Posts in this series
Followers are the crux of Instagram success. Without any followers, your beautiful gallery of perfectly edited photos isn’t going to help you reach your goals, unless your goal was to create a personal photo gallery to share with close friends and family.
Instagram is about community. To utilize this app to its fullest, you want more followers and a large audience for your work. In this article I will explain the follow/unfollow game, 3 strategic ways to follow others, when to unfollow users, and an app to help speed up the process! I’ll try to provide as much information as possible about the constantly changing rules of Instagram. So enjoy the read, and get yourself on the way toward reaching your followers goal.
The Follow/Unfollow Game
I’m going to start here, not because it is effective, but because it is the most talked about way to gain new followers. The rules of the follow/unfollow game go like this. You follow 100 Instagram users, regardless of their content, talents, and skill. Then within a a few days, you go back through and blindly unfollow all 100 of those users. A fraction of them will have followed you back. And a smaller fraction won’t have analytic apps and will continue to follow you if you use this method. You will gain a few followers, but they will not be engaged, and you won’t be well liked in the community. Please do not do this.
3 Strategic Ways to Use Follow for Follow
This is a very common method for gaining followers, but still frowned upon by some users who prefer a very slow growing organic approach (which I am testing out with my new account @museum_maven because I only want followers who truly care about the content. And they will find me, if they are active museum enthusiasts). I have employed this method successfully on my personal brand account @gingeronthego, and will walk you through the ups and downs of this strategy. I compare it to online dating. I look for a few things in a man before I go one a date, but I don’t want to read his whole life bio. Some things are better left for later. I want to know if he lives close by, is employed, and I’m physically attracted to him. I can wait to learn about his favorite book, tv shows, and his relationship with his grandmother. The approach on Instagram is similar. If you are doing it right, you should be narrowing your search pool by certain parameters. I’m a lifestyle blogger with an emphasis on travel, culture, and fashion. I have an upcoming trip to Dublin, so I am trying to connect with as many Irish accounts and experienced and prospective Irish travelers as possible. So I might want to find key words for Ireland, including Ireland, Castles, Galway, Irish Whiskey, and Irish Museums (did you know there’s a Butter Museum in Cork?). If you are a travel blogger, stick to traveling. If you are a book lover, use books. If you’re a teacher, focus there. Here are three ways to find the people you want in your Instagram connection pool once you have identified your focus and key words.
I am going to use my keywords to find themed accounts. With keyword Ireland, I found @tourismireland, @ireland, @nationallygalleryofireland, @ireland_scenic_tours, @ireland_gram, and @irelandlecrosse. Once I have selected a few accounts, I’m going to scroll through the followers of these accounts and the list of people who liked the photos of this account (we want active, engaged followers). I will follow as many of them as Instagram will allow. This varies from 180 to 20 an hour. Don’t go too fast or you could be blocked from Instagram with a 24 hour (or sometimes longer) ban. I am assuming if these users are interested in those accounts, they are also interested in this account about Ireland, and they also might enjoy viewing my photos from Ireland.
I’m going to go back to my list of keywords and look up associated hashtags. I might find #dublin #dublinireland #dublinpubs #inspireland #jamesonwhiskey #guinness and so on. You can also find these hashtags on the photos posted by the accounts you found in the last step. Instagram is clearly going through some hashtag refurbishment, so beware its hashtag feature has been a bit glitchy this past week. Once I’ve found these hashtags, I’m simply going to scroll through the people using these tags and follow them if I like their account. We have something in common, and we might get on well. Life is about taking chances. Give them some likes or a comment to show you intend to be an engaged community member. Give them a reason to want to follow you!
Also, if you started my program in step one. You have a niche and goals. You should have identified competitors. Who are they? Find them through hashtags and accounts, and follow their followers. If you are truly a competition, these people should be interested in your content too. None of the account listed above are my competitors. I will not be posting photos of Ireland exclusively. My competitors are other bloggers who focus on travel, culture, and fashion. They probably have a similar look or style, and travel in the same budget (I’m not low budget or luxury, but if you are this will help you narrow down who you are competing against).
The Non-Followers & Unfollowing
Just like in dating, you have to give people a chance and take time to get to know them. I suggest keeping everyone for a few days to a week. This gives less active users a chance to follow you back, and a chance for you to experience the content of your new connections. A few will be duds, and you can unfollow after the 4th selfie or 17th pic of their cat in the same position. Too many memes, it’s ok to unfollow. Set a few standards, and feel free to unfollow people whose accounts you just can’t handle. After the set period of time, figure out who didn’t follow you back and unfollow them. Do not unfollow your new followers. This is your community now, and you need to engage with them!
If you didn’t download any of the apps I recommended, now is the time to do it. Crowd fire will be deleting many of its features in June, so do not delay! These apps will help you track your growth in followers and keep tabs on who followed you back, who didn’t and who your fans are.
Just like I encouraged setting goals in the beginning, you should be setting goals now, and adjusting them as needed. Follow/Unfollow is a LOT of work. 25 a day is a reasonable amount for anyone. At some points I was doing a few hundred a day or 25 an hour, depending on what the instagram algorithm was allowing. Be careful not to do too much and get blocked. Try to keep track of how many new accounts you follow, and how many follow you back. I found that rate often fell between 20-50%, but I haven’t found a way to track it through an app, so it was mostly just a guess. Sometimes the new follows came from random users. The apps will help you organize this and keep track of your overall growth, though not specifically how well this method is. You’ll also notice your newest followings and followers are at the top of your list, so if you have to unfollow manually, I suggest loading the lists on one device and cross referencing from another. In addition to the possibility of an instagram ban, getting overwhelmed with too many non-followers is a big issue. This is why I advise you to keep track of your following activities. The apps help, but have strict limits as to how many accounts can be unfollowed per hour/day.
The key stat to watch is your fan base. A fan is a person who follows you, who you do not follow back. Your fan base is an important statistic, especially when employing the follow for follow method. You want your number of fans to be as high as possible. You want your followers to be bigger than the number of people you follow. It makes your account look respectable, and will increase the likelihood that people will be interested in seeing what you have to offer them. This is only going to happen if you have great content that people want to see. By the time you hit 7,500 followers, you want to have a fan base around 2k. (so you’re probably following 5,500 accounts). You can only follow 7,500 users on Instagram. So if you ONLY have Follow for Follow working for you, you will cap out at 7,500, and be limited in further growth. If you are having trouble achieving this stat, you need to reassess your content. I hit 2,500 fans around the time I hit 8,500 followers. This left me 1500 free follows to continue with the follow game. My stats also showed I was gaining about 100 new followers per day by just maintaining my account.
These strategies have been very effective as I worked toward my goal of 10,000 followers. Once I reached 10k, new followers flow in on their own, so I rarely use this strategy anymore. Only if I am looking to engage with users in a particular category (like Ireland). If my account seems to be lagging, I will use follow the followers of a few select competitors. I usually follow 50, hoping 25 will follow back, and then I can easily use crowd fire to remove the non followers.
Are you following me on Instagram?