Oh yes, you read that title correctly. Oh yes, I'm digging into the nitty gritty and having this conversation. It's time for something to change. Change only happens when people choose to speak out and rally (in a proper way) for it. I am more than glad to be the one to speak out against and rally for change regarding this huge issue in the social media world.
The issue concerning the popular trend ("growth method") of follow/unfollow has to be address and dissolved. If you're not familiar with the follow/unfollow trend, it's basically when people follow tons of social media accounts only looking for a follow in return. If they don't receive a follow back in a certain amount of time, they'll unfollow you. Even if you do follow them back, the majority of the time, they'll still unfollow you. Sounds ridiculous and silly, right?
While this "growth method" happens across all social media platforms, I think it's safe to say that the platform this happens the most on is Instagram.
Friends, I'm writing this post because I'm passionate about building real, genuine connections and real, genuine growth. I am going to get super raw and blunt in this post, but please understand up front that this is not an attack. If you honestly feel attacked in any way, it's probably time that you have a heart-to-heart with yourself.
I'm writing this (along with some amazing blog friends) because I believe in you, your potential, and your dreams. I don't want you to settle for a method that's really not setting you up for true success.
WHY IT'S TIME FOR FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW TO STOP:
It Discourages Smaller & Aspiring Bloggers/Influencers // Something that I (and many others) have noticed about the whole follow/unfollow method is that it is a very self-focused method. While yes, you have to focus on where you want to get yourself in your blogging/influencing career, you still need to be aware of others.
"When I look at an account that has way bigger numbers than I do, but the content isn't any better than mine (sometimes it's not as good as mine), it makes me feel that something is wrong with me and my brand. It makes me want to give up because I "don't have what it takes". But oftentimes, the truth of the matter is that those bloggers aren't any better than me or my brand. I grow slower than they do because I choose to be authentic. If they didn't use the follow/unfollow method, our numbers may even be around the same mark.
This method is fake, semi-sleazy, and breeds anything but authenticity.
And before you get upset over the fact that I said you are doing something sleazy, think about it... Think about how much you value your numbers and your growth. Think about how discouraged you get when you lose followers or can't seem to keep new followers. That's exactly how we feel when you follow us, unfollow us, and maybe even repeat the process again...and again. It says to us, "you aren't actually good enough to keep my attention...I just want to up my stats".
So, if you are a blogger that has been using the follow/unfollow method, please think about what you are doing. It's probably unintentional, but you are causing smaller bloggers to feel hopeless." - Kristin, The Peculiar Treasure
It Shows Disregard For Other Bloggers/Influencers // Blogging and social media are all about community, right? Then why would you be participating in a method that goes against that? Maybe you never thought of it this way before, but seriously think about how this "growth" method affects others and not just yourself. The complete disregard that I have seen from some people who participate in this method is actually really quite saddening. It's sad to me that people with the potential to have such great influence are participating in a method that goes against what they stand for...community.
"Following/unfollowing messes with the people you're doing this to. Bloggers rely on accurate numbers to work with brands and to see who their actual ideal audience is. When you do this method, you're messing with the accuracy of other influencer's stats, not just your own. When you do this method, you're building up other influencer's accounts with false numbers, not just your own. As bloggers, we should genuinely care and build others up! We shouldn't just care for our own accounts." - Adriana, Adriana Renee
It Wrecks Your Credibility // While you may think that gaining numbers by the hundreds or thousands increases your credibility, that's not the case in the long run. Way back before this method started to get popular, I took notice to some of my favorite accounts that somehow went from having the same amount of followers I had to thousands more...within a few days. At first, I figured maybe they went viral or participated in a giveaway, but after looking into many cases, I noticed those were never the cases. So, I started to pay more attention to those accounts and others picking up just as rapidly. What I noticed is that even though they were gaining and gaining, the number of who they followed would go up and down by the thousands each passing day. My jaw literally dropped when I saw this happening. I couldn't believe people would actually participate in something like this. Sadly, this method has grown...and I'm sorry, but I have to break it to you...If you participate in this method, your credibility automatically goes down.
While having a large following may inflate your brand for a moment, it won't stay that way if it's done in an inauthentic way.
Remember: People notice. People see when something out of the ordinary is going on. People notice when the number of people you're following goes up and down like a rollercoaster each day. People notice when your engagement doesn't match up with your following (yes, even with taking the sucky IG algorithm into consideration). People notice.
And you know what else? Brands notice. Brands are run by people and if people notice, you betcha the brands are noticing and taking note, too! If you're trying to get a high following number just so you can make more money with brands...eh, it may work for a little while, but they do catch on eventually. Thankfully, most brands are transitioning from caring just about following size to what your actual engagement is. Just saying.
Large follower counts look great and all, but if no one is actually engaging with you, having a large following is only hurting you.
"Are you paying attention to your audience and who you're following? Many people who've done this method have gone down my following list and followed everyone from my family to people I know from high school. Some have messaged me asking if I knew the person and when I said I didn't, they usually thought it was really weird and kind of creepy. That's definitely not how you want to be seen." - Adriana, Adriana Renee
It Shows Your True Motives // When you're constantly following accounts only to unfollow them...what kind of motive do you think is read from that? Seriously. Be real with yourself for at least a moment. What kind of motive does that reflect about yourself?
"When you adopt the habit of "follow/unfollow" you're basically saying, "I want more followers but I don't care about getting to know them." Remember in high school when you used to friend request literally every person you knew or that Facebook had suggested for you? This is no longer 'cool', let alone appropriate. So, why should Instagram and Twitter be any different?
When you follow an account you're saying, "I love your photos/what you represent and I want to see more!" You're also, in a sense, patting that account owner on the back. When you unfollow after they give you a follow back, it immediately shows what your true intentions were. You didn't care for them as a creative or photographer. You didn't really like the content enough to stick around. You just wanted another follower.
When you follow someone just to get a follow back and later unfollow them you're being a tease and...dare I say...cocky. We're all in this together. True, authentic growth comes from supporting the artists, the makers, the bloggers, the photographers, and the influencers on social media. You can't actually support someone if you're in it for the numbers. On the flip side, however, you're totally allowed to unfollow people because their content begins to change and you're not into it, or they posted something you don't agree with, or you have another personal reason. BUT don't follow them again a few days later. Then unfollow them. Then follow again, just to unfollow them again.
It reflects your intentions to only gain a number, not a friend or colleague or collaboration partner. Just don't be that guy, because it's just letting everyone know that you have an ulterior motive.
One last thing. I don't know about you, but when I get a new follower on Instagram or Twitter it feels like a tiny hug. I get so excited! Don't play with my heart. Don't follow me for YOU...follow me because you appreciate what I offer the online world, ok? Don't be a tease." - Natalie, A Tiny Traveler
Friends, I want you to excel and succeed. But more importantly, I want your heart to be in the right place. You should want the same for yourself!
It Stunts Your Growth // If you're playing the follow/unfollow game, you're essentially stunting your growth as a blogger or social media influencer. Sure, you may have "grown" number-wise, but you aren't actually genuinely growing as a blogger, influencer, collaborator, or person. When you focus your energy on building up a following in an inauthentic way, you're really just hurting your influence (credibility, community, engagement).
This is a generation of influencers who preach about authenticity, but participate in methods that contradict that. If you want to get through to others by being real, you need to be real in your actions. If you want to encourage others to be vulnerable, you've got to let your real self be seen first.
Trust me, I'm all for preaching about authenticity, but you bet I'll be the first to call you out in a loving way if you're not walking the walk. Why? Because I want you to genuinely grow! I want you to experience true community. I don't want you to settle.
And please don't go using the excuse of, "I wanted to connect with them, but since they didn't follow me back, it must not be the time for us to connect." When I first heard this, it made sense for half a second, if that. Friends, this is crap. The amount of Instagram spam accounts that I get following me with 1-2 people I follow (and know well enough that they wouldn't really follow) following them...it's clear that you are really in it for just the numbers. Or you're using a bot to follow/unfollow people...which don't get me started, is even more inauthentic.
Can we please just cut the crap? I know I'm being blunt, but c'mon! You have so much more potential than settling for this stuff.
Friends, can we join together and agree that the "follow/unfollow" method is not just nonsense, but it's truly damaging? It doesn't just mess with those you're following/unfollowing, it also messes with you. Will you join together with me and all of the others who want to see this method end? Will you join together and be a part of the #StopFollowUnfollow movement? If so, please use the hashtag #StopFollowUnfollow throughout social media!