The Downside Of Social Media Influence – Why You Shouldn’t Listen To Me

by Jonathan Gebauer (@jogebauer)

According to some, I am a social media influencer. It might be true although I do not feel like an influencer. There are numerous people with larger Twitter accounts, and numerous people I still look up to.

Nevertheless, I guess having over 100,000 Twitter followers somehow pleasures my ego. And, like everyone else, I still like to increase this number.

Looking back at what I have done to get where I am, I find that the one moment when all changed when I suddenly got somewhere with what I was doing, was the one moment when I decided to ignore all advice.

Let’s call this the “F$§%-It-Lets-Do-This-Moment” of my life.

I had spent days, weeks, month, maybe even years, researching social media. I had read numerous posts and white papers, watched videos and listened to podcasts. Only to find out that most advice that I was given did not work. At least not for me.

This becomes most visible when you examine my Twitter account. Because a little over 2 years ago, I had 80 followers.

This is even more embarrassing, as I had already founded exploreB2B back then. We had always depended on social media to become a key marketing activity for us – yet: We weren’t getting anywhere. Social media seemed to be an overhyped pool of attention thirsty nobodies with a few high profile people swimming in the warmer waters near the surface.

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When I started ignoring peoples’ advice, I noticed that everything started to fall into place. Our accounts started growing; we started to gain traction, and we started to get noticed.

What I changed for me personally and what we also changed for all our social media accounts, was that we started to do what I would today classify as outreach strategies:

  • Gaining followers by using the Follow-Unfollow procedure
  • Sending automatic DMs to new followers
  • Tweeting and posting many times a day on all social profiles

Most of the blog posts about social media marketing back then classified these tactics as spam.

I had to become a spammer to become successful

Yes, that is right. In the eyes of many people back then I became a spammer. I was cheating.

I was also becoming a successful social media marketer.Accept the fact that 99% of social media advice is false. The clue to learning from others is to identify those who actually give valid advice.

The “F$§%-It-Lets-Do-This-Moment” of my life came to pass because I read another article by a well known influencer. His name is Jeff Bullas. The article described how he gained a targeted Twitter tribe of 100,000 in under a year, using the above tactics.

This went against everything I had read and accepted as common knowledge until then. “Don’t spam” is basically the first advice given to anyone in social media marketing.

So I went ahead and did it anyway.

And it changed my life.

I have described how to use Twitter with content in my article yesterday, that is not what I want to talk about today. Today is about social media advice in general. Because when you are starting out, have less than 10,000 followers but are in the game for marketing reasons, here is how I would go about every little piece of advice I am given.

Accept the fact that 99% of social media advice is false. The clue to learning from others is to identify those who actually give valid advice.

Here are a few tips that instantly tell you whether someone is qualified to give you valid social media advice:

Not qualified: Have fewer followers than you do. 

This already disqualifies 80% of social media consultants. How can people actually believe that they can give you valid advice on how to grow to thousands of followers when they have a couple of hundred?

Not qualified: Not following their own advice

These are the most dangerous ones, the people who tell you to post only once a day, but who post more than 30 tweets. Or telling you to only follow a few people but who are following thousands. Research their blog post and have their Twitter account open. You’ll be amazed.

Not qualified: Real life influencers and celebrities with huge social media accounts

There are a lot of people who were already influential when they entered the social media game. These have no clue about the fight others have to take on when they enter the marketing game without celebrity status to help them. This included book authors, a lot of journalists, successful startup founders, …

Not qualified: Influencers who entered the social media game so long ago they cannot remember their beginnings

This is actually pretty common: A lot of influencers are the people who were in the game from the start. Early adopters, founders, tech people… These neither remember the struggles they had back then nor did they face the same struggle as you do today.

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In my book, when someone belongs to the above categories, I would warn you to listen to anything he says. But even if you read my advice (I find that I hopefully do not belong on this list), always be careful. Don’t take my word for granted. I can only tell you what worked for me – but that does not mean that everything will be the same for you.

Social media is a changing landscape. Every day something happens. Algorithms change, habits evolve.

In this game, all I can give you is a direction to head towards. The map I have is already too old.

So, don’t take anything for granted. Question everything. That is how you will succeed!

This article was proofread and edited by myself with the help of Grammarly. If you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.

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  • Chuck Bartok

    Curious how conversions to profit and number of followers have been quantified?

  • Sergey Yatsenko

    Accept the fact that 99% of social media advice is false. The clue to learning from others is to identify those who actually give valid advice. – */S.Y

    A Multi – Level Creativity is new KIND of TRUST.

  • Ines Anić

    The follow-unfollow tactic is against the ToS of Twitter, though. As an influencer, is it really okay of you to promote it?

    • TheSocialMarketers

      Dear Ines, You already made a similar comment on another article a few months back and I already responded to you there (by the way, you said you looked it up then, did you already forget it again?): It is not the follow-unfollow tactic that is against Twitter’s ToS it is “aggressive” following – but that also goes for “aggressive” liking or retweeting. Are you telling people they should not retweet or like?
      As always it helps to know what you are doing, knowing the rules and the limits. And it does not help to spread half knowledge.
      – Susanna

  • Jessica Mcneil

    Thank you for your advises, this is priceless experience! I’m writer and it’s interesting for me to acknowledge that 99% of social media advice is false. Thank you for sharing!

  • marion MUC

    Thank You for your reply, Jonathan…I agree I need followers who are interested in my profile and tweets – meaning, also me, in how I ‘do it’.

  • Lisa Davis Budzinski

    It’s so very hard to learn what’s working in the social media world nowadays. It changes quickly. Like you stated, what worked then doesn’t work now. Now it’s about content creation. But who can be trusted on that forefront? There is so much “noise” on social media it’s truly difficult to find a way to stand out. Thank you for such an honest article. It’s refreshing.

    VP of CPSF

  • Jamie Burns

    Very interesting article. Goes against the grain a bit, I’m not a fan of all these automated DMs for example, but there some very good points.

    • TheSocialMarketers

      Hi Jamie, welcome!

      I’ve had the discussion about automated DMs a lot in the past. At first glance, everyone, every single person I have talked to, will tell you that they dislike automated DMs.
      During the discussion, they usually realize that automation is not the part they dislike. It’s the spammy nature of many DMs they get. Pushy sales messages, badly targeted offers, messages in languages I don’t speak, … These do annoy as much as everyone else.
      The key is to figure out ways to provide value, come across conversational (and I don’t mean “Hey, I would love to keep in touch.” – that’s just lame), or simply connect through humor. You have to put thought into your DMs – and only having 140 characters isn’t a good excuse.
      I’m not trying to convince you to like automatic DMs – I’m just saying that a lot of people don’t have a problem with automatic DMs as long as they are valuable to them.

  • WhatArmy

    I think more important than the number of followers is the kind of content that you are sharing. I see so many accounts that have a huge follower base posting stuff that one can really do without.

    Also, as far as sending DM’s to new followers is concerned, i personally ignore all the DM’s that come my way. The main concern should be good, quality content. Thank you and welcome messages are things I can definitely live without.

    Maintaining the follow-unfollow ratio is definitely important!!