Follow/unfollow is a term for a growth strategy used on social media, but most notably Instagram. The idea is if you follow an account on Instagram, they will follow you back. Upon their return follow, you then unfollow them. In a vacuum, this seems like a logical way to bolster your following. With bots and services available that are specifically designed to follow accounts and then unfollow them on your behalf, this tactic has been one of the more popular ways to hack your way to success on Instagram.
A year or two ago, it was plausible you were pulling the wool over the eyes of those less savvy Instagram users. But…that is no longer the case. Due to the popularity of this method, everyone is much wiser now. And frankly, it’s really easy to tell when someone is using this strategy!
Following and then unfollowing is damaging your brand. Real talk.
Style Collective does not recommend or endorse the use of the follow/unfollow method on any social media platform. Here’s why:
It is self-centered.
You are on Instagram to build a brand and a business. We get that. However, you cannot build a brand or business based on inauthentic behavior or fake encouragement. When you follow an account, you are subsequently supporting that person. In exchange, they might choose to support you, too (by following you back).
“If I follow someone, I want them to know I’m following them because I genuinely like their content and want to see it and I’m not doing it just so I can get a follow back.” — Flavio April
Eventually, if everyone adopted the follow/unfollow method, no one would grow! When you exploit that dynamic, you are abusing the community of Instagram and ultimately, undermining your own success.
“It’s essentially saying, you help me, but I’m only here to help myself.” —Breakfast at Tiffany Marie’s
You look shady.
People notice things like this. Promise. You might think you’re being sneaky, but there are so many platforms and apps that track all public Instagram account’s actions. Some even give a rating based on the perceived legitimacy of the account.
“I know people can tell when you follow and unfollow through apps. I follow to build friendships and be inspired. Doing stuff like that would kill any chance to network.” — Cute Brandi K
If you want to create a sustainable business, consider your tactics. If you were in discussion with a brand to work with them, and they suddenly retracted their offer because you use the follow/unfollow method, would you be embarrassed? As brands’ shrewdness increases, this will start happening to influencers who follow/unfollow on Instagram.
“It puts the focus on numbers instead of on genuine relationships.” —Happy Stylish Fit
You are not really growing.
You cannot tout that you are this wholesome, well-intentioned person with a strong social media brand — and then contradict that. Sure, your follower number has increased, but you haven’t actually grown. You are not working hard, and as a result, you are not reaping the benefits of actually challenging yourself. Building a tenacious brand on Instagram is difficult!
“To me, it’s the IRL equivalent of someone jumping up and down in a room shouting, ‘Look at me!’” —Bolt Blogs
Grow your audience the right way.
We polled our amazing community and asked them for their suggestions on how to grow an authentic audience on Instagram! Here’s what they had to say:
- Write sincere comments based on their captions, not just what I see in the pictures. Or, I respond according to what is being asked in the caption. — Blissful Trenders
- Find relevant niche pages to tag in your photos. Hashtags are great, but sometimes they get buried or they’re just not popular enough to be seen. Tagging relevant accounts that regram opens the possibility for shares and those pics get seen more. — Jetsettin Daisy
- Genuinely follow and like/comment on accounts and on their follower’s accounts! It’s slow, but worth the actual followers you gain in return! And, it makes people feel good! Build others up…instead of tearing them down. — Magazine to Mercer
- Stay true to yourself, stay consistent, and have fun. Do this for you and for your audience! Do it to bring smiles and helpful information to your audience. —Laqing in Creativity
- Writing your own captions creatively. Making people intrigued, or laugh, or learn something. — Blissful Trenders
- I have been using resources like Style Collective to connect with other bloggers in my niche. We follow and support each other based on common interests. — Champagne on Sunday
- Content really is key. Good content and sticking to a schedule so your followers always know when new content is coming out. — Style My Dreams
- Engage on [Instagram] STORIES! People want to know people are really watching and listening. —Worth More Than Gold
- I pick a few hashtags from my post and like/comment on a few other posts with those hashtags. I make sure to like/comment a few on their account. I choose the images that speak to me to stay authentic. After all, I’m still gathering my tribe! —Style in Shape
- It’s okay if you follow other influencers and actively engage with them without expecting anything in return. Think of Instagram as a marathon, rather than a sprint. —Fȇte du Juliet
What do you think of the follow/unfollow method?! We want to hear your thoughts! What are your go-to tips to grow your Instagram audience? Comment below!