Quit Using Social Media Like It's 2008
I think I can officially call myself a social media veteran, even though I didn’t hop on the bandwagon until later in 2008. As of this writing, that was about 10 years ago—a decade!—already. Wow.
But what’s interesting is that I’m STILL seeing people using the same stupid social media tricks they did in 2008. Hope you'll pardon my rant as I discuss some examples from my recent Instagram adventures.
“Check out my profile, podcast, etc.”
Usually, this one comes through comments on my Instagram posts or Stories. The comment “seems” like it came from a human, but it’s hard to tell. The request is to check out a particular Instagram profile, post, or some other content such as a podcast or blog post.
Unless the person is someone I regularly (emphasis on “regularly”) follow or am acquainted with, why should I care? I follow hundreds of people with great content. And if I’ve scrolled past your stuff in my feed or search or whatever, it didn’t excite me enough to check it out. It’s also likely that I’m not following this person and he or she is not following me either, thus causing me to think it’s some sort of robot account.
Plus, you’re using MY post to promote your stuff!
“We should connect, work together, etc.”
This is when random strangers pop into the comment thread for one of my posts and immediately want to “connect” or “work together.” This is akin to a dating pickup line from someone you just met.
Why, oh, why would I want to connect with you? The comment doesn’t provide any context. But when I hop on over to their profiles, it’s usually clear why. Most of the time, it’s a multi-level marketing (MLM) or business “opportunity” which thrives on building a “team” of affiliates or sales reps under them. Nope, not interested. And if I am, I’ll reach out to you.
“Love your feed/gallery/etc.”
Okay, this seems nice on the surface. But why do you have to tell me? I’ve noticed that though these people say they “love” my posts and content, they don’t bother following me. My guess is that they’re looking for me to follow them because they’re “so nice.”
The Follow/Unfollow Game
Around 2008, not too many people were on social media yet. Twitter was just really starting to build and there was a lot of “follow me and I’ll follow you back” type invitations going on. Didn’t take these folks up on it then and still don’t.
Recently, I had a really interesting and unusual bump up in my number of followers on Instagram. I always look at the profiles of people who follow me for a variety of reasons. I might want to follow them back if they’re relevant. And I’m curious what kind of people find my content interesting enough to follow me.
What was weird about the recent influx of followers was that they were in entertainment or were social media influencers. What was even more interesting about them was that they had some pretty significant following numbers, I’m talking anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 or more followers and they personally followed a few thousand people at most. Even weirder is that they all skewed young, like really young, say 16 to 25 years old.
Why would they be following me, a (youngish) Baby Boomer writer and editor? But just for grins, I followed them back. Wanted to see what they would be posting and if they engaged with me on any of my posts.
I think you can guess how this went down. No, they did not engage with any of my content on Instagram, not even a single like on a post. And, of course, they unfollowed me within a few days, maybe even hours, of following me. Why would they even bother going through the exercise?
Here’s my theory. Stick with me on this since it’s quite a game.
Playing Social Media Games and Gaming the System
The more followers these influencers have, the better chance they have to score influencer marketing sponsorship deals... and, therefore, money. They know that many users automatically follow back anyone who follows them. That’s what they’re betting on to pump up those numbers.
But they don’t want their personal Instagram news feeds filled with posts from these tens to hundreds of thousands of people they fake follow and don’t really care about. So once they score a follow, they have no problem unfollowing lots of people. They also are betting that these unsuspecting new followers are busy or lazy and are unlikely to unfollow them. Net effect is that their follower numbers grow (which is what they need for those influencer deals) and their personal news feed remains limited to those people they really want to follow.
On a related note, I had to question how they actually did the whole follow/unfollow thing. It takes time to do either. I’m guessing they used some sort of program (free or paid) to get followers. Have you ever seen some of these programs? Do a Google search. Everybody seems to have an angle. Seriously, just check them out. It’s nuts. They all stress that these tactics gain “organic” followers. Okay, maybe technically. But almost all of them game the system in some way. (The same types of programs were rampant for Twitter back in 2008, too.)
Then, once the desired mass of followers is scored, they can use some sort of automated unfollow utility app or program. Yes, there is a such a thing.
The risk these tactics run is that their follow/unfollow shenanigans may trip off Instagram’s algorithms and they may have their accounts banned or restricted. I’ve not been able to confirm any particular level of activity that trips it. And, of course, the algorithm is likely in a constant state of being updated. So why risk it? Obviously, the influencer sponsorship prize they’re seeking appears to be worth it. And if they’re using some sort of algorithm hack or app to do it, chances are they'll unfollow just enough people to not trip off the algorithm police.
How I Responded
In response to this recent spate of scammy behavior, I became my own unfollow police and did a manual audit of those I was following. Immediately unfollowed all those who exhibited this behavior. I also noticed that some of my early followers, many of whom I was surprised that they followed me, had also disappeared. So this unfollow thing has been going on for quite a while. Goodbye to them, too.
What I was left with was a list of people (and some dog influencers... don’t judge) that I enjoy following and/or who engage with me and my content. Two can play this game and now I’m even less inclined to follow back those who seem to be unlikely followers of my feed. I always checked profiles on every new follower. But now when I see someone with a very big number of followers who doesn’t appear to be following too many people, I’m going to think twice.
The best policy for genuine social media engagement? Go organic. Be a real person following and engaging with real people in a real way.
The best policy for genuine social media engagement? Go organic. Be a real person following and engaging with real people in a real way.— Heidi Thorne
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Heidi Thorne