From inspiring personal illustrations and uplifting affirmations to native tools like reels and IG rooms that make it easier to connect, Instagram has become a platform that provides accessible support.  My Instagram journey started by searching for a community of like-minded young women with mental health challenges and today I have found a way to give back and provide support to uplift a global network of individuals seeking support.

My medium of choice is art. When people hear the term “artivist”, they tend to think politics (@obeygiant and @guerillagirls come to mind) but after struggling with clinical depression and the repercussions of stigma, lack of representation, and a supportive community, I decided to shine a spotlight on destigmatising mental health while also promoting intersectional feminism, representation, and self-love.

I believe that art has the power to motivate, educate and bring people together through evoking emotion and encouraging action. For me personally, I find that I can articulate my experiences and values best through creative mediums such as illustration and graphic design. Instagram’s visual first experience allows others to fully appreciate peoples’ work.

At the start of the pandemic, I quit my job (which was once a “dream job”) as the Asia Pacific Regional Senior Graphic Designer working with leading global brands such as TikTok and VF Corporation at one of the top global digital marketing agencies in the world, to pursue my dream of becoming an independent artist. Although it was a risky move, I knew I wanted to focus specifically on projects that had a social impact. Since then I have directed creative campaigns for social causes with global organizations and leading brands like Our Streets Now, Sesh Therapy, Plan International UK, Clear Channel,  ULTA Beauty, and Instagram.

If you’re an influencer for good, with an engaged following and you’re looking for ways to better support your audience, here are my tips:

Be authentic

I aim to make my art relatable and approachable in order to change how we as a society perceive mental health and mental illness. Above all, my biggest suggestion to other content creators is to keep it real.

When I post mental health artwork on Instagram, I am completely transparent with my followers about not being a licensed professional. Giving advice in the mental health space when you’re not a therapist can have serious implications but I’ve found ways to inspire, educate and connect with my followers without having to be an expert in the field.

I believe to act as a source of support, people need to feel connected to the creators they follow. People want to understand and follow one’s authentic and honest journey.  An actionable way to start doing this is to identify your content pillars. I recommend finding three passions you mostly share about and try to stick to them in your content plan and include them in your bio so that people know what to expect from you. My big three are mental health, equality, and self-care.

Be social

Creators also need to engage with their audiences and prove that they genuinely care about their followers through regular social interactions. It’s also important for me to create long-term relationships with my audience. I try to learn more about the people behind the username who follow me, have more meaningful conversations with them, and over time I have developed actual friendships.

It’s also important not to assume that the people following you are part of “your community”. People who follow creators are giving us the time of day to engage with the content we create and therefore they deserve respect and gratitude back. It’s not something to take for granted.

Be intentional

Being intentional each time you post is the simplest way to better connect with your following. Try including posts that drive a conversation, encourage followers to connect in the DMs, send audio messages for a personal touch, and pay attention to your insights to see which content is resonating best.

Personally, for me, it’s important to create work that provokes conversation in a non-triggering way by incorporating bright colors and honest messages. Niching down is another way to be intentional. For instance, my content is primarily focused on brown women which helps my audience know who I’m addressing and avoids generalising.

Be approachable

Encouraging followers to connect with you via direct message or email can leave a lasting impression. I try to take the time to connect one-on-one with my following in my DMs if they have a question about my artwork or are simply complimenting a recent post. No one has all day to spend answering messages but sometimes a simple emoji can show recognition instead of disregarding someone who is attempting to connect.

Followers often look to influencers for answers but it’s important to be open to conversation and differing opinions on social. If you “know it all”, then followers can be put off from engaging with you. Instead, ask questions and share your learnings.

Share your followers work

If you’re a truly engaged influencer, you’ve likely come across followers who are doing some pretty cool things. If you genuinely want to support them, it can be a tremendous boost for their up-and-coming businesses (not to mention self-esteem) to give them a shoutout and they’ll remember you for it.

An illustration by Sravya

Develop a community

Inviting followers to join an existing support group or one you’ve formed yourself is a great way to move “offline” and forge genuine connections. Whichever niche your group is geared towards (business, art, movies, etc.), you’ll be surprised how many followers are looking for that type of community.

I recently started an artist collective and community called Draw for Mental Health that empowers artists to destigmatize mental health and mental illness by increasing visibility and providing growth opportunities and it has been so gratifying to connect and support artists across the world.

In order to best support your followers, it is essential to understand what is missing in your community and what your followers wish there was more of so you can use your advantages and influence to help them. Content creators can be a source of support by investing time into the people who support them. Don’t hold back.

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