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What is 'following' and what does it mean on social media?

**Definition:**In social media, a follow represents a user who chooses to see all of another user's posts in their content feed. Getting users to follow their accounts is a primary objective for online businesses with a social media presence.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all have a form of news feed that delivers content to their user. The content of news feeds vary by platform, but they consist mainly of the posts, articles and images from other people whom the user has chosen to follow.

Follows are distinct from likes and shares. Whereas likes, retweets and shares indicate that people find value in an individual post, a follow expresses interest in receiving constant updates. A follow indicates a higher level of engagement with the audience, giving it more value than other engagement metrics.

How follows work

On Facebook, users can follow or like a Page, which is used by businesses for commercial purposes (unlike profiles, which are for regular users). It's quite common for people to open social media accounts that falsely claim to represent businesses or well-known people. To combat this, Facebook has a verify function which adds a layer of security.

Follows on sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr work differently from Facebook. On those platforms, all profiles are public by default, meaning that any user can follow any other user. Users generally find people or brands to follow via searches, blogs, news sites or automated suggestions from the platform itself.

Getting followers across social media

Engagement strategies and social media campaigns frequently target follows as a primary measurement for success (after sales and revenue). Common methods include:

  • Unique content that helps a business stand out and establishes authority on a particular topic

  • Follow others and engage with them - follow popular taste-makers, other brands and prolific social media consumers and begin a dialogue.

  • Promote across channels, prominently displaying social media accounts and handles in printed materials, advertising, social platforms and throughout your website

  • Use popular hashtags in your posts - platforms often list the most popular hashtags searched and clicked by users. Find a few which apply to your brand and utilize them.

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