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Does The Follow & Unfollow Method Still Work On Instagram
Brands and individuals around the world are all besotted with Instagram, the anecdotal stories of fame and organic reach that the 1% of Instagram accounts have access to sends waves of positive affirmations that you can get there too. There are millions of accounts using Instagram every day with a large percentage of them looking to grow their following, if you're reading this post, you're likely one of them.
In the early days of Instagram organic reach worked like gangbusters, that's what attracted a lot of people to the platform as the defected from he algorithmic curation that Facebook provides, it was a hit.
Who knew unfiltered chronological content curation would be something that people wanted? Probably Mark Zuckerburg and his investors, what may be fun for you, is not profitable for Facebook. Thus as Facebook absorbed Instagram into its bosom, so too did Instagram inherit Facebook features, one of them being algorithm curation fo the famed Edge newsfeed algorithm.
But you came here to read about the follow unfollow technique, why am I rambling on about feeds and curation? What has this got to do with getting followers? It has everything and nothing to do with it, stick with me, and I'll explain.
Does Instagram follow and unfollow work?
The short answer is yes, it does! But with a caveat. Before Facebook sunk its teeth into Instagram, one could grow an organic following by merely following a bunch of accounts and then later unfollowing them. The accounts you follow would receive a request with a prompt to follow back, and a high percentage of people would follow back, thus growing your account.
Later you would unfollow all those accounts so your account looked popular and so your feed wasn't a complete mess. This was a technique that got it starts on Twitter and later migrated to Facebook and worked exceptionally well.
To this day you can still employ this technique if you want to get followers, its time consuming yes, especially if done manually but it does work, only in the capacity that others will follow you back.
Why do you want more followers?
The premise of getting more followers is based on the idea that the more followers you have, the more reach you will have and likewise, higher engagement rates. These metrics would turn your account into a hotbed of activity that you could theoretically monetise through influencer marketing or promoting your business.
Who uses the follow/unfollow method?
If I were to classify the types of people using this method to grow this account, it would be:
- The overly ambitious influencers who want to improve their accounts without having to do the grunt work. Organic growth usually means creating a lot of content and do the outreach necessary to keep your fan base growing and to remain a follower.
- Second I'd place new influencers, the average user or brand/startup looking to grow their presence on Instagram and aren't willing to put in the time or the cash to run ads and grow their account.
- Finally, it would be account sellers and resellers; these guys and girls are the dark secrets of Instagram. There are plenty of marketplaces selling accounts with a set of followers in a niche that you can buy and boot up with instant followers and start posting your content. These sellers and resellers will go out and create accounts, use the follow/unfollow method to grow an account to a specific number and then sell it based on the number of followers and niche the account targets.
Instagram wants organic growth by its terms
Instagram wants users to engage authentically and reduce the amount of fraudulent activity on its platform, um ironic much, yes Instagram wants less fakeness on its platform, what a laugh. Anyway, when you try to "growth hack" followers, Instagrams bots scrape that kind of activity and attribute it to your profile.
As they see you grow your account by means they don't like they through the algorithm curation (see I told you it would be important) will limit the reach of your posts, virtually shadow banning you from your followers.
So you may be getting followers, but your reach will not grow and as your reach percentages plummet your account becomes useless as brands would not want to work with low engagement profiles. On the flip side, a brand itself would find it ineffective if their business account had no reach.
This effectively keeps you in Instagram quarantine and pushes users to find other means of getting followers, it also helps encourage brands and individuals to use Instagram ads in both trying to get followers or trying to remove themselves from Instagram isolation.
In either way its a win for Instagram, as they get you to pull out your credit card.
How do I know this?
Well, we broke out the good old burner account for that, and what did we find out? Wait! Hold up, what is a burner account? A burner account is something us marketers use to test out theories without putting our actual account in harm's way.
You open up a second account, replicate the content and then go to town with your new strategy. If it works, you can always migrate users over or merge the accounts in some instances, if it doesn't you cut your losses and delete it.
Taking the follow/unfollow method to the max
Having a burner account allows you to take liberties with your strategy, so we mixed things up. We first started following manually and found that for every 1000 people we followed per week we'd get around 200 - 250 followers who follow back.
Then we said to hell with this time-wasting and let's connect this account to a bot and let it run, while this did ramp up the followers and make the unfollowing easier, it did set off some alarm bells.
Each week we were getting more followers, but each week our reach was reducing so in nominal terms, we'd get more people to see our posts with fewer followers.
What happens if you push follow/unfollow too far
Short answer, you'll get banned.
Can you still use the follow, unfollow method?
Yes, you can, but in moderation, it cannot be your primary source of getting followers. I'd say as long as you keep it in the single-digit percentage range of user acquisition, you can still safely use this technique without alerting the Instagram police.
Would this make the follow, unfollow technique a waste of time? Yes, but if you're at scale and you're getting 100 followers a day, to get 5 or 6 more through the technique and compound your user acquisition flywheel, it's not a bad trade-off for your time.
As for the little guy, I'd opt for you trying something else.
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If you enjoyed this post and have time to spare why not check out these related posts and dive deeper down the rabbit hole that is the Instagram marketing.
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