Why I don’t play the follow-for-follow game on social media

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I’ve been blogging for over 11 years now. Of that, 5 years have been spent in promoting my content, building an audience and learning how to grow my presence organically on social media.

But I don’t believe in following people so that they’d follow me back. Neither do I stop following people because they don’t follow me.

For one thing, it’s childish. For another, it goes against everything that social media stands for.

Community is a big part of blogging for a lot of bloggers and to a large extent that is true even today. The only problem is that many bloggers don’t really understand how to make this work for them.

So they end up following people in their niche (which is a good thing) and then feeling miffed that they didn’t follow them back (which is kind of where it falls apart). And I tell people this, ad nauseum, that it REALLY doesn’t matter who follows you back, but most of it falls on deaf ears, because hey, it’s all about numbers, baby!

One of the things I do as a social media strategist is ask people to identify WHY they want to follow someone:

  1. Do they appreciate the content the person creates?
  2. Does the person’s content add value to their lives?
  3. Do they admire the person as an individual and feel inspired to follow them?

If the answer to all 3 questions is ‘Yes’, then I suggest that they follow them. It’s easier if you put the name of an author or a motivational guru in the example above, to get what I mean.

If the answer to even 2 of the questions is ‘No’, I usually recommend that you stop following the person or mute them/their updates. Please note I am not talking about personal vendettas you may have against the person. Different subject altogether.

But most people don’t do this. For them, the rising numbers on their social media profile acts like that jackpot message on a slot machine. The dopamine hit is undeniable and they keep following, keep pulling on the slot machine and keep watching the numbers rise and fall.

The only thing that makes this scenario worse is the number of ‘Follow’ threads on social media. I see them everywhere now: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and gosh darn, even for Pinterest! Which is kind of pointless because people feel a sort of compulsion to follow you back, even if you’re not creating content in the same niche.

And it gets better.

People now have apps to figure out whether or not you’ve un-followed them. As a consequence, a lot of people feel awkward about the idea of un-following a person because nobody wants to be showing up on an app as ‘The person who unfollowed X.’

This is especially rampant on Instagram and I tire myself out when I tell people not to do follow loops or participate in pods, but very few listen. In fact, I took on a challenge to grow my own following organically, by doing nothing of the above and hey, you know what happened?

  • I grew my Instagram followers by 500 followers in 2 months between July and August 2019. (News flash: None of those people stopped following me afterwards)
  • I launched a Free Instagram course which grew my e-mail list by 250 followers in 2 weeks!

Social media came into existence on the principle of being social. It was designed as a way to build collaboration with people within a community. It was not meant to turn into a game of numbers. It wasn’t supposed to make people feel bad about following people or even un-following them.

But sadly, that’s what it’s turned out to be.

Honestly, take a good, long, hard look at how you engage with your connections on social media. Decide every month on culling your following/follower count on each platform.

If it isn’t worth your time, it isn’t worth your mental space either.

Take it from me.


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