Instagram: finding our true followers through authenticity

Photographic image I created of  Yuri Ogawa  from Japan, with golden ratio sacred geometry and the Sanskrit of Yoga Sutra 1:12 photoshopped into the background.

Photographic image I created of Yuri Ogawa from Japan, with golden ratio sacred geometry and the Sanskrit of Yoga Sutra 1:12 photoshopped into the background.

I have been thinking lately about the word authenticity. I hear a lot of writers and influencers saying authenticity is the way to gain followers and traction in social media. On the other hand, we are in the midst of an era where fake news appears to be the norm, and the president of the United States lies constantly and gets more media attention than anyone else in the world.

From the perspective of yoga, self-inquiry is the path to enlightenment. We should constantly question all that we see, hear, experience and believe. Know thyself.

A year ago I tried an app that helped me build my Instagram following. I naively thought it would connect me with other real accounts, but as I watched my numbers grow I noticed a lot of accounts did not seem authentic. The app followed accounts that showed up in my feed with worthless content, and soon I wasn't seeing anything that appealed to me.

I cancelled my subscription to the app and have been unfollowing these accounts ever since. Every time I unfollow one of them, they unfollow me back. Net result, I wasted a lot of time and energy (and a little money) trying to find a shortcut to success.

In Yoga Sutra 1:12, Patanjali tells us that we should practice with abhyasa (persistent effort) and vairagya (non-attachment to the result) to obtain steadiness of mind. This is good advice in all aspects of our life, including on social media platforms.

In our personal branding, what we want to gain is not countless numbers of followers who provide us no value other than a large number by our name. What we really want is what blogger Kevin Kelly famously calls our 1000 true fans.

Have you ever been in a crowd surrounded by hundreds of people, but still feel alone? Online it is no different. It is better psychologically and spiritually to have five close friends than a hundred aquaintences. The close friends look out for us and make sure we are OK. The aquaintences talk about the weather and then go on their way. We need substance to find happiness.

It is through practice that we get good at anything. Post the things that make you happy, that you are passionate about and that are authentic to who you are. Do it regularly, and pay attention to the details. The quality of each post matters, and the way your feed looks as a whole does too.

Patanjali's second prescription, non-attachment, is equally important. Don't worry about the follower count. Don't place value on your popularity with the masses. What you want is to have followers who care about your brand, who value who you are and what you do.

Another teaching of yoga is that we should look out for the well being of others. Spend some of your time on Instagram (or whatever your preferred social media platform is) making connections. Really see what others are doing and comment, share and interact. If you are inauthentic in your interactions, it will turn people off. We all know when bots are commenting on our posts, and it doesn't bring us any joy. Don't act like a bot!

Building a loyal following of people who really care about you and your brand online, is what will bring you business and success in the real world.

I hope these tips help you find your true followers and grow your Instagram account organically.

June Content Challenge

I have given myself a challenge for the month of June to write a blog post each day (inspired by Seth Godin) and to improvise an Instagram story each day. The ideas I come up with will also be shared in my yoga classes and on other social media channels. If you would like to keep up with these efforts, follow me on Instagram through my business account @derekpashupagoodwin and/or my personal account @pashupayogi, and/or sign up for my newsletter from the button in the footer.