The Follower Contract

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

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

There’s always an invis­ible 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 fail to con­tinu­ously engage their social- and inbound audi­ences. Instead, they remain focused on acquir­ing out­bound audiences. 

Here we go:

Brand Consistency in Social Media

Social media algorithms will typ­ic­ally look for engage­ment levels rel­at­ive to the size of a brand com­munity. Brands must stay con­sist­ent in social media to attract a cohes­ive fol­low­ing with homo­gen­ous expectations.

Brand Consistency in Social Media = Followers sub­scribe now (today’s brand per­form­ance) on faith (tomorrow’s brand per­form­ance) via trust (yesterday’s brand per­form­ance).

Inconsistency is a krypton­ite for social media engage­ment. It’s a breach of trust to sud­denly change the dir­ec­tion of what’s to come. Trust takes time to estab­lish and is too valu­able to ignore. 

Long-term incon­sist­ency will also res­ult in ghost fol­low­ers.

Ghost fol­low­ers will severely dam­age your brand’s algorithmic momentum through their inher­ent lack of engage­ment and author­ity. And less algorithmic momentum means less social media impact for your brand.

The Follower Contract

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The Follower Contract

How can brands bet­ter under­stand fol­low­er engage­ment? Think of every fol­low as an invis­ible contract.

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

Think of every single fol­low­er, fan, and sub­scriber hav­ing such an agree­ment with your brand.

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 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 focuses on grow­ing its reach on social media plat­forms, alloc­at­ing 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 Honour the 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?
Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please con­sider shar­ing my pub­lic rela­tions blog with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. If you have ques­tions (or want to retain my PR ser­vices), please con­tact me at jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Why We Share on Social Media

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

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 Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has


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