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Follow/Unfollow: Let’s get this straight – the good, the bad and the ugly!

Follow/Unfollow: Let’s get this straight – the good, the bad and the ugly!
The White Thistle
Follow/unfollow - the white thistle

Follow/Unfollow method – what is it and why do people do it?

If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing on Instagram for all of you it would be to stop this dreaded follow/unfollow game!

Why in the world do people still do it! It drives me insane!

Picture this, you start your new account, to share your beautiful images that you worked so hard to create and you are putting your heart and soul into building your account and getting your unique message out there. Then you hit the milestones; 100 followers, 200 followers, 300…

But, every time you hit that milestone you drop right back down again and it takes you another couple of weeks to creep back up to that spot that you already hit and celebrated.

Why do people do follow/unfollow?

In short, because it works. People wouldn’t still be applying this method if it didn’t get results! But, it only gets them a number. That vanity metric at the top of their profile means absolutely nothing if those people following don’t actually care about their content.

It gets them no authentic engagement or true loyal fans! They do it purely for the vanity of saying they have X amount of followers. Whether it’s 10k or 100k!

Meanwhile, you’re sat there trying to figure out why you had 510 followers last night and 487 this morning…

What did you do wrong?

I remember trying to work out what the hell I had posted that turned so many people off, did I say something that offended them? Did I take a really bad photo?

No, none of that. You see it happens to all of us and I can promise you that if this happens to you, you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.

Unfortunately, your content was never of interest to them in the first place. So, the first thing I want to say is to try and just ignore those feelings that you and what you posted were not good enough. Those people (some are not even actual humans behind the account lots of accounts that adopt this method are actually bot accounts) that keep dropping off only wanted one thing from you and that was to get a reciprocating follow from you.

But chances are you don’t want to follow them maybe it’s because you don’t relate with their content or they have nothing to do with your niche. You might, however, be tempted to just hit that follow button so you ‘keep’ them as a follower.

What happens?

Here’s the problem with that though, if you do decide to follow an account that is only following you because of the follow/unfollow method one of two things is going to happen.

Either as soon as you tap that follow button they are going to hit unfollow because they don’t want their ‘figures’ to be skewed. Which means they don’t want to ‘look’ like someone who follows too many people. So they have to unfollow to keep their following number lower than their followers number.

Or you’ll actually retain them as a follow (in which case this is actually someone pretty amateur trying to play at the follow/unfollow game but doesn’t really get the concept) and they will never interact with your posts.

So, they will never like or comment on anything you put out there because as I said before they never ‘cared’ about your content, they only wanted to add you as a number to their follower count and so they become a ghost.

The deal here though is that you can physically only follow 7500 accounts and believe me there is no way you are going to want to follow that many. I follow just over a 1000 and I know I miss content from some of my favourite accounts daily because if each account was even posting just once a day I can’t get through 1000 posts!

Which means there is almost no point following 7500! You can never support that many accounts even if you want to. This is how ghosts are created.

What’s a ghost?

A ghost is someone who lurks, they decided to grace you with a follow and then basically bugger off and never look at your account ever again. It may not be intentional – the algorithm makes us ghosts to a lot of the accounts we love to follow when it decides to stop showing us content from a certain person.

However, ghost followers can be so damaging to our accounts because they decrease our engagement rating. The algorithm ranks content according to how many people interact with it. The more people interact, the more the algorithm pushes our content out to new accounts and it creates a snowball effect.

When accounts who follow but don’t interact aka ghost accounts don’t interact our engagement rating goes down and it signals to the algorithm that OUR people are not interested in our content.

And so the algorithm uses that interaction or lack of it to decide whether it share our content with a wider and new audience. Meaning, if your engagement rate is low you are going to struggle to grow as your content isn’t going to be seen by a wider audience. you’ll struggle to rank in top posts on hashtags or get to the explore

What should you do if you think you are being targeted by the follow/unfollow method?

My advice is when you see someone follow you who just feels a bit fishy, perhaps it’s a massive account that is in a completely different niche, or they are following 1000’s of accounts. Block them. Block them straight away and pretend they never existed, forget about the vanity of the extra follower you might have had. It is far better to have a smaller more engaged audience who loves every single piece of content you put out there than a huge following of people basically ignore your account!


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