Businesses and industry professionals often have the misconception that a high follower count on social media will instantly drive more traffic and engagement for their posts.
Some accounts earn their follower counts organically and through paid advertising, while others purchase fake or spam follow thousands of accounts in the hopes that they follow back.
Whatever the case may be, having a high following to follower ratio penalizes accounts on most social media ranking systems, resulting in lower engagement and posts becoming buried in newsfeeds.
This post will walk through what a good follower to following ratio is on Instagram and Twitter for most accounts.
The Follow Ratio is a standard measure for gauging the quality of an account - typically, interesting Twitter/Instagram accounts will have more followers compared to accounts they follow themselves.
Simply put, the follow ratio is the number of followers an account has in relation to the amount of users they follow on social media.
Followers are the amount of accounts that follow your profile. Followings are the number of accounts you follow to see things such as posts or story updates.
There is a lot of conjecture amongst marketers regarding the precise golden rule for the following to follower ratio, but accounts should always strive to have a positive ratio rather than a negative one.
A positive ratio is when an account has a higher number of followers compared to the number of users an account follows, whereas a negative ratio involves an account following more users than it has users following them.
Some accounts will have tens of thousands of followers while only following a handful of users, and others will keep those numbers relatively close. There doesn’t seem to be any outstanding penalties for either method as long as an account has more followers compared to followed accounts.
A good follow ratio is in the range of 5:1 - for every 5 followers, you should only be following 1 account.
An average follow ratio is typically 2:1 - so for every 2 followers you have, you should be following at least 1 account.
A bad follow ratio is 0.5 < 0 - so for every 1 follower, you’re following 2 or more accounts.
If you’re following more than 2 accounts than you have followers, this can signify that you’re likely trying to gain followers in the way of spammy follow-back techniques.
The follower ratio gives an idea as to how popular your account is. People can draw a general conclusion about your account in the following ways:
You can also tell if an account is more likely to consume content vs. create content based on its follower count. As an example, if a profile follows 2000 accounts, but only has 300 followers, then it’s easy to see that they browse content rather than serve as a content creator.
Like I mentioned earlier, a good follower ratio for Instagram is around the 1:2 range - so having twice as many followers, compared to the amount of accounts you follow.
This is also true for Twitter. A good follower ratio for Twitter is around the 1:2 range - so having twice as many followers, compared to the amount of accounts you follow.
The follower to following ratio is simple to calculate. All you have to do is use this formula:
Follower Ratio = Number Of Followers / Number Of Accounts Followed.
So if you have 1,000 followers and follow 500 accounts, your follower to following ratio would be 2:1.
This is highly dependent on your niche. 2,000 Instagram followers could be considered a lot in a specific industry, whereas in others this amount would be considered small.
Having said that, anything above 10,000 followers on Instagram can be considered a lot.
However, the number of followers doesn’t matter, but rather your engagement rate.
An engagement rate is can be calculated using the following formula:
Engagement Rate = Number Of Post Impressions / Number Of Post Actions
Post Actions can be defined in several different ways:
Followers don’t really matter if you have a poor engagement rate. The purpose of social media for most businesses is to drive actions, rather than promote vanity metrics. So if your followers aren’t converting or engaging with your brand, they aren’t valuable.
Like I’ve said before, this is dependent on your niche and the social media platform that you’re looking to analyze.
A good engagement rate on Twitter may be abysmal on Instagram. Here is a rough baseline that you can follow:
I’ve made this point before, but brands and professionals shouldn’t strive to only have thousands of followers. If audience engagement is lacking, the number of followers an account has is worthless.
Emphasis should be placed on creating quality content, interacting with other users and growing a community of interested people instead of an often inflated and artificial follower count.
Despite Twitter/Instagram being founded on a one-sided follower culture, in 2009 the two-way symmetrical communication model would eventually result in most people engaging in follow backs to form an interactive, online community. Brands and marketers took advantage of this behavior by unfollowing people after they followed back to stay at a high positive ratio. As more people were burned by marketers and brands unfollowing them, they started to not follow back as freely as before and many accounts utilized apps to track unfollowers.
To combat marketers from using these techniques, Twitter implemented a policy against aggressive following and follower churn by sanctioning accounts if they follow and unfollow others too rapidly. There are mechanical limits that have been imposed on newly made accounts: users are unable to follow more than 5,000 people until they reach a following of the same number.
Instagram has also cracked down on this type of behavior by flagging accounts for suspicious activity and either shutting down accounts or shadowbanning their posts as a penalty.