How much do creatives need social media?

As part of our deep dive into social media this week, CR explores to what extent designers and illustrators should rely on social media for finding work, and discusses some of the pressures and pitfalls that it’s opened up for creatives

Platforms like Instagram put pressure on creatives to feed the content machine, by building follower count and creating their own ‘brand’. For some people – such as Andreas Wannerstedt, who’s found viral fame with his looping animations – social media is an essential, but for many others, long-term success has been harder to come by.

In a recent Twitter thread, designer and illustrator Rob Turpin shared his frustration with Instagram, which, a few years ago, had been providing him with 99% of his commercial work, despite a relatively modest 7,000 followers.

“I got book illustration work, T-shirts, concept design, plus the usual private commissions,” he wrote. “Now, with over 53k followers there, I get almost nothing. Engagement, for me, is half what it was a couple of years ago. Likes and comments are way down, follower growth has slowed to a crawl. Being new to illustration (I’ve been drawing about six years, and only started to think I could make money from it three years ago) I naïvely thought that I could just rest on social media to get work.”