Instagram Growth follow up

Written by Ryan McMey | |

Having had a full year now to experiment and reflect on my method for instagram growth as written about in Indirect / Passive Growth & Instagram How to grow your followers, I feel as 2020 draws to a close that I’ve probably gathered enough information now to publish an update of sorts!

As a briefest of recaps, in case you don’t feel like reading my earlier posts, the method is essentially follow/unfollow, with a bunch of strings attached to limit the complete randomness of results you’d achieve by using the follow/unfollow method in it’s more primitive forms.

The rules are simple and pretty self explanatory: Follow people with interests that suggest they would like you, rather than just anybody, follow people who live in London if the point of what you’re doing is to sell tickets in London etc. Simple enough.

My first thought of note is this: whilst there are definitely variables in the success or failure of this method, such as how well you are targeting your audience and whether your account is active enough to warrant interest from those people you are targeting, it has been almost unbelievably stable in its ability to create growth through the ever changing landscape of Instagram algorithms and trends that butcher other methods frequently.

A year is a LONG time in social media land, and for this method to work now as well as it did when I first put it into practice at the end of 2019 is a reassuring shock.

In contrast, my second thought is less good news. An issue that I considered hardly problematic at all when starting this project has become quite the thorn in my side. That thorn being the instagram ‘following’ limit of 7,500 people. My personal thinking until early summer this year was that I would continue following people until I hit this cap and then unfollow everyone who had not followed me back before returning to following people. Rinse and repeat! The problem I encountered as I approached the limit earlier this year seems to be one of human nature / psychology. Scrolling through a list of people and unfollowing them doesn’t have nearly the payoff that its opposite does. When you follow people, you get followers in return, whereas when you unfollow them, you get nothing. This was enough, for me at least, to turn off my brain’s motivation for the task: no shiny dopamine reward = no interest. I just found myself forgetting to unfollow anybody, sometimes for days at a time. And for as long as I’m up against that limit, the method can’t be used, meaning growth at earlier rates is impossible and stagnation is inevitable. Not unfollowing people becomes a big deal! I started intermingling following and unfollowing to try and trick my brain into associating unfollowing with growth, following 20 people at 1pm every day followed by unfollowing 20 at 2pm for example. This worked a little and kickstarted my growth again, but all it takes is to forget to unfollow people once and you find yourself unable to do the following part of the cycle, meaning the system is difficult to maintain unless your memory is perfect.

For this reason, the major takeaway from this point, and my solution to the problem, is that the upper limits of instagrams following count is a nasty place to be! If possible, don’t let yourself get to this position. Unfollow people as you go, so that you never have to deal with being unable to follow them at all. If it’s too late for that, then you’re stuck with me digging ourselves out! It’s a matter of willpower from here I suppose! My advice would be, make it a major part of your routine daily to back yourself away from that limit, and try and get as far back from it as possible before starting to follow people again.

As a parting thought, I’ve noticed that as this method fuels your growth it also seems to introduce you to its successor. The influx of followers that this method produces if done correctly should, assuming your target audience is right for you, and that you have engaging content for them to interact with once they find you, start to create a growing amount of engagement, which you can turn into fandom by cultivating it - responding to comments, DMing new followers etc. This opens up the possibility of creating word of mouth growth and gives your content the potential for virality, as the first ingredient of that is a base community of fans to instantly engage and share when something is posted to flare up the algorithm. Virality and word of mouth carry a potential for exponential growth which I feel will eventually make the linear growth of my original method too small to be worth continuing, though when exactly that point arrives is not clear!

I recommend you carry on using follow/unfollow at least until the followers you receive per day that you AREN’T following already starts to outnumber those you receive that you ARE. This indicates that you’ve reached a kind of tipping point at which organic growth means you don’t need to push the boulder anymore.

I hope this has been helpful!

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