Instagram unfollows are one of the biggest wastes of time on social media — and they can hurt your reputation and your business if you’re the one doing the unfollowing.
If you’re already on Instagram, you know how frustrating this game can be when you’re on the receiving end.
Here’s how it goes: Someone follows you. But as soon as you follow them back, they unfollow you. Sometimes people will even do this to you over and over again!
I’m a member of two Facebook groups where members talk about their Instagram experiences. These are some of the comments I've seen members make about people who unfollow like this:
- “I don’t even think they look cool. They just look rude and hungry.”
- “It’s rude and frustrating!”
- “…pretty sure most just have automated services that follow and unfollow.”
- “OMG I hate this!”
- “It’s getting so old.”
So, if you’re a business and you’re doing this, watch out. People will look badly on it and they will tell other people that you do it.
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Instagram Unfollows = I’m Better Than You
Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t a post about feeling rejected. Personally, I don’t let much on the Internet or social media get to me too much anymore. There are better ways to spend my energy… I hope you, too, can rise above it.
This is more about making a big business no-no — and I’ll tell you exactly why: Unfollowing someone on Instagram is the equivalent of taking their business card at a cocktail party, then ripping it up it front of them.
Would you do it in real life? I wouldn’t because a) it would be rude and b) it would be bad for business.
Why do I use this analogy? Read on…
How Your Savvy Followers Know When You Unfollow Them
If you’re on Instagram and you don’t have an app like Followers+ you need to get one. There are tons out there and they’re free. I pay an extra $10 per year to get the pro version, Followers Pro + for Instagram, which gives me access to more analytics on my iPhone. Another that people use is Followers Track for Instagram.
Followers+ is an iOS app that tells me all kinds of data about my Instagram account. It’s updated in real time. One of the things it tells me is who I’m following that has unfollowed me.
I know RIGHT AWAY when someone unfollows me.
That’s why I say an Instagram unfollow is the equivalent of ripping up someone’s business card in front of them.
And you know what people like me do when you unfollow us? We unfollow you right back. That's not good for your business either.
The difference is, we were genuinely following you with no plan to unfollow you. You’re the annoying party.
Why do people follow and unfollow so fast?
I love living with a young teen because they cut right to the chase when it comes to explaining things like social media strategy. They don’t do A/B testing. They don't pore over analytics. They're more in the "survival of the fittest" frame of mind.
As my 14-year-old described it:
“Mom, you need to get tons of followers, but you can’t follow too many people! Otherwise it looks like you’re not important.”
(To her credit, she genuinely follows people and avoids unfollowing unless necessary.)
And look, I get it if you’re a famous beauty queen, actor, pro athlete, or any public figure with a huge following in real life. It makes sense that you have a million followers and only follow a few hundred. If you follow and unfollow people they still may love you.
But for the rest of us mere mortals, unfollowing people who could help grow your business (especially bloggers, editors, collaborators, and potential clients) is not a good strategy for developing your long game.
Ultimately if you add onto your social media strategy the Instagram unfollow game, you’re setting yourself way back when it comes to fostering brand trust and loyalty in others.
The Best Long-Term Strategy Involves Giving Up Chasing Numbers
When it comes to the Instagram unfollow controversy, the best business strategy has three steps to it:
1. Don’t follow anyone who is potentially useful to your business unless you’re not 100% sure you want to follow them.
...Because your end goal here is to reduce your number of unfollows as much as possible.
2. Only follow people whose posts you want to see in your feed.
How? Before you follow them take a good look at their account.
Check out their bio. Can they help you reach your business goals?
Check out their posts. Do you want to see posts like that on a regular basis?
3. Mute them before you unfollow them.
Muting someone allows you to remove their posts and/or stories to your feed. It's a great alternative to unfollowing. To do this, on Instagram:
- go to the home page of the person you're following
- Click on the three dots to the right of their profile pic
- Choose mute and then whether to mute just their stories, posts, or both.
When you mute someone they aren't notified.
4. If you decide you want to stop following someone, think about it for a long while before you hit “unfollow.”
You need to weigh the pros and cons of unfollowing them.
What do you really gain by unfollowing them, assuming they’ll know right away that you have?
Is it more worthwhile just to keep them in your list of grateful followers?
Or will you gain more by eliminating them from your feed, even though they will know it?
In today’s world of analytics and tracking, numbers can be used to your advantage and your disadvantage in business.
Make smart, authentic choices and you’ll use social media to your advantage.
If you try to get ahead faster than all the hardworking people out there with Instagram unfollows, you may lose out.
How do you get more followers on Instagram?
Share your tips and experiences below. And if you are on Instagram, follow me @thedecoratedway!