Why “Follow Backs” Are Pointless

Have you ever seen someone say, “Follow me, I follow back!” I mostly see it on Twitter but it also pops up on blogs (especially in comments on memes that link up). I think this is pointless behaviour.

By telling me you “follow back”, I see that as you basically saying, “I don’t care who I follow. I want to raise my numbers so if you raise mine then I’ll raise yours.” In the end, that might get you bigger numbers, but does it actually get you more FOLLOWERS?

What is a follower?

A follower isn’t just a number. A follower is a person—a person who actually likes reading your blog/updates and checks back regularly to see the new ones. They choose to hit “subscribe” or “follow” not because you asked them to, but because they WANT to see that new content.

And what is a follow back?

A follow back is when we both just want to boost our numbers. You ask me to follow you on GFC and in exchange you follow me via Feedly. That makes us both happy, right?

But in reality, I don’t use GFC to stay up to date with new posts. I only clicked “follow” because you asked me to. I may not actually like your blog or your content and maybe I’ll never ever come back again. But I clicked “follow on GFC” because it cost me nothing other than a few seconds of time.

What’s the point of fake numbers?

That’s what I think follow backs are. Fake numbers. You’ll have tons of people following you who only followed because you asked or bribed. As a result, most of those people probably don’t actually visit your blog at all! They just click “follow” and then leave.

I want followers who WANT to come back. I don’t want to have to ask or bribe them to subscribe.

I think it’s more worth your effort to spend time making your content awesome and irresistible. If your content rocks, people will want to follow you. Isn’t that better than having people follow you only because you scratched their back first?

What do you think about this “follow back” behaviour?

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  1. I have to admit that I thought it was the coolest thing ever when I first started but I quickly realised that it wasn’t the way to go. I totally get wanting to raise your numbers but asking for a follow back isn’t going to get you anyone real. There are plenty of other ways to find someone who will actually read your content and all it takes is simply talking to them. πŸ˜€

    Laura Plus Books recently posted: The Bookshelf Tag
    1. Yeah I understand people wanting more followers, but just increasing that NUMBER doesn’t get you real followers. You have to work to produce content that people want to keep reading on their own. That’s how you get real people, rather than just an inaccurate and arbitrary number. πŸ™‚

  2. I think the same goes for give-aways that ask people to follow on Twitter, Facebook, by e-mail and so on and so forth. Of course you’ll get more followers that way and some of them might even discover you’re an amazing blogger that writes exactly what they want to read, but the vast majority of those people probably couldn’t care less about what you post. I’d rather have ten followers who actually read what I post than five hundred who mute me on twitter.

    That said, feel free to check out my blog everyone. πŸ˜€

    Vlora recently posted: Talk To Me: E-Mail Subscriptions
    1. I totally agree!! I think this becomes particularly obvious with email subscriptions. I used to always have a giveaway entry for “follow by email”. Now, as a result, I have a ton of email subscribers that NEVER read the emails. They never have before, and I know they never will. They don’t unsubscribe or anything, so that would imply that they subscribed using a throwaway email that they never check. They probably just use it for giveaways.

      I’ve even heard of people who have a twitter account just for giveaways (where they follow people required for entries, or tweet out about the giveaway). But that’s not their real twitter account and they have like 0 followers because of it.

      1. That sounds like way too much work haha

        Do you actually have stats about who reads your post via e-mail subscription, or do you just know they don’t read the posts because there are more e-mail followers than comments?

        Vlora recently posted: Frankfurt Book Fair 2014
        1. I actually have stats. I can track how many emails I send out and how many of those emails were actually opened. I can even check to see if a specific person read the email or not, if I want.

          Whether or not you have this information depends on what email subscription service you use. For example, you can get these stats in MailChimp but not in Feedburner.

  3. When I got started, I sometimes followed back because people asked me to. I thought it was the best way to meet other bloggers and sometimes I added a ‘follow me?’ at the end of my comments. Rookie mistake, haha. I think it’s the same with followers you gain after a giveaway. A lot of them probably unfollow you after it ends anyway..

    And I don’t care about those numbers to be honest. I care more about comments.

    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted: Review 293. Bethany Griffin – The fall.
    1. Exactly! Or they follow you for a giveaway in a way that means nothing to them. For example, when I first started blogging I entered A TON of giveaways. Most people at that time required that you followed via GFC for the giveaway. Well, I just clicked “Follow”, because why not? But I don’t actually use GFC to keep track of blogs I follow, so even though I clicked the “Follow” button, I wasn’t ACTUALLY following their blog. I just gave them an extra number.

      Comments are the best!

    1. I completely agree. It sounds so much like begging for followers. Begging isn’t cool! I want to follow people who don’t have to ask me to do it. πŸ˜›

  4. Yes, I totally agree with you! Honestly I find it really annoying, and I see it everywhere on social media – especially on Instagram for me. What’s worse is that they’ll follow me, spam a HUGE number of likes and comments saying “follow for follow?” or “like for like?”. Sometimes they even keep following/unfollowing you, and the only way to stop them is to follow back.

  5. I feel the same way. I think the number of followers is so important to someone who is really making a business out of this ‘blogging’ thing. But if you’re passionate about reading and reviewing then you’re good. I think I want followers who are genuine. Who follows me because they like what I post. And if I like theirs, I have no problem on following back as well.

    I even had some experiences where someone follows me then just unfollow me later on just because I didn’t follow back -_-

    Great post! <3

    1. Yep, I agree. Ultimately, good content will always win.

      I think when you’re first starting out there are three things that can help you get noticed:

      1. Participating in memes (linking up and visiting other blogs who linked up).
      2. Commenting on other blogs.
      3. Hosting giveaways and including a “tweet about the giveaway” entry.

      Those three things can help you jump start your blog and get some initial visitors. After a while, you may want to drop some of those (especially #1).

  6. So I take it your not a fan of the Feature and Follow Friday meme. πŸ™‚ I know I am bad about following others because they follow me but I might hardly ever check out their blog. My favorite blogs are mainly via email so I can check them out on a regular basis, if I do GFC or bloglovin I might not check them out as much. I still do the FF meme some times though..lol. Mostly just to answer the fun questions and it seems most of the blogs on there I already follow..LOL

    1. Sadly, I’m not a fan. πŸ™ In general I just don’t like campaigns for:

      1. Gaining followers
      2. Gaining comments (like comment exchange programs)

      I totally get how it can be fun to find new blogs and answer the questions though! I know the FF meme is very popular. I just don’t like the “you follow me, I follow you” attitude. Or with comment exchanges: “you’re assigned to comment on this blog, and another person will be assigned to comment on yours”. I don’t want people commenting on my blog because they were assigned to do it. I want them to comment because they actually WANT to and have something to say, you know?

  7. I agree, followers got trough follow back option (and usually trough giveaways) are pointless. They never come back. I like to write posts so I can chat with people about these subjects or to share some useful info.
    Those numbers are only good if there are some publishers left who give ARCs based on follower numbers…

    Dragana recently posted: Kindle Deals for 15. October 2014
  8. Follow backs feel like cheating. I’ve always been a bit bitter at the blogs that do the Feature and Follow Friday meme. I’ve wondered if publishers have caught on to that though as it seems like quite a few publishers also ask for pageviews and unique visitors. Smart of them eh? On the other hand, I understand why newbie bloggers do it. It can be really discouraging having very few followers and almost no comments when posting. Even so, I think I would consider any post better than that FF meme. TTT and WoW are great ways to meet other bloggers and potentially get followers without taking a big shortcut.

    1. Agreed! Page views and visitors do seem to be the most important thing to publishers these days, which makes sense.

      I agree that some other memes can be helpful. I linked up with WoW and IMM when I first joined and those were great for getting an initial following. Giveaways also helped put me on the map, but after a certain point they become just as pointless for gaining “real” followers.

      I think giveaways and memes should be used as an initial stepping stone only. They can help give you some initial exposure. After that it’s better to focus more on original content. (Some memes can be okay to keep up with, but you don’t want to overdo it!)

  9. I think most people want high numbers because its’ supposed to reflect popularity, which in turn leads to more people visiting your blog. It’s the same thing as a book showing “a million copy sold world-wide”. Sadly, this simple statement makes people buy.
    Now, on Twitter, I used to always follow back out of politeness. Then I realized it made my twitter timeline crammed with stuff I didn’t really care about. Now, I only follow back people if I find myself genuinely interested, and I don’t hesitate to un-follow if I realize the tweets don’t interest me in the long run.
    Finally, I won’t follow someone who requested it and won’t require someone to follow me. I somewhat find it rude. It screams “Acknowledge me, please!”.

    AngΓ©lique recently posted: The Voices in Between by Charlene Challenger
  10. You make some really good points here, but I actually think that there are arguments both ways. I’ve thought about this a lot recently (‘m definitely planning to write my own post about this soon!) because I have LOTS of followers who obviously don’t read my blog regularly. I used to participate in Feature & Follow Friday (though I don’t often anymore) and I do include follow options on my giveaways. At the start of my blogging, I actually think building up a lot of “followers” made sense – I needed to get people’s eyes on my blog and that was a way to do it. Do all 2200 of my Bloglovin’ followers pay attention to my posts? No, definitely not. But I now have some pretty loyal followers who started off just following because of a random FFF post or a giveaway. Plus, I DO pay attention to my Bloglovin’ feed – I certainly don’t read every post, but I scan it most days and click on the posts that interest me – discussions or reviews for books that catch my eye. I know there are plenty of other people who do the same. So, this is just one more method of catching my readers’ eyes. Of course, if I don’t write good posts, people will ignore me in their feeds, but once I’ve built up those followers, my job is to keep them! Also, on a just plain practical note, if I want to get ARCs from publishers, having a lot of followers helps a lot.
    As far as giveaways go, I know that I have some followers who only come for the giveaways. My instinct is to say, “But, don’t they want to read all of the insightful things I have to say in my other posts?” But, really, my personal philosophy on my blog is two-fold: Yes, I want to ramble about books and have people appreciate my ramblings, but I also want to provide my readers with something. Hopefully, I’m providing them with insight and entertainment, but I also don’t mind providing tangible stuff and spreading the word about some awesome books in the process. So, if people only follow to win a giveaway (and only come back when they see other giveaways)? Well, I think they’re missing out, but if that’s what they’re interested in, I’m glad I could provide!
    I guess the way I see it is that those “extra” followers certainly don’t hurt me, and they can lead to “real” followers. So, if someone follows me, I follow back. And if someone asks me to follow, I don’t mind doing it – maybe they’ll have awesome posts that will constantly catch my eye in my Bloglovin’ feed – Can’t know until I follow!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: Let’s Discuss – Pride and Prejudice Next Steps: Need Your Help!
  11. As a beginning blogger I was obsessed with my follower numbers, nowadays I am still happy when someone follows me, but I don’t obsessively check anymore. And the amount doesn’t matter, I am just happy that there are people out there who want to read what I write and follow my blog. Often comments or knowing that people genuinely like my blog is worth more then a lot of folowers from whom I never hear. I removed GFC from my blog once I switched to self hosted wordpress.

    I am not a big fan of follow back behavior, although I occasionaly follow back when someone new follows my blog and I discover a new blog with content I like, but usually when someone asks I just feel less likely to actually follow them. I only want to follow blogs in which I am genuinely interested.

    Lola recently posted: Sunday Post #95
  12. I can see both sides of it. I think some people follow back because they like the interaction on social media, and you can interact more if you are following everyone who follows you. I read a book once that was supposed to be advice on how to grow your social media presence, and the only thing I really remember from it was that you should follow back because interaction helps your social media presence. I get that, and I think it’s valid if you’re account is more of a “brand” than a “personal” account.

    I also think that not following anyone at all back can make people feel like you’re too “exclusive” like you don’t actually care about interacting and all of that unless it’s with a small set group of people. I’ve seen numerous people express that opinion before, especially when you have people with a relatively large following and they’re following almost no one. I think people who don’t follow back at all sometimes give off the impression that they don’t care much about anyone that could be “beneath” them (less followers or just outside of their already created group or whatever). I don’t think it usually is that way in the person’s own mind, but sometimes it does create that sort of exclusionary sense.

    For me, I follow a lot of people back but not everyone. I check the accounts of everyone who follows me, and I only follow back if they seem to tweet things I’m interested in. I like the interaction that comes from that, but I don’t want to follow everyone because 1. that would probably be too much. I don’t want to follow so many people that I miss everything. And 2. sometimes their account just isn’t at all what I’m interested in. I think it’s a nice balance between following absolutely everyone and following almost no one who follows you.

    1. Yeah my main problem is people who:

      1. Blindly follow back everyone who follows them. That makes me feel like they don’t care about who they’re following because they’ll follow anyone.

      2. People who advertise this “I follow back” idea as a way to get more people to follow me.

      If someone follows me, I am likely to check out their account/blog to see if it interests me. But if it doesn’t, I’m not going to follow them just because they followed me. I only want to follow blogs/people I’m truly interested in.

      1. I agree completely. Also, I’ve noticed a lot of people advertise that they follow back when there’s no way they really do. On some places that’s easy to disguise, but on Twitter in particular, people say that when you can tell from their numbers that they actually don’t and have to just be saying they do in order to get followers. Sometimes it can be somewhat funny that they actually think people don’t notice.

  13. I don’t think the number of followers someone has means the same thing now as it did…2 years ago. (Not to mention that so many blogs with less than 100 bloggers are now getting highly coveted ARC’s) I see so many blogs that have THOUSANDS of followers, but either no comments or 2 or 3 comments. If a blog has over 5 or 10 thousand followers, I expect to see a ton of comments. If not, it makes me think they are all giveaways followers or what I also like to call ‘kiss ass’ followers.
    I don’t have a lot of followers but I would prefer to have more comments than followers. If nobody comments on posts then aren’t you just blogging to yourself? I don’t get the point of auto follow either. I follow someone because I like their blog, not because they follow me. It makes me feel bad sometimes but *shrug*
    I think comments count more than anything else.

    Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed recently posted: Waiting On Wednesday: (127)!
  14. I’ve never actually cared about the numbers. I’m always trying to engage people on my blog, but I’m noticing that commenting in general has tapered off on my site. I would think it’s because people are being siphoned off into too much social media and do not have the time and/or inclination to comment as much as they used to … but then I see that you have no problem getting people to comment on your blog! Ha, maybe my content does suck. πŸ˜‰

    Vanessa @ Little Gold Pixel recently posted: Kids Remember the Darnedest Things
  15. I never follow people because I feel like I have to, but in the very beginning, I did… I participate in several memes I really enjoy, though, and it’s quite all right with me if other bloggers don’t enjoy them. I still post discussion posts every other week, when I think of something I want to discuss, and I have new reviews almost every weekday as well.
    The memes I participate in help me keep track of books I am reading, want to read or am looking forward to. And it’s fun to to me to check out what other bloggers are reading as well. I have found many new-to-me books and authors when checking out either WoW or Teaser Tuesdays. The stacking the shelves posts are great, too, it helps me realize just how many books I add to my kindle each week, and sometimes I’m actually horrified because I add far more than I can possible read.
    I guess we all have different views on what kind of balance we want on our own blogs and the ones we follow πŸ™‚ And having comments on my reviews or discussion posts always make me very happy!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted: Review: Bound to Danger – Katie Reus
  16. You know, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I don’t have a lot of followers on my blog – even when combining GFC, email and BlogLovin’. And I’ll admit, there have been times when this has bugged me – it’s made me wonder if I’m doing something wrong or if my content just isn’t that good.
    But at the end of the day, I think it’s at least partly because I don’t solicit followers. I don’t have a lot of time to read and comment on other people’s blogs (book blogging is very time-consuming because of not only the time spend writing the content, but all the reading time – I find it claims a lot more of my free time than any other blog I’ve run in the past) and when I do, it’s because I have something I want to say, not because I want them to follow me.
    I have occasionally clicked “follow” on GFC because someone asked me to and it felt rude not to. But I don’t follow blogs with it – the ones I actually like (blogs like this one) I follow by email. I won’t read every single email that comes through my inbox, but I’ll read the ones that grab my interest, and, when they inspire me, I’ll go to the original post and comment.
    I started writing a book blog for me. I wanted to keep track of what I was reading, and put my thoughts out into the world. A few people read what I put out there, and take the time to comment, which means the world to me. Many of those I subsequently started following, and a few I am lucky enough to call my friends. So at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade those few awesome, engaged followers for a thousand passive ones!
    (Oh, and Twitter? Drives me nuts when people follow me just for a follow back. I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting them based on follower/following numbers and I won’t follow back right away. I’ve had some accounts follow and unfollow me over and over because I assume they spend so much time trying to get people to follow them back that they don’t even remember who they’ve already tried. I’ve blocked one or two accounts because I got so sick of seeing them follow me AGAIN every week or so! It’s one of my biggest Twitter pet peeves.)

  17. I’m not really a you-follow-me-I’ll-follow-you girl – I agree – it’s ridiculous. I want followers because they like my reviews, and my posts etc. I used to care so much about how many comments I get or how many hits I get and all that stuff, but since I stopped caring, blogging is so much easier.

    It is what it is. Sure, I confess I would like more comments just to know my reviews are being read and/or are helpful, but I just try to care less about stuff like that. At the end of the day, since I decided to stop accepting review copies I am essentially reviewing for myself again and it’s bloody lovely! πŸ™‚

  18. This post is right now! I’ve had a few comments left on my blog asking me to follow them in return for a follow, and I do always check out their blog. But I only start following them if their blog is one that interests me enough that I’d read it on a regular basis. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    Finley Jayne recently posted: {Halloween Special} The Master Of Creepiness
  19. *sigh* This is why bloglovin is useless to me πŸ™ when I first started blogging I joined in a couple memes where the idea was to gain followers. At the time I thought it was good – and I followed people with the intention of being a true follower. But then I learned that I didn’t actually connect with them/their blog. Many had no interesting content and were ONLY about followers – every day was a meme or blitz. And they didn’t visit me. So now I follow hundreds if blogs on bloglovin and would have to spend hours sorting it to make it at all useful to me. So yeah, I totally agree – you want followers who come to you because of your content – you’ll probably connect with them more and they’ll come back without begging. They actually like your blog. Who’d have thought? Lol great post!!

    Berls @ Fantasy is Mire Fun recently posted: Trapped by Revenge by Colleen Helme| Audio Review
  20. I agree with you. About a year or two ago, I thought that follow backs were real followers and I was naive enough to believe that whenever someone asked if I wanted to do follow for follow (especially on twitter) that they would actually read my blog, but then I realized that those people only care about raising their numbers. I stopped doing that and just say no to people (in a nice way of course) who ask for follow for follow.

    Nowadays I mostly see this on instagram. Whenever my youngest sister looks at my account, she always things like, “you’re so mean, why don’t you ever follow anyone back?” She follows everyone back because she thinks she’ll get more followers and she thinks it nice to follow someone back. But she never looks at most of those accounts’ photos. While I only follow back people who’s accounts I like (after they follow me and if they don’t ask me, because now I think it’s rude when people ask for follow backs and stuff). Plus if you have over 1000 followers and follow them all back plus follow the accounts that you’re actually interested in, you might end up missing most of the content that you’re actually interested in.

    Nazish @ Nazish Reads recently posted: Sisters of Scandal: Book 3 The Love Match by Lily Paxton
  21. I have to agree that the number of followers doesn’t mean anything if those people don’t actually visit and interact with your site. But stats can be helpful when trying to figure out your “reach” and sometimes the higher your follower count, the more seriously others will take you. People seem to overlook newer bloggers with less followers, doesn’t matter if their content is awesome.

    Julie S. recently posted: Ugly Love Review
    1. I definitely agree with you Julie! Higher numbers give you more automatic “trust” with visitors I think because that subconsciously adds to their idea about how much of an expert you are. That is why one popular e-mail list marketing technique is to include “follow along with 10,000 other readers!” if you actually have a list that big. People like to follow “famous” people, I think. πŸ™‚

  22. I find it tacky. I believe in sincere following, it works in the long run and usually it can build friendship between bloggers and readers. When I follow someone, it’s because I feel some connection with him/her and I love reading his/her posts. I don’t really care about followers numbers too. Of course everyone knows that nowadays they can be bought (remember the service of “gain x numbers of followers overnight for x bucks”). Fake and insincere following are pointless.

    Great post!

  23. THIS. YES. It drives me BONKERS when people say that! Then I feel obligated, whether I like the blog or not, so if I actually do follow, then I’m going to do it a way that I don’t check on a daily basis (i.e. I only ever subscribe via email to blogs I actually care about, and it’s a pretty low number). I have 800+ RSS subscribers on a good day (because sometimes it randomly drops to 200 something), and even still I only get a small handful of comments on anything except my discussion posts. The REAL followers of mine, the ones that matter to me, are those that stop by to share their thoughts frequently.

    I also feel this way about excessive giveaways. I rarely ever do a giveaway – not because I don’t care about my followers, but because it attracts the kind of people who follow just to enter and then unfollow when it’s all said and done. (And also because I’m f*cking poor haha.)

    Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat recently posted: Novel Thoughts: No One’s Opinion is β€œWrong”
  24. I agree. When I first started I would sometimes follow people back on Twitter (since I didn’t know many people on there back then), but I’d only follow their blog if I genuinely liked it. The worst thing I saw though wasn’t the people that said they follow back, but rather a girl who was just starting out, followed my blog, & then told me that because she followed me I /had/ to follow her back. That rubbed me the wrong way & pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn’t follow her blog. I think there’s a right & wrong way to go about getting new readers/followers & hard work put towards your content & just reaching out to people without begging for a follow is usually the best way to go.

  25. This is one of those things that make me cringe thinking about when I was a newbie since I definitely went through a (fairly brief!) phase where I was doing this and it was definitely to boost my follower count because I was all angsty about stats. I kind of like that publishers care more about unique visitors than follower counts since it makes following back much less useful to anyone. I actually went into my mailchimp list and removed the users who had never ever opened a single email since it made the monthly fee much cheaper for me and I just don’t care about all those email addresses that clearly aren’t actual followers anymore!

  26. I agree follow for follow is pointless; however, I still do the FF meme because that’s how I ended up meeting a lot of bloggers plus I just think it’s fun. They actually comment on my posts, lol! We visit each other, and before I did that meme, I didn’t have very many comments at all. So while I started out with the mentality of participating to get my numbers up, it became apparent quickly that I was getting actual readers, which I might not have known another way.

    Plus I joined a writer’s group where we post at the beginning of each month, and I made a lot of blogger friends that way. So I agree that the number of followers is no longer important. I see a lot of blogs with a ton of followers but little to no comments and other blogs with a small following but with a ton of comments. I’d rather have a low number of followers but many comments. Then I don’t feel like I’m blogging to myself, lol.

    Jennifer @ Donnie Darko Girl recently posted: When Life's Kicking Your Butt, How About a Theme Song? #2 #ACLFest
  27. I feel the exact same way about follow backs! They just frustrate me- while I’m always delighted when someone follows my blog, I rather them follow it because they genuinely want to read my posts, and you’d think they’d want the same from their readers.

  28. I can totally relate with this. From the first time I came across the follow-back idea in SM, I just never understood it. Like, why would you go out of your way to request for friendship, something most people would never do in real life. The most meaningful relationships form organically and not by going out of your way to say something like, “I’ll be your friend if you’ll be my friend”. So cheesy.

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