As much as we may wish our Instagram follower growth showed an upward trend, it’s probably more like a rocky mountain landscape with peaks and valleys.
Fluctuations in your follower count are totally normal and often a result of the ‘follow/unfollow’ game that many accounts foolishly choose to play.
Here’s how it works: an individual follows you, waits until you follow back, then unfollows you. The unfollow can happen seconds, days, and sometimes weeks later.
While this strategy may work for some businesses to grow their audience, those followers probably won’t turn into customers.
Image Source: Buffer
But don’t waste time feeling offended – a lot of these accounts that unfollow are actually bots (up to 24 million, actually!). In other words, they’re fake accounts created in online black markets to interact with other users. They’re often used by businesses to increase their following, and Instagram is actively implementing methods to weed out these annoying accounts.
If you use Instagram to increase brand awareness, build a connection with your audience, get insights into their buying behavior, and ultimately generate leads, here’s how to deal with those annoying accounts that are more interested in playing the ‘follow/unfollow’ game.
1. Use an app to monitor your followers
Get a better understanding of your audience by using an app like Followers. The free version allows you to see your new followers, who has unfollowed you, which accounts you’re not following back, and which aren’t following you back.
Image Source: iTunes
By digging into the types of accounts that are following and unfollowing you, you’ll probably recognize some patterns.
Here are a few of the different types of accounts you might find:
- Follow for follow (‘F4F’) accounts. These are usually pretty easy to spot. Accounts like this are distinguished by spammy type handles that include words like ‘free’, ‘F4F’ and ‘followers’.
- Competitors. If the account has a similar product or service offering to you, they may be competitors. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they’re not unfollowing you!
- Potential customers. You should be able to recognize when someone fits your ideal persona characteristics by browsing through their feed and profile.
2. Rethink your hashtag game
If you recognize that your followers are a mix of ‘F4F’ accounts, competitors, or people that you do not feel are a great fit for your business, it’s time to rethink your hashtag strategy. Your hashtags are what extend your reach beyond your followers and attract new eyes to your posts, so it’s important that they’re strategically researched and selected.
Avoid generic hashtags that are tagged on millions of photos. When people are using those hashtags every second, your post will instantly get lost in the weeds as new ones are published.
Here are some of the most overused hashtags to avoid using:
- #photography: 100,000,000+
- #business: 20,000,000+
- #inspiration: 73,000,000+
- #fitness: 19,000,000+
- #nofilter: 188,000,000+
Instead, engage with research on hashtag variations that still align with your business and post, but aren’t overused or targeted by bots. Focalmark is an app that allows you to explore new hashtags and copy them straight into Instagram. You can use up to 30 hashtags on each post, so use them wisely!
Image Source: iTunes
If you’re stuck on which types of hashtags to use, try combining your location and product. For example, #SeattleKids for a children’s museum in Seattle, or #SeattleCoffee for a coffee shop in the same area.
If you have a passionate customer base already, you can also consider creating a unique hashtag for your brand.
3. Reassess your content strategy
If you’re attracting (and losing) ideal customers on Instagram, or if you’re only attracting ‘F4F’ bots, it’s time to rethink the type of content you’re sharing and your overall Instagram strategy.
If people don’t see value in your content, they’ll unfollow you. Before you publish each post, ask yourself what value your followers will receive. Make sure that everything you post isn’t blatantly promotional.
If you’re stuck on what to share on Instagram, here are some ideas:
- Share your customer’s posts (but be sure to credit the original publisher!)
- Share a quirky or thought-provoking quote that will resonate with your target audience
- Run a giveaway contest and post about the rules or prizes
If you’re sharing product-specific content, make sure it’s clear how investing in the product will make the customer’s life easier or save them money.
If you want to drive direct sales with Instagram, this post has a ton of tips on how to make Instagram shopping work for your brand – see if you can improve the methods you’re using to match the successful ones from those companies.
4. Replan your posting schedule
If your posts are all over the place and don’t follow a theme, your followers may feel they’ve been misled. They expected a certain type of content when they followed you in the first place. Post consistently to avoid confusing them.
Creating an Instagram schedule and social media strategy can really help you map out your posts and ensure there’s a common thread amongst each one.
After all, if you’ve ever subscribed to an email newsletter and then felt totally confused when their first email shows up a year later and you have no idea who the sender is, then you can understand the issue with posting randomly or inconsistently!
Instagram is very popular and new posts are published so frequently that if you don’t pop in your follower’s news feeds often, your followers might think you’ve disappeared. Frequency will vary from business to business so have a good hard think about how often your business should post and stick to it.
Numbers are numbers, and ultimately they shouldn’t be an indication of how successful your business is. Try not to take it personally if you experience a lot of unfollows. Instagram accounts of all sizes have to deal with fluctuations in follower count.
Just focus on creating quality content that turns your followers into leads and customers by posting consistently, using the right hashtags, and monitoring your followers.
Guest Author: Andrea Moxham is a contributing writer at Content Harmony. She is a creatively driven marketing and communications specialist with a proven track record in developing lead generation content. Her entrepreneurial spirit and experience with inbound marketing, social media, communications and design all help her connect clients with new customers.