I have become slightly obsessed with the number of Instagram followers I have on Freelance Feels. And I wanted to write about it as I think it's something a lot of us worry about - we gauge our popularity as a brand or a freelancer by the number of people that follow us. Why do we do that? Sure, it’s how things like Instagram work, but it is interesting to think that seeing a rise in people liking Freelance Feels gives me a buzz, a reassurance and a thrill. It’s the same when I get an email saying I have a new subscriber.
And when someone with lots of followers likes something or shares my story I am beside myself with glee! Last night, I reached 601 followers and I was so happy. But… the question is, why does it matter so much? Why does being followed trigger such a reaction, and when I refresh the app, which I do often, and see that I've even lost one follower I am perplexed, thinking 'What have I done wrong?!'
It’s the same with Twitter and Facebook, but for me it’s mainly about Instagram. As I watch that follower number tick up, I feel like success is going up on a chart… it’s saying ‘this is doing well, this will do well’.
It's funny to think about my urge to get to 600 followers this past month... then what? 1000 is a goal for sure, but why am I so fixated on that? Why do more followers equal success? It's not a business plan, to have X number of followers so I can do targeted content, for example. It's purely a way of me feeling validated.
Where has this incessant need to be followed and get likes come from? Do we all suffer from it? Does someone like Kim Kardashian see every time someone follows or unfollows her? Deep down, does she wonder 'what did I do?!'. Although, since she apparently only spends 30 minutes a day on insta, perhaps that's the answer. She's not always checking! And she doesn’t follow anywhere near as many people as she is followed by.
I pondered also recently on Instagram Live whether you should follow back people that follow you. Is that the etiquette when you’re new? During a chat for a feature recently, an expert coach told me that she unfollowed people who didn’t serve her energy and I felt that rang true for me. I want a feed that talks to me – and I have to accept some people won’t find that with mine.
When I see the number of followers go down again, I think ‘oh. What did I do?’ but then, perhaps, they liked my account but changed their mind, or something I’ve said is wrong for their values. It’s good to remember the reverse of when we unfollow: If we don’t want to follow everyone who follows us, then everyone we follow shouldn’t have to follow back either. If that makes sense?!
And what about wellbeing ‘people’? Do they self-judge if they've lost one follower and celebrate if they gain some followers? Or are they concentrating more on the bigger picture, the content and the wider audience. I wonder who out of the ‘names’ in the industry checks and sees their followers go up and what it means to them. I know if I had a 'name' follow me (And I have a dream list) I'd be jumping around the room with excitement.
For me, there is an element of it being a chart of success. If people like what I'm doing and sharing it, then word will spread. After all I want Freelance Feels to be something that is popular, and reaches a lot of people. There is a purpose to it and followers are part of spreading the word.
And it's natural to want people to applaud what you do - that's why we often do things, right? This wasn't ever just a vanity project for me - although it has helped me hugely. It's about reaching out to others and developing a brand in the wellbeing space. So, being followed and shared is important for that growth.
We have to remember those who've followed from the start, not keep going to the shiny new followers as we might see them. With my 'dream followers', it's people I hold in high regard in the wellbeing space that I know, if they followed or recommended Freelance Feels, I'd not only feel kudos and 'coolness' - there'd be an element of validation of what I'm doing and hope for a bright future for this little brand I'm building. If 'names' are saying 'that's worth following' then that is a huge compliment. And a huge boost for Freelance Feels.
I know I’ll always be keen to see the followers increase and it is a mark of success on Instagram. But I think it’s also important to remember what you’re providing them with to follow. They are looking to your account for something – so just seeing them as numbers isn’t a good thing. It’s about saying ‘thanks for following’ and trying to make the content worth it. I hope this insight makes the following worth it!