Like it or hate it, the platforms we create on play an unmistakable role in the way we create. This is the modern creator landscape. While the fundamental joy of creating shouldn’t rely on other people seeing the work, today’s digital age has made sharing our passion with the world so accessible and fun (usually) that creating and sharing feel like a packaged deal more often than not.
"2022 has seemingly been an extra turbulent year for algorithm changes affecting our relationship with Instagram, and by extension, with our craft."
This in turn comes with the highs of celebrating the viral hits as well as the lows when a post flops (regardless of the cause). Every creator is subject to this spectrum and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t ever affect me. It does!
The algorithm is everyone’s favorite/least favorite thing about modern social platforms like Instagram. It’s great when it’s great, and it’s the absolute worst when, y’know. Anecdotally, 2022 has seemingly been an extra turbulent year for algorithm changes affecting our relationship with Instagram, and by extension, with our craft. But the reality is, the algorithm has always been a moving target. Some changes we just notice and feel in our little corner of the platform more than others.
The problem is not that the algorithm keeps changing. The problem is that we put too much worth on the metrics that Instagram flaunts center stage. Moreover, we put too much emphasis on the performance of single posts and all too often, live and die by the way those posts perform. This is one of the reasons why I recently joined the growing cohort of people who have hidden like counts across the platform.
But here’s my main lesson for today’s Study Club: it’s not about the post, it’s about the portfolio. Let me explain.
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Numbers matter, but only in the aggregate
I’m not a numbers person, but I love looking at data. Data helps me track progress in a more tangible way. And the achiever personality type in me loves tracking progress.
But the thing is, looking at the numbers of a single post does not give me a sense of progress. Progress, by definition, comes from the measurement of change between two or more states. Besides, there are far too many variables affecting a single post’s performance (hashtags, keywords, post times, content, and actual photo quality, to name a few) to be able to draw any hard conclusions.
As such, the true value of having access to data is if you can look at it across a larger scope of time. When you can zoom out to a week’s or a month’s view, then you can start spotting trends and adjusting accordingly.
If you’re interested in this perspective, I also wrote about it in my article about how I gained 10K followers in 10 months.
It’s okay to work on growing your numbers still, but when you want to get a sense of progress, avoid looking at just one post and remind yourself to look for trends over time instead.
It’s the portfolio that matters
Similar to a post’s metrics, we unassumingly assign a disproportionate amount of importance to a single photo that we post. Sometimes we love what we’re posting, sometimes we’re lukewarm about it, and occasionally, we may straight up hate it. This is normal. But what’s unhealthy is when we define our self worth and confidence according to that one post. Say it with me: it’s not about the post.
"Are you happy with the aggregate effect of all your photos together? This is what matters."
If you consider the journey of someone discovering your work on Instagram, it looks something like this:
- Comes across a post and is intrigued
- Taps your profile
- Scrolls a few times to look at your grid
- Decides whether they want to follow you
The point I’m illustrating here is that most people that find you judge you not by a single post, but by your holistic body of your work. You should do this too.
Take a step back from that one photo and evaluate the larger portfolio of work (in the case of Instagram, look at your grid). What do you see? Are you happy with the aggregate effect of all your photos together? This is what matters.
The individual photo certainly plays a role in this, but understand that it’s the whole portfolio of work that you should optimize for. And yes, this is how brands evaluate creators to work with too.
People don’t care about your likes
Just to really drive the point home, let’s take another reflective journey together. When you’re scrolling through your feed, what makes you decide whether or not to like it? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s some combination of genuinely enjoying the content and wanting to show support for the account. If I had to make one more bold guess, I’d say that your decision to like a post rarely depends on how many existing likes it has.
Just another reason why the like count on your one post doesn’t actually matter.
It’s not about the post, it’s about the portfolio
"I think the world is undoubtedly better with more creators in it."
With all the changes happening on Instagram lately and the waves of people throwing their hands up in rage and despair, today’s topic felt like a necessary one to re-iterate. Or maybe I wrote this just for me. Either way, I think the world is undoubtedly better with more creators in it, and it pains me to see a platform play such a large role in burning out so many of them.
If there are two simple takeaways from this rant-ish excuse of a tutorial, it’s these:
- Look past the individual photo and post and celebrate the portfolio you’ve created.
- Look past the individual post performance and celebrate the aggregate progress.
If we can do this, we give ourselves a much better chance of building a healthier relationship with the platforms we create on and fundamentally get closer to connecting with the true joy of creating.
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