A few weeks ago, I signed up for an Instagram webinar that promised to share the secrets to growing your following by hundreds of quality accounts per day. Seemed too good to be true (I feel like that’s the standard for 90% of webinars!), so I signed up. I was disgusted to learn that the webinar was one hour of nothing more than follow for follow tips, which made me cringe! Follow for follow is NOT my jam; I believe in authenticity and quality over quantity. However, I decided to try the technique for one week, and chart my feelings, and results, so I could back my disgust on actual data. Here’s what I learned!
In case you’re not familiar, follow for follow refers to growing your social media following by following oodles of other pages, in the hopes that lots will follow you back. Sometimes you continue to follow those that follow you back, sometimes you unfollow them.
Personally, I’ve always had a great dislike for this method. I want quality followers, people who are interested in my feed and enjoy engaging with me. Having thousands of followers that have no interest in me or my business is pointless to me.
So, I’ve had a slower growth on IG, intentionally. Not only do I not participate in follow for follow, but I also remove followers from my page if they don’t seem genuine. So bots, weird accounts, I block them to remove them from my list.
I only follow people I GENUINELY enjoy seeing in my feed.
A recent webinar convinced me to try the technique I’ve heard so much about mainly so I could say with absolute certainty “I tried it and it sucked”, so the next day I (reluctantly) began my experiment!
At noon, on December 7th, I had 727 followers and was following 158 accounts.
I went to a few large accounts I think my ideal clients would follow and followed 358 of their followers. I just went onto their follower lists and went down the list, as instructed in the webinar. A few hours later, I followed 192 new people, again following everyone and anyone.
When I woke up the next morning, I had 826 followers and was following 688 accounts. This number made my heart hurt. I didn’t know who these new 530 people were.
Upon scrolling through my transformed feed, I was alarmed at the amount of bizarre and downright unsettling images I was seeing. I’m pretty sure I followed a few straight up terrorists, which was alarming. Even more so when I realized some of them were already following me back.
People with pictures of themselves (I assume) with their faces covered, holding machine guns, writing hateful rhetoric are now following me, getting a glimpse into my life and my sweet babies.
Worst, I INVITED them in. That did not sit well with me.
I decided to be a tad more selective with who I followed, modifying the follow for follow method a bit to avoid feeling completely slimy.
In total, I spent four days following loads of new accounts. For the last three days, I followed only accounts that I was fairly sure were business accounts. So, XYZ Photography, and things like that.
By the end of the fourth day, I was following 1,096 people. Up 938 from when I started.
I decided to wait a few days to unfollow anyone, to let the numbers level out.
Three days after my experiment concluded, I had 936 followers and was following 1,096 people.
I was beyond thrilled to be able to clean out my followers and remove and strange followers, and also to unfollow the accounts that I had followed solely to test this method.
I began unfollowing and was banned from unfollowing anyone because IG said I was abusing that function. A few hours later I tried again, still banned. It took about 24 hours for me to be able to unfollow anyone.
I should also mention that while in the middle of my experiment, whispers began circulating that IG was cracking down hard on people using the follow for follow method. Great timing.
Want to learn more about the changes IG is making to crush those using the follow for follow tactic? Check this out.
Fast forward to today, eight days after I decided to sacrifice my account in the name of science, I have 919 followers and am following 166.
Here are my thoughts on this method after trying it myself:
- When you blindly follow people, you have no idea who you’re following, and potentially inviting to check out your account. This is creepy.
- Some people have private accounts, which you don’t know until you hit “follow” and it shows up “requested.” Which kind of makes you look creepy.
- Your news feed becomes filled with things you’re not interested in, and don’t feel compelled to comment on. Browsing your feed no longer feels like a fun way to connect with people, it feels like a frustrating waste of energy.
- People will think you’re slimy. Nothing annoys me more than when someone follows me and either unfollows soon after I follow them or unfollows a few hours after they realize I haven’t followed back. It’s particularly annoying when the same people repeat this over and over. Knowing that people thought I was “one of them” made me so upset.
- It feels completely fake to know you’re following people just to boost your numbers. I have no idea how many people followed me because they liked my content, and how many followed just because I followed them first. If they don’t care about my content, they aren’t helping me at all by being on my list!
All in all, after completing my follow for follow experiment, I am convinced now more than ever that this is NOT how I want to operate my business, nor is it something I would recommend to anyone else.
Guys, growth is great. You want to be growing your social media accounts, but this isn’t the way to do it.
Focus on interaction. Look at those numbers!
Have you ever noticed accounts that have 10k followers, but they’re only getting a handful of comments and less than 1% engagement in terms of likes? THOSE ARE NOT GOOD NUMBERS!
This shows you that a large part of their audience is not genuine. If your engagement rate is between 3-6%, that means you’ve got some quality followers.
It’s important to note that during this experiment, my engagement rate did go up. My guess is that like me, many people see they have a new follower, check out their account, and like or comment on an image or to as a “thanks for following me” gesture.
Now that the experiment is over, my engagement levels are about what they were before the experiment, and that is with the additional 200ish followers. This tells me most of the new followers aren’t likely very engaged.
To sum things up, when it comes to Instagram or any part of your business, strive for authenticity. Perfect your hashtag game, interact with your ideal clients and engage in meaningful conversations as often as possible. These are the kinds of things that will help you grow!
Want to follow along on my journey, and get some business tips along the way? Follow me on Instagram at Kimberlyhaydn!