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This is the story of how I lost an influential follower and how you can avoid the same mistake.

If you are into home fitness, you may have heard of Chalene Johnson. When I first joined Twitter, I joined as @TheHealthNinja, and everything I did was centered around health and fitness.

Chalene was one of the first influencers to interact with me on the platform. She responded to one of my questions on Twitter on her weekly segment called ‘Mailbag Friday – Ask Me Anything!

Since then, she has joined several new social platforms. I have been lucky enough to interact with her in more than one place, and most recently it was on Instagram.

She is someone who is incredibly fun to follow because she is super positive, fashionable and fun. Her messages are inspiring, engaging, funny — you name it. She is a fitness celebrity and a social media expert with her audience.

She experiments with her audience, but she is always consistent with the message. She does engage with her audience (she only follows about 70 people on Instagram) and I was one of them.

Until about two weeks ago.

I can only assume why she unfollowed me, but it came around the same time as some experimentation I was doing with my audience on the platform. It is not unusual for me to do this, but typically it is on Facebook or Google+ where I can show stuff to specific groups vs. the entire audience.

Why did I start experimenting on Instagram? Because I noticed memes were picking up on Instagram, and I wanted to see if my audience would like these. At first, they were my images with some text. Not the typical meme format. These still did well, because they were still my voice.

I branched into more of the standard meme test with the big chunky white text. These did OK, but I saw less interaction depending on the messaging. It was out of voice for me on this platform, and I ended up pushing too far. I used language that was out of character for me.

I concluded my testing, and headed over to Statigram. I had lost some followers over the second half of the test, and one of them was Chalene. Again, I can only assume the reason, but I knew deep down I had pushed my test too far. I put myself in her shoes. I asked myself some questions:

“Why did she follow me?”

“Why does she interact with me?”

“If I was her, why would I unfollow someone?”

It was pretty clear. I was a fun and positive person on this platform, and I had lines I hadn’t crossed until this test. Specifically — bad language.

So the lesson? Don’t go off brand just because something is popular and working for someone else. You have to decide what is most important to you. Sure, memes can be funny, but they aren’t who I am on Instagram. It’s not the kind of engagement that is valuable to me.

So, before you experiment with your brand voice on a social platform, be sure you set yourself some parameters and put yourself in your audiences shoes.

  • What are we OK with doing?
  • What are we not OK with doing?
  • If I were my audience, what would be my reaction to this?