Popular or Paid? You Choose

The dirty truth about having a large following on social media

Alex Bentley
3 min readOct 14, 2021

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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Let’s say you have a choice.

At least when it comes to social media.

You get to be popular or you get paid.

Popularity on social media means you have a large following — maybe millions of followers on one or more platform.

Paid means you’re making money through social media, but you don’t have nearly as many followers.

And in our little mental exercise, there’s no in-between.

Which one do you choose? To be popular or to get paid?

Before you give your answer — unless you’ve already answered in your head — let me tell you a story.

I started posting on social media back in 2014. I chose Instagram as my platform, as it was the hot new thing. Hundreds of poets and writers were finding success in attracting an audience there. Later known as Instapoets. So it made sense back then to post my short, relatable quotes and verse-long poems on Instagram.

In a matter of months, I quickly amassed thousands of followers, received kind comments about my writings, and had my work re-shared on other platforms, like Pinterest. People loved to pin my quotes and poems to their Pinterest boards.

The one good thing about my early venture into social media is that it motivated me to continue making content. All of that positive engagement was encouraging and kept me sharing my passion for poetry on social media.

Fast forward a few years later and the algorithm got stricter. Instagram made changes. And the social media game was no longer the same.

That’s when I jumped on Facebook. Where I took my page from 5,000 followers to over 500,000 in a year and a half. My success thrilled me — a half million followers.

But it was also a vicious cycle of create and wait. Waiting to see what content people liked or engaged with the most. And learning what people didn’t like.

Essentially, the algorithm was dictating what I wrote and shared online.

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Alex Bentley

I write about crypto, personal finance, business & tech. Also, I publish a bit of humor to make you laugh.