“If everybody likes you, you’re doing something wrong”
Bhavani Esapathi believes if we spent half the time actually creating good content instead of worrying about a low follower base, everyone would see how fruitful social media actually is.
Every discussion about the arts in the digital age follows a set of rules; the numbers game where everyone is pining for more followers, the fear of missing out (aka FOMO) where everybody wants to be everywhere online and lastly, an implicit longing for a high quantity of social approval in the form of likes, hearts or even shares.
It’s often baffling to find such conversations surfacing time and again whilst ignoring fundamental characteristics that bind both the arts and the cloud—a fancier word for the Internet. In simple terms, the Cloud allows one to store and share information online, making it “a metaphor for the Internet” according to PCMag.com.
So, what is the binding characteristic between tech and the arts? Communication.
Every artistic practice or anything within the creative sector is based on the premise of communicating an idea, a thought, or something that’s much-needed in a deliberate fashion. This has always been the purpose of art, from traditional oil paintings that sought to exemplify people in grandeur to contemporary art, addressing critical social issues. So why this separation when the Internet and the arts both want to communicate ideas clearly while remaining politely hostile to one another?
When I say politely hostile, I am referring to where we choose to focus our attention on, instead of the important things. Let’s take the three popular examples from above and examine them closely:
The Numbers Game
Since the beginning of social media we have been instilled with a sense of quantity over quality, you need more followers, you need more subscribers, you need more likes and you need more shares. It might have something to do with the fact that since the dawn of artistic credibility, it has been about numbers — you’re successful if a lot of people come to see your work, or if a lot of people buy your work, or if you receive a lot of press.
Here’s the truth, be it any platform online it has got nothing to do with numbers. In fact, numbers can act against you — have you ever wondered why your engagement level has gone down since the number of likes on your Facebook page went up? That’s because the more popular you become the harder it gets for you to reach your audience. Plus, Facebook would rather have you pay to do that than allow your business to thrive online for free and capitalising on their hard work.
Of course this doesn’t mean you need to strive for a low number of followers. But you should be more intentional on what you want to get out of it. Everybody wants a huge follower base but how many actually know what to do with it if you end up getting it? When it comes down to it, you need a relatively small number to get you to where you want to be. If we spent half the time actually creating good content instead of worrying about a low follower base, everyone would see how fruitful social media actually is.
Yep, you have it, I have it and we all have it. Nobody wants to feel left out of something and this translates to not being ‘in’ the latest platform. It’s funny to think about it because this is an extension of the previous problem; how can anyone build a loyal following if we’re dispersed everywhere and not focussed on a single platform?
There’s something to be said about being an early adopter and making your mark before the crowd gets there, but not every platform is designed for you which means you don’t have to make your mark everywhere. Drawing from the numbers game, having a clear objective about what you want to get out of your online presence helps decide the kind of audience you need to get there.
This is perhaps a more general statement than one that pertains to social media alone; it’s easy to feel disheartened and quit because you have been blogging for 2 months, or your tweets aren’t being responded to for six months. But if you’re stretching yourself thin everywhere from the fear of missing out and are only focussed on the numbers, which is the other side of the coin of social approval, then you’re never going to make it.
“If everybody likes you, you’re doing something wrong” is a version of Paulo Coelho’s popular quote, “if everybody loves you, something is wrong” and it couldn’t be more true in the age of social media. You do need your tribe, your audience, who will give you honest feedback. Yet, ascribing to the numbers game or fearing of being left out of things only makes it harder for you to find that audience who are critical in helping to push your creative boundaries.
Somewhat of a Conclusion…
This is by no means a conclusion but jumping on the metaphorical bandwagon of clouds, every cloud has to pass and take shape. The arts in the cloud is not a new alien world dominated by technology, but a world filled with other people, just like you, and the real work of an artist is to reach out to those people, to build a truly meaningful relationship.
Industry Experts article written by:
International Speaker & Founder of The Invisible Labs
Online Spaces and the Arts
Bhavani Esapathi is a Writer & Speaker on Cultural & Social Tech Innovation and the Founder of The Invisible Labs; a social tech initiative seeking creative solutions to invisible diseases. You can subscriber to her Secret Community of Creative weekly newsletter to receive free tips & strategies on tech and the arts and if you want more, check out her Be Discovered course on social media for artists.