Keeping a close eye on your follower numbers? Getting a little too upset when those numbers dip? Casey Petersen, Photofy’s Vice President of Marketing, explains why you’ve got it all wrong.

Fake Followers are in the news again. Instagram users lost millions of followers in a glitch. However, the initial belief was that this was purging millions of ‘fake’ accounts.

‘Influencers’ found themselves in an ‘existential crisis’. Please forgive the overindulgence in apostrophes to illustrate how absurd this is. This comes after 2018’s Twitpocalypse in which many celebrities lost millions of Twitter followers. The fact that this is a problem illustrates some serious issues with our priorities in online content. I’ll take an example from the linked article to illustrate:

What legitimate business model includes ‘work’ that is simply acquiring new Instagram followers? What work is this you do?

Let’s take a pause for a moment.  If you are working simply to obtain followers, 100% of your followers are fake – not just the 1,000 you lost. Fake followers are actually a much larger problem than they ever have been. If you are upset at losing fake followers, you have missed the point of social media entirely. (Hint: it’s to engage with REAL PEOPLE.)

For some, those may be inflammatory statements. After all, anyone who has worked in marketing long has been concerned with the number of followers of their social media accounts, at least in some way.  

“If you’re upset about losing fake followers, you’ve missed the point of social media entirely.”

Brands feel like it’s embarrassing to have very few followers. Influencers can’t get good paying gigs without large followers, no matter how engaged their audiences are.

Can we agree on two main points in digital marketing?

  1. Engaged audience > large audience
  2. On the same note – viewership doesn’t matter if nobody is buying your stuff.

The idea that an audience of 1,000 highly engaged followers, who not only buy your stuff but are advocates as well, being more valuable than 50,000 non-engaged users is a concept most of us can get behind. Unfortunately, putting that belief into practice can be more difficult than we may expect.

Losing fake followers is a good thing. Your engagement rate should go up, and depending on the network you’re on, this will likely equate to broader organic reach. Despite that truth, our gut reaction to losing followers is going to be negative. Our gut reaction to seeing a competitor with twice as many followers as us is going to be negative. Our gut reaction to seeing our followers rarely grow is going to be negative. These negative reactions often send us down useless and unprofitable rabbit holes, chasing worthless followers and fluff metrics so we feel like we’ve accomplished something, despite having no impact at all on revenue.

Luckily, I have a solution. It may take buy-in from your team, but it’s going to set you up for success and effectively put a stop to worthless distractions from your marketing goals.

Things to stop:

  1. Stop looking at your follower numbers and your competitor follower numbers.  
  2. Stop tracking tracking reach.
  3. Stop focusing on social engagement. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, bills still don’t take likes as payment. We will revisit this when that changes.

Things to start:

  1. Focus primarily on driving and tracking traffic to your site/store/goal from your content.
  2. Track conversions from your content.
  3. Track your engagement rate, conversion rate, and activity on-site.
  4. Build email lists with subscriber conversions, and track your email marketing to them.

None of these are new metrics. However, they keep you focused on what your presence online should be doing – driving people to buy your stuff. If you are growing site traffic from your social posts, you will win. This may have nothing to do with your followers and engagement.  

“You can accomplish more with content geared towards a small but engaged audience than you ever will with a large, disengaged audience.”

Having a large social audience can be great. But in the era of algorithmically generated newsfeeds, it’s more worthless than ever. You can accomplish more with content geared toward a small but engaged audience than you ever will with a large disengaged audience.  

Last year, I worked with a small website page of around 1,000 followers, and reached 184% of them. Yes, they consistently averaged a higher reach than the number of followers they had. Compared to a competitor page with 10,000 followers, we could’ve felt like a failure. Most Facebook pages reach 1.2% of their followers on average. I reached an average of 1,840 people, compared to their 120. Yes – I’ll take those numbers any day. I’ll make more money with that any day. And you can too.

Never take your eyes off your goal – no matter how distracting vanity can be in the short term. If you’re chasing follower counts, you’re chasing the wrong thing.

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