Let me start off by saying y’all rock – this isn’t a rant, a call-out, or anything scandalous. The community is truly amazing. I already knew this to be the case, but going to Adepticon this year only made it more evident that my beliefs are well founded. The community is healthy, welcoming, and encouraging in all aspects. There are obvious trolls and miserable people to be sure, mostly online, but I firmly believe this to be a vocal / visible minority. And this extends beyond the behemoth that is the Warhammer community, but really any fandom.
So what am I about to say? Nothing earth shattering; but something I say whenever I can, and hopefully it is something that resonates with y’all. It is not some soapbox for me to pontificate on an idea in the hopes of going viral or getting more social media traction for myself – I say this with no ulterior motive and an altruistic spirit:
Interact with the community on social media.
And I mean it. You actually should interact with folks. Smashing the like button on every image, or even on all comments isn’t enough. That has no heart, no warmth (well, I guess it literally is a heart). I sometimes stand in awe at how I managed to gain 10,500+ Instagram followers here, and gain a healthy thousand-strong population on an always-active Discord server, and recently ballooning my Twitter count. Now, I’ll be the first to say a follower count isn’t important, there are amazing accounts out there with less than 100 followers. I’m only using it as an easy metric in this instance to measure reach and influence for the good of the community at large. Big accounts have big influence.
So why me, how did I do it? I haven’t entered Golden Daemon, I’m not showcasing stellar paintjobs, I’m certainly unremarkable in every way compared to every other hobbyist out there. How did I get such a following? How in the holy hell did I get to be a Warhammer Hero?
I do one simple thing: interact! I respond to just about every comment on my Instagram. And I try to not give one word platitudes (though sometimes I do, which bothers me in hindsight). Provide an insight, an observation, a word of encouragement, or (gasp!) even a criticism! The trick is to actually have a meaningful engagement. My biggest initiative, #hohohobbyvices, is the very definition of this – it’s forced interaction! Some of my most engaged posts of all time are ones asking questions. And not just generic, simple questions that illicit an easy response to drive analytics, but thought provoking opinion topics. Have conversations with the community – be sociable.
In the same vein, there’s been a recent push on Instagram to #spreadthehobbylove. It’s a fantastic drive started by (I believe) @og.paintworks, which is at its core the ideal way to engage. It mobilizes the community to seek out those who may lie on the periphery, it promotes interaction! My only gripe — and it’s a very small gripe which doesn’t undermine the intended function — is that it’s turned into spam, it’s lost it’s charm. This does not diminish its effect, overall, but I’m not going to watch an Instagram story with 50+ unique account features of a screenshot with one of their works. You can see who views these kinds of spam stories, and the view count drops sharply after the first few are scrolled through. As I said above, there’s no real heart to it, it’s cold and sterile when it’s used on such a massed scale. This isn’t a knock on the initiative, I would just love to see it pared down to be more personal. Featuring one spotlight a week, or even a day would be more effective. Look at @the_drop_bear_au on Instagram. I’d say his #makinmatesmonday hashtag is arguably more engaging than the massed #spreadthehobbylove. He delves into his weekly “mate,” and explores what they’re all about. There’s a level of effort there, a connection. Both of these drives are valid, and worthy of high praise.
I see many self-styled “professional hobbyists” on all social media platforms failing to engage. They’ve might have the home studio for their vlogs, the branded content, the Patreon exclusive perks, but they’re sometimes lacking one vital element: engagement. Sure, they’ll like a comment, say “thanks!” or upvote a post, but it’s so sterile – there’s no community building in that. It’s a means to an end; driving site traffic to chase that monetization (in many cases). Not that monetization is bad, it isn’t, but if you’re just chasing the follow count and pushing site traffic for dollarydoos, the community will sniff it out a mile away and you’ll lose credibility. Look at Spikeybits, and other sites of a similar vein.
Despite this, don’t make it a second job, never exhaust yourself trying to be always-on and responsive at all hours. But we as a community, myself included, should make a stronger effort in actually being a community. Take a moment to construct a meaningful response to a comment, ask a question, or provide some avenue for discussion rather than something that resembles a captcha response.
Can you be an excellent member of the community without posting responses and actively engaging? Of course you can! But if you’re wondering what you can do to possibly get a little more from the community, considering a proactive approach. Be someone people enjoy talking with, be the community.
What do you think? Are there ways the community can be more responsive? Have I missed the mark?