On getting few likes on your art
Or how to get into the habit of looking at the right numbers for your art career
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Getting only a handful of likes / follows / views on art that took you days or even weeks to complete can be a real bummer. "Just don't look at the numbers" doesn't really make you feel better, so what can you do about it?
Let me get something off my chest first, then proceed with the actual tips. But stick around until the end, especially if you are a student or a beginner, for one final piece of advice.
First, do you really care that much? Try to recall the last art post you liked. If this comes difficult for you, chances are hitting that button wasn't that important. But maybe you are very mindful of the content you engage with and this just depressed you more.
Engagement rate 🤓
What is "a few" likes? Just one? Ten? A hundred? Thousands? It all depends on the size of your audience. Enter "engagement rate", a percentage that - if you really have to look at numbers - is far more valuable than plain likes / views / follows.
To calculate your %% take the number of interactions with your art and divide them by your total reach (your followers) and multiply the result by 100. If you have a small following, it's very likely that the e% is above 10 or 20 %.
That's god-tier engagement. Those bigger accounts that get tens of thousands of likes per post have a much shittier e%. This is Loish, arguably the most famous digital illustrator in the world.. is that less than 2% I see there?
Audience disconnect 🔌
Another perk of having a small following and "only a few likes" per post is that you get to know your audience. Instead of stressing over your expectations, take consolation in the fact that bigger accounts often suffer from "audience disconnect".
They can't possibly reply in a meaningful way to all their comments, they can't remember one person from a comment to another one, they can't reply to DMs and while some just don't care, most wish they could do more to connect.
Connect with your small audience 🗣️
You have a unique chance to network and find friendships and mutuals. Connect with your small audience. You'll make someone's day by remembering they commented on your other post as well. You might not have the numbers, but there's strength in people.
The power of an online, tight-knit community can really give your art career leverage over the years. You can find collaborations, ideas, and manpower for your projects just by being a nice human being and minding the people - not the numbers.
Build your hardcore fans a Discord server or another chat group somewhere. Let them chat with you, ask you questions, give suggestions, and provide prompts. Initiate a conversation with that rare new follower, or with the people you see most active under your posts.
Tracking progress 📊
Finally, if you really want to look at the numbers because you don't believe in all of this "positivity mumbo-jumbo", there's a better way than counting likes. It's called tracking progress.
Basically, instead of looking at the plain counters, look at the growth percentages over the previous periods. Most social networks offer analytics you can check for this, but you can also be more mindful and actually plot your numbers yourself. You just need a spreadsheet
What I used to do was to check on an image 24 hours after I had posted it and log its stats through a Google form. I'd fill it in with a link or image of the post, the likes it got, the comments, and - if I had access to the metric - the actual reach (people that viewed it)
That way, I could actually see what was working and what wasn't, regardless of the actual amount of likes. I would plot everything on a chart and remove the actual keys so I could only appreciate the lines and see if I could tweak something in my posting strategy
Ultimately, I really think that likes, followers, and other vanity metrics do very little to help me grow, earn more or get more clients and that helps me care for them less and less. I think they are actually hurting the art itself.
Beginners and students 🎓
I have one final tip for beginners and students, tho. While I understand metrics can help professionals understand their reach and can impact their earnings, a student shouldn't really be spending time trying to promote their art so early in their career.
If you are just starting out, it's very likely you do not have a fully developed style, that your skills need improvement and that you'll likely switch “direction” many times in the next few years. You'll lose followers or worst, get ghost people that will hurt your engagement.
You'll still compare with other artists - that's completely normal - but try to weaponize that feeling by doing some art studies. Don't get sucked into feeling 'less' than some big shot on Instagram over vanity metrics.
Tiny gains 📈
Overall, try to enjoy the small victories and your little audience. Connect with them. Try to focus on 'slow growth', progress tracking, and improving 1% every day instead of burning out over crunching more hours over your art out of depressing feelings.
If you enjoyed this article, I'd really appreciate it if you could forward it to a friend, or colleague who you think might like it too. If they are a creative type, they’ll surely find value in what I have to offer.
You can also help me by sharing this on your social networks. That’s always a big boost for me!
All the best,