Do Not Do This!
I’m noticing this surprising thing as I am starting my YouTube channel: other creators comment on my videos in a way that makes it clear that they watched my videos, liked my videos, subscribed to my channel.
And now they would like me to reciprocate and follow back their channel and to also watch and like their videos.
The so-called follow-for-follow strategy.
From a distance, it would seem to make sense. You and other creators help each other by subscribing to each other’s channels, liking each other’s videos, watching each other’s videos.
But it is not a very smart thing to do! Let me explain.
It takes you a lot of time. You have to watch others’ videos and like and comment on others’ videos.
I have around thirty-five thousand followers now on Instagram. Imagine if I had to do that with all my followers.
It’s just not scalable!
It’s a terrible idea because the people who tend to approach you for this are not your target audience!
Only few people on a platform can make a lot of content. If they are your target audience, then, but only then, maybe, it could be an option.
But I am seeing YouTube creators who are into entirely different subjects approach me for follow-for-follows.
The thing with that is that they are not necessarily interested in my work. They just want me to subscribe to their channel and to like and watch their videos.
YouTube—or Instagram—will start to show your posts or videos to them more often, and they will not look at your work, and the platform will think that what you posted wasn’t that good, and it will not show it to many people anymore.
In addition, it will assume that people who are similar to the person you are doing a follow-for-follow with will be into your content also, and the platform will start showing your work to them.
But as they are probably not your target audience either, they are not likely to interact with your work; they won’t watch it, won’t like it, won’t follow or subscribe, and, again, the platform will assume that your work isn’t very good and it will stop showing your posts or videos to more people.
Follow-for-follow, or subscribe-for-subscribe, is a terrible idea as it gives the algorithm on the platform the wrong signals as to who might be interested in your work and how interested they are in it.
The likes and follows don’t mean that much. As I said, I have thirty-five thousand followers still on Instagram—it used to be thirty-nine thousand, but I have become less active—and most of these people have long forgotten about me.
At one time, one of my posts passed by on their feeds because they were bored and Instagram decided to show it to them. They thought, hah, cool!
And then they started following my account.
But then they immediately scrolled on and forgot all about me seconds later.
They rarely see my posts, they don’t know me, and they have all but forgotten about my account.
When they do see one of my posts again, they consider un-following because they were not into my posts that much to begin with. They were just bored.
Do This Instead
In contrast, people who reach out to me are the important people.
Personal interaction with individual people is so much more valuable!
Other artists will send me messages, and the conversations that follow are incredibly valuable! They remembered me! My work mattered to them!
Understand this: you are better off with fewer followers who are into your work. They will watch your work, like it, bookmark it, comment on it, share it with friends and become your friends, et cetera.
The follower, subscriber, and like counts are vanity metrics you have to stop considering. They are not relevant! And, you will never have enough. There are always accounts out there that have way more likes and follows and subscribes.
Also consider that the people checking out your work on those platforms are actually not your audience yet; they are the platform visitors.
People who follow you on Instagram have told Instagram that they want to see more of your posts.
But they are Instagram’s audience, and they are watching Instagram content.
People who subscribe to your YouTube channel tell YouTube that they would like to see more videos from your channel in the future. They are YouTube’s audience, and they watch YouTube videos.
By posting your art on Instagram, you are effectively making it Instagram-branded content.
By posting your videos on YouTube, you are essentially making it YouTube-branded content. People are not watching your video, they are watching a YouTube video.
Think about that. People might say that they open the Instagram app, or they might say that they are going to watch YouTube videos. The audience uses these brand names, not your name, to refer to your posts, to refer to your videos.
The likes, follows and subscribes are the statistics that help these platforms serve their audiences better. These are not actually your audiences. Yet.
The way to change that is to start your own newsletter. The people who subscribe to your newsletter really are your audience. But this is perhaps a topic for another time.
Less Important Than You Think!
On top of that, you don’t need followers and subscribers to reach an audience in the first place.
The platforms can show your posts and videos to people who aren’t even subscribers or followers!
When someone watches more than one of your videos on YouTube, YouTube will start to suggest more videos from your channel to them.
Instagram will show your posts on the Explore page—that is how my account grew. And they will, if they want to, suggest your account to people who are new on the platform.
The subscriber and follower counts aren’t that important, and you should take care not to think about them.
I understood that creators sometimes form engagement pods where they agree to engage with each other’s content. I hope I have convinced you here that this is a bad idea.
As a challenge, see if you can, today, for one whole day, turn off the internet on your mobile phone—if you don’t need it for work or school today, that is, of course, but in that case, do this on a day off.
Make sure you have no internet, social media, no notifications.
Allow yourself to be bored. Look around you. All this that you are taking in influences your work, your art.
Maybe read a book, talk to a friend in real life, or even draw in a sketchbook!
Imagine living in a time when there was no internet.
Experience life again, off-grid, untethered! Wide-eyed, take in all the beauty tht surrounds you!
Next article: Art is NOT War!
If you enjoy my articles, it would mean a lot to me if you could tell others about it. Thank you so much for supporting me! Email this article to a friend.