If you have Instagram, you may be wondering:
- How to gain followers organically and keep them
- How to determine if the followers you've gained are engaging with your content or are likely to work with you
- What to do with followers who are not engaging with your content
- How to prevent the addition of bots and "Ghost" followers (or followers who don't do anything) in the first place.
- How to best avoid scams
In this blog post, I will share my experience with managing followers on IG and gaining the right type of followers for your account. This information is from my own experience, and may not reflect your own experience. But, I'm certain you'll identify with what I'm saying if you've used IG with any consistency and you'll gain some insight on what to do.
How to Gain Followers Organically and Keep Them. Hint: It's about the quality, not the quantity.
First, ask yourself some questions about your IG account.
What is the goal of having it in the first place?
What do you want from it? Friendships? Business partners? To sell a product or service? To provide helpful information to people or keep them informed?
First, you need to figure out your purpose for your account on Instagram. Getting a solid understanding yourself of what it is you want out of your time on IG is crucial to attracting the right type of followers.
Next, you need to put that information into your bio in a clear, understandable layout. Make sure it has your first and last name or company name, what type of company you have (in my case, I'm a photographer so I put that in my bio), what city you're located in, and the purpose of your account in a brief sentence.
For instance, mine is:
Brian Balloon 🎈 Photography
Helping Dallas dancers build stunning portfolios of themselves at their best!
🕺Dance Photography Account - sister account of @brianballoonpeople
It lets viewers of my profile know that I'm 1) a photographer 2) based out of Dallas, TX who 3) helps dancers create portfolios of themselves in the art of dancing. 4) Optional - it also lets them know I have a main account that was first created before the dance account was created if they also want to view my main photography work, and my website for even more examples and information. 5) You may also add something like, "Contact me to book your shoot!"
This is an example of a well-written profile. If you're a dancer, you'd immediately know what it is that I do and based on my work you see in my feed and on my website, you would choose whether or not to engage with or follow me.
So why is this important?
Without a clear profile and call to action, viewers may not know what to expect when they follow your account or how to contact you about your product or service. So mentioning the specific purpose in your profile is a must to attracting the right engagement and followers.
- Now, with everything you post, whether it is a photo or video, it should have hashtags that are specific to the content you are posting. Use a mixture of niche-specific hashtags - a couple small sized hashtags with specifics about what the specific picture or reel is of, a couple medium sized hashtags with what your entire feed is of, and a couple large-sized trending hashtags that are related to your niche. Never use follow4follow or like4like or similar generic hashtags. Don't use completely generic hashtags either, because that will attract bots looking for generic accounts they can spam and generic users who aren't necessarily interested specifically in what you have to offer. Your content won't be seen but for a few seconds before it becomes buried under other posts. Example of a generic hashtag: #stuff. Example of a specific: #lyricaldancephotographydallas. But hashtags are essential, and will attract others to your feed as they see the content you are posting. But know that IG won't always push your content out nowadays, especially if it is a photograph and not a video. Which brings me to the next point.
- What you post needs to be attractive, entertaining or otherwise useful content that relates to what you do. Ideally, it should draw the viewer into your service or product by captivating their attention. The best thing to post is not photos, but captivating video. It also helps to Go Live occasionally about your product or service. The new IG 2022 Algorithm loves REELS, and gives those users who use them a LOT more reach than photos. You typically just need to post once a day.
- Encourage your users to add your feed to their "Favorites" list so it will show among the top of the feeds they see when they log into IG.
- Like and comment on other IG users' content that you like. Favorite what you really like. Engage with them. Repeat. Repeat, etc. IG is a social media platform. Be social.
- Discount your services from time to time or announce the occasional giveaway. If you do a giveaway, one of the stipulations of your giveaway should be that they follow your account and tag others. Reward your most engaged followers with this, as well as ones who've just started following you. How much is up to you, but people love genuine, significant discounts when they're offered. Basically, this is rewarding people who consistently engage with you and encouraging others to engage with you too.
You also need to post consistently, preferably at the same time each day so the algorithm and your followers know when to expect your content. Once you do this, and over time (several weeks or months) you'll gain followers, and eventually you will have people contact you for your product or service.
How to determine if the followers you've gained are engaging with your content or are likely to work with you
So, now It has been several months or a year even, and your followers have grown. You've even featured your content on some relevant shoutout pages and attracted more views, likes, and followers. Let's say you now have 5000 followers. But let's say only 20 people seem to be liking your posts, and you only have 1 or 2 comments on a single post, if any. And let's say half of the comments on your posts are "DM pic to ___ for promotion" or a bunch of people (or more likely, bots) simply typing emojis. Well, some management needs to get underway with your account, because it should be receiving tons more likes and engagement from your followers at this point. So what should you do?
There are two programs I HIGHLY recommend to examine your followers:
- "Follower Tracker" will let you see which and how many of your followers are viewing your stories, liking your posts, and commenting. You'll also see which followers haven't done so, which indicates uninterested followers or ghost accounts.
- Social Audit Pro is a very good service, which for $10 will not only analyze your IG account and find highly suspicious or bot followers, but will also, for an additional fee, remove them as followers over time. This automatic removal feature is highly useful for accounts with a large amount of followers, and you can take a look at which ones it thinks are suspicious that it will remove ahead of time to make changes if needed.
- If you use one of these powerful tools like Follower Tracker or check your Instagram stats and find you don't have many viewers of your content, you need to advertise more. You can get out of the house and meet people and inform them about your business (often still the best method and you'll often find work by doing this also). You can also like and comment on the posts of other content creators. You can also DM other businesses or accounts you are interested in collaborating with. You can also pay to boost the reach of your own posts or content, or have your content promoted on relevant shoutout pages. And I emphasize relevant. You can also do some examining of the followers of these accounts yourself to see if they're legitimate accounts or not, and start to interact with those accounts. This is a great way to find accounts like yours you may never have known existed otherwise. Relevant shoutout (feature) pages with legitimate, vetted followers aligned with your purpose will help you grow in the right type of followers. Non-relevant shoutout pages or pages with a large number of unengaged followers or bot followers will waste your money and give you unengaged followers that you'll later just have to delete. Know the difference.
- Same if lots of people are viewing your content but are never contacting you about your product or service. There's a disconnect, and that disconnect is in how that content will benefit them. There are no two ways about it; you need to gather more information.
- If you find there are many viewers of your content, but few likers, you know people are seeing your content, but it isn't something people wish to publicly indicate their interest in, or they truly aren't interested in it. If you've followed the above information on how to optimize your profile for the right types of followers and are creating relevant content, then it simply means your content is not interesting enough for them. Despite that you may be copying what you see people doing on other accounts, it's not causing people to stay. In this case, you need to figure out how to create more exciting and/or useful content. Create polls people can respond to in your Stories to find out what viewers want to see and how you can best provide it. Ask yourself, "Based on the content I've created, why would a viewer want others to know that they like my posts or follow my feed?" You want a definite answer to that question. Because if it's not definite, the viewers are likely wondering the same thing and swiping elsewhere.
- If most people who view your content like your posts (likers), but they don't comment on your content, then you know your content is good, but not good enough, or perhaps in some cases not controversial enough, that it compels them to spend more time to say something about it. If you're reaching the right audience, you need to gather more information on what would make your content more useful and share-worthy to your likers. While you may be thinking about whether you really need people to comment on your posts or not, based on what you're posting, understand the algorithm pushes posts with consistent comments of 4 or more words each out to more people. Therefore, comments are important to growing your account, and so you should seek to generate them. But those comments can't just be from your friends, they also have to be from non-followers too. That lets the algorithm know it appeals to people outside of your friends. Generally, the content people will comment on will either create a "wow" factor for them (amazing things most people wouldn't dare to do, or giveaways) that will cause them to comment on it, or it will spark a controversial subject that they feel compelled to comment about. If you want commenters, you will need to choose whether you want to unite people or polarize people. "Wow factor" content will tend to attract people to you for your entertainment, benevolence and generosity, while controversial content will tend to attract only people who think like you, and polarize people against you who don't think like you. If you want to risk controversy, negativity and discussion, and the possibly being banned, you can post controversial content. Otherwise, go for the "wow factor" content. You make the choice. It depends on your goals.
- If most people who view your content like your posts, but they don't follow you, you haven't created a hook that makes them want to continually view your feed. They appreciate your content, but it doesn't keep them coming back for more. It hasn't personally and consistently touched their heart enough or otherwise created a reason for them to follow you. You might consider creating contests which would require them to follow you to win. You might follow accounts, and consistently engaging with their content, who have liked your posts a lot. You can find those accounts by using those social media tools like "Follower Tracker".
- If on the other hand, you have a lot of followers but few likers or commenters over a long period of time (i.e. several months) then you're in a different scenario. This will be explained in the next topic below this one, but those are inactive followers. Either you've attracted the wrong followers who aren't actually interested in your content - this can happen if your profile is not optimized as indicated previously, or you've bought followers or lots of bots have followed you. In any of these cases, your next step would be to remove those followers, as having followers who do not engage with your content over time makes your content look bad with the IG algorithm and will negatively affect your reach. Read that again. You do not want followers who don't engage with your content over time. Remove them. Likewise, if you are a follower who never engages with the content you follow, and you're not following the account as a competitor spying on another competitor (in that case that account should unfollow YOU), you should unfollow that account out of courtesy to them.
Note: I just finished doing this with my main account that had accumulated followers for over 4 years and ended up removing about 600 inactive followers. That was more than 1/3 of my followers-to-date. All of those inactive followers were negatively affecting my reach and engagement. So cleaning your followers is important!
- If you have a lot of commenters but few likers or followers (this is rare), then your content is probably controversial or causes arguments. If you consistently post content that gets a lot of commenters but not likes or followers, you first need to see about turning those commenters into followers. If you continuously post controversial content, that might be a reason for them to follow you. If so, indicate in your profile the purpose of your posts are to talk about issues and create comments and discussions. However, posting to cause arguments on highly controversial issues is trolling, and not something IG will put up with, and you may be banned if your purpose is to create fights. I honestly wouldn't blame them for banning you in that case. But anyway...
- If you have a lot of likers, commenters and the majority of those people follow you, these are the people who are most likely to support you and work with you in your business. They have taken their time to do this for you. If you're in this scenario, you are doing very good! Most accounts strive to become like this. Most accounts have a like to follower ratio of 10 to 1. Additionally, most accounts have a like to comment ratio of 10 to 1. So 1 out of ever 100 followers will normally comment on a post they like. If you're doing way better than this, you're a star! Your next task is to avidly like, comment and follow their content if you like it. Really. Go all out for them! DM them! Organize and invite them to exclusive online or offline parties with you and other active followers of yours! Give them giveaway prizes! Create sales for them! They are taking their time to focus on you and help make your feed a success and they deserve to be celebrated!
What to do with followers who are not engaging with your content over time
The normal order of a person who truly enjoys your content is this:
- They will view your content.
- They will like your content.
- They will comment on your content to communicate how much they like your content.
- They will follow you if you consistently post great content for them.
You do not want followers who never engage with your content (don't like or comment) over time. Remove them. By them doing nothing, they are presenting you negatively to the IG algorithm and fooling you and others into thinking you're more popular than you really are. They're the ones that say I want to watch you succeed or fail, but they're not helping you do so if they never engage positively with you.
Listen and memorize the below sentence:
Engagement and conversions determine success, NOT follower count. If you have 1 million followers but only 1,000 users like a post and you rarely get someone contacting you about your product or service (a very low conversion rate), you have a very ineffective account and should consider starting over. However, if you have 500 followers and 100 likes per post and people are contacting you left and right to purchase your product or service (a high conversion rate), you're doing very well and even should consider advertising your conversion model to others in the same product or service niche!
Likewise, if you are a follower who never engages with the content creators or businesses you follow, you should unfollow that account out of courtesy to them. An exception might be if you're following another account as a competitor spying on another competitor secretively. In that case, that account may notice and unfollow or restrict YOU. There are apps that will let you find accounts that have never engaged with your content over a period of time. Use them to find out who they are, and whether you like their content or not. If you do, then give their content some likes and consider follow them if you forsee doing that consistently. They may decide to like your content also. But, don't expect them to like your content, because they likely will not, because they joined you just to gain followers, not because they genuinely wanted to interact with you. Ditch them, and remind yourself each time you remove one of those followers that they didn't care enough to like or comment on your posts even once. They made you think they cared by following you, then they ghosted you. Then you'll know you're justified and not cruel in doing so. Really. I mean that. Besides, if they actually meant to like and comment consistently on your content, they'll find themselves being attracted to your content again somehow, and they can choose to follow you again. Hopefully then they'll learn to like your content. Am I passionate about this? Yeah. Okay, next subject.
How to prevent the addition of bots and "ghost" followers (or followers who don't do anything) in the first place.
Don't promote yourself with accounts whose followers aren't in alignment with your purpose, values and niche.
Don't let some FOREX account convince you to let them promote your Dance photography account if you're not wanting to receive a lot of investor spam and unaligned followers whom you'll just need to delete.
Instead, if you're a dance photographer for example, promote your account with other dance photographer accounts setup to help dancers and photographers gain reach among the dance community. Before allowing them to promote your material, take a look at their followers and see if the vast majority of them are spam/unrelated accounts or if they're legitimate.
Don't buy engagement or followers
You purchase them because you think it will help you attract more real people. It won't be organic as they try to claim it will be. You will accumulate fake, vanity followers that you've simply paid for to follow and engage with your account. But, you're fooling yourself. Fake engagement won't give you sales. Better content and hussle for what your viewers want will.
REMOVE ACCOUNTS THAT try to follow you and HAVE NO PROFILE PICTURE, very few Posts and excessive followers. Even moreso if the account has A vague profile.
There's no reason an account with 0 posts, no profile picture and vague profile info should have thousands of accounts following it, unless it's an inactive account, or it's a bot. And if it's inactive or used by a bot, then it's not a real follower. Remove that follower! Okay, okay, so I have one friend who has an account like that, but that's it. One. And "Social Audit Pro" labeled it as a highly suspicious follower, as it should, because that account has not liked or commented on my posts on IG for a long, long time.
Vette your followers.
See what accounts your "followers" follow. If they are public accounts, you can do this, and that will tell you a lot about what that account is about, if that account is even about anything at all, and it will help you make a decision on whether to accept their follow request or even whether to interact with their content or follow them back. Many accounts decide to go private during the early morning hours because that's when a lot of fake/bot followers start following people and they don't want to have to remove fake followers. You may choose to do this too.
HOW TO AVOID SCAMS
Never follow a link someone sends you that has you click on it and enter your username or password information to login. It's called phishing, and it's a fake link and a malicious scam artist trying to get your credentials to maliciously takeover and lock you out of your account. I've seen this happen to too many accounts, so guard yourself against that, and use two-factor authentication too. Demand their phone number to call them. Ask them something they should already know about you that you told them. Also avoid anyone eager to pay you upfront for something when you haven't even gathered enough information about them that you can verify. Gather information from them first. Don't offer yours. They may offer to send you a cashier's check. It's a scam where they'll play like they accidentally sent you more money than they intend to send you, using a fake (usual cashier's) check, and then you, not knowing it's a scam, have sympathy for them and pay them the difference "back" using your real money. They typically use words like "kindly send" and "advert" and aren't really in-the-know about what you offer, because they'll ask questions they should already know if they took any time to look at your information. They won't fill out any contact forms legitimately or sign any agreements with you, because it doesn't follow their script and they'd be found out. Even if an account you are friends with is posting abnormally weird stuff and contacting you, asking you to do weird things and trying to rush you into doing something, it may have been taken over. So be vigilant and report and block that account. How do I know all this? Because it has happened to me before and I learned from it.
There you have it! Now you've heard the high-level overview of how to gain and attract real engagement and turn that engagement into followers!
- Post entertaining, useful content. Try to post informative, valuable and engaging reels as much as possible.
- Market yourself on the right shoutout pages and to like-minded accounts. Interact with them and follow their content if you like it. Show them some love!
- Do surveys or polls in IG to see where people are at with your content.
- Hussle locally in-person outside of IG to grow your brand, and create a link for your viewers to sign up for your own email list so you can connect with them outside of IG and are not chained to IG's algorithm to determine if they see your content.
- Use social media follower tools like Follower Tracker or Social Audit Pro to help analyze and remove ghost followers. Remove 0 post accounts with lots of followers, and accounts who haven't engaged with your content over time.
- Vette your followers. Quality over quantity.
- Avoid common IG scammers by never clicking on suspicious links and not letting people offer to pay you a lot for your services up front without even knowing you. Trust that uneasy feeling. You can always undo blocking someone later if you find out from that person it wasn't a scam or they got their account back, but you likely won't get your money back if you were used for a scam. But you can contact the Federal Trade Commission and they may be able to help you get compensated.
If you have any comments or questions, please comment below. I am consistently working on all of these aspects with my photography accounts on IG.
Also, if you're a dancer interested in Dance Photography, or you would like your own photo session, don't hesitate to contact me at Brian Balloon Photography in Rowlett. I am a photographer with a focus on dance and portraits (though I do all types of photography) and would love have a session with you!
Brian Balloon - Owner/Photographer - Brian Balloon Photography