The users you follow on your social media platforms of choice will significantly impact the experience you have on each platform. After all, posts from the accounts you follow are what populate each social media platform’s feed (algorithms aside). Of course, each platform’s features and overall user experience factor in as well. But the content you are seeing in each social feed is the primary factor of your social media experience.
Deciding what accounts you will follow on social media may feel like a more challenging decision when it comes to doing so for your small business account in comparison to the social media accounts you use personally. For your personal social media accounts, the accounts you follow are likely users who are friends and family, favorite brands, celebrities, TV shows, movies and musicians, and perhaps accounts that are related to certain interests you have.
You probably pay little to no attention to Following:Follower ratios and don’t think twice about accounts who don’t follow you back.
How to Decide Who to Follow on Social Media
When it comes to deciding what accounts to follow (or follow back) on social media when managing your small business social accounts, there are a lot more things to consider. Things like the content, how a follow could be received by the other user, and if you suspect the other user is playing the “Follow/Unfollow” game, where they are purposely following dozens of new users every few days, then going back and unfollowing them as a way to artificially inflate their own count of Followers.
Let’s take a look at the 9 questions you can ask yourself to help you decide who to follow on social media.
- Is the account a source for content? Part of a smart social media strategy is locating places to curate content created by others to use as part of your social media posts. This content would be relevant and complementary to your ideal customer, yet not competitive. Following accounts that can be a great source of non-promotional content for you can make your social media posting work a lot easier.
- Is the account a partner company? If promoting this account is a win-win for both parties, chances are they are a good candidate to follow. For example, if you are a retailer, you might follow accounts of the brands of products you sell in your store. If you are a real estate agent, you might follow accounts from local providers like mortgage brokers, interior designers, pool installers, pest control companies, and insurance agents.
- Is the account a customer? If they’ve bought from you already, developing a relationship with your existing customers on social media can help you to strengthen brand loyalty with them and even build brand ambassadors for your company.
- Is the account a source for inspiration? Instagram and Pinterest would be good platforms to illustrate this point as they are both very visual in nature. You might want to follow accounts that give you inspiration for future posts that you’ll be creating for your brand. Saving their posts to refer back to later can help you when you are in a creativity rut or just trying to bring a fresh perspective to your feed.
- Is the account a competitor? Twitter allows you a way to add another account to a (private) Twitter list without needing to follow that account. Once added to a list, you can visit that Twitter list to view tweets from the accounts in that list. This is a great way to keep a close eye on competitors by easily following their tweets, but without following their account.
- Is the account an industry leader? Your customers expect you to stay in the know with the latest developments in your industry. Following the main thought leaders in your industry not only gives you credibility, but it gives you a source for content to later share to your profiles, too.
- Can I follow them without them knowing? As stated above, this is a helpful feature of Twitter lists. However, the flip side is if you wanted to follow an account on a platform like Instagram where a user would be notified of a new follow by you and also be able to look and see that you are following. You might decide not to follow that person because doing so would reflect poorly on you.
- How does it affect my Following:Follower ratio? A glance at the number of people who follow an account and the number of people that account follows typically gives a specific impression. If the count of Following is too high in comparison to the count of Followers, it looks like that account is very unpopular or perhaps brand new. if an account follows far fewer people than the number of people who follow it, then the account looks popular/famous. And an account where the Following:Follower ratio is close and both counts are high, but the Following number is larger, it looks like this account is playing the “Follow for a Follow” game. where they are aggressively following a high number of accounts and unfollowing anyone who doesn’t follow back in a short period of time. Their Follower:Following numbers might look something like: 36,000 Following and 34,500 Followers. So as a brand, you want to make sure that your Following:Follower ratio looks favorable towards you. You don’t need to be exclusive (e.g. You only follow 1 account for every hundred followers you have), but it is often wise to make sure you follow fewer accounts than those who follow you.
- Does it seem like a legitimate follow? Accounts who are playing the Follow/Unfollow game are not accounts you want to follow because shortly after you follow back, they will unfollow you. In this game, the other account will be the one to follow you first, and when you check their profile, you will see something like a 1:4 or greater ratio. When I am notified of a few follow on, say, Twitter or Instagram, I will visit their profile to read their bio, view recent posts and check their ratio of Following to Followers. If I see something like Followers: 4,281 to Following: 599, or Followers: 11K to Following: 1,200, I don’t follow back. There’s no way they are genuinely interested in my account and are obviously playing this game to artificially grow their followers count and make it seem as if they are very popular.
Accounts you choose to follow on social media will impact the content in your feed, your usefulness for a platform, others’ first impressions of you, and your ability to build brand partnerships and ambassadors. Once you develop a set of guidelines for who to follow on each social media platform, the decision-making process will feel a lot more simple.