THE BLOG

4 Ways Gaining Followers Is Like Losing Weight (And How to Succeed at Both!)

03/02/2015 12:40 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2015

When I began creating a social-media presence for my company, I approached it the same way I used to diet- I started with unrealistic expectations, continued with an anxiety-provoking sense of urgency, and quit when I became frustrated having failed to meet my goals. During the last few years, I finally broke the cycle by developing a healthy relationship with food, my body, and my mind. When I found myself facing the same obstacles to obtaining social-media success, I decided to apply the practices that had aided me in my journey to health.

1. Be Patient

Whenever I had a big event (or small, if I am being honest!) coming up, I would decide that I had to be a specific weight by the date of the event. I tried every fad diet and exercise program. They never worked.

This frantic approach also backfired when I tried to gain followers in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign. I posted over 200 tweets within a few days. Not only did I annoy my existing followers (who became, ultimately, ex-followers), I was also flagged as a spammer and Twitter limited my posting privileges. Had I read a study conducted by WhiteFireSEO, I would have known that 66 percent of responders said they unfollowed a user because of excessive tweets.

I ultimately addressed these challenges by learning to cultivate patience, which begins with reflecting on the underlying causes of impatience. Do you believe that if you weigh less, you will be more worthy of love and admiration? Do you believe that reaching a certain social media status will guarantee the success of your company? Exploring and identifying these core beliefs allows you the freedom to let go of unrealistic and often incapacitating expectations.

Resetting goals to reflect realistic expectations results in more encouraging successes and fewer disappointments. The CDC says a healthy weight loss plan should result in a loss of about 1-2 pounds per week. There are a number of great articles that reveal research findings on the most effective number of posts per day and the most effective times to post them. Spoiler Alert: about three times a day is the optimal number for Twitter.  Weight loss/maintenance and social-media marketing both require long-term commitments. Learning the art of balance and taking your efforts in stride is essential.

2. Be Diligent

We have all heard stories or know people who seem to lose weight effortlessly or who join twitter and immediately attract hordes of followers. But for the rest of us, it takes many hours and much effort to reach our goals over an extended period. Most of my life, I have been great at working hard in short bursts but less adept at doing moderate amounts of work for a sustained period. Once I learned to set reasonable goals, the next move was figuring out what steps were required to achieve them.

For me, following a healthy meal plan started with having nutritious options readily available by stocking my fridge with produce. I love good food, so learning to cook healthily without sacrificing flavor was important. The Best Light Recipe, by the creators of the famed Cook's Illustrated magazine, could persuade even the most skeptical gourmand that healthy does not equal tasteless.

After first trying a number of unsuccessful methods on my social media accounts, I decided to do my due diligence. I started following other users whose content I enjoyed and noticing their different posting strategies. Retweeting or posting their content gives you instant insight into what your followers are interested in before you invest resources into creating original content. Once I established a strategy, I created and prepared my content so it would be readily accessible each time I wanted to post. Laying down the initial bricks takes time and energy but ultimately creates a solid foundation upon which to build.

3. Be Accepting

Sometimes, even after enormous effort, the numbers keep moving in the wrong direction or plateau. When this happened in the past, I would berate myself for my failures or simply ignore the facts and continue as before. It is really, really hard to be honest with ourselves about issues as sensitive as weight or work. There are days when the images I post on Instagram are enormously popular and then days when I see the number of people who have unfollowed me and I want to crawl into a hole.

One of the tools that I frequently use in dealing with these setbacks comes from Tara Brach, the author of Radical Acceptance:

Whatever the situation, I decided that instead of resisting everything, I would began to greet whatever arose in my awareness with a silently whispered 'Yes.' Yes to the pain in my leg, Yes to the blaming thoughts, Yes to the sneezes and the irritation and the gloomy gray sky. At first, my Yes was mechanical, grudging, and insincere, but even so, each time I said it, I could feel something relax in me.

By saying, "Yes" to our setbacks, we are acknowledging that they are simply an unavoidable part of the process. Saying, "Yes" helped me dispel the feelings of rejection and disappointment that were not only discouraging but also hindering my ability to think creatively.

Whether you are looking at numbers on a scale or likes on a post, it is essential to remember that they are not reflections of your worth, capabilities, or talents. By de-identifying with the numbers and accepting your reality, you will have more clarity and ability to identify the next best step.

I haven't weighed myself in four years. I pay attention to the way my body feels or fits into my clothes. When I started obsessing about the numbers on my various social-media accounts, I redirected my time and energy towards other aspects of my life and business. Try making a coffee date with an old friend or setting a time to brainstorm new product ideas with a co-worker. Without realizing it, you will be back on track.

4. Be Authentic

I have struggled with body issues and weight since I was 8 years old. I always thought that if I was skinny, I would be happy. The first exercise I tried that fundamentally challenged my beliefs was staggering in its simplicity. I wrote out the following sentence: "If I was skinny, I would be" and then proceeded to write down all the answers I could imagine. With the exception of two answers, all my responses reflected feeling states such as "I will be more confident" and "I will be funnier."

Once I realized that my methodology might be out of sync with my underlying goals, I started reading books like Geneen Roth's Woman, Food, and God and Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness to gain more understanding into this incongruity. Since then, I have discovered my essential and inalienable value and now my actions (and eating habits) reflect that value.

The same is true with social-media marketing. I kept trying to figure out how to please the largest audience on each network when I should have been building a strategy around what I valued and enjoyed. I found books, such as Olivier Blanchard's Social Media ROI, that were great resources for identifying and expressing that value.

I finally realized that social media allows me the opportunity to accomplish on a smaller scale what my company, Junga World, aspires to accomplish on a larger scale; helping people discover and celebrate their own inner value. I started posting, sharing images, and writing articles that do just that and finally developed a strong community of others who aspire to inspire. Try practicing patience, diligence, acceptance, and authenticity to discover your own inherent value, cultivate what you have to offer to the world, and find success on and offline!