Social Media for Young Cartoonists, Week 9: Building a Persona

This is part nine of an ongoing project by the DW-WP interns Hilary Allison and JP Kim.  This summer, we’re pulling out all the “social media” stops to get our work seen and our names out.  It’s an experiment, and we’re documenting every step… so YOU can learn from our successes and failures.  Read Week 1 here.

JP:  This week I’m going to throw out the idea of a persona. Now, when I speak of a persona, I don’t mean your personality, although both are inextricably linked.

HA:  Your persona is the identity that you present or convey to other people, right?

JP:  Correct.  I speak of persona within a marketing context.  It’s basically a media personality, a character that you play while playing the role of the artist.

HA:  Like Reverend Billy?

© Dewey, Cheetham and Howe

Reverend Billy of the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Poster from Artist = ?

JP:  Like who?

HA:  Like Lady Gaga.

JP:  Yes.

HA:  Like the Car Talk brothers.

JP:  Exactly.  People—

HA: “Don’t drive like my brother!”

JP:  —People are just more receptive to weird, quirky characters they can invest themselves in rather than an artist alone.

HA:  Oh, so our everyday selves aren’t interesting enough to represent us online?


JP:  Hey, I’m just saying that it’s a repetitive world out there.  Uniqueness is everything, especially if you’re an artist.  Developing a persona can help you gain exposure, retain followers and stand out just a little more than you would have before.

HA: Hm.

JP:  There are three major parts of building a persona:

1.    Target Audience

2.    Personality of Art

3.    Personality of Artist

HA:  Secrets revealed for $9.99 plus shipping!  Order now and get the edge you—

JP:  Very good, Hilary.  Though a lot of people choose the “Smart Ass” persona.

HA:  Aw, I meant it as a Wisecracker!  Tell me your theories!

JP:  Ahem.

Building a Persona 

1. Target Audience

The first thing you should do is find your target audience.  This is fairly simple even if  it’s tedious and often times discouraging. But  it’s necessary for both the development of a successful persona and proper promotion of you and your work.  The way I went about doing this was with rampant forum scouring and link posting.  I posted my comics anywhere I could see even the most remote hint of possible interest, then judging by the amount of views in each post location, I determined what kind of audience was most interested.  In my case, the audience was stoners and fans of animated shows in the vein of Ren and Stimpy, Adventure Time, Superjail, etc.  My sneaking suspicion is that the two categories overlap in a big way.

2. Personality of Art

After you have located your target audience, you begin to look at the personality of your art.  You need to remove yourself from the work as much as possible and try to look at it with fresh eyes.  Try to imagine your art as a person, figure out what its voice would sound like, what it’s facial tics would be, how it would carry itself.  For me, the two attributes that really helped me develop the personality of my art were 1) the type of line I end up using and 2) my library of recurring expressions I like to use.  I ended up drawing my art’s personality just for the fun of it and the result is my current mascot (and star of this comic).  If you search around my stuff you’ll see him a few times.

3. Personality of Artist

The last part of your manufactured persona comes from you.  Yes, I am aware that this step seems redundant and a bit cheesy but hear me out.  You’ve got to add a little bit of real human quality to the persona, and I am also aware that the “personality of your art” is probably going to be a very close caricature of yourself.  Forget that this may or may not be true and just take a bit of time to reflect upon yourself, make a mental venn-diagram of your personality versus your art’s.  Then, after you’ve done a good comparing, combine your art’s personality with the stand-out traits of yours you’ve decided to include, all while keeping in mind what kind of target audience you’ll be revealing yourself to and voila, you have your “persona” developed.

HA: But I still don’t know who my target audience is!

JP: All in good time.

Hilary: Right now I think I present myself, on blogs and Twitter, as I would to a group of varied acquaintances, face-to-face.  It’s a curated self, as is any identity, right?  I try to interact with other people in a way that makes me feel like I’m “being myself,” even though, in reality, that’s something that only infants can do.  In front of the wide open internet, I exhibit the parts of me that are interesting and funny.  I try to write in a way that reads easily.  And when I’m writing about my life, I censor the most personal parts.  Isn’t that my online persona right there?

JP:  Of course.  It’s just not as artistically crafted as the kind of persona we’re talking about.

HA:  Right.  Okay.   So… tell the blog about your persona!

JP:  Let’s make it a cliff-hanger.

Next Week: Applications of  the Manufactured Mask

Till next week!

HA & JP (the Interns) &

@HaHa_Hilary & @whurf

Past Installments:

Week 1 (Getting Started)

Week 2 (Setting Up Websites)

Week 3 (Twitter)

Week 4 (Building with Tumblr)

Weeks 5-6 (Part 1: Life Offline, Collaboration)

Weeks 5-6 (Part 2: Life Online, Counting)

Week 7 (Traffic Reports)

Week 8 (Backlogging and Pacing Content)


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