Disclaimer: This post is intended for professional or aspiring professional content creators. If you’re a hobbyist, you may want to skip this one — I’m not pulling any punches here.
Even if you don’t pay attention to social media marketing news, you’ve probably heard plenty about the terrible new algorithms on Facebook and Instagram, and how much they’re hurting content creators. It’s true that algorithmic changes are making it harder to reach both your existing followers and new ones, but there’s another unfortunate effect of this growing obstacle: Social algorithms are becoming a scapegoat for any failings on the part of content creators.
Today, I’m going to dish out some tough love: Stop blaming social algorithms for your mediocre work. Does that sound harsh? Good. If you want to succeed as an online content creator, you need to stop making excuses and take some responsibility for your work.
Cosplay fans are drowning in content
Face it, cosplay isn’t a niche anymore. People who enjoy consuming cosplay content have more options than they could ever view. That means that you have no guarantee that anyone will view your cosplay work ever. There are a million other options, so unless you bring something unique to the table, no one has any reason to look at your work over some other cosplayer’s.
To succeed in a marketplace that competitive, the first thing you need to do is lose the ego. Without being willing to see the flaws and room for improvement in your work, there is no way to improve and become the kind of cosplayer that people want to follow. Being critical of your own work is an absolute must to succeed as a creator.
Unfortunately, most people struggle to find the right balance between being self-critical and being self-confident. Too critical and you’ll be crushed by doubt, but too proud and you’ll be unable to grow. Striking that balance is crucial, and for most creators, a constant effort.
The best marketing can’t make mediocre content succeed
Learning to market your work is great, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle. The fact is, in the vast majority of cases, you can’t market mediocre work effectively. Step one in any marketing project needs to be a high quality product.
Think about it this way: The primary goal of marketing is to get your work in front of more eyes. But if those new people don’t enjoy what you’re making, that marketing is useless. You could put thousands of dollars into a marketing campaign centered around a photo of actual dog shit, but it would still be dog shit, and most people wouldn’t be interested in looking at it. (Well… unless you’re Cards Against Humanity.)
I’m not saying your cosplay is dog shit — trust me, it's not — but if it isn’t exceptional, in the eyes of the social media public, it may as well be. Before you think about marketing at all, you should be thinking about making the best possible cosplay that you can. Marketing should never take precedence over costume construction, styling, and photography.
Before you blame the algorithm…
I know how tempting it is to blame algorithms for poor social media performance these days. My average Facebook post reaches less than half of a percent of my followers, and my Instagram seems to have two settings: Viral, or completely invisible. But there’s a difference between acknowledging the obstacle that a bad algorithm presents, and using that algorithm as an excuse to neglect the quality of your actual cosplay.
One key thing to remember is that others are succeeding under exactly the same circumstances that you face. Instagram is hard these days, but there are still cosplayers with viral posts, reeling in thousands of new followers. And even in the jungle that is Facebook pages right now, there are plenty of cosplayers I follow who are achieving anywhere from twice to four times the engagement that I’m getting on my page. If it’s all the algorithm’s fault… then why aren’t they doing as poorly as me? (Spoiler… it’s because it’s not all the algorithm’s fault.)
So before you blame the algorithm, there’s an essential first step: Interrogate your own work. How can you improve the content you’re producing? What are your weaknesses? How can you create a more unique, more impressive, more engaging final product?
Many want to succeed… but few do
The number of people who want to become professional cosplayers and the number of people who do are very different. That’s because not everyone is willing to take personal responsibility for their work’s success or failure.
A lot of people will sugarcoat it for you. Heck, I sugarcoat it for people all the time, because nobody really wants to hear this. But here we go: Stop making excuses. They might make you feel better, but they won’t make you succeed.
Instead, focus in on what makes your work unique. There’s a lot of cosplay out there, but much of it follows the same basic formulas. If you can break out of that mold, you can grab people’s attention. Do something exceptional, do something new, do something big, and you’ll quickly find that no social algorithm can stop you.