Originally published August 14, 2015

So yesterday, I was coerced into liking/following a crapton of “bloggers” on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest to get entries for a $500 Amazon giftcard – because why not? It didn’t hurt me, I might win (I won’t win), and I can always unfollow them later. Minor inconvenience for getting all my Christmas presents for free. Now, I think giveaways are a great idea for bloggers who are trying to build a following…sort of. Because, as you can see by my opening comment, you’re not really building a loyal following, you’re just bulking up your numbers. This looks really good to companies looking for influential bloggers to do reviews on products, partner with, ask for guest posts, etc. Because a blogger with 14,000 followers looks really influential to such companies, especially compared to a blogger with only…say… (looks at follower list) 116 followers. And, at some level, they are more influential simply by their sheer number of followers. But there are definite arguments to be made against that.

As a result of my “follow en masse” exercise, I happened upon a tweet advertising a book by one of the bloggers, promising to explain how to go from zero to 10,000 followers in a year. I had my suspicions about what content this book would have, but I decided to satisfy my curiosity anyway. $10 later (you’re welcome, blogger), I had 27 pages of ambiguous garbage and if-you-dont-already-know-this-you-need-to-get-off-the-Internet “tips” that were a complete waste of $10 and 15 minutes of my life.

Now, I don’t mean to say that the book fails to deliver on its promise. By following those “tips,” you could probably get 10,000 followers in a year – but are they really followers you want? For example:

Giveaways. I think I already covered this. People who are looking to win something probably don’t care about who’s giving it away, as long as it’s not a scam. You see this on Facebook pages all the time (like, share, and comment to win!). Hell, I’ve pulled that a few times with my company’s page. The followers aren’t interested in your content, they’re interested in your prize. Most of them will unlike (or unfollow) your page shortly thereafter, but MAN do your stats look good! At best, the extra fake engagement from users who don’t care about your business will make it more likely that your loyal followers see the information in the post. But it’s lazy.

Follow for Follow. The book actually says this is a bad practice, and then explains how you should follow accounts that are likely to follow you back (so…). For example, if you follow a Twitter account that has 14,548 followers and is following 14,547 users, there’s a good possibility they’ll follow you back. Especially compared with an account that has 14,548 followers and is following 147 users. Take a look at most of those accounts though (the ones with near-equal followers and following). Do they ever say anything worth reading? In my experience, their feed is 99% sharing of content they didn’t create – usually multiple times an hour.

Share content from influencers. This isn’t inherently a bad thing – unless it’s all you ever do. Finding content that is relevant to your niche and sharing it with your own followers is beneficial to them. But if it’s your whole feed, and you’re gaining followers from other people’s content, it’s a bullshit tactic.

Call to action. This is tricky because you really DO want a call to action in most marketing exercises, but it needs to be a call to action with some substance. The book says using “like/favorite if you agree, comment/retweet if you disagree” posts are a good way to build engagement. Again, TECHNICALLY correct, but it’s not TRUE engagement. If you’re calling for comments, it needs to be because you want to hear what your followers think. Put some thought into what you’re hoping to accomplish from your content. If your content is worth anything, it will gain traction without gimmicks.

These are all examples of what I like to call “share-whoring,” and it’s no better than click-baiting. If you have to resort to these kinds of tactics to build a following, you don’t have anything worth following. It may get you free products or sponsors or whatever, but getting them by share-whoring is basically selling out. Are these people successful? Sure. Does share-whoring get you to a place where you might get your content seen by more people? Sure. But is it really the way you want to get there?

It’s the same problem as click-baiting. If your story isn’t good enough to get people to read it without an exaggerated, ambiguous headline, it’s not worth writing. If your content isn’t good enough to attract new readers on its own, you need better content.

Of course, this is just my opinion – and you know what everyone is fond of saying about opinions. But if any of this resonates with you: like, comment, or share this post!


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