One thing we HATE at Canny Social is shady marketing tactics. What’s one of the worst of the worst? The follow/unfollow method. Now you might be thinking to yourself “What on Earth is this all about?” Well, let me explain. The follow/unfollow method is a truly awful tactic used by many social media users to gain a following and gain one fast. The aim of the game is to follow a bunch of accounts in the hope that they’ll follow you back. Once they do or after a certain period of time, you unfollow them. Many unfollow users manually but some people even use third-party apps to make the process easier. It’s also worth noting that these apps are very much against pretty much all social media site’s terms and conditions.
By using the follow/unfollow method you’re basically inflating your follower number fast to make yourself come across as an internet success. Now back in February, you may remember a post on Canny Social about why unfollowing on Twitter is perfectly fine. If you haven’t read it already, do check it out. However, I’d just like to stress that unfollowing on any social media platform is fine. However, this tactic is a whole different kettle of fish. As a whole, it is very unethical. This awful tactic is used by individuals and most shockingly, it’s also used by businesses and brands. The follow/unfollow method is most commonly implemented on the likes of Twitter and Instagram. However, it’s also becoming increasingly popular on TikTok. Now let’s get one thing straight, at Canny Social we would NEVER suggest anyone carry out this method. Why? Well for a number of reasons.
1. The follow/unfollow method is unethical
First up the method is unbelievably shady and unethical. Think about it, you’re essentially using people to further yourself or your brand. You’re basically following people and waiting for them to follow you back then unfollowing because you had absolutely zero interest in the account. Your entire goal was to gain a follower and make yourself look big online.
Most people who carry out the follow/unfollow method don’t care at all about the accounts that they’re following. They have zero interest in their content. Nor do they care the messages that they’re trying to put out. It’s all about furthering your own account by essentially using people which in my opinion is ethically wrong. Surely it’s better to work together with people and create a conversation rather than carry out a one-sided tactic that isn’t actually going to benefit you at all in the long run? But that’s just my opinion.
2. The follow/unfollow method does not give successful results in terms of engagement
One of the biggest misconceptions is that the follow/unfollow method actually works to increase the engagement of your account. Well let me tell you, it doesn’t. All that the method does is make your follower count look big. Sure you MIGHT get a couple of people actually interested in your content but when you aren’t specifically targeting your ideal audience you’re pretty much just taking a stab in the dark and hoping for the best. The chances are you’ll be following many people who have absolutely no interest in your content, product or service. This means that it’s a waste of your time and you won’t see any increase in engagement, website clicks or sales.
3. The follow/unfollow method is a waste of time, time that could be spent on ethical marketing
When it comes to following and unfollowing this takes time. You know what else takes time? Carrying out ethical marketing. Instead of wasting your time on increasing a number, spend that time building relationships. Actually interact with people. By interacting with folk and having genuine conversations you’re much more likely to have an impact on someone. You’re also more likely to make a connection. That connection could well be the start of a great relationship whether it be with a future client, customer or someone else in your field of work or interest.
But why do people use this marketing method?
You might be thinking to yourself, “Why do people actually use the follow/unfollow method?” Well, I think the whole follow/unfollow method comes from a desire that many have to seen as successful, famous and well known online. Honestly? There’s nothing wrong with that, most people online want to have an audience. That being said, for many, a big follower number is a sign of success and fame. However, people forget that engagement is so much more important. Surely interaction with your content is much more valuable compared to follower count?
Now I’m not saying that follower count should be entirely dismissed when it comes to measuring online success. I just think many have the misconception that your follower count has to be big and if it isn’t apparently you aren’t successful on social media. Some even argue that anything less than a five-figure follower number indicates a poor brand. That’s just is utter nonsense, to be honest. What I’m trying to say is that having 1,000s of followers where no one interacts with your posts should be a clear indication that the follow/unfollow method simply does not work. Other than inflating your follower number, it does zilch.
Perseverance and hard work is more likely to lead to you success as opposed to quick ineffective methods
Now I know people want success but many want overnight success. Here’s the thing, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Success takes time. Overnight success is as rare as black opal. When it comes to building a brand and a name you have to build trust, interest and engagement. You can’t just expect people to flock to you. Building a brand whether it be for yourself, your business or company takes time. With hard work, an honest approach and a killer ethical strategy you can have great online success. But it’s not a quick process. It’s a learning curve. Many people end up giving up along the way and then turn to tactics like follow/unfollow. With success perseverance is key. Don’t give up. Keep plodding on.
The bottom line: Your follower number shouldn’t be your number one priority
When it comes to the follow/unfollow method you’ll definitely gain followers but you’re not likely to gain any extra engagement. Having a big follower number might make your look big and reputable online but wouldn’t you rather have an account that has a great engagement rate and gain true followers organically? For many, followers are the be-all and end-all. While a large number of accounts following you is great, if no one is interacting with you doesn’t it seem somewhat pointless?
The best bit of advice I can give to anyone when it comes to gaining followers is to make connections. To do this engage. Target people who share your interests or industry. Make use of the search function. Look through hashtags. Reply to people, like posts, get to know people and share other people’s content. Build genuine relationships based on shared ideas, views, interests, opinions, industries and goals. When relationships are built engagement increases and in turn, you’ll gain genuine followers who love to interact with you.
Remember brand reputation is important
“But that takes too much time! Why would I spend all my time interacting with a handful of people when I could be following/unfollowing and gaining loads of followers overnight?” If building relationships seems like too much of an effort and you haven’t got the patience, I’d recommend taking a step back. Think about what makes YOU follow and engage with an account. With the follow/unfollow method you might gain a whole load of followers but often these followers aren’t genuine. If they aren’t interacting with you now, chances are they never will. Eventually, they’ll unfollow you anyway.
Building a great respected brand is incredibly important. It’s not a quick thing to do. It takes years to build up a great reputation and minutes to destroy. For many seeing a brand or business follow and unfollow can be very annoying. I know in the past I’ve personally experienced it from big brands and it’s completely put me off using their products or services. I’ve thought to myself “They don’t care about me as a customer, so I’m not going to give them my business anymore.” All in all, remember, brand reputation is everything and I personally don’t think this shady method is worth carrying out to risk your brand image and identity. Your audience isn’t stupid so don’t treat them like they are.
So instead of carrying out this unethical tactic, build some relationships and make some friends. I promise you you’ll get more enjoyment and success out of social media by engaging and being ethical and you’ll get way more interaction with your content than you ever would compared to using the follow/unfollow method.