Update Your Social Media Strategy: Algorithms Don’t Care About Your Follower Count

June 12, 2024

When Threads first came out, I had many thoughts from first impressions to why you should take a chance on Threads, as it had the potential to alter the social media landscape.

Given its integration into Instagram’s newsfeed on mobile and desktop, it’s been easy to pay attention to the platform’s recent growth. Sidenote: I enjoy having Threads in my feed. It breaks up the content well. In light of the recent trend to bury valuable content in the caption rather than present it in the video (anything for more engagement/time on post), it’s also an easier way to consume content.

Threads has continued to gain users over the past year and, since December, has consistently beaten X in daily active users. We started debating the significance, how to discuss it with clients, and how this impacts the grander digital distribution scheme. Ultimately, we arrived at an experiment: Use Threads and X equally from the Bospar account to get real numbers to work with, specifically engagements, impressions and followers. 

On May 1, when the social media team at our public relations agency started this experiment, our X account had 2,491 followers, and our Threads account had 164 followers. At first glance, you might think, “Why are you even doing this? Based on follower count alone, X is going to smoke Threads!” But social media platforms keep telling us to trust their algorithms and not focus so much on follower count, so we can see how true that is. Additionally, we will measure the metrics against each other and relative to the followers on each channel.

*Please note Threads does not have a proper reporting backend yet, so these numbers were pulled manually from our account. 

The organic numbers for both Threads and X above are far from spectacular, but we can learn a lot from 30 days and these numbers! Let’s break it down more by comparing the numbers to their respective follower counts.

I’ve been thinking about this too much over the past few days. Anyone who has come into contact with me would agree, as I continuously question what metrics are the most important to consider. Threads provides the most opportunity after reviewing the metrics above. The only category that doesn’t beat X is engagements, which I can easily forgive, as the platform is full of bots that boost engagement, whereas Threads has a much better handle on controlling bots. Bonus: Threads also has a better handle on content moderation and, therefore, is not full of pornography.

Social networks increasingly attempt to hide and devalue historic KPIs, specifically followers and engagements, by not showing the amount of likes a post gets or making it hard to see how many followers a user has. Consider this: 10 years ago, the average engagement rate for a brand on Instagram was 4.21%. As of February 2024, it’s down to .70%. If I were sitting in a client meeting 10 years ago and attempted to defend a .70% engagement rate, I would be laughed out of the room. (Yes, we were still in person then!) Platforms do not want to be held accountable for your dip in performance metrics month over month or year over year. And you can be sure engagement rates will continue to decline.

It makes perfect sense. Engagement rates were higher when users interacted with more content their family and friends created. More users posted about their lives online because it was still new and exciting but also because they knew their content would get fair distribution. Once platforms increased the amount of ads and creator-based content in the feeds, this new and not personal content would not be able to produce the same outcomes as a photo of your cute dog. 

The key learning from this experiment is understanding the new, most important KPI: daily active users. Think of social media like a highway and your posts as billboards. A billboard on a busy highway, even if poorly placed, will net you more views than a perfectly placed billboard on a less traveled highway. If we aren’t already there with social media, we will soon be. That means your strategy needs to start by looking at how many daily active users a platform has in order to produce measurable results.

We create social media content and feed the platforms in exchange for distribution. However, certain social media channels aren’t keeping up their end of the bargain. It’s time to take a long, hard look at the results your channels produce and adjust your investment in them accordingly. The PR and social media professionals at Bospar want to help you get the word out, so please feel free to send me an email (connor@bospar.com) to discuss your social media strategy

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About the author

Connor Grant is the senior director of social media at Bospar PR. Connor’s background centers on developing digital strategies to build community online and in real life, with a focus on the latest social trends. He is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, Detroit chapter, and enjoys ultra-distance cycling races.