I have recently experienced something new for me — I’ve got noticed on the Internet.
I make cosplay props in my free time. It’s something to free my mind from constantly looking at the code and figuring out why the damn thing does not work. I like to take a cool looking item from video games and make it in real life.
Then I shared two of my recent projects — Dawnguard War Axe and Dawnbreaker (both from The Elders Scroll V: Skyrim).
Both of them exploded.
When I woke up the mornings after I shared them, I saw hundreds of likes, comments and shares. People really liked what I have created. I was flooded with messages and notifications. Every time I opened Instagram or Reddit, there were hundreds of new likes and comments.
And it was like that for about three days.
It was uncharted territory for me.
My work reached almost 1 million people. One million! Never before anything with my name on it reached so many people.
Having so many eyes looking at your work is both exciting and terrifying. You get the attention for being in the spotlight but it comes with some responsibility and expectations from the crowd.
How do you deal with that?
My solution — I treated every comment and message I received like it was an in-person conversation.
Those people took the time to write what they thought about what I made or asked a question. It would be rude not to acknowledge that. So I replied to as many messages as I could and had as many conversations as I could have.
The messages I received were overwhelmingly positive. There were some negative comments but they were a tiny fraction of all messages (mostly from people who think that any weapon replica not made from metal is trash).
Someone with a marketing hat on would say “I engaged with the audience”. What a nice way to dehumanise other people. I’ve had conversations with people. I treated them like people, not like numbers or goals in a spreadsheet. I did not care about reach or engagement. I answered questions, clarified things and shared a bit more about the projects and how I made them. I did my best to repay the passion and love they gave me. Sometimes simple “Thank you” was enough to acknowledge another person.
My goal was to make every conversation count and to leave people better than I found them. I was asking myself how can I be excellent with that person? How can I make sure that person has been heard?
With all of that put in place, growth was a nice and natural side effect.
What I did not know at the time was that I was creating a space for collaboration. Every conversation was nurturing that space. Eventually, new things emerged — new collaborations, new projects, new ideas. All of that would not be possible if I have gone with the social marketer path and dehumanise people, putting engagement and reach first.