I’ve done social media professionally since 2008, which is a long time in the digital world. Platforms came and went. I lost jobs because of algorithm changes that killed digital publishers. Influencers can lose their influence every bit as fast as they gain it.
The first question people ask seems simple: How do I get people to follow me?
Let me tell you right now: Views are meaningless. Going viral is meaningless.
This is going to be unpopular with marketers and social media gurus who want to tell you how to get people to see your content. The truth is, though, that follower counts should not be the goal. If you are chasing views and likes, it’s probably time to reevaluate your strategy. I know. It’s tough to hear. Ultimately, though, those numbers are a vanity metric.
When Instagram added Reels and pivoted from their longtime focus of beautifully curated content they pulled the rug out from under the Creators who focused on beautiful imagery and curated feed. Facebook throttled link traffic back in 2016, and digital publishers all over the world closed their doors permanently. When the platform changed, they couldn’t evolve fast enough. It happens over and over and over, and it is so easy to fall into the trap of short term success vs. long term sustainability.
So what should you do?
Social marketers will tell you which platform you need to be on. They’ll point you in the direction of 7 second videos and “best posting times” and hashtag banks. Some of this works. Some of it doesn’t. You may do something that works for someone else and fail spectacularly.
Consider this permission to stop. You literally don’t have to do things that you hate to do. Don’t practice lip syncing over trending sounds or dancing for TikTok if it is not something that makes sense for you and your work.
So, then, what should you do?
First, figure out what you have to say. Are you a romance writer who wants to provide an escape and entertainment? Or are you trying to change the world with representation and social justice? Are you trying to offer hope? Make people think? Explore the depth of human emotion through poetry?
Second, create content that supports your message and create it consistently. It doesn’t matter where. If your video is 30 seconds or a minute or 5 minutes, then let it be as long as it needs to be.
Another thing to consider is that you do not own any of your social media platforms. They can all be shut down overnight—it happens all the time. You own your content, your email lists and your website—that’s really it. These are both important pieces of controlling your presence and allowing people to find you. if you have no idea where to start, this may help.
In short, people that are successful long term are not successful just because they were able to get all of their videos to hit the algorithm correctly. They’re successful because they found their audience and served them.
Here’s what it looks like to serve your audience:
- Understand your audience. Know their age, what they like, what they don’t like. What do they care about?
- Are you offering them something they don’t already have? What about your work is unique? Is it humor? Depth? Are you explaining something in a new way? What is there about your work and your presence that is going to make them stop scrolling? Take an honest look at your content and if it doesn’t hit this mark, try some new things.
- Are you interacting with them? They know who you are, do you know who they are? You should be responding to comments and messages and engaging where possible.
- Be authentic. People get lied to all the time on the internet. Let them know exactly what they’re getting and serve them that thing.
- Commit to your audience and your craft. Be better at what you’re creating. That is going to serve you so much better in the long run than mastering an algorithm hack that will only serve until the next time it changes.
Your work deserves more than an algorithm hack
The bottom line is this: Be good at what you do. Spend your time practicing and honing your skills. If you are good and you put yourself out there, you’re much more likely to build an audience that is committed and willing to follow you to whichever platform you land on.
Don’t waste your time chasing an algorithm you cannot control, because your work is worth more than that.