We’ve all seen it on Twitter, and many of us will have said it ourselves.
“It’s not about the numbers, but…”
But is it really?
Recently I totally reviewed my Instagram, especially after I had my account audited by the wonderful Instagram goddess that is Katy. I wasn’t posting stuff that I was happy with. Sure, bright and white is pretty but it’s not my life so was getting really hard to achieve. Not to mention I was basically reproducing the same thing I was seeing over and over on my feed. When I first started using Instagram I followed tonnes of gorgeous beauty accounts. Don’t get me wrong, the photography of these accounts is absolutely stunning, but it wasn’t what I wanted to follow anymore. It wasn’t inspiring me, and I was scrolling by and not really seeing it.
So I spent a few hours going through everyone I was following and deciding whether I got anything from their content. I ended up unfollowing about 300 accounts, which made my feed look so much fresher. There’s now a variety of content coming up and I engage with a much higher proportion of images I see. It’s helped give me my fire back with the platform in one respect.
A good third of the accounts I unfollowed weren’t active anymore, but I was well aware that unfollowing about 200 active accounts may have an impact on my own follower numbers. We all know that some people out there will unfollow you in a heartbeat if you aren’t contributing to their own stats. What really surprised me is how many people instantly unfollowed back. By the next morning, I was 150 followers down.
Some will have unfollowed me for the same reason I unfollowed them – maybe my content just wasn’t doing it for them. That’s absolutely fine by me, especially as I was already mixing up the content I was posting. What really struck me, however, was the number of people who unfollowed despite actively engaged with a high proportion of my content.
It got me thinking about quite a few things. It surprised me to see people who fed back frequent positivity about my account unfollow within minutes. Were they in it for the number on their follower count? Were they too conscious of their followers-to-following ratio after bot-gate?
We’re all seeing stagnating follower numbers due to the algorithms of social media platforms limiting our reach. But we’re also seeing it because of people who follow and then unfollow a few days later. Some people unfollow simply because you didn’t follow them back. Some simply unfollow regardless of if you follow back or not.
It’s disheartening. I used to get a warm feeling of gratitude every time I gained a follower. Now I’m so overly cynical not expecting them to stay around. This is especially true when you look at some accounts that follow you immediately after posting a picture on Instagram. I see you, I know your game.
Whenever I’ve hit a ‘following milestone’ I’ve not felt safe to congratulate myself until I was actually a good 25-50 followers above that line, expecting my following to drop again overnight. You wake up to the little notification telling you that you have 10 new followers. But more often than not your total following hasn’t risen – and sometimes is lower than they were to begin with.
My priority definitely isn’t the numbers. I blog and use Instagram because I love it and I’m passionate about creating content. But it still impacts me. It still makes me wonder why I’m not making progress with my following or engagement rates.
If I post something that doesn’t do half as well as previous content, it makes me question whether I should do something like that again. I’m trying really hard to not let this affect the way I present my content online. I put it out there for the people who already engage with it to enjoy. And I do it to continue nurturing my passion for creating great things.
But we all notice it and it can leave us needing to protect our self-esteem. It impacts us whether numbers are our priority or not. We’ll take to Twitter and have a little moan and feel better when others say they’re struggling with the same thing.