A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a message via LinkedIn, detailing a problem that he was having with Instagram. The problem was, he explained, that he got all these new followers, and then they were gone from his page almost overnight.
My friend wasn't alone. It seems as though many users are "tricked" into thinking that their accounts are experiencing rapid growth only to find that they've lost these new followers just as quickly.
What was happening?
It turns out that this person was on to something. Many media outlets and writers have been paying attention to Instagram's bot problem off and on for a few years now.
HOW IT HAPPENS:
1. People create either a new personal or business account and begin to follow people, thinking that this is the logical first step in building a thriving community on the platform. If you want people to follow you, you have to follow them. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
2. Almost immediately, bot accounts begin following the new account because they pick up on the fact that someone is rapidly following accounts. The name of the game is to ultimately get more followers for the bot accounts. And it works. Here's how --
3. The unsuspecting Instagrammer, awash in the glow of thinking that they're an "influencer", continues posting and creating meaningful content for the channel as per best practices.
4. One or two days later, the Instagrammer's follower count drops significantly, leaving him or her with a skewed ratio of following/followers. The bot accounts, however, now have a boost in new followers, thus lending a sense of credibility to their robotic presence.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A HEALTHY RATIO
The follower/following ratio is very important because of a general Insta-ego that is prevalent on the channel. People want to look popular. They want to be influencers.
Influencers, as a matter of fact, do well on this channel. And the top influencers have hundreds of thousands of more followers than people they're actually following. Therefore, many Instagrammers care about how it looks to have more followers than people they're following.
Don't believe me?
See also: Twitter. It's a numbers game there too.
Businesses also operate under the idea that they must have more followers than people they're following because of credibility and reputation issues.
IS THERE A WAY TO FIX THIS ISSUE?
Unfortunately, the only way to know if bots have followed you and unfollowed you is by downloading any number of additional apps that monitor this activity.
How do I know?
Because I experimented with my own account over the past two weeks.
Here's what I downloaded:
By using this free app, I was able to track who I followed, who has been ghosting me (that's a whole other blog post) and, most importantly, who unfollowed me.
HOW TO ACTUALLY BUILD FOLLOWERS ON INSTAGRAM:
Don't worry, I didn't take any of the unfollowing personally. In fact, I learned a great deal about what it takes to do well on the platform in the process. Here are some things that work.
1. It's okay to get rid of people who aren't following you back.
Some social media managers may roll their eyes at this, but if you're truly interested in improving your follower/following ratio, this is something that will significantly help.
At the end of the day, you should follow plenty of accounts that inspire you or are relevant to your business, regardless of whether or not they follow you back. But these unfollower apps can be helpful in terms of weeding out the follow-back bots.
2. Yes, the quality of your content matters.
I've heard marketers claim that Instagram profile galleries are the new landing pages. I wouldn't go that far, but I understand the importance of creating that visual impact when someone visits your profile.
More so than on any other platform, people visit your profile, skim your gallery and THEN decide whether or not they want to follow you. Consistent, beautiful, high-quality images and design go a long way in boosting your follower count.
3. Hashtag the h*ck out of it.
It's been proven over and over again: posts with a ca-gillion (not an actual number) hashtags get more engagement. Don't believe me?
Try it with the following and see for yourself:
#coffee #coffeelover #blackcoffee #cup #white #yellow #goodmorning #instayum #coffeetime #coffeebreak #latte
You'll get much more engagement than you would posting this image without the tags. Hashtags are your friend on this channel.
4. THE MOST PAINFUL, TIME-CONSUMING WAY TO BUILD A FOLLOWING ON INSTAGRAM...
... community management
That's right. One of the most effective ways to build a presence on this channel is to dig in and spend some time liking, commenting on and genuinely engaging with other people, companies and businesses on the platform.
If you're unsure of this approach, I've included some additional reading material to support this tactic. Try it out, and let me know what you think!