For as long as I’ve been working in the world of social media (over a decade!) follow/unfollow has been a widely used strategy. The platforms may have changed but this is one, far from ideal, strategy that persists.

What is the Follow / Unfollow method?

In short, this is a strategy to gain more followers and is used primarily on Twitter and Instagram. Sounds great in theory, right? But before you jump on the bandwagon, there are a few things you need to know.

First off, how does it work?

1. Follow people

To start with you might follow people in the same sector as you or people in a related field who might share the same target audience as you. You might also look at following people who already follow other popular users in your sector.

2. Unfollow people

After a certain period of time, usually, a few days, go through the list of people you have followed recently and unfollowed any who have not followed you back. Some people will go as far as to unfollow people once they’ve followed back so that they can continue to follow more people as there are limits to how many people you can follow on most platforms.

There are variations on this strategy but they share the same principles. The premise is that when you follow someone they will receive a notification and this might lead them to check out your account and decide to follow you back. In fact, some people feel that they are obliged to follow anyone who follows them.

This is a kind of outreach strategy, without any actual communication. There are even apps that will help you to automate the process (more on this below).

What are the pitfalls of the follow/unfollow strategy?

The honest truth is that I wouldn’t touch this strategy with a barge pole and there are several reasons why:

⦁ You run the risk of having your account flagged as spam. Performing too many bulk actions on Twitter and Instagram, including following and unfollowing, can lead to your account being temporarily disabled.

⦁ That means that you would have to carry out small batches of follows/unfollows multiple times a day to gain any kind of traction with this strategy. That makes it hugely time-consuming – is this really the best use of your time?

⦁ There are apps you can use to automate the process or to make it easier (for example, some apps will show you who isn’t following you back). Instagram is cracking down on these types of apps and systematically shuts them down, and Twitter has recently followed suit by tightening their rules on automation. Using these apps runs the further risk of your account being disabled or permanently shut down.

⦁ If people are following you back out of obligation or because they’re playing the follow/unfollow game themselves, you can quickly lose many of the followers you have gained.

⦁ These are not meaningful connections. Although the people you attract may be in the right target audience, you haven’t made any real connection with them at this stage so there’s a strong chance that all they’re doing is inflating your numbers not adding any real value to your business. Numbers = vanity not sales.

⦁ Your newsfeed may become crowded and not necessarily filled with content you are actually interested in. This makes it very difficult to engage consistently with relevant content, which happens to be a fantastic effective alternative strategy to help you attract relevant and engaged new followers.

Sucking the soul out of social media?

If you’ve followed me for any length of time then you’ll know that my focus is on soulful social media.

Not only does this strategy feel lacking in soul, I know how demoralizing it can be for those on the other end. Time and time again I have had messages from people who are stumped as to why their following goes up and down so often and the culprit is often those playing the follow/unfollow game.

Not only that, anything that risks your account being disabled is to be avoided in my opinion. Why risk all of the hard work and time you’ve invested in building your social media presence?

Are there any better ways to build your social media following?

Yes, there absolutely is!

There are stacks of soulful strategies that you can use to build your audience on both Twitter and Instagram.

I teach all of these strategies in my Art of Instagram course which you can find out about >> here <<

And you’ll also find lots of helpful articles in the blog posts below!

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