Following on followers

The world’s second biggest marketing spender Unilever has announced that the company will not work with online-influencers who buy followers. This is to combat online fraud and push for greater transparency.

Far from being a multinational giant, I also have this problem. I just joined Instagram and I’m swamped with offers to buy followers. Followers are not that expensive to buy and I can see how attractive that proposition can be. The more followers you have, the more of an “influencer” you are. And as an influencer, you can charge £15,000 for a promotional post. Also, without much shine at all, you can call yourself a “social media star”.

To think of it, social media sites are not that social at all. There seem to be no people there. When I post on Instagram, what I get is split-second responses from bots. Oh. And where are real people? Are you not supposed to be followed by a reader when the content of your post resonates with what they support or are baffled by? Is it not how you build a following?

I have posted 41 times and every time tens of followers come with the message to follow them back. That’s the only message they come with. At first, I thought they were real. I was chuffed! That post of mine obviously was gold! And how fast they read it! Ah. They couldn’t have read it that fast.

I managed to identify three real people. One of them wasn’t that real – he was paying someone to follow other people for him and no interaction followed. The two who are posting themselves are very nice to interact with.

Which brings me to what networking really is. I spent over six years networking more than once a day in networking events in London. It was difficult to do but I was promoting an email protection software well ahead of its time (and market). I had to develop a very good method to get any interaction at all as this was not a topic of interest in the age of sharing. When I was asked to teach the way I network, I decided to put it into a book too. I did that because there are too many damaging myths out there and they cause unnecessary anxiety. I’m a great supporter of keeping good mental health in all business situations.

What I preach, and what really works, is the personal connection. Business networking is not about hashtags. Not on Instagram and not on LinkedIn either.

A hashtag looks like a crutch and that’s what it really is. It helps, you can use it temporarily – but it won’t take you that far. A network is solid, sustainable – and its power only gets stronger. Establish a personal connection and follow up with a real person in a personal way over a personally chosen coffee. It has to be personal.


Beatrice Freeman is a nationally recognised networking strategist and trainer. Her top-tip guide “Introverts Make Better Networkers – How Anyone Can Succeed” is available as paperback and e-book on Amazon. To book a workshop, please use Contact Box on website.



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