why you shouldn't care so much about your follower count
Coming at you today with a short rant that's been on my mind lately: I don't think we should care about "follower count" on Instagram.
"What, Jen, you're crazy!"
Yeah, okay maybe. Let's talk about why I think this.
High follower counts don't equal success or sales. Low follower counts don't equal lack of success.
There are accounts with 200 followers who are producing good work, working with clients, making money, and killing it in their business. There are accounts that have 2000 or 20,000 followers who post really pretty photos but make no sales and draw in no clients. One does not have to follow the other. Numbers of followers does not convert to dollars (if only!).
Sometimes the only thing that a large following means is this: they know how to consistently post pretty photos in an appealing way on their instagram grid. And I'm arguing that, sure, this might be a good way to gain a following, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything else. It doesn't mean they are making sales, booking clients, or have a successful product.
(Are there people with high followers who are also KILLING IT in their business? For sure! I just want to emphasize this: followers = success. You can have success without followers and you can have followers without success.)
I think we need to switch our mindset on Instagram from, "How can I gain more followers?" to "How can I connect with those who are already following me?"
Let's talk about why I think this is a better question.
High followers don't equal high engagement. And engagement is king on IG.
With the way the Instagram algorithm is constantly changing, high engagement is the key to rocking it on that platform. But a high following doesn't mean that this is going to happen, in fact it can harm your engagement. Why is this?
In order to show up in your followers feeds, you don't need HIGH followers you need ENGAGED followers. Followers who will like and comment and engage with your content. A high follower count doesn't help you here if some of them are fake followers or if many of them don't actually care about the content that you are working hard to put out.
I once went through my followers and deleted every account that appeared to be fake or appeared to be following people to gain followers back. I ended up deleting hundreds, but my engagement rate went up in response because I no longer had these un-engaged accounts bogging me down.
So how do you engage your followers?
I can only speak from my own experience, but for me it's been key to show up personally in my feed and in my stories. Tell them about you, share yourself, share behind the scenes, show them what it takes to run your business. When they care about you and what you do, they'll engage with your content. I'll talk more about this in a few weeks when I share about my current Instagram strategy, so stay tuned for that!
But aren't there benefits to having lots of followers?
Definitely, there are some benefits. Here are a few:
It can act as social proof to people who place a high value in follower numbers. This can be both to clients and peers. Like I said in my first point, we have this perception that higher followers mean more success/better work, so this can benefit you in the eyes of people who think this is a valuable metric.
It can open you to opportunities like partnerships with brands. AKA getting paid to post about their product.
It can be a metric for you to say "hey, I'm doing something right on IG". I'll just argue that it isn't the only metric you should care about.