I’m giving away this laptop, this Gucci bag, this Instax camera, a payment for your light bill, and a brand new pencil set with cute sayings like “you go girl!” All you have to do is follow me, then follow these 17 other people and whoever they tell you to follow, and then wait 21 days while balancing a vial of virgin blood on your head. You probably won’t win, but 30+ people just got a shitload of followers in a matter of 3 days. That works for some people, but here’s why I call bullshit.
I’ve been working with bloggers for about 5-6 years now. I don’t mean I’ve just taken pretty photos of them for that long. I’ve designed logos and websites. I’ve provided brand management and brand growth packages. I’ve even blogged since Tumblr was a thing. I’ve been around. However, I’ve recently met a ton of bloggers who’ve been doing this for FORactualEVER. After many conversations, questions and digging around, the thing they all have in common is slow organic growth. I’m talking people who’ve been blogging since I was still in high school (I’m 27. Don’t do the math it’s bad for you). All of these bloggers and social media influencers have less than 30k followers. They’ve been around since before Instagram was a thing. Before giveaways and Snapchat and all of the other platforms. What I did find is that they have a much higher engagement than most bloggers with 50k+ followers. I’m going to tell you why.
** Before we go on please note this is all opinion and personal research based. **
These people have spent years building relationships with their followers. They’ve spent years developing a unique style and a voice of their own. If we are honest, everyone is a photographer. Everyone is a blogger and I think my mom was even a brand rep once. It’s an oversaturated industry. We learn shit quickly and we get a “K” next to the number of our followers so we are all famous experts now. Bye. That’s not how this works. Because need I kindly remind you, if Instagram and social media, in general, were to shut down tomorrow we’re all folding the same pair of jeans at Madewell from 10-7 Monday through Thursday and Sundays. So take several seats.
The problem with loop giveaways and microwave millennials is that you’re doing a quarter of the work for instant results that have as long lasting of an effect as a Sally Hansen spray tan. Also, you’re fucking it up for the rest of us. Also ALSO, brands are catching on. But let me backtrack. If you aren’t familiar with loop giveaways, here’s how they work: A group of influencers pitch in anywhere from $20-$500+ to get in on the opportunity. (AKA buy followers, but that’s none of my business). The money buys the product. When these first started the giveaways consisted of trivial shit like lotion, earrings, a t-shirt and a Starbucks gift card. Now Y’all got extra fancy. Gucci bags, laptops, cameras and bottles of magic from the fountain of Instagram followers. How do I know this? I get the email and DM invitations ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME. Now in order to buy these fancy ass products, you need quite a few participants. The purchaser of the products takes a cute picture and adds some text to the image. Everyone in the giveaway group reposts it with very specific instructions. You have to follow each and every person in the giveaway. That’s anywhere from 10-40 people. And this shit works y’all. I’ve seen people go from 13k to 50k in a month. It makes sense too.
Let’s do the math. We have 28 participants in the giveaway. Each participant has let’s say 30k minimum. That’s an 840,000 follower reach. This shit is sorcery. What people are missing though is that numbers don’t give you engagement. So you have these people with 78k followers who are getting 50 comments and 1,000 likes a photo. It doesn’t add up, and it won’t. Unless you buy likes and comments which is a whole other animal that I do not feel like visiting at the social media zoo today. I have 17k followers on Instagram. Sometimes I struggle to get over 100 likes on a photo. Granted, time of day, actual day and all these other things are factored into the best time to post, but it’s still difficult to obtain. My comments usually come from the same loyal followers and amazing new followers I’ve built a relationship with. People who actually care. Brands see that you have 82.8k followers on Instagram and of course they’re going to send you 9 free handbags, a speaker, 6 dresses and some black toothpaste for your teeth. What they’re failing to realize is that 82 thousand people aren’t buying their product. In fact, less than 10% will. And I know that from experience. A lot of those people end up unfollowing you because they don’t give a shit about your Zara outfit, they just want to win something.
There are many ways to grow your brand organically. It does not happen overnight, and it takes a lot of hard work. I know people who are at 180-250k+ and they got there by hauling ass and putting in the work. YEARS OF WORK. These people are getting the engagement that matches the following. Eventually, brands will realize that when they invest in just the following, they’re essentially buying a commercial slot set to a reach 100k+ people that will really only reach about 1k because everyone else has their tv off.
I’ll leave my social media Bill Burr-like (I wish. I love him. Listen to his podcast. He’s my spirit animal) rant with this. A couple of months ago I was part of a comment group. At the time I thought it was a brilliant idea. Instagram’s algorithm recently changed and it’s really hurt a lot of influencers. So in these comment groups, you let them know every time you have a new post and you comment and like on every post before you’re able to add your own. There are pro’s and con’s and I personally have nothing against those who participate. You gotta do what you gotta do. Especially when this is your bread and butter. But you’re always left with the same comments from some of the participants. “Great photo girl!” Or “This is so awesome!” And it just felt inauthentic and fake AF. Shit, I was running out of things to say. Especially when I had genuine feedback or interest in the post. This shit was also hella work. If you missed a few hours, you’re on your phone for the next hour catching up and commenting. I’ve since left these groups, but now if I see something I like, I actually like and or comment on it. If my friends post something they know I’ll like and may miss, they send it to me through a DM. And if my homegirl or myself are working on a campaign where we need the support, there is no shame in a “Hey can you check this out and comment with your honest opinion? I’d really appreciate it!”
Listen, I fucking HATE the microwave. I can probably count on both hands how many times in my life I have willingly used it. I’d much rather re-heat something on the stove, or take my time and cook an actual meal in the oven. You ever put bread in the microwave? You have about one minute and 42 seconds to eat it before you are on your way to the dentist for a crown. It doesn’t taste the same. It doesn’t last long, and it’s lazy. Because yes, I am that person that makes popcorn on their stove. I believe good things take time.
Take your time. Create your own voice. Step away from the microwave. Buy a cookbook and master the art of being able to make something for yourself that is organic and healthy. You ever seen someone successfully cook a turkey in the microwave? Neither have I. Stop feeding the people rubber meat. It’s uncomfortable to digest.