Welcome to Thrive! A weekly advice column for creatives and the generally confused.
I think I create pretty decent work (I draw) but I don’t have many followers on Instagram. How much does this matter and how do I increase my follower number? Am I delusional about my work?
–Slow to Grow
Dear Slow to Grow,
It’s so easy to let your follower account affect how you feel about your work. If you’re a creative and you’re posting your work on Instagram or Facebook, it’s almost impossible not to feel down if your count is down. We all go there and probably more often than many of us are ready to admit. I agree, there is a certain sense of legitimacy that comes from having a lot of followers. It’s similar to getting a written piece published somewhere impressive, or a painting hung somewhere prominent and important. It tells the world that you’re the real deal and this is in turn makes it easier for you to believe that you’re the real deal. Here’s the thing. You always have to believe you’re the real deal, first and foremost. If you let anything–publishers, gallery owners, flighty Instagram followers–change how you feel about your work, you’re never going to make it for long. Always believe in the work. Do not think even for a second you are delusional; social media growth and the quality of your work are two vastly different beasts. Two different skillsets.
You asked how much a follower count matters, in reality it depends on what you intend to use the count for. Are you looking for a book deal a la Poorly Drawn Lines (@poorlydrawnlines) or are you just trying to prove that your work is good? Are you looking for a community? Think about why you want the followers before you chase them. You could have a million followers but if you don’t have a plan on what you’re going to do with them, how you’ll speak to them, or what you can offer them, there’s not really much of a point. Once you understand this, you’ll have an easier time of tailoring your page(s) to them. If you just want to look legitimate there are tons of other avenues: magazines (like this one, duh!), galleries, newspapers, even full-time jobs, that can help you share your work or give you a new path.
Remember that your work and social media are separate tasks. Do not forget to focus on your work. It’s very easy to get caught up in social media. Use it wisely, use it meaningfully, and then step away and head back to the sketchbook.