When it comes to establishing a presence on Instagram, it is very tempted to turn to quick-hack strategies to boost your following numbers. And one of these strategies, that is commonly deployed by micro and middle influencers, is follow-unfollow.
But this strategy actually causes more harm than good for your brand.
What is Follow-Unfollow?
Follow/unfollow or mass following, is commonly deployed by micro and middle influencers and shops to find new followers and clients.
It involves following heaps of Instagram accounts only to ghost them shortly thereafter, regardless of whether the account has followed them back or not. Research by Hypeauditor shows that 50% of the new followers that an account gets will unfollow them within a week.
While this method used to work in the work in the past, it certainly doesn’t work now.
Follow-Unfollow Damages Your Credibility, Reputation and Reach
Mass following is spam in the worst sense, and Instagrammers do this to manipulate users’ attention. But Instagram users are smarter these days. They utilise a number of apps which allow them to monitor their account activity and identify accounts guilty of practicing follow/unfollow.
In addition, the follow-unfollow method can be extremely frustrating for people who use Instagram to share ideas, network and connect. Nobody enjoys being followed and unfollowed by Instagram pests, just like how nobody likes being charmed and abandoned by con artists who waste time, mislead, and deceive for financial gain.
And let’s say you do manage to gain a significant number of followers through this method, the chances are they are unlikely to engage since you haven’t made the effort to build and nurture a meaningful relationship in the first instance.
And having an almost non-existent engagement rate whilst having a huge number of followers is a huge red flag. As a worst-case scenario, if you’re pitching a partnership proposal to mega Insta-brands or influencers that can push your content, products, or service to a wider audience, do you really think you’re going to get anywhere in the long run with thousands of followers you’re not intimately engaged with?
While you may generate some quick wins, and a luxury cosmetic brand may very well offer you a sponsorship deal because of your huge follower count. But what happens when they get a poor ROI from their investment in you? They certainly won’t pay for unprofitable results.
And you’ll get blacklisted.
Follow-Unfollow Confuses the Instagram Algorithm and Decreases Your Visibility
Instagram’s algorithm has evolved – continuously developing AI features to understand your behaviours, the content you engage with, the type of content you post and who would be most interested in that content. The more you confuse Instagram’s algorithm, the less likely it can show you off in the explore page.
Instagrammers who practice follow-unfollow also tend to have an average of over 20% of followers who never see or engage with their posts.
With the latest algorithm updates, Instagram tends to show people posts that they have liked and commented on more than the others. And if most of your audience is not engaged, the Instagram algorithm realises you’re not interesting anymore, and so it drops your reach.
What to Do Instead?
So, now that we’ve covered everything as to why you should not use follow-unfollow when building your following on Instagram, here’s some recommendations on what you can do instead.
Below are five ways that you can use content to grow your followers on Instagram:
1. Optimise Your Instagram Account
Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users, over 500 million of which visit the platform each day. People from all walks of life turn to Instagram to access remarkable photos and videos produced by friends, influencers and brands. Companies rely on Instagram because users are 10 times more likely to engage with brands than on other platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
For this reason, it’s important to ensure your Instagram profile is fully optimised in a way which successfully captures the attention of your target audience – not only encouraging them to buy into your brand, but with time, your products or services as well.
Without a bio, image captions, a proper username or a profile image, people won’t know the account belongs to your brand. And without a trackable URL on your account profile, it will also be impossible to determine how many website visitors or customers have been referred through Instagram.
2. Plan Your Content Around Your Users and Keep it Consistent
One of the worst things you can do when trying to grow your followers on Instagram is to irregularly post content. It’s one of the easiest ways to disengage your followers who have been kind enough to follow you in the first place.
You can avoid this by adhering to a regular posting schedule. Typically, brands shouldn’t post more than a few times a day, but whatever your stance, keep it consistent.
Approximately 500 million Instagram users log on daily, so to cast your net even wider, try publishing at least three times throughout the entire day, covering a morning, noon and evening slot.
Implementing and following a schedule will help you build a consistent experience for your followers and keep them engaged with your brand.
3. Collaborate with Other Accounts by Sharing Each Other’s Content
By growing your follower count organically, the more interested customers and buyers you will have.
There is no shame in Instagram collaboration to get your handle and content in front of a much larger audience. Work with larger Instagram accounts in your industry to share your content to their audience, even if they don’t reside on Instagram.
Just make sure you’re providing something of value. For example, you could leverage the fact that your Twitter has more followers than another brand through trade mentions or content sharing – both of which could help you build your Instagram audience.
4. Utilise Niche Hashtags That are More Likely to Convert
When you master your hashtags, not only will you grow your account in rocket speed, but you’ll also minimise the risk of robots targeting you on their follow-unfollow rampage.
The best hashtags are the ones that speak your customers’ language. Simply put, these are hashtags that are popular enough to be used, but aren’t so popular that your posts will get lost in the shuffle.
For example, the hashtag #love has been mentioned in millions of posts – so it’s very competitive. When you use a hashtag with over 1 million mentions, the chances of anyone finding your post is minimal – which won’t help your account to grow.
You have to find hashtags that people in your target audience are more likely to check, taking everything from industry to location into consideration. If a relevant connection is made, these users will be more likely to follow your account and convert.
5. Feature User-Generated Content
User-generated content is any type of brand promotion content that has been created and distributed by unpaid contributors, or more specifically, your Instagram fans. It comprises of pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, and everything in between, and is the act of users promoting a brand rather than the brand promoting itself.
Many established and scaling businesses successfully execute this cost-effective content distribution and brand advocacy strategy. Among these is Boomf, a company that specialises in gifts and cards (made from confetti etc.), with over 400K followers on Instagram.
Its Instagram is filled with fun and joyous videos of people being surprised by Boomf. It is a simple strategy, but one that naturally and effectively promotes the product (as well as the brand’s wider aim of bringing fun and joy to people’s lives).
The company also uses competitions to continue this cycle of advocacy, asking consumers to film their loved ones’ reactions for the chance to win prizes as well as be featured online. This means the brand has a continuous stream of content available, without needing to invest as much time or resource into creating its own.
Focus on Value, And Ditch The Shortcuts
To put it bluntly, follow-unfollow isn’t a successful strategy for growing your audience. Yes, you may get the numbers and some quick wins on individual posts, but you won’t necessarily generate user engagement or conversions on account.
While organic growth through user-generated content, profile optimisation and correct use of hashtags may take more time, planning and research, it will ultimately benefit your bottom line in the long run.
At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself: “Do I want 100 followers who eagerly await my posts, or 10k who don’t read a single line of what I pour my heart and soul into?”
The IIEPD provide a diverse range of CPD accredited digital marketing courses. Unlike other digital marketing training programs, IIEPD provides learners with a host of different digital marketing training resources including access to the IIEPD Influencer Affiliate Program, the IIEPD Influencer Network and subsidised digital marketing services from Pie Analysis.
For more information, get in contact with IIEPD today.