The Follower Contract

People follow (present) on faith (future) from trust (past).

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

How do you use the follower contract?

Why do people follow your brand on social media?

There’s an invisible contract between a brand and its social following. This contract can be described as a total sum of whatever reasons a person has for following a specific brand.

However, many brands find it difficult to engage their audience continuously. One might argue that passive followers, ghost followers, wouldn’t be the end of the world as long as they convert into customers reasonably.

I mean, at least the numbers look good. No?

The Case For Consistency in Social Media

There’s a big issue with ghost followers, which has to do with reach.

Through their lack of engagement and authority, ghost social followers will severely damage your brand’s algorithmic momentum. And no algorithmic momentum means lower reach for your content.

Social network algorithms will typically look for engagement relative to the existing followers. What does this mean for a brand?

It means that long-term inconsistency will inevitably result in ghost followers. And there’s a reason why inconsistency is kryptonite for engagement. In every single act of following, there’s a critical time displacement:

They follow (present) on faith (future) from trust (past).

Inconsistency is a breach of trust. And trust is a valuable commodity that takes a long time to establish. Now, if such a “follower contract” were an actual document, then what would it say?

The Follower Contract: A Policy for Growing a Coherent Community

Well, maybe a follower contract would read something like this:

The Follower Contract

Many brands must rethink their approach to having followers, fans, and subscribers. Having a brand community is your privilege, not theirs. How can you honour their engagement?

Think of every single follower, fan, and subscriber having this agreement with your brand:

Dear Brand,

  • Yes, I’m now following you. Congratulations (to you).
  • I followed you based on what you’ve demonstrated in the past, so don’t be surprised if I’ll stop engaging (or unfollowing) if you do other stuff.
  • You now have my permission to provide me with the type of content that first attracted me to your brand.
  • Any potential involvement on my part will be determined by me, the follower, on a future case-by-case basis.
  • My follow is not a ‘payment’ for your past accomplishments; my follow is an ‘advance payment’ for what I expect from you in the future.
  • It would be best if you always presupposed that I’m interested in myself and my friends first and then, maybe, in your brand.
  • Until we part ways, I expect you to be clear about my potential involvement in your cause.

Best regards,
Your New Follower

Read also: The Follower Contract

Examples of Failed Follower Contracts

When it comes to respecting the follower contract in social media, let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes:

Example A: A brand quickly increases its Facebook audience, focusing on paid ads for free giveaways and sweepstakes. This strategy attracts a critical mass of people expecting free stuff.

The result? When the brand suddenly starts asking these followers to spend their money, their followers lash out.

Example B: A brand decides to focus on growing its reach on social media platforms, so they allocate its entire budget to acquiring new followers.

The result? When all these followers discover that the brand has allocated exactly 0% budget to existing fans, they’ll ignore the brand.

Example C: A brand decides to apply a variety of digital campaigns where each initiative attracts different types of followers. The brand “succeeds” in building a community of people all expecting different things.

The result? When the brand asks their community for specific actions applicable to a small fraction of their following — crickets.

How To Honor Your Follower Contract

So, how can a brand steer clear of breaching its follower contracts?

  • Relevance. Putting out relevant messages outweighs frequency. Establishing a relationship takes time, but successful relationships are a worthwhile investment.
  • Consistency. Your primary value proposition must stay consistent over time. Earning trust (past), persuading new followers (now), and delivering as promised (future) will require a clear and constant message.
  • Targeting. Having the right community matters more than large reach numbers. Having many followers looks good from the outside, but what good are they if you can’t ask them for the support you need?

Thank you for reading this article. Please consider supporting my work by sharing it with other PR- and communication professionals. For questions or PR support, contact me via [email protected].

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.



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