Why You Should Stop Using the Instagram Follow/Unfollow Trick Immediately

Anna Komok

Anna is the Head of Marketing and PR at HypeAuditor, the most accurate and in-depth Instagram and YouTube analytics tool on the market. She is passionate about influencer marketing and Instagram analytics.

Hundreds of articles about Instagram growth recommend using the Instagram follow/unfollow trick to increase followers. They claim that this method can easily get you about 50-100 or even more new followers a day, but they are silent about the harm that this method can cause.

So, does the Follow/Unfollow trick work on Instagram? Is it a good strategy to grow your audience? Read on to learn everything you need to know about this gray hat method for gaining new followers.

What is Mass Following and How Does the Instagram Follow/Unfollow Trick Work?

The Follow/Unfollow trick, or mass following, is commonly used by middle and micro-influencers and online shops to gain new followers and attract clients. It has very simple mechanics:

  • An influencer’s account follows you, or likes, or posts a comment on Instagram.
  • You get a notification and follow them back.
  • They unfollow you after a couple of days hoping that you won’t notice it.

Instagrammers use special third-party tools and apps for Follow/Unfollow that help them automatically follow other accounts based on specific criteria.

These criteria can depend on locations (geotags), hashtags, users who follow specific accounts, and other factors.

HypeAuditor conducted research and found out that up to 28% of influencers with less than 100,000 followers used the follow/unfollow trick to grow their follower number.

Percentage of Instagram influencers who use Follow/Unfollow by their follower number
Percentage of influencers who use Follow/Unfollow by follower number

Why Do People Follow and Unfollow on Instagram?

The Instagram Follow Unfollow method was a common way to gain new followers. It was very cheap and, in fact, effective in helping some accounts get hundreds of new followers each week and a lot of social proof quickly.

However, things have changed. Every year Instagram tightens its action limits and restricts its policy regarding the usage of automation services. The platform is getting smarter at detecting gray hat methods.

Why You Should Stop Using the Instagram Follow Unfollow Trick Immediately?

So here are 3 main reasons why should stop using the follow unfollow method right now, if you are still using it or consider doing so.

1. It is a direct violation of Instagram Terms and Conditions and Community Guidelines

The risk you take with automation is that it is against Instagram’s Terms of Service as stated here:

You must not create accounts with the Service through unauthorized means, including but not limited to, by using an automated device, script, bot, spider, crawler or scraper.

And Community Guidelines:

Help us stay spam-free by not artificially collecting likes, followers, or shares, posting repetitive comments or content, or repeatedly contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent.

Overstepping these terms may result in deleted content, disabled accounts, or other restrictions. When detected the first time, your account will usually be temporarily blocked, but in some cases, you may get a permanent ban.

2. Your credibility is at risk

Mass follow on Instagram is spam in the worst sense, and Instagrammers who use this trick manipulate users’ attention.

The Instagram Follow and Unfollow practice is very annoying for people who are using Instagram to connect and share their content. When an influencer follows you, engages with you, and then in several days or a week later unfollows you, this is irritating.

Want to detect if an influencer is using follow/unfollow on Instagram? Check their account with HypeAuditor Account Analytics reports.

What’s more, the follow/unfollow trick is easy to expose. Just check out the following graph on HypeAuditor, if you see these kinds of spikes that means that this influencer is using the mass following to gain new followers.

The Following graph in HypeAuditor of an influencer who uses automation services for follow/unfollow
The example of the Following graph in HypeAuditor if an influencer uses automation for follow/unfollow

3. Follow Unfollow on Instagram doesn’t work anymore

The follow/unfollow method is becoming an epidemic on Instagram as users are increasingly doing it. These days, over 50% of the new followers that an account gets will unfollow them automatically a day or a week later. This tactic becomes ineffective and simply a massive annoyance.

Using the follow/unfollow Instagram trick you can grow your Instagram followers, but you’re definitely not growing your engaged audience. A lot of the followers you’ve gained with this method won’t engage in your content if they were brought here by manipulation. And would you want ghost followers who won’t respond to any of your posts?

According to our internal research, accounts that practice the follow/unfollow method have on average 23.77% of followers who don’t see their posts. In comparison, accounts that don’t use mass following have only 12.25% of ghost followers.

The more passive users you have, the increasingly lower reach you have. Instagram tends to show users posts that people like and comment on more often than posts with a fewer number of likes and comments. If most of your audience is not engaged, the Instagram algorithm considers that your account is not interesting to the audience anymore, and so it drops your reach.

Most Instagram users and even influencers themselves feel negative about mass following.

“Follow/unfollow isn’t a successful strategy for growing your audience heading into 2019. Users now recognize when this is happening and often feel annoyed if they follow someone & realize they’ve been unfollowed. Instagram has also caught on and there is a risk of being penalized (not having your content shown to your audience) for suspicious activity when using a follow/unfollow method.” said Sara Mils @saraontheinternet, a popular blogger from Loss Angeles.

UPDATE: Since the 5th of June 2019, Instagram began to massively action block accounts that use third-party apps for automatic following and unfollowing.

This unannounced Instagram update has rapidly changed the whole industry of Instagram automation. Experts say that Instagram could have changed its limits for actions from one IP. This made follow/unfollow activity more expensive and less effective. According to our research, the number of influencers who use follow/unfollow has declined by almost 84 percent.  

The number of influencers who use follow/unfollow has declined 

Instagram has started its war with inauthentic activity and its first steps are very promising.

How to Detect Influencers Who Use Follow/Unfollow?

It’s not difficult to spot accounts that are using the follow/unfollow method on Instagram. The main red flag is that their follower count is much higher than their following count and usually starts from 1,500 followings and over.

As we said before, you can check if their accounts have sudden spikes in the following number using the following graph in HypeAuditor.

How to Protect Your Account from Mass Followers?

Users who follow you via a tool for an automatic follow/unfollow are not engaged in your content. A bunch of mass followers among your audience affects your engagement rate, audience quality, and reach.

There are two types of users who utilize this method:

  1. Bots. People pay for bots to auto-comment, like or follow others with the intention of getting as many followers as they can.
  2. People who want to grow their Instagram account fast.

To protect your Instagram account from these low-quality users use these tips:

1. Be careful with hashtags

As we said earlier, accounts that use the mass following with the help of third-party applications apply different filters, and the most popular filter is hashtags.

For instance, influencers who post about beauty and fashion would use popular hashtags in this niche: #beauty, #fashion, #style, and related hashtags. Each of these hashtags has over a million posts on Instagram and hundreds of thousands of accounts that use them. That’s why mass followers utilize them extensively.

If you want to protect your account from users who practice follow/unfollow, use narrow hashtags that are specific to your niche.

People don’t search for new posts or interesting accounts with broad hashtags like #sun, #happy, #summer, and so on. They use more specific tags like #styleideas, #bedroomdesign, and #gardeningtips.

2. Focus on the quality, not the quantity of followers

Сonstantly clean your followers. If your follower count is less than 10,000 you can do it manually. Simply check new followers, if they have above 1500 followings and their content is not relevant to you, just block them.

To check your progress, we suggest looking at the Audience Type section in the HypeAuditor report. The number of mass followers should decrease.

Audience Type example in the HypeAuditor Account Analytics report
Audience Type example in the HypeAuditor Account Analytics report

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that all artificial methods for boosting Instagram growth are damaging your credibility, reputation, and reach. The Follow/Unfollow method is not good in the long run and even if today it brings you some new followers, tomorrow it can prevent you from getting a contract with a well-known brand.

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