The fitness industry, like many other talent industries, has been consumed with what I call the business of appearances. The primary focus of many is to grow and enhance their appearance of being popular, successful, sought-after and so on – as opposed to actually becoming these things.

The problem with this is that there is no real business in appearing to be popular, successful or sought-after. It is a facade, an artificial creation.

Many of you reading this are aware of an e-mail I received recently from a fitness talent wanting to do a photo shoot. The message said:

My money situation is very tight. Is there anyway we can work something out? I have 22k followers on my IG and 2k likes on my Facebook fan page. I am sponsored by a supplement company that will also be using the photos we shoot so you will be getting a lot of advertisement from my end if we ever shoot. Im looking for a permanent photographer that I shoot with regularly. I just can’t afford it at this moment. Just let me know if there is anything we can workout man.

My response was quick and simple: I hope this doesn’t come off rude – but I have to ask the obvious question. With such a strong following online – how is it not helping your business grow? And if your online following is not helping your business, how would it help mine? Not trying to be insulting – it is an honest question.

The talent never responded to my inquiry.

But let’s examine our addition to appearing popular on social media. Occasionally someone tries to leverage their large social media following in exchange for services. On Facebook it is even more interesting because you can see where the majority of their LIKES come from. One fitness model has 70K Likes, but I had never heard of them before. I go to their page and click the LIKE number and it reveals the location of where most their likes are based out of. The United Kingdom. Interesting as they are based in California. I see another with 2 Million Likes (not a typo) from a fitness talent who has never done a single project that I could find. I click theirs… main city… Cairo, Egypt. I find a photographer with over 200K Likes… their main city is Mexico City. Very interesting they have all these likes from areas they have never worked in.

NPR did a feature on offshore “Click Farms” where people can artificially inflate their social media numbers – you can listen to that episode here. For a few dollars one can add thousands, hundreds of thousands and into the millions of illegitimate followers.

Yet these Likes, Followers, Fans, etc are not adding any money to anyone’s pocketbook. They are not putting real business in front of them. I had an associate who hired and paid a Twitter “consultant” to sit with their account for hours at a time following people in hopes they would follow back and then unfollowing those who didn’t. What did the money they spent on this service yield them? More than 40K Twitter followers and not a single dollar of business revenue.

I don’t boast a large social media following. I have a decent, but earned, following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on my blog. I’m not going to break any records – but what I do have, that I cherish, is an legitimate and attentive audience. People who read my blog (thank you by the way), consume my products, hire my services and take action on my requests.

How are you going to build your following?

James Patrick
instagram @jpatrickphoto