My Thoughts on Follow-for-Follow
I could have way more followers than I do.
That much is clear to me. I have 62 followers here on Medium, 45 followers on my personal Twitter, and 33 on my recently retired Top Level Sports Twitter account which had nearly 3,000 tweets.
By any measure, those are essentially nonexistent numbers. It’s a big problem in modern society that everyone is obsessed with follower counts and numbers of likes, but even so, it’s frustrating to feel like the time and effort you put into content creation is being wasted on a small following. I’ve likened it to shouting into a void.
What’s especially frustrating is finding other people who have immediate success as creators, or people who have managed to generate large amounts of fans with relatively limited content.
Perhaps my biggest weakness is that I’m poor at marketing myself and making connections. I’m very aware this is an area where I need to improve, but if only there was a way to gain followers quickly…
Oh wait, there is. Maybe you don’t see it as much as in the early days of social media, but follow-for-follow is still a very real thing and a legitimate strategy.
Many people will follow the people who follow them as a way of returning the favor. So, to capitalize on this, someone can simply follow thousands of people and watch as their own number of followers grows.
Sure, not everyone will follow back, but the amount of people you can follow is uncapped, meaning that the more people you follow, the higher your own numbers will eventually get. You can even respond to popular tweets, videos, etc. saying that you will follow-for-follow or sub-for-sub. This allows the people who would play the follow-for-follow game to find you, and, crucially, follow you first.
Obviously, you can gain a substantial amount of followers this way. Even on a platform like Medium, where, in theory, good content should get promoted regardless of where it comes from, I see people all the time who follow thousands of people and are followed by thousands. Unless you are a prolific reader, this doesn’t come without some level of follow farming.
But like I said in the subtitle, I’ve never participated in anything like this, and my follower counts are somewhat of a reflection of that fact. Sure, it’s not impossible to gain followers organically, but it’s much more difficult.
The reasons I’ve opted for that route is due to the shallow nature of the follow-for-follow system. You end up choosing to follow people you don’t know, haven’t engaged with content from, and ultimately, don’t care about.
And if this is true, so is the reverse. The people who follow you don’t engage with your content or care about you, either.
So yes, you can have followers. But what does that really mean if they aren’t people who actually enjoyed something you did and chose to stay updated on your future works?
Every person I follow on any platform is someone who I either know personally or have a real interest in hearing from. It keeps my feeds relevant to me without the clutter of random content.
It also makes it far more rewarding when someone finds and likes something I’ve written. I’ve earned it, rather than manipulating a system for it.
I can have this mindset while still recognizing that I need to promote myself more, and more effectively. It just means that I don’t feel obligated to follow people back the same way that most people I follow don’t follow me.
I’m not going to knock follow-for-follow — it does a good job of accomplishing a goal — to increase raw follower count. But I don’t think it leads to any increased content engagement, and at the end of the day, I want my content to be the reason people follow me, even if that’s only one at a time.