The term “SFS” on Instagram means “shout-out for shout-out.” One Instagram account agrees to make a post that showcases the account of another Instagram user and encourages their followers to follow the other user’s account. This Instagram user then returns the favor by creating a post that encourages their followers to follow the first Instagram user’s account.
The Purpose of SFS
The primary reason that Instagram users participate in SFS partnerships is that it enables them to obtain more Instagram followers. Some people simply enjoy having an Instagram account with a large following, but others desire more followers for financial reasons. Generally, the more Instagram followers you have, the better your chances of procuring free or discounted products from companies who want you to advertise their products or services on Instagram.
Advantages of SFS
One of the top advantages of SFS is that it’s easy to do. All you need to do is find an Instagram user willing to work with you, and you have an SFS campaign. There’s no limit to the number of SFS campaigns that you can participate in, and you can work with multiple Instagram users at once.
Followers that you obtain from an SFS campaign are “real” people, not bot accounts. This typically helps you gain more followers and boost your engagement rate, which is the number of likes, follows, and saves your profile and posts generate. If you have a large number of followers who don’t interact with you, this yields a low engagement rate. Proponents of SFS campaigns agree that it’s a more effective way to gain followers without inadvertently lowering your engagement rate.
If you struggle to create unique content on a daily basis, but want to post more frequently, participating in SFS campaigns provides another content source for your account.
Disadvantages of SFS
A top disadvantage of an SFS campaign is that there’s no guarantee you’ll gain the desired amount of followers from your efforts. It’s also possible that the Instagram user you’re partnering with will decide to take the shout-out down earlier than you agreed upon or otherwise violate the terms of the campaign.
Another risk of participating in SFS campaigns is that you may obtain followers who don’t boost your engagement. You can minimize this risk by being selective with your SFS partners.
Free Versus Paid SFS
There are free and paid SFS campaigns to help you grow your following. Free SFS campaigns are prevalent among users with a similar number of followers. Paid SFS is more common when one Instagram user has a significantly larger following than the other user. The user with the smaller account following pays someone with a larger following to participate in the SFS campaign. This helps the user with the smaller following reach a larger number of potential followers. With paid SFS, the smaller account may have to pay per shout-out or per hour that the shout-out is live on the other user’s account.
Best Practices When Participating in SFS
To get the most from your SFS campaign, there are a few best practices you should follow. These tips will increase the likelihood that your campaign results in a boost in followers who engage with your account.
Try to partner with Instagram users who will appeal to your account’s audience. For example, assume that your Instagram account is a healthy living account that shares a lot of posts relating to low carb recipes, running, and weight loss. An Instagram account that’s focused on sharing rich, calorie-filled desserts might not be the best fit for your campaign. Instead, you might partner with a user who shares low carb recipes that primarily use unprocessed foods. A user like this is different from your own account, but not so different that your users will balk at their account (and vice versa).
Make sure to set the terms of the SFS ahead of time. Will you leave the shout-out up indefinitely, or can you delete it after a specified duration? Are you going to post the shout-out to your stories, Instagram feed, or both? What details should the shout-out include? Clarify these details ahead of time.
Don’t overload your followers with a slew of SFS campaigns all at once. Your account should continue to produce engaging, original content that shows potential followers why you’re a great find. While it’s fine to participate in numerous SFS partnerships, they need to be integrated with other content to prevent your account from appearing spammy.