When I was a little kid, I played an online game called Horseland. It was super lame by today's standards, but to me, it was AWESOME! Essentially, you could have any horse you wanted in the whole wide world web by just going to someone's website, ripping off one of their copyrighted images and plunking in a description of the horse. I know, that sounds super lame, but it's about to get awesome. When you signed up for an account on Horseland, you were assigned a stable. Your stable had a starting budget of something totally dumb, like $2,000 or something. This fake money was used to buy and sell horses. But $2,000 got you one horse if you were lucky. So what's a broke stable to do? You could technically buy and sell horses, kinda like the equivalent of that guy that started with a paperclip and traded his way up to a house in Maui. OR, you could be a twelve year old on a missionand take advantage of the bugs on the game to get $999,999,999!! Obviously I played according to the rules because I'm a boring lawyer and definitely not the kind of girl who would own ten fake stallions (we can talk about their names later)...
Anyway, I'm bringing up this ridiculous story because loop giveaways are today's Horseland. While Instagram isn't necessarily a game and loop giveaways actually involve real money, the heart racing cha-ching factor of watching your followers grow quickly is the exact same feeling I got watching my Horseland bank account explode overnight. And just like the fake money in Horseland, the followers you get are not real. They are following you (+50,000 others) for one thing only-- that sweet iPad with a Tory Burch whatevermacallit. They don't give a flying tart about your company or account (if you throw a tart please aim for my face, I love dessert.)
So why do them? Well, since I love lists, you get three reasons why it was worth it and thre reasons why it wasn't. In list form of course.
Why it Was Worth It to Run Loop Giveaways
1. You do get some traffic to your site or blog.
Is it worth it just for the traffic? No. But you will start to see some extra engagement on your website. Don't expect it to last-- your new followers are more follow-y and less friend-y.
2. Your account looks more legitimate to brands/companies you want to work with.
Oh if these magazines and press outlets only had a clue! Before I started doing loop giveaways, I had about 400 followers (Jenna Kutcher calls them friends, I'm going to copy her.) These friends were cute and cuddly, and I tried to tell magazines and other media outlets I wanted to write for all about my friends' cool new nails or how snuggly their babies were, but the big 'ole media outlets didn't care. They didn't even want to look at my stuff without my friend count being at least X (if you don't believe me here's just one example, and that's a yoga magazine people.)
So I did basically what Hemmingway and Voltaire and all those other great writers did- I pimped out my instagram friends for writing opportunities. Did it work? Yes. Does it feel good to run loops? No.
3. Your account gets a boost so it can actually reach the kinds of people you want to reach.
To me, #3 has been the biggest benefit of running loops. I am so bad at Instagram, thank God for people like Bonnie who have shown me the way to create quality content worth sharing. Now that I have content worth sharing, I want to share it with the right people. I'm not an Instagram expert, but I do know that just like any other online platform, the larger your audience the more 'influence' Instagram gives your account. Now that I have more followers, my posts do get more 'likes' (okay, now I'm totally skeeved out writing this.) And when your posts get more 'likes,' they also get more attention because Instagram bumps up well-'liked' posts to their Popular Posts page, which is then seen by a lot more people. It reminds me a lot of compound interest, for you personal finance geeks out there.
Why it Wasn't Worth it to Run Loop Giveaways
1. The followers don't stick around.
Loop followers generally come in three packages. First, you have the fun moms who just want (and deserve!) a little sumpin' sumpin' for themselves. Second, you have the baby bloggers and college chicks who have zero money to spend on food, let alone $400 purses. Finally, you have the pro-loopers, which are accounts with basically four blurry, dark pictures of a cat (I think?). The professional loopers somehow have enough time to track who they've followed so they can unfollow them later. All in all, the friends you gain through loops are a lot like margaritas. Fun, salty and sweet at first, but when all is said and done there's a weird guy no one knows on your couch and someone has stolen your Kate Spade handbag, Paypal cash, iPad and Target gift card...
2. Loop giveaways can get pricey.
The loops I see have an average buy-in rate of $20-$40. The amount you pay per loop depends on three things:
a) The number of Instagram accounts participating.
b) The cost of the prize.
c) The kickback the organizers pay themselves for running the loop.
To me, running one loop per month was worth it for awhile. It fulfilled the purpose I had for my business at the time, but it doesn't anymore. I don't have much of a marketing budget anymore, so $30 eats into that budget quickly, leaving little room for other marketing efforts that can be more fruitful for my current purposes.
3. The 'ick' factor is just too much to bear for me.
I tried to rationalize my use of loops to boost my business. I tried telling myself I was affording someone else an opportunity to have something they otherwise wouldn't get for themselves. I tried to tell myself my work was important and had value to others, and by growing my friend count I'd be influencing them and adding value in their lives. But alas, I feel like loop giveaways promote a culture and phenomenon I don't wish for in my own life. Sorry ladies, but at the end of life, I'm not going to look back and think about how awesome it was to own Kendra Scott earrings and a Tory Burch handbag. Loops just feel icky and fake to me. The implication of loops to me is that people are essentially using your account on instagram to get what they want. The exchange is mutual- you're also using them to drive up your follower count. But as my Grandma used to say, "Two wrongs don't make a right."
If you still don't know if loop giveaways are worth it for you, ask yourself these questions:
WHY AM I USING INSTAGRAM? (your purpose)
WILL THIS LOOP SERVE THIS PURPOSE?
What do you think, are they worth it to you? What's your experience with loops?
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