Hoping for a meritocracy in the age of social media

design, just a thought

Back in the day when we started our business in 1999 there was a meritocracy of sorts in the world. For the most part people who did the best work got the best gigs. There are 3 things that changed all that: Amazon, Facebook and blogs. If you’ve written a book, the chances of you getting to write another book depend on the sales of your first one and the reviews on Amazon. Publishers will also check your blog and the number of followers/fans you have on Facebook. If you want to design a fabric line, some fabric manufacturers will look at the traffic on your blog and your Facebook stats as well as your design ideas. Like it or not the digital age has turned us, in a way, into a social media-ocracy. If you’re good at asking people to “like” you on Facebook or you’re good at sending your Facebook friends to your blog, you will get better gigs and people will pay more attention to you. Ditto all of this for Twitter. There’s a reason for all of this. Fabric companies, publishers and the like want people to work for them who have a built-in PR machine such as a popular blog or a highly “liked” Facebook page. The idea is that the author or the designer has “built-in” marketing channels and will sell more than someone with fewer visible followers.

So if there’s a blog you follow, click on over to Facebook and like the author. The same thing goes for fabric designers or pattern designers. If there’s a book you love, write a detailed review on Amazon so that author will be able to write some more. Reviews on Amazon are taken extremely seriously so when you write it, imagine that you’re talking to the editor in person. Be honest but realize that these words affect people’s futures more than you might imagine. I’ve never been one for popularity contests but the truth is that the decision makers in any given industry care about this stuff so you should too.

If you want to “like” this blog, our fabric or our books, head on over to The Modern Quilt Studio (one of these days we’ll get a button…) on Facebook and click away. If you’re not a Facebook user, no worries. You don’t have to be to “like” people. You just need to set up a free account. And while you’re on Facebook, look for all of the other people who inspire you and “like” them too so they can continue to do great work.

12 thoughts on “Hoping for a meritocracy in the age of social media

  1. What a nice, sensible approach to the current realities of today’s marketplace. No whining, no “it’s not fair,” just “here’s how it is, and here’s what you can do.” This encourages me to go on Amazon and let them know how much I appreciate the incredible level of detail and instructions in your books. I’ll do it today! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. @Kathy – thank you very much for appreciating that I’m not trying to whine but just make sure that people understand the realities that face authors and fabric designers these days. Thank you also for writing a review on Amazon.

  3. Weeks, I have never considered all this before, but you are absolutely correct. I started a blog this year and am kind of a slow adopter to social media, but I am getting up to speed. I read the reviews on Amazon and it does influence my decision to buy. I will leave start leaving reviews now. Thanks for the post.

  4. On a similar vein, my husband was just commenting the other day that he wished a 10 star rating system had become the standard on the internet instead of a 5 star. With 5, a 3 star rating feels like a negative review and one of them can kill your average, while an equivalent 6 star rating on a 10 point system still feels like it is above 50% and might have the effect of dropping you down to an 8 point average, which is still respectable. And people could save the 10 stars for things that really were great and really are above average. I do find myself wary of things with a 3 star rating, looking instead for 4 or 5 stars, but that rating is so hard to maintain.

  5. Thank you for a realistic description of the challenges designers face in a media-driven era. I was inspired to go post a review for “Transparency Quilts” on Amazon and plan to review some of my other favorite publications as well. Oftentimes I don’t follow a blog and twitter and Facebook because it seems redundant, but I see the value to the proprieter and may have to add a few more feeds (I can always “hide” duplicate messages).

  6. Dear Weeks, I appreciate your candor and openness in talking about it is a new world for growing a business through social media. Another aspect of social media that has interested me is the sudden fascination with Pinterest. I did sign up for Pinterest but must say I felt very uncomfortable when I started to get e-mails notifying me that perfect strangers liked my pins. Then I began to wonder about how artists such as yourself feel about your work being copied and “pinned” over and over. In talking with some friends who have their own quilting related business, the general consensus was that it’s OK because Pinterest gives “credit” to who owns the picture. That still makes me uncomfortable (probably because my “day job” is being a compliance officer). Interestingly there was an commentary mentioned in the American Bar Association on-line newsletter that spoke about Pinterest. Here is the link: http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/why-i-tearfully-deleted-my-pinterest-inspiration-boards/. It is long, but it would be interesting to hear your feelings. thanks so much, Pam

    1. @Pam,
      Pinterest and all dissemination of images of our work are a mixed blessing. On one hand, we appreciate people telling people about us and showing our work to others. On the other hand we’ve gotten to the point where it’s painful for us to read through some of the popular books out there because they invariably contain quilt patterns that are nearly identical to ones we made, copyrighted and published in the past decade. We receive emails from people alerting us that others are knocking us off and of course we wonder if Pinterest and people posting pictures of our work contributes to this. In that way, the ease with which people can lift images from our website has definitely hurt us. However, we know that in one instance someone admitted to lifting a pattern directly out of Modern Quilt Workshop and selling the design to a major manufacturer. Another knocked us off two years after emailing us for a catalog of our commission quilts. A very famous fabric designer lifted one of our patterns for her fabric line and then sent us a casual, “I guess great minds think alike!” email notifying us that she was about to go to print with fabric that looked like cheater cloth of one of our quilts and acted as if it’s no big deal. And all of that happened before Pinterest was around. Although we have found the copying for profit designs of our by others upsetting, I wouldn’t mind if people who were just looking for inspiration for their homes “pinned” us. In short, if people who are being paid to design original work would do just that we wouldn’t have to worry that every time you put an image anywhere that there’s someone looking to profit off it. Our only hope is that people will come to see that our work is different and we will never, ever run out of ideas. I’ve been making modern quilts since 1987, Bill since 1995 and we’re not done yet.

  7. What a nice summation of today’s reality! :) I have to admit that even though I love your designs, books and blog, I am one of those who haven’t found you on Facebook before…(found it through Modern Quilt Guild FB page). I guess didn’t try hard enough, although FB sometimes does make it hard to find certain people or brands…especially in our field (quilting) since names can be so different. I think a button on your blog would help A LOT – I am very much a beginner in this social media presence with my designs and quilting but putting a button on my blog helped tremendously. The way I learned all this in a very short time and very “to-the-point” way is by taking Facebook 101 on-line class with Maria Peagler (www.socialmediaonlineclasses.com )- she does other classes too and it made a big difference in my stumbling around this new world. Of course, I am not affiliated at all, just a very happy student.
    As for copyright and Pinterest and all that – there will always be people who miss-use it, apart from some flagrant and huge thefts, you can only do what you do best – be incredibly creative and keep creating – so keep up a great work! :)

  8. It would also be nice if you added a button so that people could follow your blog through one of the common readers such as google reader. Perhaps you have it but I haven’t been able to find it.

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