There is one thing I want to say in advance:
Cosplay is about having fun. We dress up and build awesome props and costumes because it is what we love to do. Cosplay should never be a race to get more likes or followers. As soon as it starts to get too competitive, that is when the fun stops and all the drama begins. I want this to be a community in which we support each other!
I know this is difficult because Cosplay – so they say – is turning into an industry. As soon as there is money involved and jobs offered, there will be people fighting to get those jobs before someone else get’s them. It’s human nature and a giant pain in the butt. I think we can be better than this! Be respectful and support each other! We all just try to life happy lives!
If you just want to do cosplay as a hobby you don’t need to create a Facebook page or a website. That being said – being a self employed artists, a cosplayer, a prop maker, a photographer, an illustrator or in any other creative profession, where you are your own boss and have to make a living – the importance of a effective Social Media presence has become a main influence on our success.
Over the years and with new artist pages every single day, it has become progressively more difficult to get noticed. Facebook artificially limits the reach of fan pages to make ad money, Twitter just isn’t of much value for artists and Instagram only works well on mobile and is slowly turning into a second Facebook (I am 99% sure in a matter of months they will ‘give’ you the option to pay for better reach and ads as well).
In the early days, when there weren’t one million different cosplay pages, it was a lot easier to be seen and even go viral but today we’re happy if only a small portion of our followers (the people who actually chose to follow us and want to see what we are doing) even notice if we post something new. I am not saying I have the solution to this ‘problem’ but I can give you a few advices that seem to work okay for me. Sooo… let me give you a helping hand with the following article!
I created my Facebook Fanpage Kamui Cosplay back in 2010 and started just like everybody else with 0 likes. In three long years, by January 2013 I was at 24.000 Likes. Then I started to work with Worbla and also wrote my first books until one year later in August 2014 I jumped up to astounding 160k Likes. That’s 140k+ in just one year. Now, August 2016, I am on 270k which is another plus of 110k in two years.
So I have to say I haven’t felt much of a slowdown. The only big difference to before is that the amount of unlikes has grown exponentially. While I haven’t had basically any before, in the last two years alone I had 30.000 unlikes. Facebook said this was due to them deleting fake-accounts and inactive accounts, which is a good thing as it basically increases the quality of the followers you have. What good are dead accounts if they’re not interacting with your page anyway, right? Sadly I still get only 80k reach on average for any post which isn’t even a third of my likes so either there are still many more inactive accounts out there or Facebook actually limits my reach to get more money out of me.
This is surely not comparable with Jessica Nigri, Yaya Han and some other hugely popular cosplayers, but it’s enough to have a name in the community. When I started with my page I got likes pretty slow, just likes everyone else today. It hasn’t changed that much. The main difference is that some people are just expecting their page to grow too fast. I had to work for six years until I got to the point where I am today. If you have interesting things to show, then people will still like and share your posts. If you’re just doing the one millionth Worbla tutorial, then probably not so much. ;)
I also have a Youtube Channel that I am using since I uploaded my first tutorial video in 2010. It’s now on 78k followers and considering I only uploaded 32 videos, I’d say this is pretty good. Since I’m always busy with a new costume, a book, convention travels and general self-employed business paper stuff, it’s hard to upload something frequently. Additionally I struggled for a pretty long time with my English skills and creating quality videos took far too long. My husband Benni and I try to improve and upload more, though!
I got blocked from Google AdSense after two or three days since their automated system thought I paid bots to click on my ads when in reality my first crappy (German) expanding foam video was just shared around like crazy (haha, this video has 1.2 million views today). Sadly there is no way of getting it unlocked again so I will never be able to make even a small side income from doing videos on YouTube. Making videos is really hard work and I have huge respect for every YouTuber who can make a living that way!
You also find me on Instagram @kamuicosplay, which I joined super late at the end of 2014. Right now I have 550 pictures and am on 113k followers. Instagram seems to grow better than Facebook so I try to feed it frequently as well. While my posts on Facebook are pretty long and often have detailed explanations, I like to upload random progress pictures and short videos on Instagram. I think it’s also important to upload exclusive stuff on Instagram as well as on Facebook! Using #hashtags also helps getting discovered on this platform which is probably why I gain followers fairly quickly. When you search for a hashtag you’ll see all the trending posts using it but also every new post! This means your work can be seen even if your channel is not followed by anyone. Try to find keywords that are used often but not so much that you post disappears again after a couple of minutes. Instagram also shows you how many times each hashtag is used – which is great #yolo (24 million times)!
I don’t really like Twitter. It’s mostly used in the USA but not much outside of it. I tried it, but it’s pretty annoying, confusing at times and also exhausting. As of now I have just linked my account @kamuicosplay to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube so it only shares my posts automatically. I created the account in 2010, have around 3.000 posts and 24k followers. Not bad for a dead account but also not very useful for anything I am doing.
Last but not least – my lovely website www.kamuicosplay.com (which you are visiting right now). My website is like a hub for all my Social Media accounts. It’s also the central store with my crafting books, includes my blog as well as my costume and prop gallery, tutorial videos, all kind of helpful links, convention schedule, contact forms and much more.
I created it first in 2010 mainly with the intention to improve my English skills. It has changed its look a few times over the years. I try to update my website quite frequently and therefore have around 2.500 unique visitors each day (≈80k every month). I’d say this is not bad at all.
These are pretty much all of my main platforms. There are also a few others which I don’t really use much like deviantart.com and tumblr. I even did two streams on Twitch a couple of years ago and therefore have 690 followers. In addition I have an old cosplay.com account haha!
So how can I grow a good following?
Sadly I can’t give you a simple and super cool master solution to all of your problems. Even if you don’t want to hear it, it pretty much comes down to two things: Patience and Hard Work.
As you can see, these are quite a few platforms which I fill up with content on a daily basis. I do this now for over six years! Every. Single. Day. No real down time. Rarely any weekends which we don’t work through. I think, success happens over time and that also depends on what you define as success. For me it’s being able to do what I love and make a living with it. To get there it took me many years. I started on every single account with zero likes, though over the time more and more people discovered my work and started following my progress through the internet. Just by posting countless progress pictures of costumes and props, finished costume photoshoots, tutorials, blog entries and videos I’ve reached the numbers I have today. I am sure I would have even more if I would add photos of cute kittens (well Zelda kind of counts) or sexy lingerie shots, but I pretty much don’t care about getting the highest numbers.
Additionally it helps that I mainly post for myself, not to get any attention. I like to document my work, scroll up and down my timelines and see how something kept growing and developing. I also enjoy to talk about techniques and materials and to discuss different solutions with my followers. That’s the reason why you will only very rarely find any selfies of me. I did this when I had only 1000 followers and I am still doing the same thing now. Likes are just a number anyway, if you do a quick Google search you can see that 1000 FB followers will cost you around 50$ and 25.000 likes around 500$. You can buy pretty much everything except real people interactions. They will even make the likes appear slowly to let everything seem more real. So if it’s just the number you want, please go right ahead. What really counts is the community supporting you!
With every single post I notice that my audience are passionate, creative and talented people who are interested in my work and even like to learn more and at the same time support me by buying my books. I don’t ever get any stupid comments, haters, drama or people I need to ban from my page. I feel lucky to have an audience every artist can only dream of, so it doesn’t matter if I have 10k followers, 100k followers or 1 million followers! This is mainly because my following just grew naturally over the years and I never created simple clickbait just to get more likes. Every single one of you is just absolutely awesome and I’m super thankful to have you by my side! :)
How can you improve your posts?
Now there are many theories out there on how to get the maximum reach on Facebook: Avoiding links and hashtags in your posts, using photos, posting only once a day, posting at a special time, etc. To be honest, I pretty much ignore all of that. In my opinion, it’s much more important to enjoy posting than to worry about reach, likes, comments and shares. If you have fun and people can feel that you’ll automatically create interesting and valuable content. Over time more and more people will be drawn to you naturally. It surely makes sense to post during a time when many people are awake, or to upload stuff people like to see, but it shouldn’t be all about the perfect post. It’s hard to do in our global and multicultural world anyway. Let me give you an example:
You see, this post was published at 6:20pm German time, which is 9:20am in Los Angeles. It had 76k reach, got 2k likes, 60 comments and 160 shares. The time wasn’t the best and according the some FB reach gurus, the link in the text should have killed my reach. Despite of that it worked pretty good and I was even able go get some additional book sales. However you can also see that the content looks quite interesting, the quality of the photos is pretty good and I’m talking directly to my audience. That’s how many of my posts actually look like. I rarely post any selfies and don’t include any cute cats at all. Although I have to admit I misuse the power of my super cute corgi puppy Zelda. She even has her own Instagram channel btw with already 8k followers. See? She does NOTHING but poop all day and get’s followers like crazy! The world is just unfair…
Actually, my whole workspace is optimized for high quality content. While my photos were all brown and underexposed in the beginning, I now have around 10 studio lights just for my progress photos and videos. My workshop is mostly pretty clean and organized, so I have enough space for shoots and my props and costume pieces doesn’t disappear in the chaos. For spontaneous videos we got a little, mobile camera (Sony Alpha 5100) and also added a few microphones to our equipment. I also bought a good DSLR pretty early. Not only to take better progress photos, but also to do cosplay photo shoots. As I mentioned, I created all my social media accounts in 2010 while I was still a student and I did not have a lot of money for fancy tools. My solution was actually a Canon 350D (Digital Rebel XT) for then 500 € and a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens for 100 €. It was still a huge amount of money and took quite a while until I had the money saved up with my part time job, but the investment was worth it. I handed Benni the camera and we did our very first photoshoot all by our own. Since then I switched to the Canon 600D (Rebel T3i) and finally to my current Canon 6D (plus the 50mm f/1.2 lens). The 600D was actually a good camera, but since I took many of my progress pictures in the middle of the night and the photos didn’t turned out that well, I had to upgrade. So I mainly bought it just for my progress photos and less for cosplay photoshoots, ha ha!
When I finished my Nightelf Druid T3 costume in 2009 I just wasn’t happy with those bad convention photos with flash lights and ugly backgrounds. So… we bought the Canon 350D and took to the local forrest our very first photoshoot. At this time it was super rare that somebody EVEN have a private photoshoot, so it was easy to stand out and get noticed for my work in the community. In the first few years our photos didn’t really get much better, but people enjoyed seeing the costumes on location and liked the moments we created in these images. Also Benni wasn’t the best photographer, but after he took around 200 to 500 photos during a single photoshoot I was at least able to pick a few for the final editing.
After some time though I guess, we good much better. These are some of my favorite photos we created together:
(This was actually even a convention photo, but we had our good camera with us!)
Now I really like working together with other photographers, but it’s simply a lot easier and more convenient to get exactly the photos you have in your mind. Benni is very patient and I’m very picky and I guess it’s just the right combination for good photos even if you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, ha ha! So, while Benni did his best in taking photos, my limited editing skills were enough to turn them into some nice portfolio material of my work. Actually, I even made a photography tutorial on Youtube! In Germany it’s pretty common that a group of cosplayers buys a good camera together, take photos of each other and edits them by themselves. However it seems for me, that people feel sometimes stuck and desperate by not having any good photos of their work – just because they don’t know how easy it is to create good photos by yourself. It’s like their costumes never excited and that’s pretty sad. Soooo… please check out my video and consider becoming a cosplay photographer as well! :)
Why having a website is a good thing
Aside of getting high quality photos of your costumes/props AND progress pictures, an important part is also using a website. This might seem silly, especially if you just started with cosplay. However a website is actually worth more then all of your posts on FB, Instagram and Twitter combined. Basically everything you post right now disappears only a few moments later. It’s just the nature of Social Media. In fact, all these posts can’t be found by Google and that’s a huge bummer. If your followers do not see your post when they appear, they probably also won’t see them later. A website however can be found through many different ways: Keywords, meta tags, links, image search and more! I created my first website back in 2010 and filled it with countless images, blog entries and links to every new project. And Google has a pretty good memory! If you’re searching for costume tutorial, World of Warcraft cosplay, worbla armor, etc. you always find me at some point. Pinterest is full of my photos as well, other websites re-uploaded or linked them and cosplayers just keep on sharing them on their own Social Media accounts. Many people seem to know my work without even having heard of me before, which is quite funny! What I try to you say is this: A website gives you the opportunity to be discovered by many new people and you don’t even need to post anything on it every day! Your content lasts forever (or as long as you can afford 12$ a year for the domain) and can still be even found many years later. It’s almost like becoming immortal on the World Wide Web!
Now most of you surely don’t know anything about HTML programming, how to set up a domain in general or do not even have a friend who could help you out. In fact my very first website was a blogger account too, which I just linked with the custom domain www.kamuicosplay.com. It looked pretty dull and had really bad loading times, but it did it’s job!
Later, around 2013, I found some time to move to WordPress and install a custom theme I liked. I set everything up by myself and only later had additional help by Benni and another programmer friend.
It’s actually not difficult at all to create a website and besides WordPress there are many more services that let you create awesome website without any HTML knowledge. Check WordPress, Squarespace or Weebly!
Later in January 2015, Benni set up a more professional and better looking WordPress website with the help of a friend who knows HTML. While this fancy, pretty website you’re scrolling through right now works very well and looks nice, my cheap blogger account was already a big reason why I got a pretty good reach without being known on any Social Media platform. FB and Instagram surely helped, but we still got 50% of our total reach from www.kamuicosplay.com! That’s quite interesting, isn’t it?
Make it personal and let them see your face
Finally, Youtube! Now that we finally have a little bit more time for video tutorials, we just really start to understand this video platform. And there are quite a few great things about Youtube: First, people can actually google search your videos! This means, you’re getting new followers and views every day without even posting new videos. Like I said, we have only uploaded 32 videos and despite of that, we have a total of 4.1 million video views.
Another reason is that people actually see you talk. Don’t underestimate this! They do not just see your face, but they hear your voice, see your facial expressions, they see you smile and enjoy what you do! It feels much more personal to like a video of somebody, a living person, which talks and moves, instead of a simple, frozen in time selfie. No photoshop in videos! YouTube is actually the main reason why people recognize me on the street. Not because I build cool props.
This was one of my first videos. Over the years we uploaded a few more and it looks like we got a bit better! This is one of our newest videos!
I guess Youtube is a bit underrated by cosplayers and I feel bad about doing the same mistake. Now I like to focus more on creating interesting videos. It simply feels more effective than creating one costume after the other and hope some people will see and like it. I prefer to help the community with my knowledge and I am able to create new content faster at the same time. In addition new people find me easier and even like to see the videos again and again (mainly because I put Zelda in every video now).
One last tip if you really want to get more followers: Try to use as many different channels as you can. You never know which one works best for you personally! Like mentioned in the beginning I have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt, WordPress, Twitch and more. I surely don’t use every one them equally, but if they are there for people to stumble upon me. When I released my first book “The Book of Armor Making” I didn’t know if people would like it. So what I did was to put it out wherever I could. That way at least as many people would see it as possible. Most of my posts run okay up to pretty well, though one surprise happened: Despite of having almost no followers on Tumblr, I got 140k notes!!! This was quite impressive and proved again, that I shouldn’t underestimate the power of any Social Media platform. At the end every single one gives you the opportunity to go viral!
So what can I say to close this off with a good feeling: Be patient and do what you love! We work creatively because we love it – not to become famous. I believe success is just a matter of time if you just continue doing what you love. Just don’t give up. Enjoy this wonderful hobby, have fun and support each other. The cosplay community is such a creative, passionate and helpful place and I’m so happy we have each other. We have such a great time together, hang out with amazing friends, learn new things every day and discover the world in such unique way. There are surely much more important things than the number of likes or followers.