How much social validation is enough before you’re confident that your work is good? 10 likes? 50? 1000? 1,000,000? What is the magic number?
Stuck? That’s because there is no magic number. Like the work itself, it’s a subjective value judgment. In the broad world of social media, it’s a collection of dynamic whims and unless you’re trying to sell to a mass audience it’s of little consequence. And even then, I’m not sure if social media is a great sales tool or if it’s just a nice complimentary thing on the periphery of a business. (Yes, I know about the NatGeo photographer who made $10,000 on IG… but he’s NatGeo, the exception).
Does David Hobby – I’m a fan – have a popular blog because of social media or was he already successful and his following migrated? Is the growth of his following because of social media, or personality cult? Same questions apply to the NatGeo photographer or the Magnum bro-dudes.
Sure, there is the occasional heartwarming story of an unknown person who emerges with a zillion billion followers on IG – legitimately – and then gets a book deal. But such stuff is like winning the lottery. There are plenty of good or even great photographers, who for whatever reason, don’t get the zillion million followers.
I know good “amateur” photographers with big followings, but little to speak of in the marketplace. I know working photographers who are very busy, but consider it an accomplishment to get 10 likes on Instagram (Plug Time! You can follow me on IG @paul_ottaviano). In other words, there doesn’t appear to be much currency in it for most photographers. Perhaps there is some social currency, depending on what circles you travel in.
That said, I do appreciate very much the likes and comments my work gets. I’m grateful for the followers I do have. It’s fun to share and see the work of others. But if I’m following my passions or on self-assignment, the like that is most important to me is my own. I do not have some arbitrary number that I must reach in order to feel validated. If I’m on assignment, the only likes that mean anything to me are mine and my clients.
The people who esteem my work the most and who have hired me probably couldn’t find me on WordPress or IG and know little about it. I’m a photographer who happens to blog, but I’m not a blogger… you know what I mean. Listening to others, and based on my experience so far, I think offline client relationships and business development still works best, e.g. “the personal touch”. As for social media, my heart flutters when I see a “big” like count… then I immediately think about what comes next.