The Follower Contract

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

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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 con­cerns 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

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 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.
  • I, the fol­low­er, will determ­ine any involve­ment 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

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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 it alloc­ates 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?

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Why We Share on Social Media

Perception Quote - Anais Nin
We don’t see things as they are. (Art: Unknown).

Why We Share on Social Media

People want to be loved; fail­ing that admired; fail­ing that feared; fail­ing that hated and des­pised. They want to evoke some sort of sen­ti­ment. The soul shud­ders before obli­vi­on and seeks con­nec­tion at any price.”
— Hjalmar Söderberg (1869−1941), Swedish author

When we share on social media, we share for a reas­on. And that reas­on typ­ic­ally has some­thing to do with ourselves:

  • We share to make ourselves look smart.
  • We share to fit in and to stand out.
  • We share to express individuality.
  • We share to belong to our in-group.
  • We share to be loved.
  • We share to pro­voke reac­tions for atten­tion.
  • We share to extract sympathy.
  • We share to make us feel bet­ter about ourselves.
  • We share to get ahead.
  • We share to grow an audience.
  • We share to com­pensate for our shortcomings.
  • We share to get the respect we need.

If you can get social media to work for you, great. But you should also be mind­ful not to let the pres­sure get the bet­ter of you.

A status update with no likes (or a clev­er tweet without retweets) becomes the equi­val­ent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewrit­ten. And so we don’t show our true selves online, but a mask designed to con­form to the opin­ions of those around us.”
— Neil Strauss, Wall Street Journal

Learn more: The Narcissistic Principle: Why We Share on Social Media

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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.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo has nothing to do with public relations, of course. I share for no other reason that I happen to enjoy photography. Call it an “ornamental distraction”—and a subtle reminder to appreciate nature.

The cover photo has


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