After publishing Millennial Is Not a Dirty Word, and sharing it my Instagram account, I never expected my numbers to rise. In fact, I have had my Instagram account set to private until I hit publish on the blog post. I figured when I wasn’t blogging, why have my account public.
After posting, I closed the app, went back to doing a few things, and didn’t think about it. I checked back about an hour later to find 14 new followers. I actually did a double check to make sure I wasn’t on my company’s Instagram account, which has been gaining a pretty steady flow of followers.
I started going through the accounts, and as I was going through the ones that followed, notifications kept popping up that more were following. After about an hour, I saw about 30 new followers on my account. While this probably seems minimal, we’re talking about an account that barely gains 5 a month. So seeing this uptick in just an hour was a bit insane, and cool, all at the same time.
However, it didn’t last.
Welcome to the Instagram Games where 30 people will follow you, and 25 will unfollow you a mere 4 hours later because you didn’t reciprocate their follow.
PC: NeONBRAND, Unsplash
It’s an endless battle, especially when you’re trying to build a following. I see it all the time on my photography account. In fact, I stopped following back accounts that I didn’t have a genuine interest in. I’m not in it to play games and follow for follow. I want to follow people because I like their content, or what they have to say. Not because they are willing to follow me as long as I follow them back.
It just seems like you’re saying, “We can be friends, but only because I say we can be friends. If I don’t want to be friends any more than we’re not going to be.”
When did Instagram become like middle school?
Instagram is supposed to be a community, at least that’s what I use it for. I’m not out there to gain 1000 fake followers. I’d rather have 15 followers who have an interest in my content and what I have to say, then see my numbers go through the roof.
How should we play the Instagram Games?
ROUND 1 – THE NUMBERS
Stop focusing on the numbers. Seriously. I know everyone is obsessed with being “instafamous.” We see it everywhere. Every other day there is another story about someone who became an “Instagram girl” or another up & coming teenager or young adult literally making a living because of their large followings on social media. Yes, it would be nice to be a success story like that, but we have to stop trying to build our platforms the wrong way.
ROUND 2 – BE AUTHENTIC
Be authentic. I know every Instagram course will tell you this, but it’s true. The more authentic and genuine you are, the more likely others will be to reciprocate and engage with you. Follow someone because you like their content, you like their message, and/or you’re interested in the way they have to say. Don’t follow someone expecting them to follow you back. Comment on images with actual comments. Not a bunch of emojis. Things like “God, this bouquet is absolutely stunning.” Or “I love that outfit, where did you get your shoes?” Make your comments seem personal, and not content generated from spammy bots.
ROUND 3 – FOLLOWERS & FOLLOWING
Don’t follow for follow. We’ve all done it, whether we think we have or not. An account follows us. We like what we see, but we’re not 100% invested. They have a few pretty pictures. Okay, sure. We follow them back. We think we’d like to see their content every day. When they decide to unfollow us a day later, we also unfollow them. Why? Because we really only cared about the number, not the account itself.
I’ve done it without even thinking about. Now, I try to focus on following accounts because they appeal to me. Not because I hope they follow me back. If someone follows me, I take a good look at their account before deciding if it’s someone I want to follow. If it isn’t, I don’t, and typically they unfollow me a short time later. Does it make me sad? Nope. They weren’t someone truly interested in my content.
Bottom line, let’s stop this whole follow for follow game. It’s not helping anyone, except grow our accounts with a bunch of followers who don’t truly care about the content their following. Let’s be honest, while the number may look pretty cool, wouldn’t it be far better to have people who actually care about your posts?
ROUND 4 – INVEST
I’m not talking about paying for followers or buying ads. Invest the time to grow your account the right way. Spend the time getting to know the accounts you like. What are they doing to grow their accounts organically that you could be doing? What hashtags do they use? Comment on accounts you love, like photos, be real. You may not see your numbers grow fast, but over time you will see your engagement grow, and that’s the most important thing.
ROUND 5- CHEATING (INEVITABLE IN ANY GAME)
Don’t pay for followers. Okay, the fact that this is even a thing really irks me. This is like the ultimate cheat in the Instagram games. It’s like paying a judge at the Olympics for all 10s. Okay, that’s a bit exaggerated, but still. Paying for followers? Just don’t do it. I don’t care how “instafamous” you want to be. That’s just dumb, and you deserve to be considered a “spammer” on Instagram. And I don’t care how harsh that sounds.
ROUND 6 – WINNING
Create an Instagram account you are proud of, no matter the number of followers. Enjoy and connect with your tribe, and be real. Have no expectations for any of the accounts you follow to follow you back. Put out content that is you, that is true to you and your brand, and be authentic, and you will win the Instagram Game.