Why Your Follow-For-Follow Strategy Backfired | Writing on Medium

And why those 100 followers you got in two days don’t matter.

Yes, the — relatively — new Medium requirement — one must have at least 100 followers to be able to monetize their writing on the platform — took many by surprise, especially users who, just like myself, were already enrolled in the Partner Program but did not yet reach that number.

What came next was predictable: a gazillion posts about how the magic number can be checked off fast by using the classic — and entirely useless — follow-for-follow method.

The ethics of it are rather in the realm of borderline approaches, so I won’t comment on that part now.

I will however discuss the results of those frantic campaigns a.k.a. the harsh reality many of the new writers had to deal with after celebrating their 100 followers milestone.

  • Some new writers got 100 followers but realized they couldn’t join the MPP anyway. Their countries aren’t eligible. Tough one, but avoidable through initial research. Now, when I first heard about MPP, Romania wasn’t on Stripe’s list either. But one day, I got the email, and I said, sure, why not? Maybe that will happen for them as well. Disappointing moment nevertheless.
  • Many of the writers who got the 100 followers and joined MPP soon realized the flaw in their plan: followers aren’t readers. You can have thousands of followers but if no one reads your stuff… you’ll look at a $0.00 dashboard for a long time. In this case, for the moment being at least, joining MPP is just as useless as living in a country that does not support Stripe.

Why Follow-for-Follow is always a bad strategy

I understand this article may come off as condescending and patronizing. Let me set this bit straight: I learned the follow-for-follow thingie the hard way at the beginning of my blogging days, 14+ years ago. It was the recommended method for everything-internet-that-needs-an-initial-following, and we took the bait. It backfired then, it backfires now. Here’s why:

  • Everyone participating is looking for the same thing: they want to be the leader, not the follower.
  • It’s selfish behavior, based on a vanity metric. There’s no intrinsic value to one’s followers count. Not on Medium, not anywhere. It’s just a relatively pretty number that you can look at in the morning and show to your gullible friends.
  • It kills the goal from the start. The significant goal is to gain an audience. But not just any type of audience, an engaged one. Otherwise, you can create 100 accounts yourself and follow your main account, and you’ll get the same results. Zero.
  • It makes you focus on the wrong thing. Write better — don’t aim for perfect —, and even write more. Chasing followers is not worth it.
  • It’s not a sustainable strategy. Yes, you can get away with getting those initial 100 followers from follow-for-follow, but are you sure you want to be that account that follows 3026 people, only to be followed back by 3026+/-5? If you want to grow that account, I suppose not. As an example, on my IG account, I do follow more people than follow me, because I do not consider that account, at least at this point in time, a part of my audience growing efforts. I’m there to enjoy the amazing work of illustrators mainly, so I’ll follow as many as I want without thinking how my ratio looks like. But in other contexts, that ratio will matter. And having an engaged audience of 200 will always count more than a dead audience of 2000.
  • You will likely end up following accounts that may make you look bad. Are you sure you want to end up following 30 erotica accounts just because they’ve followed you? [I’m tempted to make a dirty joke but I’ll refrain for now.] That’s not to say erotica is bad in itself as a literary genre, I’m saying there’s a place and a time to consider associating oneself with what may be seen as controversial topics or accounts. If you read someone’s work and you like it, then sure… but then that’s just a genuine follow.

You do you, but my opinion regarding the follow-for-follow method is that it should be avoided at all times.

Oh, and for those thinking that I only have 45–50 followers at this point… well… at least my dashboard doesn’t show $0.00.

Thanks for reading and have fun, wherever you’re writing.

This article was originally published on an external platform on January 17, 2022.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *