Why "Gain More Followers" is Putting the Cart Before the Horse

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Focus on creating a solid strategy first, then build your following. Likes and Follows do not equate sales.

Last week I wrote a piece for CreativeLive about increasing your following on Pinterest. In my opinion it's an educational, helpful article, I believe it spells out steps to increase your following. The team I worked with made an incredible infographic (and I don't think I've ever described an infographic in such terms), it visually lines up and spells out tips and suggestions I gathered, perfectly. I'm super proud of the whole piece.

When I first pitched the story, I shared with my editor that I had grown my Pinterest following from 1800 followers to over 10k within a year, and I thought it would be valuable to share how I did it. I knew that the name of the piece would be along the lines of How to Get More Followers on Pinterest, which I wasn't wild about and I ultimately pushed back on when I handed the final draft in. But I know that an editor has a job to do, part of which is to drive traffic, and the headline is an important part of pulling in readers. I understood that and felt OK with it.

Normally, these sorts of click bait titles feel very meh to me. Within my business I try hard to not make promises when I consult, share, or write things online about followers or money - it's just not my style. I also do not want to be held accountable legally. But beyond the legal nature of my decision, it feels very snake oil social media to me to continually expound upon these faux promises, and something that I believe contributes to giving social media strategists no respect. For the most part, I've avoided this sort of jargon through out my career, but I think there are times that it's OK to use these headlines, or talk about what it takes to gain followers. Because these are real concerns that small businesses have, and they're warranted, and growing your follower base can build sales. But there is a process, and a method and one should come before the other.

When I shared this particular post on social media, I did express that I had increased my following to over 10k within a year. I thought twice about doing this and checked my gut, but I thought it necessary for two reasons. One, because I did actually implement all the tools and suggestions I cover and they worked for me. And two, I know that people really do want to know how to increase their following. It's just part of the beast. I also was honest within my post about using that kind of language.

This brings me to what I really want to talk about: putting the cart before the horse.

Today I read Tara Swiger's newsletter which I subscribe to, and I was immediately inspired and reminded of why strategy (and your very mission which she covers, but I won't here) is imperative. Swiger states:

10 ways to get more Twitter followers 10 Steps to more Instagram likes 5 million ways to get more followers, likes, hearts, and approval from strangers

Posts like these litter the internet. Some are great. Some are educational. But these posts are an AWFUL starting place. This the worst thing to focus on when you're not sure what to do next.

Why?

Because they are tactics. Tactics for implementing a tool.

But before you can apply tactics for one tool, you need to first know if your strategy includes using that tool, in that way.

I absolutely loved this, because it is true. So true! So often we're sold this ridiculous bill of goods that social media is magic. Gain more followers = make more sales! Nope. It's just not that simple, nor does it work like that anymore. I'm not sure it ever did, but we must have created this fallacy from somewhere along the line.

[Tweet "Before you salivate on how many followers you have, get your strategy nice and tight."]

This piece I read today titled I created a fake business and bought it an amazing online reputation should really drive home, if nothing else does, that 'likes' and 'followers' don't mean anything in the long run if you aren't generating sales. Please take a minute and read how easy it is to build a fake following online -- because it's simply astonishing. It underlines to me that a robust community is where it's at when building a following. It's depth not width.

And this is where Swiger hits on a fundamental truth: your strategy.

If you do not have a solid strategy in place for your social media - meaning if you are just posting to post, or posting on the fly, or snapping a photo and throwing it up online and hoping and expecting this to benefit your business than you're wasting time. Period.

Often people leave social media to the last minute and just post what ever. I understand that time is a contributing factor, but if you are serious about your business, your product, and generating sales you should be setting aside time weekly or even daily to schedule out and plan what you want to share on social media. Before this, the necessary first step is defining a solid strategy that outlines why, what, and when you will post.

[promo]

For some people social media comes naturally, or it looks that way. They make it look effortless. This is not the case for most people. It takes time, thought, and energy. I always encourage people when they start out on social media to wait to follow people until they have their strategy and voice solid and a real understanding of these on social. This might mean having a couple weeks of content up, which again means - say it with me - having your strategy in place.

We all want to increase our followers. It's natural to want people to see our stuff -- especially as creative people. But do we want people to see our stuff or buy our product ultimately? Likes and follows do not generate sales. Strategy and driving traffic back to your product does.

So work those Pinterest tips I shared about gaining more followers, just make sure your strategy is in place before you do.