What does Follow Ratio mean?
Follow Ratio is the number of followers compared to the number of accounts someone is following on Twitter or Instagram. It is also known as the Follower to Following Ratio, and occasionally as your Cool Ratio.
Follow Ratio is generally considered a good measure of how ‘good’ an account is. This is because the most interesting Twitter or Instagram accounts will have far more people following them than they are following themselves.
Think of it this way – imagine everyone (including Oprah) followed just their family members and Oprah on Twitter. This would mean Oprah would have loads of followers, but still only follow a few people.
Follow Ratio Definition
The Follow Ratio is simply the number of followers someone has divided by the number of people following them. A value above 1 means an account has more followers than accounts they are following. The higher the number the ‘better’.
This measure is considered necessary in that many accounts will follow lots of people, simply to get them to follow back. So if someone has 1 million followers, but follows 2 million people, then it is more likely that they have just been following people for the follow backs, rather than are actually saying anything interesting.
It is exceptionally unlikely that they are as interesting who has 1 million followers but only follows 50 people anyway.
Follow Ratio Formula
This is the Follow Ratio Equation (or the Instagram Cool Ratio Equation if you prefer):
Follow Ratio = Followers ÷ Accounts Followed
Average Follow Ratio
There is no average follow ratio. Celebrities might have a ratio of 100,000+, while non-celebrities will often have a ratio below 1. This is because Follow Ratio is basically only useful for Influencer marketing, and even then not really.
‘Normal’ people using Twitter or Instagram just for fun are quite likely to follow many accounts but only have a few followers. However, there is of course huge variance in this. Some people will follow thousands of accounts, and use lists to filter. Some people will use the following as a way of publicly supporting another account. Other people will only follow accounts they are exceptionally interested in.
Celebrities and influencers are the same – some will follow freely, some will not. This makes this ratio no more than a curiosity really, and any benchmarking of it doesn’t make much sense.
What it looks like
Here is what a Follow Ratio looks like in action (and why it’s not geared to ‘normal’ people).
The method of following lots of people just to get lots of people following back used to be more prevalent. A common tactic to improve Follow Ratio used to be to follow the maximum amount of people for any one day. Next, they would automatically unfollow anyone who followed back. This would mean it would look like you were increasing your follow ratio.
This used to be so common on Twitter that there were many services that would do this automatically. These services often included following new accounts too. This meant that Twitter was awash with bots that would follow 500 people per day, then unfollow anyone who followed them.
This would all happen without anyone actually touching the account. Then someone could take over an account with a very high follower account and Follow Ratio, and pretend that they were just very popular.
For the average Twitter user, this was a virtual nightmare. As people are notified when they get new followers, having lots of people follow you, without your follower count ever-growing (as they unfollow you so quickly) was a weird type of torment.
On top of that, Tweets from popular accounts would appear more often in people’s timelines and be recommended for following more often. This meant that these fraudulently boosted accounts were radically changing Twitter.
In recent years Twitter has cracked down on ‘aggressive following‘ and unfollowing. They have also cracked down on services that do this. Twitter has also imposed a barrier for new accounts to pass – until you have more than 5,000 followers, you can’t follow more than 5,000 accounts.
However this all still happens, but on a much smaller scale as it is all done manually. On average people still follow back about 20% of the time.
A subsidiary measure to Follow Ratio is how many followers per tweet someone has. This is known as the Follower to Tweet ratio and works basically the same way.
If you want to improve your Follow Ratio be interesting, and only follow people you are interested in. Using hashtags can expand the base of people who see your posts, which should also help.
However as stated above, this ratio is not actually very helpful. Engagement rate is a much better measure for social media, as it actually measures how much people care about your posts.