Are you a follow-unfollow type of user on Instagram?
You know, one of those wannabe types who think they can build a big audience by using a tool that helps get large numbers of followers, only to unfollow them back a day or two later? In recent efforts to build my own following, I’ve started to learn more about this dark underbelly of Instagram society.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of the concept after several years working online. But, I have to admit to being foolishly duped in by the types of “brands” who engage in this unscrupulous activity over the last couple of months.
Mine is a self-improvement type of fitness brand. When I started getting followed by a bunch of seemingly interested like-minded influencers (many with 20+ thousand followers), I figured “Hey, this is cool — people trying to accomplish the same goals as me!”)
Glory-gosh-almighty! I was making waves and garnering interest from other people who wanted to help the less informed with their fitness and strength goals. Or was I?
What an idiot I was to think a following can be built on integrity!
I started noticing — despite my best efforts to resist the urge to check stats — that I was burning through followers 10 and 20 at a time at a pretty predictable rate. Now, I may not currently be the most interesting cat on the platform, but my content is consistent and my message is also.
Like the majority of you who read this, I’m well aware of this particular growth strategy, being someone with over 1000 organic niche Twitter followers, I’ve been in the game for a minute. It’s just that Instagram really takes the cake when it comes to the number of accounts that follow-unfollow.
In most cases, I rarely experience this on Facebook and on Twitter. When I have, it’s usually been the faceless dummy accounts that are really easy to spot who engage in this useless activity. They’re easy to spot once you’ve been bitten a time or two. On Instagram, it’s real people for the most part, and it defies the entire meaning of social engagement.
For those accounts you’re unsure of, Influencerdb.net is a great tool for seeing the follow-unfollow and engagement activity of influencers you want to consider following. I’m not saying this is a tit-4-tat game, not at all. The Rock doesn’t have to follow me cause I follow him, but he damn sure better not follow me just to get a follow-back! (Nor, would he, right?)
I find the man interesting, like his posts and follow because I want to keep abreast of what’s going on in his uber-interesting, world-domination-geared life. I don’t follow and participate on the platform to play petty, selfish little games with people and their self confidence.
Check out this post to see how a blogger uncovered a popular UK DJ for using this practice using Influencerdb, and how her press team tried to lie saying the person in question was gaining purely organic followers (They obviously didn’t know about the tool in question!)
How can one monetize without engagement?
The thing that really gets me is that Insta-brands build a following with the eventual goal of monetizing their account. Of course, many will want to sell their own info and physical products. Nothing wrong with that. However, most hope to build enough of a following to attract bigger brands who’ll then pay them to hawk their stuff.
Let me ask you a question: Do you really think you’re going to get anywhere with tens of thousands of followers you’re not intimately engaged with? I’d say “probably” in the short term. However, tools like Followcop make it easy for an account to see what you and your other follow unfollow cronies are up to. I’ve noticed trends that make it pretty easy to spot the fakers in my niche.
What happens when a cool clothing line offers you a sponsorship deal because of your huge follower account, only to get a poor ROI from their investment in you? They aren’t going pay for poor results. And, influencers are a dime a dozen now.
It’s a pretty obvious practice once you’ve noticed the pattern: An account with thousands of followers suddenly follows you out of the blue. In the fitness niche, most of these accounts are in the 10 or 20-thousand follower range. After a month of watching my own follower count shoot up, then straight back down day after day, I started to ask myself why so many of these seemingly popular accounts suddenly found my content and followed me.
You’re more obvious than you think…
I hope this isn’t coming off as a rant. I just want to pass the message on in the hopes others will heed the warning. Follow-unfollow isn’t only disingenuous, it’s pretty lame. For me, I took a genuine interest in many of the accounts that follow-unfollowed me. Once I realized what they were up to, they lost my interest (and respect) entirely.
It’s like a girl/guy who pretends to like you just so she/he can get closer to your cute friend. Or, some other such phony-bologna crap that we’ve all experienced — where someone pretends to be your buddy so they can take advantage of you. Yeah, it’s just Instagram, but would any of us trust someone after they’ve stepped on us in real life to get something out of us?
In the end, I can only see this hurting more than helping. If you’re not real, you’re fake. There’s no getting around that. As all of you have been reading here on BizEpic lately, I’m becoming a great fan of @AndyFrisella. He preaches authenticity and giving more than you get to gain a massive following. It’s how he grew his online brand and various companies he runs into a hundred-million-plus net worth.
“This is about legacy. This is about service. This is about giving far more than you take. This is about inspiring the warrior attitude and taking responsibility for your life. This is about picking eachother up.”
The real question is: Who are you serving by feigning interest just to reject people once they give you what you want?
You’re certainly not lifting people up when you follow-unfollow, are you? You’re influence is limited to pushing smaller people down — making them feel worthless of your attention and hopeless to gain a following of their own.