People put a lot of focus on followers. What’s your number? How many followers do you have on each social platform? We tend to treat this as a status symbol. The more followers, the better. It means you’re more popular and have a larger audience. It’s easy to feel defeated if you aren’t growing as quickly as you want to, especially when you’re trying to reach more people for your business.

I think it’s important to focus more on engagement than follower count. Of course, that’s easy for me to say because I don’t have a particularly large following. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media and haven’t invested the time or resources into growing my accounts. There are a few reasons for that. First, I don’t really enjoy social media or marketing myself. Secondly, thankfully, I’m usually too busy to focus on it. Third, I still genuinely believe that organic growth is possible and more important. I would rather have 600 followers who regularly consume and engage with my content than 16,000 followers who scroll right past my posts. Those who engage are more likely to become my clients, coworkers, and virtual support system anyway.

I see this a lot in the podcast, YouTube and blog spaces, where follower count can have an impact on more than ego. If your podcast has more downloads, you can get better sponsorship deals to help pay for your costs. On YouTube, you get special features if you have more than 1000 subscribers. On Instagram, if you get to 10,000 followers, you get more options that make it easier to sell your products and services directly without the “link in bio” hassle. If you’re a blogger who uses affiliate links, the more readers you have, the more opportunities you have to get that commission. There are a lot of reasons to want those numbers to grow.

We all want that validation to some degree. Not just for the perks, but also because on some psychological level we do tend to equate those numbers with success. We compare our numbers to our competitors or other people we know, and sometimes read way too much into what it means if they have more. We spend so much time crafting content we’re proud of, putting it out into the world, and then if it goes by mostly unnoticed, we wonder why we’re not connecting. We’re inundated with all kinds of formulas, techniques, and strategies for getting more followers, but who has that much time to spend on social media? You have a business to run!

My goal isn’t to see how many likes I can get on a post. I’m not going to play that game where you follow someone so they follow you back, and then you unfollow them. That’s so disingenuous to me. I wouldn’t try to trick someone into a one-sided friendship in the real world, so I won’t do that on social either. What I do hope for is the same as what I want in people who surround me in my actual life. I want meaningful connections with people who are serious about successfully managing their businesses. I want to have productive conversations about topics that matter. And I always want to see cute photos of animals.

My goal is that any piece of content I put out, no matter what format it’s in, will resonate with someone. Even if it’s only one person, that’s a success to me. That’s where I think our energy is best spent – providing valuable content for our target client base and others. Share helpful tips, strategies, images and videos. You won’t hear me say “tips and tricks,” because that one is so overused, it bugs me. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I just don’t like it for some reason). Don’t make it all about selling. There needs to be some reciprocity there – if you’re asking for something from them, be sure to give something back to them. And don’t be afraid to mix it up with some non-business posts, too.

I saw a Facebook thread the other day started by someone who said she normally gets about 20 likes on her business posts, but she shared a photo of a fish her husband caught and that got over 1000. Someone else added that his most commented on post was a photo of a lizard he found in his yard. I know I tend to get more engagement when I share a picture of my cat. See? We’re all the same. We just want to see more cute pictures of animals.

I used to refrain from sharing anything personal on my business pages. I wanted to keep everything professional and thought that was better. But in a session with a marketing coach last year, she said, “Your company is called Aardvark Girl, but we have no idea who the Girl is.” That opened my eyes a bit. She was right. I was stuck in this mindset that the two weren’t connected – what I did in my personal life wouldn’t matter to someone wanting to do business with me. But I realized that these days, that’s not true. I’ve talked about this a lot because it’s an important point – we want to see the whole package now. What people do in their businesses is important, but who they are as people is important, too.

This podcast is still new. I put my initial launch plan… and I did have a plan… aside because there were more important things going on in the world and I didn’t feel like promoting myself was the right thing to do. Then I got busy again, so I really haven’t marketed it or put any effort into growing it. I sent out one email to my list and have posted a few videos and stories, but I’ve been severely slacking. It’s not that I don’t want to reach more people. I do. I would love to outsource all of this stuff to someone who loves doing it, and that’s the plan eventually. I already have the perfect person lined up and ready to go. But I want to make sure I have my format, plan and messaging dialed in first. I’m still figuring some things out.

But, despite my lack of effort, I am slowly expanding my reach. I know It takes time to build and maintain the right audience, and I think sometimes it’s easy to expect too much too fast. But remember, everyone started from zero and there’s no set time it has to take to get to a certain number. Concentrate on delivering solid messages when you do post, and try not to take it too personally if your follower count isn’t growing as quickly as you want it to. Take the wins where you get them – when anyone connects with your post, you’ve accomplished something. 

When I get an email from someone I don’t know saying how much they enjoy my podcast, that matters. When a stranger reaches out to book a coaching package because he heard my advice, that matters. When someone shares something I said or wrote with her own audience because it resonated with her, that matters. That kind of positive engagement is far more important to me than accumulating likes.

On that note, I think people forget how much a little effort on their part can make a difference for anyone who creates. If you love what someone is doing, tell them! Take a minute to write a review, share their content, or email them to say, “Hey, I really love what you’re doing!” That matters more than tapping a heart or a thumbs up button. Even if you aren’t in a place to buy their products or use their services, letting them know that they made that connection can really make them feel good. Think about it in terms of your own business. How great do you feel when someone leaves you a positive review or sends you a quick message to let you know they appreciate what you’re doing? Let’s not forget to do that for each other.

And a quick note for those of you who do love social media, and have a lot of followers, and have successfully implemented those growth strategies – good for you! I really do admire the dedication and effort, and you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. I wish it was something I was into, but I just can’t force it. Nothing I’m saying here is meant to diminish what you’ve achieved at all.

Whether you want to increase your sales, become an influencer, or help more people with your message, you need to reach people to do that. But if you’re not into the social media game, focus your effort on building the right audience, and not just the biggest one possible. The numbers will come with time. At the end of the day, the value of your services is not related to how many people like you on social media (unless, of course, your job IS social media). Keep doing good work, share when you’re inspired to share, and keep being true to who you are. That’s what really matters.