We Really Need to Get Over Our Instagram Follower Obsession
Good Monster gets approached every week from brands that want to increase their number of followers on Instagram. Many are willing to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for the chance to get tens of thousands of Instagram followers with little regard to what the impact of an increased following on Instagram actually does for their brands.
To many of them, breaking a certain threshold is a rite of passage for their brands. It signifies popularity, and so getting those followers IS the end goal.
However, this way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth.
Having 200,000 followers on Instagram doesn’t drive actual business results on its own.
Many brands correlate “followers” with results on social media. While revenue is the obvious end goal for the majority of brands, marketing teams often get caught up in the detour of what they think will happen if they get more followers.
It’s crazy. Revenue could be up and business is great; but if they don’t have a magical number of Instagram followers, it’s the end of the world.
It’s totally a vanity thing. It’s about competition and proving to the masses that “people like us.” Marketing executives, who aren’t familiar with social media, get caught up in the hype and are worried that if people come to their brands’ Instagram pages and see that they only have 5,000 followers, they won’t take them seriously.
This is simply not true unless the people visiting are other marketing executives.
I’m fully aware that marketing executives need to prove their worth. Increasing revenue is harder, more complicated and takes more time, but increasing followers is an easier, more transparent route to take to be able to say, “look, we are growing.”
I get it, it’s about getting results; but spending money on gaining followers should not be a priority for any brand.
We’ve had countless brands come to us that had paid tens of thousands of dollars to gain Instagram followers, but when they got them, they were perplexed as to why revenue was down.
Well, for those of you in that boat, here is an explanation to the paradox:
Let’s say, you are trying to gain market share against a competitor. They currently have 5,000 really engaged Instagram followers. Each post is deep and gets 50 comments and 500 likes. You only have 1,500 and have a decent engagement–maybe 10-20 comments and 200 likes.
You want to beat them. So, you hire an agency to increase your followers. They set you up with a software program that automatically follows and unfollows relevant people to try to get them to follow you back. They also get you involved in several multi-brand giveaways to trade and share followers with other brands.
After three months and thousands of dollars, you’re up to 15,000 followers. However, you can’t figure out why your engagement isn’t any better than it was when you had 1,500 followers.
The moral of the story: you can’t buy followers and expect them to love you. It just doesn’t work that way.
5,000 engaged followers will beat 200,000 unengaged followers any day of the week.
This goes for Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, email subscribers, website visitors, and virtually every other platform that can accumulate a community.
On the flip side, if a brand’s following grows organically, there’s a much better chance that this audience is engaged enough to eventually make a purchase. But the race to grow followers has caused many brands to try to take the quick and easy route to grow a community. This often means some version of “buying” their followers.
Buying followers can be done in a variety of different ways: it could be in the form of literally buying followers from a click-farm, or it could mean doing a multi-brand giveaway in which you are paying in the form of product giveaways to gain exposure. The latter is extremely common with Instagram’s popularity, and it’s definitely something for brands to think through before agreeing to participate.
Consumers are becoming so desensitized to brands’ “sales pitches” that even if they enter these giveaways or opt-in to these lists–without a story to back up the engagement–they will be gone quicker than a mouse click, or more appropriately, a fingertip click.
The ultimate takeaway is that you should look at followers like people in the room–if they aren’t paying attention to you, they won’t be impacted by you. 1,000 people who aren’t paying attention to you won’t bring you very much value. However, 200 people who hang on your every word are invaluable.
When it comes to Instagram followers, it’s quality, not quantity that counts.