You would think that webcomikers would be all over social media, given that they’ve already displayed their comfort level with presenting work digitally, but that’s not always the case. However digitally native someone might be, that doesn’t necessarily speak to how comfortable they are with social media. Social media is, after all, named social for a reason and any problems or issues that a creator might have in interacting with and relating to other individuals can certainly carry over online.

But webcomikers who try to ignore social media run much the same risk that companies do. It’s not impossible to be successful without using social media these days, of course, but it can be much more difficult. And that level of difficulty will likely increase.

A recent study of 20,000 consumers found that social media influenced their buying habits in 26% of all purchases. Not just online, but offline as well. And two-thirds of that influence was very direct. Think: “I’ll buy this because my friend suggested it on Facebook.”

And that’s a study of consumers—over a quarter of all purchases came from suggestions on social media. If that kind of influence can be had to get individuals to part with their hard-earned money, don’t you suppose that there’s also a noticeable impact in getting people to check out a free webcomic? Where all they have to part with is a few seconds of their time?

The same study I mentioned earlier found that, to no surprise, a large chunk of the referrals—upwards of 45%—came from a very small percentage—about 5%—of users. That goes back to the old Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule. About 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. If a creator can engage well with a fairly small number of fans, they can help amplify the creator’s signal pretty dramatically.

However, that’s still dependent on the creator starting that engagement in the first place!

It doesn’t seem to matter which social media platforms are in use; the key seems to be for the creator to meet her/his audience wherever they are. And while some basic self promotion is obviously necessary (“Hey, here’s a link to today’s comic!”) the benefits of using social media really come when the creator actively engages with the readers. Not only responding to questions and comments, but offering up other thoughts and ideas that might not be directly related to the comic.

In short, being social. By engaging readers as multi-faceted individual beyond their comic, creators have a greater chance to connect with them. So instead of relying exclusively on the comic, social media is a way to open up more avenues to convert casual readers into real fans. These fans, who feel a bond with the creator even if the work itself is not their absolute favorite, can help spread word of the creator’s work.

All of this sounds cynical, and it can well be, but if it’s done with honesty and sincerity, a creator can not only grow their audience, but perhaps make more than a few real friends in the process!