Please be warned, this post is a little ranty but not aimed at anyone at all!
I think we can all agree that Instagram is hard. The stupid algorithm makes growth practically impossible, and the amount of effort it takes to write a caption and then your list of hashtags, only to get 10 new followers and then lose 12 (adjust numbers to fit your profile where necessary -mine’s small!). To grow, we have been told to support each other. Follow trains are common place, and there’s 101 blog posts explaining how to grow your Instagram.
It’s not just Instagram. To grow a Twitter following you have to be constantly tweeting, following, interacting and creating content. Which is hard work! Don’t even get me started on sites like Bloglovin’. And Facebook? As far as I’m concerned that one’s the root of all evil (you’ll get far if you pay for it…).
But what counts as support these days? The general consensus is that you follow people, interact with their content, like things, leave comments, and expect it to come back two-fold. But that’s where the problems lie – in it coming back around. It becomes the expectation that you should get back what you put in. So if you follow someone and they don’t follow you back, they can kiss goodbye to your follow! It’s becoming more frequent to see new bloggers, having been told to follow to get a following, begging bigger accounts to please follow them back. And on the wave of this, following sprees are becoming more commonplace. I know at least 3 people’s Twitter handles that have followed me at least 4 times each and always unfollow within a day. It’s hard to tell who’s following you because they genuinely like your content, or because they want a follow back and have no interest in you or your actual content.
And I’ll be honest – I’ve had enough. Recently I really tried to put effort into following back but it’s hard to tell who genuinely wants to follow you and who simply wants you to follow back so they can go through later and click that unfollow button, boosting their own ratio. I love interacting with other bloggers, reading their posts and leaving comments all over the place if I like something. It’s the same on all platforms. And I think people are starting to catch on that this growth game isn’t worth playing.
We all want more Instagram followers, but check any of the blog posts about growing your following and they’ll tell you to go through your explore page and follow anyone who fits your niche. And after a week, unfollow those who didn’t follow you back. But isn’t that what annoys us? We never know whether a new follower is genuine, or only following for a follow. Or maybe they’re a bot. Who knows?
But when was the last time you followed someone on Instagram because you genuinely liked their feed? Because they post pictures of cool makeup looks or cute pets or have immensely funny captions? In the blogging world it can feel like if your Insta feed isn’t filled with marble-backed flatlays or you don’t have a running theme, you’re doing something wrong. Maybe I don’t want to follow yet another blogger posting flatlays of the same products over and over again just to keep pushing out content, so I find myself following less new people. Maybe I want to see your face every now and again, to get to know the person behind the camera. Maybe I want to see more personality than the contents of your makeup bag. Maybe I want to see some variety in the photos I see, not the same things over again but arranged slightly differently. Not that I don’t enjoy flatlays, I just want to go back to the way Instagram used to be, where you followed someone because you liked their personality and pictures. I don’t want to follow feeds that don’t interest me in the hope they might follow me back.
And that’s just Instagram! When I first created the Facebook page I hardly ever use, I posted to a couple of blogger Facebook groups asking people if they could follow me. The only ones that did, did so with conditions: “Here’s mine, I’ll follow you if you follow me?”. It lost some meaning (although I discovered some great bloggers through this!). And on Twitter, follow chains for all platforms are common place: “Everyone like and RT this tweet, and leave your links. Follow everyone who RTs”. Which is all well and good but you end up stuck following a lot of people bringing out content you won’t read or care about just to boost your own numbers. And how many of them unfollow a few days later? Ask yourself this – The last time you took part in a follow chain, did your engagement actually go up? Mine hasn’t changed from when I was posting scheduled tweets daily with 400 followers, to now, barely even promoting this blog but with almost 750 followers instead. When it’s only about boosting the numbers on your profile, people don’t care about the content you work hard to produce.
I went through a few phases of trying to follow everyone back who followed me – I wanted to give back a little of what people were giving me. But I have no idea how many people I’ve followed who immediately unfollowed me once they had their number ticked off. I have no idea how many people follow me that don’t look at my content and never see my blog posts. I have no idea how many people I follow that I never interact with at all. Is that really support?
From now on, if I follow you on Twitter, it’s either because I like your content, or I’ve had a great interaction with you. I want to get back to that community feel, where we all boost each other up, there’s no right or wrong way to behave, and the numbers aren’t so important. When I voiced my concerns today, I ended up releasing my frustrations with 2 bloggers who surprisingly agreed with me – opinions I thought I was best keeping down. But it seems to be common consensus that actually, people don’t want to live along the lines of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”. I want to be able to comment on other people’s tweets, follow fun or pretty Instagram feeds, read their blog posts and spread the love, without expecting anything back or it even being an expectation to do so in the first place. That was what made blogging fun! I want it to just be fun again, blogging for each other as much as the outside world. Not caring so much for numbers and not needing to stand on each other to get a little higher.
Instagram is a pain as it is. I don’t need to feel bad for wanting to be myself on it and not getting 10,000 followers for doing that.
I don’t even own a marble background…