So you would like to have more followers on Instagram. You wouldn’t be reading this article about the follow / unfollow method if you weren’t.
But what exactly is the follow / unfollow method?
Some love it, some hate it, but regardless of how you feel about it, most recognise that it’s one of the most effective and fastest growing methods on Instagram.
It’s becoming more known but it’s still one of the taboo topics that Instagram influencers and content creators aren’t open to talking about, or at least not to admitting they do it.
So let’s go deeper into this dark side of the internet and find out what the follow / unfollow method is, how it works, what results you can expect and more.
How does the follow / unfollow method work?
Exactly as the name suggests. You follow a bunch of people, and then unfollow them later on.
Why does this work? Because people like to be liked. It sounds shallow when you say it like that, but the truth is that it works. If you’re a content creator your attitude to Instagram will be a bit different, but think about your much smaller personal Instagram account.
You might not even have posted in a while, and then all of a sudden you get a notification that someone followed you. You don’t recognise the name as someone you know personally so you check out their account. If you like the content you might engage with it, leaving some likes and comments, and you might even choose to follow back.
Being a personal account you probably don’t notice, don’t care or don’t even have a way to see who unfollows you. So when this new account that just followed you unfollows you a few days later, you keep following them.
If you need proof about whether this technique works, just look at the graph below. This is a screenshot taken from SocialBlade for an account whose growth was completely static, until they started using follow / unfollow.
How do you find accounts to follow?
Similarly to when you search for accounts to engage with, you look for them amongst your competitors.
Use the steps outlined below for an effective follow / unfollow strategy:
- Find a competitor account with high engagement
- Pick a photo that looks similar to something you might post
- Click on the likes of the photo
- Scroll down and follow the people that liked that photo
This method is based on the assumption that if those accounts you just followed like the content your competitor posts, and have actively engaged and liked their photos, there is a chance they will like your content and follow you back.
By choosing accounts to follow using this method you are actively targeting people that have already shown an interest in your niche, and actively engage on the platform.
The follow back rate usually ranges between 15% to 50%. These will vary depending on the niche and competitor account you are targeting. Try different competitor accounts to see which have the most engaged and keen followers that you can target.
Instagram frowns upon this behaviour, and is constantly changing the number of actions you can do with an account before flagging it as spam and restricting your actions. To make you not appear as spam to Instagram you should limit the number of accounts you follow to 50 an hour. Do this a couple times a day and you will soon start seeing results.
How do you unfollow?
When you first start using this method you will see your follower number rapidly rising. However your following number will also start growing, often faster than your follower number. The tricky part of this method comes now, when you have to unfollow.
You may have noticed that big Instagrammers have a large number of followers, but usually follow less than 1,000. There is no specific reason why you should do this, other than it makes you look more like a “celebrity” and people think it looks cooler.
Keeping your “following” number can be hard when you use the follow / unfollow method. There are two main ways to unfollow:
Let’s look at each individually.
1. Unfollow only those that don’t follow back
This is considered the “nicer” way to use this technique. Although eventually you will have to unfollow everyone anyway, if you want to go for that “cool celebrity style” where you follow considerably less people than the amount that follows you.
In this adaptation of the follow / unfollow method you use the four steps above to follow a number of people. You then wait a few days and after a set amount of time you unfollow those that didn’t follow back.
How do you know who didn’t follow you back?
There are free apps for mobile that will tell you so. The number and capabilities of these apps is becoming smaller, since Instagram frowns upon the follow / unfollow method, and is trying to shut down these services. You might have to try a few different apps before you find one that works.
These apps will usually give you the option to unfollow in the app. More recently however these have become paid features, so if you want to avoid paying for it you need to:
This can become quite a tedious process, however it’s still less time consuming than checking all the people you follow within the Instagram app. Similarly to when you follow people, I would limit your activity to unfollowing 50 accounts per hour.
2. Unfollow everyone regardless after a set amount of time
The harsher but probably more effective way of unfollowing is unfollowing everyone after a set amount of time, regardless of whether they followed you back or not.
To do this you don’t even need any third party apps to check things beforehand. You simply go to your following section in the Instagram app, and unfollow everyone.
Instagram has been trying to make it harder to use this method, which is why the following list is no longer chronological. Back in the day the first account that appeared in the following list was the last one you just followed. So when you wanted to unfollow you simply scrolled down to the start, and unfollowed the older accounts.
In an attempt to reduce the amount of users using the follow / unfollow method the following list is no longer chronological, but shows you users based on interactions instead.
If you go on your following list now, you will probably notice that the ones at the top are the accounts you interact with the most, by either liking and commenting on their photos or by speaking them via DM.
This however means that if you scroll far down enough you will eventually find the users you only followed with the follow / unfollow method, that you don’t actually interact with. You can then unfollow them directly from there.
What are the negatives of the follow / unfollow method?
The main negative aspect of this method is that it violates the community guidelines set by Instagram. Which if you’re trying to build a genuine Instagram account, can be a pretty big negative.
Another negative aspect of this method is that being on the receiving side (the person being followed and then regularly unfollowed) sucks. There is no nice way to put it.
You can get away with it with small personal accounts, people that might not even notice that you unfollowed them, they might see their total follower number fluctuate slightly but they won’t care. Other fellow bloggers, Instagrammers and anyone using Instagram for business will dislike the move.
Some people see the follow / unfollow method as handing fliers in the middle of the street. It can be seen as a bit pushy and spammy. Some people will take the flier and throw it away just round the corner, others will go home and read it. The same way someone might follow back, whilst others will ignore the notification.
This technique also gets less effective as your account grows. It’s a great method to boost your initial growth, but when you get in the big numbers people aren’t as quick to follow back. Most people know about the follow / unfollow method nowadays, and when they see a big account with 10,000+ followers following them they know that it’s not a genuine follow and that they will just unfollow eventually, so they don’t even bother following back.
So should you be using follow / unfollow?
Only you can answer this question. You’re the only person that knows what the best direction for your Instagram account is.
The follow / unfollow method works. For a new account looking to gain more followers it’s an extremely effective technique that will boost your follower count pretty quickly.
If you’re thinking of using it just bear in mind that it can be perceived as spam and inappropriate behaviour by some, especially if you follow / unfollow the same person more than once. As you grow it becomes less effective and can be seen as more spammy
It’s up to you whether you choose to use this method or not. With this guide we just wanted to provide an objective overview about the follow / unfollow method, outlining exactly how it works, the potential benefits and drawbacks of it.