I Screwed Up: How Taking a ‘Shortcut’ Cost Me Years of Anxiety and Guilt.
I made a ‘marketing’ mistake that has haunted me every-time I’ve thought about it (for the past four or five years).
When I think of this mistake I feel a pang of guilt, a familiar feeling of shame and the natural instinct to be defensive.
This is what I deal with every time I think of Twitter.
So what’s this ‘screw up?’
I bought Twitter followers.
Today, I am writing to come clean about my decision to veer of the path of honesty and authenticity and the cost of taking a ‘short-cut.’ It has been a thorn in my side for years, and it’s time to officially de-thorn and heal/scar/deal with the consequences.
So Why Did I Do This? (*Besides The Obvious Answer of: The Easy Way*):
In my early twenties (before Instagram and Facebook were the social media MVP’s), I was in a major life funk.
I was a recent university grad, living in a solarium (you read that right), working a full-time job in TV with various side hustles, trying to make ends meet. It was a phase of my life where my self esteem was at zero, I drank too much, ate like sh*t (my BFF was a bag of Doritos) and I was a full-on workaholic.
One night, I was chatting with an entrepreneur friend of mine who shared with me that he had just grown his following to over 75,000.
“Holy s*@#!” I thought. That’s insane! How do I get me some of that?! At the time, I had 2,000 real followers, though in my mind, it wasn’t nearly enough.
I felt a wave of greed and an electric bolt of excitement course through my veins. My intentions were tainted with ego and after a lot of prying I got him to tell me how to do it. I will save you the details of how I did it, as I wish I never knew (though literally Google it and you can find out).
That night (probably a couple of beers deep), I decided to go for it. I used a service, and bought the followers. I went to sleep that night, and remember waking up and checking out my laptop the following morning.
OMG! I have 5,000 followers. This is an absolute miracle (or so I thought).
The feeling was like taking a drug. The high was immense, though the aftermath was truly painful and very, very drawn out. One of the worst parts about buying followers was it wasn’t a one-time investment. Some days I’d check my following and it would plummet a couple thousand followers (likely because the bot accounts would shut down). Terrified that I’d be called out, I’d buy more to try to look legit. It was a terrible, terrible downward spiral. A couple years ago, (when I started to realize the pain I was causing myself and perhaps others who were comparing) I completely stopped. I decided to try to fly under the radar and not ever mention it.
I didn’t realize that being dishonest would have such a huge impact on me.
From friends asking me ‘what’s my secret?’ to knowing I work with super smart colleagues who can run my handle until a ‘Fake Follower’ account, I know I’m not fooling anyone. I would also feel pangs of guilt or fear at the weirdest times: when someone I respected followed me, at events when my name was put onto a big screen, literally when anyone mentioned growing their following. It really, really sucked.
So if I had the chance for a ‘do-over’ the Gwen of today, would go back to tell Yung G this:
“Gwennie, there are no shortcuts. Trying to jump ahead won’t solve your problem. It will actually make them much, much worse (and multiply). In fact, you’re actually setting yourself up for YEARS of stress, hiding, shame, defensiveness and you’re actually doing the opposite of what you really want. You actually now don’t want people to find you because you will be ashamed and embarrassed about trying to make a quantum leap. The path of true success comes through honesty, integrity, PATIENCE and trusting the process.”
And so, ‘trusting the process’ has lead me to this moment of writing and sharing this blog post.
The catalyst to ‘coming clean’ is my co-workers. I’m in a group called the PBC (Personal Branding Club) and I meet with four women on Friday nights to talk about building a personal brand/side hustling. They’re all on Twitter, and are looking to actively grow their followings. I can’t in good conscious share about building a personal branding by starting on a flawed foundation.
So, as transparency is something I really value, as well as honesty and authenticity…it has officially been time to come clean.
Firstly, I’d like to apologize to any friends, family or co-workers who have compared their social media to mine. I sincerely apologize for any stress, frustration or disappointment my actions have caused.
I can promise you that cheating a system doesn’t work and I have truly learned my lesson and am deeply sorry.
Also, I recently purchased Manage Flitter and have spent hours over several days (including more money than I spent on buying followers for the subscription) to clean up my profile. I am now down to <3% fake followers and I will continue to monitor and clean up my profile for inactive followers.
My final two pieces of advice/take-aways are:
- There are no short-cuts in business or life.
- Do not compare your worth to the number of people following you.
Thank you for reading and I hope this inspires you to take the honest way and perhaps remove a very uncomfortable thorn in your life. Taking the path of truth may be more challenging, though I can already feel that it’s worth it.