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How Social Media Subcultures Can Help You Build Your Small Business

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BY NAVYA POTHAMSETTY

Sitting in a hospital bed with nothing to do but draw, Michael Kreiser was a creation machine. Even before a surprise hip replacement left him sedentary, he committed to creating at least one piece a day after coming home from his day job. Kreiser was thinking about Kendrick Lamar’s album Damn. It was here, in a moment of post-operation inspiration, that he hit upon his big idea. 

Michael Kreiser

“ ‘Kung-Fu Kenny’ just sounded like a comic book character,” he recalls, referring to the Rush Hour-inspired alter ego Lamar uses in the album. “That gave me the idea to illustrate music as comic book-style graphics.” Trained as a fine artist, Kreiser wanted to completely support himself financially through his work. Creating something great is only one part of the process. The next step is sharing it. To find the best way to market his art, Kreiser turned to where most of us do when we want some answers: the Internet.  

Kendrick Lamar – DNA.

The Internet is not only a treasure trove of information—it’s also the world’s largest gathering of people. “I like large parties,” says The Great Gatsby’s Jordan Baker. “They’re so intimate.” When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote those words almost 100 years ago, he couldn’t possibly have imagined a party as massive as the Internet. There’s more happening online than our brains can physically process. Yet, most Internet users have found their niche in this digital ecosystem: frequenting the same sites, online communities, and social media platforms. 

The Internet’s vast expanse contains multitudes reflecting the diverse thoughts, experiences, and interests of the humans contributing to it. It has spawned and sheltered a wide variety of subcultures and ultra-specific interest groups. Before the Information Age, people obsessed with the same indie band or dorky role-player game couldn’t meet up if they were geographically separated. Now, it’s easier than ever to find your people with just a few words typed into the Google search bar. 

This has implications beyond games and recreation. It was channels like these where Kreiser was able to share his work and gain recognition as a creator. He shared his initial idea, a comic-book style rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s album Damn, on various social media channels.

“I was using Instagram and posting on subreddits,” Kreiser explains, “slowly growing a following. And the snowball kept getting bigger and bigger.” After much trial-and-error, the artist was able to figure out what channels, communities, and material led to the best marketing strategy. This eventually allowed him to build a successful brand and business: the Fine Art of MK

“At first, getting one or two orders a day was crazy,” Kreiser says. To go from that to turning your art into a full-fledged enterprise is an incredible accomplishment. And it’s all possible with a combination of hard work, creativity, and strategic Internet use.


Fidgets + Sensory Items of Imperfect Inspiration

Planting your ideas and products in circles where people are more likely to appreciate and share them is one effective—and free—way to market. No one understands this more than Britney Brown, CEO of Imperfect Inspiration. Her company began with a planner she designed for herself. She then created a video explaining how its carefully designed features set it apart from existing agendas. 

“I posted it on TikTok, and almost immediately was bombarded with requests for it to be a real, tangible product,” she recalls. Brown, who has studied neuroscience and is herself diagnosed with ADHD, specifically designs products for neurodivergent brains. Brown explains that social media is key to her marketing strategy that forgoes being “salesy.” Instead, she focuses on demonstrating how her products can fit into people’s lives. 

TikTok Marketing for Small Business

@imperfectinspiration

#stitch with @adhdeconstruction planners that shame people are trash – THEY ARE A TOOL. And tools should be designed for the brain using it 👏🏻❤️😘 #adhdplanner #plannertok #adhdlifebelike #adhdbrains #neurodiversesquad #audhder #neurodiverse #plannertok #bujoinspo

♬ Blue Blood – Heinz Kiessling & Various Artists


“At the core of my brand is inclusion and accessibility,” she explains, “When you’re just showing people stuff that works, how you use it in your everyday life… It’s the real deal.”


Britney Brown, CEO.  Photo Credit Raelyn Ramey

In addition to showcasing her product, Brown, like Kreiser, uses social media to engage with relevant subcultures. She mentions that many of Imperfect Inspiration’s designs start as suggestions from various social media channels, like her Facebook group or the ADHD Tik Tok community. Not all of these ideas end up becoming products. However, Brown explains, engaging with these groups has ultimately led to successful products because it addresses real needs in the community. 

Entrepreneurs have one pretty big advantage over the likes of Amazon and Alibaba. The human beings behind these small businesses can tap into niche, online subcultures. They can more effectively reach their intended audience if they know where in the world wide web to look. And once their following reaches a critical mass, it increases the number of people sharing your brand: all it takes is one cool post, tweet, or Tik Tok to go viral. 

Product Marketing on TikTok

@imperfectinspiration

Wait till they find out I make scratch off goal charts with swear words on them… #adhdhumor #adhdlifebelike #scratchoff #goaltracker #goalsetting #adhdlife #executivedysfunction #adhdtools #neurospicy

♬ sonido original – Xenia

“I tried to get as many eyes as I can,” Kreiser explains, mentioning that he took advantage of the myriad of free online strategies and platforms until he found fans who loved his work enough to share it widely.

If you have a great product—or a good idea for one—internet subcultures are a great way to test the waters. Yes, there’s fancy analytics and a host of options online, but there’s nothing as exciting—and cheap—as trolling the web yourself. This approach can help you connect, human-to-human, with people who will appreciate your work. Instead of keeping your ideas to yourself, or haphazardly launching them into the void, you can connect with people for whom you can make a difference. 

“That genuine ‘I give a shit about you as a person–’ mentality,” Brown says,  “works better than any paid marketing strategy I could buy.”

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