If you have been using Instagram since it launched, I’m sure that you have heard (or even engaged) in the widely discussed Instagram follow unfollow strategy. It is supposed to help you grow your followers without spending money on purchasing them.
I get it. For many, the primary purpose of Instagram is to gain a ton of followers. Everyone wants to have thousands or even millions of followers on Instagram. It would be great, wouldn’t it?
In the end, Instagram is one of the most widely used social media platforms, having 1.2 billion active users every day. There also are over 500,000 influencers on Instagram; thus, it goes without saying that its importance to marketing, advertising, and business growth is unquestionable.
As a result, sometimes it’s tempting to cut some corners and get the results fast. This is where Instagram follow unfollow strategy comes in.
You may have tried everything: posting great content, engaging with the audience, and even paying for Instagram ads to expose your content to more eyeballs and get more followers.
At some point, I’m sure that, at some point, you’ve considered using Instagram follow unfollow strategy that so many of these so-called Instagram marketing experts keep telling you to try.
The Internet is full of success stories describing how the Instagram follow unfollow method brought thousands of followers in a short period of time.
We’ve all heard of magic success stories, whereby following random accounts, people will follow you back and if you follow 100 accounts a day, say 50% of them follow you back, at the end of the year, you’ll have an amazing additional 18k followers.
Another popular trick was to add the “follow4follow” hashtag to this strategy, as it supposedly could boost the number of followers even more.
Well, I have some bad news for you – following and unfollowing on Instagram is a huge waste of time, and it won’t help you grow as much as you’d expect.
If you’re using this method – stop. It doesn’t work. Now, you may be wondering why I am saying this. Please, stay on, as I’ll share my experiment of using the Instagram follow unfollow method to grow the number of followers and how it was detrimental to my Instagram growth.
At the end of this article, I’ll also give some tips on how to grow your Instagram. Those tips will definitely work.
What is the Instagram follow unfollow strategy?
If you are looking for tips to grow the number of followers, the Instagram follow unfollow strategy will dominate most of the articles online. A simple Google search will share a plethora of clickbait blog posts and hacks.
The idea of it is quite straightforward: all you have to do is follow a bunch of Instagram accounts within your niche and unfollow them a couple of days or weeks later. By following these accounts, you announce to the owners of these accounts that you exist. In return, you also expect them to follow you back.
Yes, there are many Instagram followers who’ll follow back whoever follows them. In the end, chances are high that you will actually increase the number of your followers.
You may be wondering why you need to unfollow them in the end.
Well, you don’t want your account to be perceived as spammy and unprofessional if you follow hundreds of times more accounts than the number of your actual followers. Yes, it’s not a good idea to follow 10k accounts, but be only followed by 300.
A good ratio of followers to accounts followed is 10:1. This means that for every ten followers, you should follow one account.
This is why you would continuously unfollow. Instagram doesn’t notify who you unfollowed, so technically, those who you unfollowed will never know you did so. So they might continue following you.
However, today, there are multiple apps that actually track who followed and unfollowed you. In the end, those who you unfollowed will also unfollow you.
Why should you NOT use Instagram follow unfollow strategy to get new followers?
Instagram follow unfollow method worked well in the early stages of Instagram. Everyone on the platform wanted to have followers, and the number of followers was an indication of authority. With time, Instagram has changed.
It is surely understood that users keep using illicit hacks to get followers (such as buying and engaging in similar schemes) thus, it prohibited the usage of such tricks to grow.
Instagram is a business, and brands pay good money to advertise on the platform. So if you can hack your way into getting thousands of followers, there may be no good reason to buy Instagram ads.
Nevertheless, Instagram wants to ensure the quality of its users. It wants you to have a group of people who’ll be interested in your brand and actually engage with the content shared. If your followers don’t engage with you, what is the purpose of sharing the content?
Taking all the above into account, Instagram can now detect your activities very easily and can block you if you violate any of their rules. Yes, even if you genuinely like too many accounts at one given time. It’ll flag you.
If you get blocked too many times by Instagram, your content can be permanently made invisible, or your account may be irreversibly suspended.
My Follow Unfollow Experiment
I used Instagram follow unfollow strategy in the very early days of Instagram. Today it’s a big no-no, but back in the day, it wasn’t as harmful or frowned upon. In fact, it seemed to work pretty well.
I still have my first Instagram account that I haven’t been posting on for good 10 years. So, I decided to use it for my experiment and see how useful the follow unfollow method is nowadays.
My old account still had 4.3k followers (not sure how or why). Some of them were my cousins, relatives, and childhood friends, but to my surprise, there still were many random accounts that followed me back in the day. Maybe, similarly, like me, they stopped using their accounts and thus kept on following me.
I started posting random photos of my daily life. Most of the pictures or videos were about my two kittens. I was enjoying decent 90-130 likes per post. This came as a surprise, as someone still engaged with my content after so long.
I was receiving messages and comments from other users. Some of the bigger cat accounts (mainly those running the accounts where they repost other users’ content on theirs) wanted to feature my posts on their platforms.
I posted posts and stories for 10 days before I started using the follow unfollow strategy.
I followed tons of other cat owners who shared content featuring their fury kids. I followed around 100 accounts a day for around a month. As a result, I was getting between 100 to 300 new followers every week. Pretty cool, huh?
My engagement and views of stories haven’t changed that much, despite getting more followers. It remained at the level prior to starting to follow and unfollow other accounts.
It was strange that the engagement didn’t increase much, but it just proved the fact that accounts that randomly followed me back were not interested in engaging with my content. So two weeks later, I ended up with an additional 539 followers.
In reality, this strategy can help you grow the number of followers. However, those followers will not be the ones engaging with your content. No surprise, in the past years, Instagram has put a tremendous emphasis on engagement and not the number of followers.
My engagement rates started to drop. I had more followers, but the number of likes remained almost unchanged.
I stopped my Instagram follow unfollow experiment once I reached the 5.3k followers’ mark. I continued to post content but didn’t follow or unfollow other accounts.
This was when my account became invisible. It often takes time for Instagram to take action against the violators. In my case, it took them around one month to punish me.
I was still posting content about my cats, I used the same hashtags as before, but my content never appeared under those hashtags. Basically, nobody apart from my followers was able to see my posts.
The number of likes also reduced drastically. When my content was discoverable, I was getting approx. 400 likes on average, but now they have dropped to 30-40.
This is how I killed my Instagram account. I had 5k followers but received up to 40 likes per post only.
So, is Instagram follow unfollow a good strategy? It is if you want to have a dead account with thousands of followers and low engagement. But what’s the purpose of having a large following but low engagement?
The pure purpose of posting on Instagram is to be discovered and share your content. Posting when nobody sees it, defeats the whole purpose.
How to grow your account sustainably?
As my experiment has shown, using Instagram follow unfollow strategy can help you grow your number of followers, but it will kill your Instagram account. Your content will become invisible to others, and your engagement rates will plummet.
If being an influencer or using Instagram for branding and sales is the main purpose of your Instagram account, forget about the follow unfollow method. It’s a sham!
Similarly, other tricks, such as follower buying, will eventually kill your account. Even if you discover service providers that advertise Instagram follower buying in compliance with Instagram rules – it’s a lie! Instagram prohibits such tricks. You’ll spend money, but your account will eventually be blocked.
But there are many ways to grow your Instagram in a legit way:
Have a strong call to action in your captions (these can be questions or a simple reminder to like or save the post)
Reply to comments and messages regularly, don’t leave them hanging for days or weeks
Keep experimenting with hashtags and use trendy ones, however, avoid the ones that are extremely broad and have hundreds of thousands of posts already
Tag others in your posts
Collaborate with others and ask them to tag you in their posts
Use high-quality visual content
By consistently following these six steps, you’ll notice an improvement in your follower and engagement rates. You will also build a community of followers who are genuinely interested in your content and want to see from you.
However, if you notice that your followers aren’t increasing, there may be some issues with your posts. I suggest taking a closer look at your captions, quality of content, hashtags used, or consistency of your posts.