Instagram Hacks: The Follow for Follow Method
Isn't it interesting how much Instagram has taken over all our lives? As much as I hate to admit it (and I really hate to admit it!), it's becoming increasingly addictive and the ways in which we relate to each other online is influenced not just by the content each of our feeds possesses but also by the number of followers we have and the engagement we receive on those posts. I've been shocked to see myself slowly but surely adhere to the concept of social currency, assuming that people with less following might be less established (when that's not necessarily the case - especially in my own circumstance).
It's an easy trap to fall into and with Instagram being a hot topic for us all at the moment, I've been so interested in other's relationships with the platform, particularly the methods bloggers and influencers employ to grow and maintain a following - something I'll explore more of this month, with the help of some of my blogger friends. Bring a group of influencers together and naturally, the conversation will turn to Instagram: the struggles with the algorithm, the pains of low engagement and the issue of consistency. I found it especially interesting when talking about taboo subjects such as the follow for follow method - ones we all know are widely used but still condemn. While I personally have never tried the follow/unfollow method, I have several friends that have, with some accounts booming overnight and some that did not get the results they wanted.
I ran a poll on Stories to see what others thought and not surprisingly 82% of people said it was a bad idea. However, I always use Negin Mirsalehi as an example because when Negin hit a million followers on Instagram, she was following 800,000. I was so shocked when I noticed that because I didn't realise she of all people would need to use that method - her content is amazing! But then again, she was an overnight success and follow for follow was her method of gaining exposure quickly (she has, of course, unfollowed most people now and sits comfortably at over 4 million followers with amazing engagement from her community). I wanted to get thoughts from other bloggers about this method, whether it actually works or if the damage to your reputation just isn't worth the hassle. I've asked two lovely ladies to write for and against it but please note that there is no judgement to be placed here - it's just an open discussion and I'm incredibly grateful to these two for sharing their opinion with me. Feel free to join the debate and share your own experiences in the comments section as well :) x
This is a technique a number of old timers on Instagram may have used to reach a wider audience. While I don’t particularly think it’s great for long-term growth or the ideal growth practice, I think it works. As we know, Instagram itself decides who it thinks are similar accounts to yours, if you follow or engage more with people who are in your niche, this is what Instagram picks up and exposes you to a wider audience of people who are similar to this account.
Let’s be honest, there are lots of people to be discovered on Instagram, so if you don’t make the move to follow an account you like, the chances of being discovered back by them is very little. Even if they don’t follow you back, you expose yourself to accounts similar to theirs who may discover and follow you. In saying this, I don’t think anyone should go and follow zillions of accounts that aren’t relevant to them, this just creates noise on your feed, you end up unfollowing a lot of accounts which is counterproductive.
I have periods when I’m in need of new inspiration on my feed and I take my time to look through accounts I find inspiring and I like their content, I follow about 10 of them in a day. I engage with my new found accounts as often as possible, sometimes they follow back and other times just new people follow me. If you know your analytics, it’s usually easy to tell what recent activities have driven new followers.
The follow/unfollow method works for growing on the gram so I’m not disputing that. However, I still think using it is a bad idea as you can’t predict how well it will work and if you don’t have killer content there’s a risk of people unfollowing you right after you unfollow them.
I think it's difficult to come across as authentic and foster an engaged community. I notice when accounts follow and unfollow me, I’m instantly uninterested in whatever the account is about even if it’s the type of content I’d usually love. Maybe I’m salty but whether you mean to or not, you’re sending out the message “I’m not invested or interested in what you do and follower count is more important to me than anything else”. Naturally, I find it hard to support and even less to engage with anyone that seems like they’re just in it for the numbers.
I also think follow/unfollow builds a following but not necessarily a community and understanding the difference between the two is key to thriving on the gram. Follow/unfollow works on the basis that it’s courteous to follow someone back so many people blindly follow but this doesn’t always translate into someone that likes (literally as well as the heart button) your content. Community is all about reciprocal relationships and you should care about your followers - showing support on their content or producing content they’d enjoy and by doing this they’re more likely to engage and be invested in what you do.
To sum, everyone wants to grow but I don’t like the message follow/unfollow gives. If you’re really interested in growing I think it’s better to focus on the content you’re creating as that’s what draws people in to follow you and without great content, it’s difficult to grow full stop.