With some good copywriting and some creative thinking Josh Helfferich created the account @TextInstagram and started making jokes. Using a different medium for the popular Instagram and making fun off the cliche images in text form the account quickly gathered followers and news stories. The success off this niche humor amassed more than 62.000 followers to the twitter account.
On June 10th Josh Helfferich decided to change his twitter account to boost his followers to six figures. He closed down his old account called Digeratii and switched the name of @TextInstagram to @JoshHelfferich. Over a few minutes he had changed from 6.680 to more than 62.000 followers. Josh had reached a stage where he felt the interest for @TextInstagram was declining and he didn’t want to keep running it. This is one of the reasons he decided to put that account to better use than just being inactive. An inactive account with 62.000 followers is as good as one with 0 followers if not used.
This sudden switch was seen as a betrayal from many of the @TextInstagram followers. Josh has spent the last few days responding to irritated followers that needed to vent before unfollowing him. This quickly became a fight between some followers supporting the switch and others harshly condemning it.
I can agree with this last tweet in some ways but I still think Josh made a good choice when deciding to make use of that “dead account” with a giant follower base. From a branding perspective I can divide the followers into three categories:
1) Haters. The followers who see the change as a betrayal of content provided in their streams. The branding of the account changes from only text instagrams to being a person. This is seen as inconsistent with the previous brand image for that account and people dislike the new change.
2) Supporters. The followers who understand and respect the brand renewal of the account. The new image doesn’t bother them even if it only maintains parts of what made @TextInstagram popular. It’s the same man that created @TextInstagram and they expect similar funny stuff from him, or they just like the new @JoshHelfferich
3) Zombies. The followers acting like zombies. Keep following despite being dead (inactive). These followers are ignoring the change of branding and are most likely inactive or are following too many to keep track of them anyways. There won’t be any interaction with these followers anyways so they stay just as a number. I wrote about this third category a bit in my post about quality or quantity.
Almost 4 days have passed since Josh changed his account. Looking at pure quantities he lost about 12.000 followers if looking at the original @TextInstagram numbers but we can also compare with his old account which means he gained about 41.000 followers. His total followers is still dropping (at 48.421 when I wrote this post) but at a decreasing level. I’m guessing he will be able to maintain at least 40.000 followers which is a very impressive amount of followers and brings a lot of image to his personal brand.
I don’t think his “bait-and-switch” tactic was wrong but I think he misstreated his old fans and lost a lot there. The 6.680 followers he built up on his @digeratii account were harshly abandoned without a word. Followers who probably enjoyed his tweets and valued having him in their streams. The only followers who can figure out why his account got inactive had to go to his account page to see that he closed account and moved to @JoshHelfferich.
Some branding advice that can be drawn from this is that it’s definitely good to go for re-branding opportunites and strengthen the image of your brand. Even though the follower account has been greatly increased it’s hard to know if the interaction will be increased as well after this inital stage of support and hate concerning the switch. Don’t forget your old brand and your loyal followers when you decide to re-brand. An advice to Josh is to send a few updates from his old account notifying his old followers about the account change to bring a few of the more loyal followers along on the re-branding.