Bad socialite: Follow/unfollow

Why follow/unfollow is not a social growth strategy

This one is a bit of a rant at the same time as a lesson. As I grow my own social presence, I've noticed too many others using bad practices—and frankly, bad manners—to try to grow their following.

Let's look at Instagram.

On Instagram, my biggest peeve is follow/unfollow. It's not a growth strategy. Sure, your follower count might increase, but do you want millions of followers who don't bother to engage with what you create? I'd rather have fewer followers that actually care about what I give to them. I'd rather build connections, relationships even.

photo by Jill Clark follow-unfollow.jpg

Here's a few reasons why follow/unfollow definitely not an Instagram growth strategy.


1. It makes your analytics look sketchy.

If you have any hope of leveraging your social profiles in the future, you have to be aware of your analytics. Forbes wrote a list of their top 10 Instagram analytics tools, but some websites like Social Blade let you check up on anyone's basic analytics as long as you know their Instagram handle. That means anyone can see how many people you follow/unfollow each day just by plugging in your username.

Go ahead—check it out.

Seriously, it just looks bad if you are following thousands of people in a day, even if thousands are following you too. Especially if you unfollow thousands more each day. It's not natural, and it's obvious.

2. Your engagement will suffer.

So what if you have 100K followers if your photos are only averaging <100 likes with little to no comments? The problem with the follow/unfollow tactic is that these people likely only follow you out of an unwritten, informal courtesy. They don't genuinely care about what you post.

Again, if you plan to leverage your account in the future for sponsorships or influencer marketing, brands can see your stats. They don't decide to work with a social influencer based on follower counts alone.

3. People will think you've paid a bot.

It's easier than ever to purchase likes and followers, and to pay for bots to play your follow/unfollow game for you. Take a look at this social media experiment that created two "Instagram influencers" with fake girls and paid followers.

Some people don't realize that it's just as easy for others to see through your tricks. Does most of your engagement come from accounts with abnormal usernames? Profiles who are following thousands, have no posts, and no followers themselves? It's safe to bet that those are bots.

Social media is about being social. Don't pay a hacker to fake your numbers for you.

4. It's just plain rude.

For small businesses trying to create genuine engagement through their social platforms, it's discouraging to see 20 people follow them one day to silently unfollow the next. Even a small number like 20 is a lot to someone just starting out. But those who work at building their engagement organically over time are the ones who benefit in the long run.


Please people, don't be a bad socialite.

What are your biggest annoyances when it comes to social media bad practices? I love a good rant.