For the past three years I’ve been marching to the beat of my own drum, with little regard to how many followers I had. Of course I wanted to scale and to be seen, but I was creating my own content because it made me happy to do so. I never felt discouraged about how slowly I was growing, and I never felt motivated to be more aggressive in my marketing strategies. It was a creative outlet, after all, and I’d likely still be doing it even if my only followers were my mom and her dog.
However, that all changed when I started to see momentum pick up on my platform(s). Once I hit 7,000 followers on Instagram, I became a lot more active in an effort to reach 10,000. I know what you’re thinking: who cares? Let me explain. Because I try to write blogs on a regular basis, having the swipe up capabilities in my stories is extremely valuable. It allows me to deliver my content in a more convenient way to readers. That said, Instagram dangles that delicious metaphorical carrot and only makes it accessible to people who exceed the 10,000 follower threshold. So, naturally, that was the goal. If I made it to 10k, I made it.
I quickly hit 10k, but didn’t stop there. I was (somehow, unbeknownst to me) trending 100 new followers a day, which landed me right on the cusp of 20,000 followers. It honestly felt like it happened overnight after a slow, three year build. I was simultaneously convinced someone was buying these followers for me, and hopeful that it was all real. I got a sick rush from the new followers and caught myself checking my follower count multiple times throughout the day. It was validating my work, but I didn’t like how it was shifting my focus. I started to care less about the quality of content I was putting out because the followers were coming in hot regardless. I was losing sight of why I started, and my work reflected that.
Fast forward to the past two week— I’ve been losing nearly 100 followers every few days. At first, it made me feel extremely anxious. What if I lost all 10,000 followers I worked so hard to attain? Why were they unfollowing me? Are my outfits getting weird? Am I getting uglier? Are my blog posts not valuable enough? Am I not enough? I was spiraling. Again, I found myself desperately holding my breath as I checked my followers throughout the day. But this time it was making me feel bad as the number dipped lower and lower. It was truly pathetic. I recognized quickly that this wasn’t a healthy habit, and that’s when it all clicked.
I kinda felt like the universe was taking away my followers in order to help me reestablish my footing (and sanity). It reminded me that I should be creating content I am proud of, solely for the thrill of it, regardless of how many other people like it. If I like it, that’s truly all I care about. I’ve never been one to delete a post that doesn’t perform well, so why would I let the amount of followers I have affect me?
It was in that moment that I realized the number at the top of my ‘gram doesn’t matter. My engagement rate does not define me— my work defines me. Sure, brands look at your reach and impressions, but in my opinion the impressions you’re leaving through your words or photos matter more than the impressions shown on a graph. If you only reach one person, but your content really resonates well with them, you’re winning. We have to hold on to that.
Do I want to continue to learn and grow, and connect with and inspire like-minded people? Of course. Am I going to let it ruin my day if I lose 75 followers in 24 hours? Absolutely not. My well-being is more important than my very best day on Instagram (and yours is, too). This post was a bit of a ramble, but here’s the bottom line (literally): if you find happiness in what you’re doing, that’s worth more than the numbers on your feed. End of story.