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Instagram – Why You Should Stop Doing The Follow/Unfollow Strategy

by Phil Aston

Instagram – Why You Should Stop Doing The Follow/Unfollow Strategy

by Phil Aston

by Phil Aston

Video Transcript

This in a way is a bit of a rant about Instagram in a positive way. I am currently working with a number of clients, helping them with Instagram, and as you know, those of you who seen my videos before, I am a great supporter of social and how it’s going to, how it is changing the way we do business and the fact that being online now is all about building trust and being authentic and being yourself.

Instagram is an interesting platform. Everybody now is flocking towards it and it’s all about the follower numbers again! Just like any other social media platform, as it gained lots of traction, all the businesses have moved in. When that happens, all the marketing people move in (people like me) but I have a very different approach to how I feel you should be using this platform.

If you go and Google how to get going on Instagram, it’s all about gaining followers. There is a strategy called follow and then unfollow, and this to me is just sheer madness, even Instagram absolutely hates this. If you’ve got your Android or Apple phone, there’s loads of apps which will let you follow and automate Instagram and unfollow people, but let’s take a step back here.

You are a business and you want to connect with your customers and you want to build trust with those people and you want them to get to know you.  Then you want to them at some point to share or even buy the things that you’re offering. So what are you doing to actually show that you are a good, kind, ethical, and conscientious person? You are basically following as many people as possible (as you’re allowed to) and then you’re checking back every two to three days to see who hasn’t followed you back and then you are unfollowing them.

So you’re following people just for the sheer act of getting followers, and if they don’t follow you back, you’re dumping them. What does that say about you and your business?

Because if you are a business and you have a business Instagram account, you can actually see this happening. You look at an account and it’s following 3000 people and it has 600 followers. What does that tell you about that account? What is their newsfeed like where they’ve got 3000 potential posts going into their newsfeed, It tells you a lot and it’s not good.

Now, another fact that might help people here is that if you look at Pledge or Kickstarter, the actual number of people you need to get a project off the ground is between 80 and a 100. Now, let me just re-phrase that. Between 80 and a 100 super fans, supporters, customers who really love what you do.  You do not need thousands of vanity followers.

I think it’s Lady Gaga’s Twitter account manager who says that out of all of those millions of people that follow her, there’s about 500 of them that really matter. This morning I saw a post on Instagram where someone said, “Wow, thanks, everyone. We’ve got a thousand followers.” But they’re following over 6,000 people, so they haven’t really a thousand followers because a thousand people really love what they do. They’ve just kept following and following until they reached that number.  You can see it in their low engagement and you can see this with lots of accounts with 40,000 or 50,000 a hundred thousand followers that they get between 15 and 20 people actually like their posts. You can see other accounts where they’ve got 500 people following them and they get nearly 80 to a 100 people liking their posts. Which one is the best strategy for you?

I would say let go the numbers. We’re not in the school playground anymore collecting Star Wars cards and it’s whoever’s got the most is the most important and the most special person in the playground. We are businesses and you are trying to build trust with your customers. So my advice is whenever you go on the internet and look for how do I build my Instagram account if it says follow 200 people a day and check back in two days’ time to see who hasn’t followed you and dump them, don’t do that.

Also, most of these follower apps can get your account suspended. Instagram is really doubling down and literally stopping people using their API for Instagram to do this. They do not want you to automate Instagram.

So if you want to enjoy it, and that’s really, you should enjoy what you’re doing, just grow your account organically. Interact with people, and that means comment. It doesn’t just mean leave a few hearts and a few emojis. It means actually if you see something inspires you, tell that person that you’ve been really enjoyed their post. Reach out. See if you can help. And the other thing, Instagram or any social platform isn’t just an opportunity to say, “Buy my stuff. Buy my stuff.” It’s about adding value. It’s about giving information and knowledge that you have that may help somebody else out there. These posts that say … there’s a nice pretty picture and then it says, “Please ring. Please book. Please buy.” People aren’t going to do that.

If you build a story and you share authentically what you love and what your passions are, if people want to find out more, they can go to your profile, they can click and go to your website, and they can drop you an email. They can drop you a message in Instagram and say, “Please, I’m interested in what you do.” You don’t have to keep telling people, “Oh, you’re looking at me, so buy my stuff.” That is not how social media works. You’re just using it as an opportunity for cold calling, which is dead in the water for a while now.

On Instagram, be yourself, chat, be friendly, but don’t see people just as numbers, because that will say a lot about you because people will know you’re doing it. They can tell from the way your account looks. If you’re following 6,000 people and only 800 people following you back, you are obviously following that strategy and people just will think, “Do I really want to get connected with these people?” Whereas an account that maybe has only 400 followers but you’re only following back 200? That says you’re gaining all authority and people obviously want to be in your world because what you talk about, you have an authority in it.

It’s not just follower numbers, nor is any other social platform. Be yourself. Just take a step back and just deliver content. It’s all about content and being consistent and turning up and thinking about how can I help people, how can I connect with people out there using hashtags, and what do I do and how do those people discover me, and then chat to them and build relationships.

Thank you

Phil

Phil Aston is a partner at Genius Loci a Digital Marketing & Media agency based in Cornwall. Phil has over 26 years experience in SEO, Marketing & Photography and works primarily in the Tourism & Retail sector. He is also a yoga teacher and musician.

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