One thing that’s intrigued me since I started on Instagram is the sheer number of follow/unfollows that flood through my account on a regular basis. I’m not talking about the ones that retreat gracefully after a few months, but those that bail after a couple of days and I find myself asking the question – what do these users want? Connection? Numbers? Recognition? I’m sure that these experiments work occasionally, but the people fly in and out of my page so quickly that I don’t even have time to notice them. And I’m not someone who only connects with big accounts – for me quality counts over quantity. I’m just as likely to follow someone with 300 followers as 100K although I admit it’s rarer for me to commit these days as I struggle to keep up with my current follows.
So what makes me want to follow back? A combination of factors – some less obvious than others, but there are certain elements that make me more inclined to hit that button:
A Public Account
This is essential for me – and I’m guessing for many others too. If I can’t see what you’re posting then I’m highly unlikely to follow even if your numbers are stellar (exceptions for family & friends of course).
I’m primarily on Instagram for the community and I try to be a pretty loyal follower (although it’s not quite as easy with the new algorithm) so this is really key for me. If someone follows me and then interacts over a period of time then I’m more likely to follow them back. In my first year, I could see engagement through likes, but comments are more visible these days. We’re not talking stalker-territory here – just the occasional meaningful response which shows that we share common ground. I’ve been caught out by professional follow/unfollowers (including sizeable accounts) in the past so I’m pretty cautious about jumping in quickly.
Beautiful and creative photos always catch my eye, but the caption is important too. I love it when a kind voice shines through or gives me a new angle of life/books/art/creativity/nature. The same goes for good business, travel, lifestyle or social media advice – I like to learn from others and find out more about their unique take on a range of subjects. It has to be gentle though – hard sells are a no-no.
The comments on people’s posts are often revealing as they give me an idea about how they interact with their own followers – whether this is a social space for them or just a place to grow numbers. I realise that not everyone has the time to chat so it’s not a deal breaker especially if the content is exceptional, but it’s definitely a consideration.
When I first started out, checking mutual accounts wasn’t as important because I was still feeling my way with the platform and actively looking for people to follow, but as my circles have widened, this is something I take notice of. If an account follows similar pages to mine then it suggests that we are more likely to share the same values and aesthetics. I trust the people I already follow so if there’s a link between us, however small, I’m more inclined to think that we might be a good match.
Additional Online Resources
Blogs, courses and podcasts always make me sit up as long as they’re not too salesy. They show that the person takes their online presence seriously and is striving to offer useful information to their audience.
Adverts and Business Accounts
The controversial one! There’s been a lot of backlash against ads but as a part of the bookstagramming community, I’ve been used to them from day one as most bookstagrammers post gifted books on their pages. I also follow lots of mums who make extra money from influencing so this isn’t an issue for me unless an account is overtly promotional.
For business accounts it’s harder. I rarely follow these unless I really love the brand or the product/service. I could write a whole post on this subject – lots of businesses miss the mark which is a shame as they could maximise their accounts quite easily.
As I spend more time on the platform though, being followed back isn’t the number one concern. I subscribe to accounts without any expectation of reciprocation because I love their content and in my eyes that’s the only way to find real satisfaction on Instagram – not through numbers, but through careful curation. In the words of William Morris “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”