This is a guest post written by Kayte Ferris from Simple and Season.
The dreaded Instagram follow/unfollow. The bane of so many bloggers lives.
How disheartening it is to see new followers leave in a couple of days, or to refresh your app and see the number drop by one or two.
I see so many bloggers on Twitter who struggle with huge numbers of unfollowers on Instagram - it really sucks the fun out of the app.
There are two types of people who do this, and they are people who you won’t convince to stay following you.
The first are those who use follow/unfollow as a strategy to grow their own followings, the idea being that nice people will follow them back and then they’ll quietly unfollow them. This is a something that some people like, but they will always have super low engagement rates as they haven’t built genuine follower relationships.
The second type are bots. Either bots that people are paying to boost their own account, or bots that will get you 10,000 LIKES RIGHT NOW. You know the ones.
For me, the follow/unfollow has not been a big problem. I get unfollowed, of course, but usually just by the two groups above, and the number of people who stay always outweighs those who leave (touch wood!)
You will never convince a robot or a follower/unfollower to hang around on your account. My advice is just to not even count them as a follower when you see them come in (you can spot them a mile off).
Instead of focusing on people who never genuinely liked your content in the first place, concentrate on serving those who do love your stuff, and on attracting more of them.
The key to this is 'The Three Consistencies'...
Consistency of Content
People follow you on the strength of 1 to 6 photos. If you’re lucky, they’ll follow off the back of the first photo they see, but more often than not, they’ll click through to your gallery, and if the top two lines appeal to them then they’ll follow.
They followed you because they liked what they saw in those photos, and they want to see more of that style of content.
Inconsistent content is the biggest cause of Instagram unfollowing.
People are fickle, and they like to put others in boxes – they come to me for nostalgic, simple lifestyle posts, they go elsewhere for avocado on toast. If you suddenly change the visual story they bought into, or you don’t have one in the first place, then you’re in danger of unfollows.
Say you usually post beautiful floral flatlays or pictures of your coffee. That’s what people check in with you every day for. Then one day you post a post-gym selfie. Without wanting to sound overly dramatic, that selfie breaks the trust with your followers – they’re no longer getting what they want from you, they think that you’re not the girl they thought you were, so they unfollow.
If you’re getting occasional mass-unfollows, it may be that you’re posting content that goes against the general flow of your gallery.
If your follower growth is slow in general, then it may be that your gallery is cluttered and unclear. If people click onto your feed and see a mish-mash of food, travel, bathroom selfies, cocktails and landscapes, then all they’re going to feel is confused. They won’t feel confident that they’ll consistently enjoy your content, so they won’t follow.
It doesn’t mean you have to only take photos of flowers. You just need a thread of consistency through your gallery to give people confidence – maybe all your photos have a similar colour palette (mine is brown and cream), maybe you always use the same filter, maybe you leave out those blurry bar photos and put them in a personal account.
Having consistent content is the best place to start to grow a genuine following and stop genuine people unfollowing you.
Consistency of Posting
With recent algorithm changes, the non-chronological ordering of our feeds has been heightened – I’m seeing far more people complaining that they’re seeing days old posts now. However, posting consistently is still important.
If you post consistently every day you create a snowball of engagement – you get people regularly engaging with your content as it’s fresh every day, plus you are engaging with others in the app on a daily basis.
Each post will, in the algorithm, build on the success of the post before it and your engagement will snowball, making you more visible in your followers’ feeds and in the hashtags you use. The more people see you, the less likely it is that they will forget and unfollow you.
Despite the recent changes, consistent posting is good from a human point of view too. If I know you post every day after work, but by 9pm I haven’t seen your post, then I’ll know to go over to your feed and check it out. I do this with all my Insta friends – I rely on seeking out their content rather than having it delivered to me. If your followers know for sure that you’ll be posting, they will seek you out.
This doesn’t have to be every day either. If you only ever post on Tuesdays, then your followers will know to come and find you on a Tuesday. If you only post occasionally or in fits and bursts, then people aren’t going to bother keeping tabs on you.
Posting consistently is part of the trust between you and your followers – if they know they’ll get regular content from you, they’re more likely to stick with you. There is a caveat to this though, and that is Stories.
If you don’t want to post regularly but still have quite an engaged audience, Stories is a brilliant way to keep yourself at the top of people’s feeds and gives them some content on a regular basis.
Consistency of Engagement
Instagram is very different to Twitter and the other social networks. Over there you can post and run: put something up before jumping on the tube or use scheduling apps to happily send a stream of content to your followers while you beaver away at work.
You can’t do that on Instagram.
Instagram rewards engagement. The algorithm is set up so that the more time you spend in the app, commenting, liking and generally being involved in the community, then the better your own posts will perform.
I advise to only post when you have time to engage afterwards – the advice I’ve heard is between 10-30 minutes after posting, minimum. Some people, including me, spend a good hour on engagement a day. After I post I go through the hashtags I’ve used and engage with the most recent posts in there, and I return the comments I got on my last post, bringing high engagers back to my account.
What does this have to do with followers? Well, the more you engage, the more likely it is that Instagram will make your post visible to your followers, and the more likely it is that they will remember and enjoy your content. Plus if you’re engaging with your audience, returning their comments and being the generally lovely person you are, then they will value you and continue to follow.
There is a lot of Instagram advice out there, often conflicting and often complicated. I hope this has helped set you some ground rules and demystify things a bit.
The most important thing you can do to get over the follow/unfollow, however, is to change the way you think of it. Worry less about your follower number, and look at the number of lovely comments you get. Stop stressing about robots that never cared about you and go like a couple of photos you genuinely love.
Get back to enjoying Instagram for what it’s supposed to be – a place to connect and share with like-minded people.
How do you feel about the Instagram follow/unfollow rule? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Kayte is a blogger, writer and photo-taker at www.simpleandseason.com. She blogs about simple living in the real world, as well as creative business advice. She is also a freelance marketer and coach, helping creative businesses and people grow in a wholesome, soulful way.
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