You already know how to separate the good from the bad: Organic follower growth trumps fake follower growth! But how can a channel gain organic followers constantly and ensure that the account increases steadily? In this blog post, we will explore the main sources of follower growth which impact influencers and brand channels on social media.
The factors which affect the follower growth of a channel are manifold. But we identified seven factors which have a particularly high impact on the follower numbers of a channel. We will cover both regular, advisable ways to boost the growth of an account, but will also include the sneaky, “against the rules” methods.
- Mentions and tags by other channels
- Strong social media channels
- Media attention
- Abuse strategies
- Community management
Mentions and Tags by other Channels
As an influencer, being mentioned by other channels can be highly valuable. Especially for smaller channels, being mentioned or tagged by accounts with huge follower numbers increases the awareness of the channel: Not only the followers of your own channel see your content, but the audience of the channel which tagged you will become aware of your account as well.
Below, some of the brands, aggregator channels, and influencers which mentioned German influencer @leoniehanne are displayed. Leonie Hanne (formerly known as @ohhcouture) is constantly mentioned by other channels and, thus, attains an earned media value of around 300,000$ each week.
Brand channels mentioning @leoniehanne © InfluencerDB
Influencers are frequently mentioned by brand channels. Being mentioned can either happen due to a cooperation of a brand with an influencer (paid postings) or on a voluntary basis.
Being mentioned by brand channels has several benefits for influencers: On the one hand, these channels might have high follower numbers (see Fendi’s Instagram channel). These followers will become aware of an influencer who is mentioned by the brand. With every mention, the chances increase that the brand’s followers will notice the influencer. Thus, being mentioned by Fendi six times will expose Leonie Hanne’s channel to 7.4 million followers each time.
Apart from this exposure, being mentioned by brands will put an influencer into a certain environment. Mentions from high fashion brands like Fendi will add to Leonie Hanne’s reputation of being a high-class fashion influencer. This could attract other brands from a similar environment, leading to additional brand cooperations – which, however, exposes the influencer to a larger audience and might increase his or her followership.
Aggregator channels mentioning @leoniehanne © InfluencerDB
Aggregator channels are those channels which do not create content themselves but accumulate content of other channels. In return, they tag the original creators in the pictures. These channels do oftentimes have more followers than the influencers themselves. Thus, exposing the influencer’s content to their audience, the aggregator channels can generate additional followers for the influencer’s channel. Leonie Hanne is mentioned 17 times on the channel @americanstyle, which exposes her content to 8.6 million followers each time.
Influencer channels mentioning @leoniehanne © InfluencerDB
Just like brand channels and aggregator channels, other influencers play an important part in boosting an influencer’s growth rate as well. Similar to the brand channels’ mentions, mentions by other influencers show the environment in which an influencer is situated. Being mentioned by influencers with large followings, like @sincerelyjules, will add to @leoniehanne’s own follower growth.
Strong Social Media Channels
Not all influencers are present on one social media platform exclusively. Most Instagram influencers are present on Facebook and Twitter as well and some even have YouTube channels. We notice that those influencers with other strong social media channels oftentimes have high growth rates on Instagram, too. We already discussed high engagement rates of social media stars, and the same goes for follower growth: Those influencers who became popular on one platform, like YouTube, are able to transfer their followers to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as well, which leads to high follower growth rates.
A well-known and successful example is the channel of Lisa and Lena.
The twins started out using the app Musical.ly and managed to transfer their fanbase from Musical.ly to their Instagram channel, which currently has 11 million followers with a constant growth rate.
As part of the media world, influencers are in the spotlight. In some cases, this reflects positively on their social media channels’ follower growth.
A famous example is Lauren Bullen, better known as @gypsea_lust on Instagram. She and her boyfriend made a business out of traveling the world and sharing their journeys on Instagram and their blog. In November 2016, Lauren gained even more fame because of a girl who seemed to follow her to all locations and copied Lauren’s pictures down to the last detail.
— Lauren Bullen (@Gypsea_lust) November 11, 2016
Lauren’s Instagram channel benefitted from this media attention. Her follower growth graph shows a significant upwards spike during the timeframe of the media coverage.
Follower growth @gypsea_lust © InfluencerDB
With more than 72 million followers on Instagram and a consistent follower growth rate, Nike is one of the most successful brands on Instagram. Nike does not try to sell products on their Instagram channel, but rather uses the platform as a form of branding. By sharing exciting content and engaging with its community, the brand includes Instagram into its overall communication strategy and brand environment across the borders of social media.
According to a study, Nike comes in second in the ranking of “Brands that do social media best” – A strategy like Nike’s is almost a guarantee for steady follower growth.
Instagram constantly features posts on its explore page. Being featured on the page exposes a channel to a huge audience and enables users to discover new channels. According to Instagram, the posts which appear on the explore page are accumulated based on the channels each particular user already follows and the topics these channels revolve around.
Example of explore page © TechCrunch
Considering that Instagram has 700 million users, chances are slim to none that your postings will be featured on the explore page.
All points mentioned above are methods which help boost the growth of a channel organically. Apart from these, there are several rather deceitful ways to forge follower growth.
The fastest way to build a large following is by purchasing followers. Of course, this method is strictly against the terms of all social media networks, but we regularly come across channels which obviously bought followers.
This graphic shows the ups and downs of purchasing followers – literally! The channel had an enormous growth in April 2016 which is impossible to attain organically. But notice that this growth rate will decrease immediately as soon as no more followers are purchased. A channel would have to buy followers constantly to keep up an ongoing positive growth rate. And keep in mind: Instagram hunts down bots and fake channels intensively nowadays, which will lead to a sudden loss of fake followers (as displayed here by the extreme follower drop in September 2016).
Not completely illegal, but definitely dubious is the follow-for-follow method. You basically follow numerous channels and wait for them to follow you back. Then, you unfollow them in the hopes of them staying followers of your channel. Since this strategy will get strenuous when done manually, most users who deploy it use special tools which automatically follow and unfollow other channels.
The advantage of this method over purchasing followers is a steady growth rate.
Follower growth during follow-for-follow abuse © InfluencerDB
When done constantly, a channel will have a steady follower growth. Only the “follows” in the daily follower changes will uncover the use of this method.
Nonetheless, these followers might only follow you back because you followed them in the first place. Some of them might not even bother to look at your content beforehand and will most likely not engage with it. Thus, they are invaluable followers who are not beneficial for influencer marketing campaigns.
We cannot emphasize enough that these methods are definitely not the way to go and will not stay unnoticed most of the time, depriving an influencer or a brand of all credibility.
One of the basic uses of social media networks is building relations, connecting with friends and engaging with your contacts. So why not use exactly these purposes as sources of follower growth for your channel? By engaging with other channels in your niche, these channels become aware of your account and show interest in your content. In contrast to a simple follow-for-follow, this means looking for those channels with similar topics, content, and quality which takes more work and dedication but ensures that you reach a fitting audience.
A lot of influencers build networks over time. They like each other’s posts, comment on pictures and engage with each other’s channels regularly. The followers of a channel will notice this and, since most social network users are eager to discover new channels, might want to have a look at your own channel (and become followers). So in contrast to follow-for-follow which aims at gaining follower numbers regardless of the users’ quality, this method is rather a form of relationship building to reach high-quality and like-minded users.
Engagement & Follower Groups
To increase engagement and grow their followings, numerous users recently started to make use of engagement groups. In these groups, users communicate if they have a new post up on their channel and other users engage with the post by liking or commenting on the picture. This system works on a quid pro quo basis: For liking your picture, I want you to like my picture, too. Other users just ask for follows directly to increase their channels.
So basically, these groups are just an exchange of likes and comments. It is questionable if they result in authentic, engaged and interested followers of your channel.
While methods like follow-for-follow and purchasing followers initially seem like the easy way of ensuring follower growth, they might cause influencers and brands more trouble than benefits in the long run. An organic followership is absolutely necessary for influencer marketing campaigns. High follower numbers and tremendous engagement rates are great, but if these numbers consist of a majority of bots and the comments and likes are purchased, they are completely invaluable for brands. No bot will ever care for a brand promotion post or product picture.
Instead, building relationships and networks with supportive users, caring for and engaging with your community and other channels in your niche plus being active and engaged across several social media platforms are advisable sources of follower growth which will help you increase your channel steadily.
Thus, we highly recommend relying on organic sources of follower growth for both influencer and brand channels. Although the growth rate will be lower and growth will most likely take longer, you should set your priorities to constant, organic follower growth instead of going for a quick fix.
This article is part of our current series which concerns follower growth on social media. This series revolves around the following topics:
- Grow and Develop – Why follower growth is essential on social media
- Sussing out growth – How to interpret follower growth rates
- Follower growth stagnation – How does it occur and what does this mean for an influencer?
- Negative growth – How does it occur and what does this mean for a channel?
- Fake vs. Organic Follower Growth – How to detect inorganic growth rates
- Sources of follower growth – Which factors boost a channel’s growth?