Followers are the underlying factor of every social platform. Without followers, what is the point in creating content in the first place? The basic need of any influencer is to get followers who consume this content and engage with the channel. It might seem very basic and needless to define the follower concept, but it is important to have a very clear definition and exact knowledge on the concept of followers and its relevance for both influencers and companies engaging in influencer marketing. Followers are far more than just a number – although it might seem advantageous to have a tremendous amount of followers, we have to take a closer look at the composition of this metric. Instagram will serve as an example for this article to explain the mechanics of followers, although the concept itself can be transferred to any social platform.
Followers are Instagram users who subscribed to a channel. The followers receive updates of the followed channel in their Instagram feed. If a profile is private, only confirmed users will get access to a channel, whereas the posts of a public profile are theoretically accessible and visible for every Instagram user. This concept only works on paper, however: If a user does not follow a channel, the channel’s posts do not appear in the user’s feed. Unsubscribed users will only come across a channel’s posts if that channel is tagged in a post on a channel the user subscribed to or by accident, for example via the explore function or if a channel uses certain hashtags and the user types these exact hashtags into the search bars. Even though 35% of Instagram users return to Instagram several times a day according to a Pew Research Center study from 2015, the chance for a certain post to be seen by appearing in the explore-feed is very low – thus, making a subscription and consequently the appearance of posts in the feed even more important.