Your Guide to How and Why to Add Followers for Social Media Influencers

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Adding followers to your Instagram/Tiktok and other social platform accounts is a different process when done by SMIs (social media influencer) vs non SMIs. This guide focuses on why and how to add followers as an SMI.

The typical approach goes like this: you are feeling good about your social media activities. You may even feel like you’re about to become a superstar, or SMI. You need followers, so you go to your competitor’s followers list, or to a list of followers somewhere, and click click click, adding and adding — the more the better…

🛑 STOP RIGHT THERE. Before you get those 4.5 million followers, and show them your content, ideas, and energy, make sure that those are followers you can afford to have, otherwise it’s a waste, and your SMI account will get lost:

1. Invest in your followers

Only add followers who you can invest in. Let’s say that you have 3,000 followers now. If you add 100 more, will you be able to answer their questions? Will you be able to be there for them when needed (e.g. when they are in bad mood, their dog died, they lost their job, didn’t win a ball game, etc.)? How frequently?

Will you be able to give them the attention that they need from time to time? Let’s say your answer is yes. Good! Now how about adding 20,000 more, how about 120,000 more, does that mean you have adopted a strategy not to personally engage anymore? Or will you be hiring a team that will help you to engage/etc.?

Another approach is to add more followers but also to “subtract” those who you prefer not to keep as followers, for various reasons. That’s fine too – it’s your decision to make, as long as you have thought through and planned on a strategy.

2. Followers are invested in you.

Try to stick only with followers who will invest in you and your topic. Those that will support you, those that care about you – you don’t want followers from a different planet who don’t care about you.

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In other words, if you find someone who doesn’t care about you and the topic you are crazy about, they’re not invested in you.

💁‍♂️ Very important for closing future brand deals – invest in followers who care about, or are potential targets for, the brands you hope to represent. For example, if you are Cortado coffee only advocate, and see that someone wants to become your follower is an only tea person, and on top of that never engages with anyone, that is a person who is unlikely to engage with your account or be valuable to brands, and probably shouldn’t be added as one of your followers.

Do your followers care about your coffee?
Do your followers care about your coffee?

3. Engagement

Engagement = audience activity, mostly in the comment area of your posts, whether it’s comments, tagging, likes, emojis, CPMs, or re-sharing your posts.

According to the algorithms that power every social channel, and rules that SMI must play by in order to succeed on the channel – your followers MUST engage with you…

If your current or future followers do not engage, then the algorithm make your posts fly under the radar on the feed and no one will see them.

As a result, adding new followers who don’t engage with you will damage – according to the software algorithm – your popularity and hence your status as an SMI.

So yes, you would do best to take the time to learn about your followers lives and ask them questions, such as “how was your birthday yesterday,” “how’s your dad’s health,, “is your dog still sick?” “did you come up with the new product?” If you can reach that level of intimacy, you not only will gain a community member but also an online friend (and the software algorithm will love that too, so it’s a win-win!)

Why engagement is important​
Here are examples of SMI engagement . As you can see, it’s intensive. Many followers want your close attention and smaller SMIs can provide that. If you add 1,000 new followers, what’s your plan, how will you take care of them?

BUT, if there are followers who don’t engage back, then you/ve got a problem.

Do you know that serious SMIs engage at last 3+ hours/day, all week, all year?

Influencer, perhaps you don't want to follow everyone...
These are of course examples of engagement, but negative ones. Decide if you have the emotional capacity to keep these type of followers or not, and act accordingly.

Here's an example of a follower that, unless you are trying to build a community of "follow me and I'll follow you" people, this isn't the kind of follower that you want!
Here’s another example of a follower that, unless you are trying to build a community of “follow me and I’ll follow you” people, this isn’t the kind of follower that you want!

4. Community Creation

SMIs are the best of the best of the community builders. They build communities around a topic (usually a niche topic, such as “pumpkins“). They join followers (=community members) for fascinating dialogue around that topic. And it’s (usually) beautiful to see and participate in.

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SMI = Community builder
SMI = Community leader
Followers = Community

Therefore, when you add a follower to your social account, think community – will that new follower be an ACTIVE community member, will that follower be considered or consider themselves a community member ever?

5. Followership is not influence

Influence = changing the opinions of your followers.

Quantity of followers is not the key to go by. Big accounts do not necessarily equal big influence or great content. That’s right, don’t confuse building followership with influence.

The number of impressions also does not equal the the number of people impressed…. Big accounts don’t equal big results, nor big influence.

Instead, look beyond follower count, and perhaps pick people who will actually help you influence, who will help you to change opinion of others (or of the whole world … 🙂 ).

Having a huge following means absolutely nothing if you lack the connection with those followers.

6. Buying followers

Don’t under any circumstances buy followers (those are usually called “fake followers“). I know, it’s very cheap and very fast. However, it is illegal and you will be penalized by the platform, with the result that your posts will be barred from appearing on anyone’s feeds.

Buying followers?
Buying followers? Expect trouble coming from anything fake.

In addition, the ones you buy are often not real. This means that they will not engage with your posts, with the result that your engagement rate will be hurt and you will be even more under the radar of your audience and the whole social media platform.

7. Unfollowing

Assuming that you are working really hard on the engagement, think like a community builder – those that are here for the tribe, those that care, those that engage, should stay. Those that are not, talk to them, make friends, convince them, charm them. If nothing works, perhaps you would like to unfollow them, as they are destroying your engagement ratio/chance to influence!

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There are third-party tools that help you to audit that. However, the platforms not only don’t like them (and are probably afraid of them), but they also at times ban them or they raise a flag in the system, so – it would be a mistake using them.

Unfollowed by tools - illegal
Unfollow tools – banned!

Instead, more and more platforms will offer you their own unfollow tool, if not a build-in feature, to help you. Here is Instagram’s unfollow feature for creators:

least followed - Instagram unfollow tool for influencers
Instagram “least followed” feature (click on “following” to see it) can help you to unfollow unegnaged, least interacted with (for the past 90 days) followers.

By the same token, if you find followers who do contribute to the community, yet they are not followed by you, please do follow them, they are great, they care!

Sometimes for an influencer going private account can be the best for managing followers - full control.
Sometimes for an influencer taking their account private can be the best for managing followers – it gives you full control.

8. Evaluate your progress

It is important (and super interesting if not fun) to evaluate your progress in everything you do on social media, the quality of followers included. Measure, evaluate and re-evaluate:

☑️ do they engage: check number & quality of comments
☑️ are you building a tribe of die-hard followers who engage again and again?
☑️ are you able to change their opinions?
☑️ how many compliments have you received recently about your CONTENT and ideas?
☑️ impressions, number of followers, and other vain statistics, for the fun of it…
☑️ do brands contact you as a potential endorsement partner for what they do? Or did you contact brands and get good matches and interest?

If the answer is NO, see how to correct that – conduct many tests (it’s ok to delete test posts that you are very unhappy with afterward)

You can get some of that data as a part of the platform app or service package, and some of it (e.g. how many compliments and repeated audience) you can collect manually (for example, check if the same people commented on your last 5 posts).

Good luck, you my heroes!

More tips for Influencers.


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Sincerely yours,

Dear Mishu's Dad

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SMI* = Social Media Influencers

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I am the creator of Dear Mishu, a dog character that gives underdog advice to humans on social media. I originally built the account to learn about influencers and how they work. Over time, the account grew and Dear Mishu became a real social media influencer with a community of followers who ask her for advice. I use this experience and my 20 years of marketing experience to help brands understand how to reach their goals through Influencer Marketing and Social media branding.