be more than a nest of stinging bees, you have to show up and follow up. 

To make that liquid gold, you need to remember that it’s a human on the other end you’re responding to.

Be intentional.