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September 3, 2020

Followers Don’t Count

Kaitlin Cwikla

Followers Don't Count

And they haven’t for a long time. But, alas, I tend to receive requests from all kinds of businesses who want to “get more followers,” simply because that’s what they’ve been told to focus on since social media came about. While I’m not completely discounting the importance of a large, engaged audience, there’s much more to understand when it comes to your follower count and how it impacts (or doesn’t impact) your overall social media standing.

Buy Followers & Get Burned

If you’re like me, you may have thought about the possibility of buying followers or likes in the past. What I would have given in 2013 if I could just spend $20 for an extra 1,000 followers…Think about all the brand deals I could have gotten, all the likes I’d get on my photos, and how my account would grow! For a mere $100 I could be a full time influencer, or even own my own eCommerce business!

Spoiler alert: don’t waste your money. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it, and I’d be living on an island in the Maldives.

In fact, buying followers isn’t just a waste of money. It can actually negatively affect your Instagram page as a whole. Instagram directly states that “artificially collecting likes, followers, or shares” goes against their community guidelines. The Instagram mission is to “foster meaningful and genuine interactions,” so it’s no surprise that buying followers or buying engagement is in direct violation of that.

Instagram in particular is notorious for what is called “shadowbanning”—a sort of invisible lock that gets placed on your account, blocking any new people from seeing your content. This is implemented when an account shows spam-like behavior including but not limited to buying followers, using an excessive amount of hashtags, or posting repetitive content.

Quality Over Quantity

So what gives? How can you grow your account on Instagram without violating their terms or resorting to artificial growth?

Engagement is king. Imagine you have 1,000,000 followers on your company Instagram page. On that page, you receive an average of 1,000 engagements (likes, comments, saves, etc.) per post. This puts you at an engagement level of .1%—well below the Instagram platform average of 3%.

Now, in scenario two, let’s say you have 10,000 followers—considerably less than before. But, you also receive an average of 1,000 engagements per post. Your content really seems to be resonating with the audience you’ve built. In this case, your posts have an engagement rate of 10%—more than triple Instagram’s average.

Content also plays an even bigger role here. Are you putting out information that’s relevant, entertaining, or useful to your audience? Does your content stand out in some way from your competitors? These are all important questions to ask yourself before blindly posting something on social media. Remember, quality is far more crucial than quantity when it comes to content marketing. As a result of a 2016 algorithm update, Instagram rewards accounts with quality content by placing them higher in a user’s feed. This results in higher engagement rates and often a growth in your audience. While you may not see a spurt in followers initially, focusing on these things will help you in the long run. As organic social reach declines, businesses and advertisers must realize that the process is a marathon—not a sprint.

Find Your Niche

If you’re still having trouble getting the initial engagement or growing your audience, take a step back and revisit who you’re trying to target. Analyze your current audience for their interests and make sure your content reflects those interests in some way. You may even need to evaluate what it is you’re promoting. Finding the low hanging fruit will help build a more tightly knit, engaged audience—even if it’s a smaller group of people. And, there will be less competition. For example, there are countless posts about animals and pets on Instagram. The audience they are targeting is quite large, and it is essentially made up of people all across the board. The likelihood of receiving all of that audience is unlikely. However, if you were to create a post about hairless cats, you’d find a much more specific audience, and likely more engaged.

The same applies to hashtags—before adding hashtags to your post, consider what your target audience will actually be using. And, don’t choose blanket hashtags that everyone uses, because they’ll never get you discovered. In the example above, the blanket hashtags to avoid would be ones like #pets, #animals, or even #dogs or #cats because they are entirely too broad, and are used far too frequently. You might opt for #hairlesscat or #hairlesscatstagram instead.

Grow Your Account

Gone are the days when you could create a social media account and instantly start receiving business. There’s much more to it now, and there will be more as it continues to grow. Having a strong foundation on social is no longer an option. It’s a must for successful brands in 2020. Keeping up with social algorithm changes and understanding what makes them tick is a full-time job. Luckily, that’s what we do here at Creative Energy. We’re seasoned professionals when it comes to helping cult brands realize their true potential, and when it comes to building an effective social media presence. If you’ve got questions or want to figure out how to take your social media to the next level, give us a call.