If you’re curious about how other artists and makers handle social media, the social study series highlights some of the best to get an inside look at how they do it.
Aaron Avila and Shane Spalione started their streetwear brand, Longlive the Swarm, five years ago and have been building things slowly since then. They’ve had a DIY ethos since the beginning and they aren’t shy to share both the easy and tricky parts to building, running, and managing your own business. For this interview, Aaron talks candidly about Longlive’s approach to using social media.
Where do you focus your social media efforts and why?
When we got started in early 2014, Instagram was really the catalyst for us to get our products seen by a worldwide audience. No funky algorithm at the time that would throttle posts. We focused a lot of our attention on that platform early on and still do today. I still think it’s the best social media tool for anyone looking to get some eyes on their work. I am grateful for Instagram because it is where this brand really cut its teeth. It really helped us in finding our voice as a brand. In a sea of start-up brands and artists struggling to be heard and seen, people are quick to recognize what has heart and what doesn’t. Instagram really introduced me to a whole new world of creatives and really made me step up my game as far as the kinds of content we put out.
I think it’s really important to not be too all in on any one thing. You want to be liquid. This is pretty difficult sometimes especially when you are juggling the other aspects of running an independent brand. I try and think about where I’m posting and why. Is it providing value to our audience? Would this be better suited for Twitter or Facebook? Or maybe even a video for our YouTube channel? You can post simultaneously to most of your socials from Instagram but I don’t think that’s the answer either. I try and remember that just because someone enjoys us on Instagram doesn’t mean they will connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Your content should fit the platform.
How much time do you devote to social media on any given week?
I’m afraid to break down the hours I spend a week on social media to be honest. I have spent a week working on a single post in the past. I will say this, I think the most effective and time consuming part is actually being social. Interacting with not just customers/followers but also staying on top of what your peers are doing. Supporting other artists you love is just as important as posting that new product. As a brand, you want to build community and friendships. That is worth putting in time for.
What does your planning process look like?
I used to stress like crazy and plan a week or two ahead - which is a lot of work with life and a full-time job. I’d have thought out posts ready in my phone and over analyze everything. Then, when it didn’t perform well I’d get bummed out or have to go back to the drawing board. To be honest, this is the first year I have really taken a step back as far as the way I look at social media. In a way I felt it killing my love for why I do this. For me it was real easy to start looking for validation from others with every post or when releasing something new. After a while you start looking at posts a little too analytically.
I think balance is very important. For some people posting everyday works for them and their audience. For others, it may be a little more spread out. I post when I feel I need to speak to our customers and friends. For me now, some things are better left unsaid. I take my time and really try and give out good content that showcases our products and who we are without compromising my mental health.
Do you take your own photos for social? Or do you work regularly with hired photographers?
We do both and enjoy them equally. We are so fortunate to have close talented friends who happen to be amazing photographers. I’ve said it many times before but especially in the beginning, it is important to find like-minded individuals who are starting out just like you. Work together to help each other build. In the beginning of a venture the currency between creatives should be experience. We have been able to grow with our friends and really hone in on creating the best final product. When you work with people you trust you really don’t have to say anything. It makes the process so much easier.
How do you always manage to have something fresh to share?
Pressure creates diamonds. When you don’t have a whole lot you are forced to get even more creative. I recycle content many times. I think this all goes back to my attitude of sharing when I feel I have something to say. I think that’s the best way to keep things fresh.
Do you use any tools to help you manage your social media like Photoshop, Buffer, or any others?
I’ve used or tried almost everything in this weird journey. I’ve used Hootsuite in the past but didn’t really like being so hands off in a way. I use Photoshop quite regularly when it comes to the graphics side of things. I’m big on apps. I use Afterlight, VSCO, and Layout quite often for our pictures. There are so many cool tools out there that are free too!
Do you follow any guiding principles for posting to your profiles?
Post with a purpose. Whether that is to sell, connect, inform - I always try and post with a clear intent.