Alex Willkie

If someone promises you “targeted, real and organic followers”: you’re about to pay for a bad time.

What’s up everybody? @AlexWillkie here and I’m just gonna keep on rolling with the “Don’t do this shit” series.

This one is not necessarily an automation one, but it is about the whole follow-unfollow. This one’s a really heated one in the Insta community, but it’s gained a lot more resistance. It used to be very popular, like two or three years ago, when the algorithm was completely different, but now everyone’s catching on to it. Everyone’s got an app on their phone that tells them who followed them, who unfollowed them, actions people took and stuff like that. People will get those apps because if you’re vain (80% of IG users) and you don’t gain a lot of followers, you will notice when someone unfollows you and you wanna know who so you can unfollow them back and stick it to ‘em.

The thing is, you will gain followers. If you follow 20 people, I bet seven, eight maybe nine will follow you back, especially if it’s niche-targeted. The problem with this is that what usually happens is you have to understand the motivation. If someone is going to follow you organically, it’s because they like what you’re doing. When you follow somebody, the whole idea is that they’ll know you’re there. But, there are maybe one person out of 20 that would do that. One out of 20 accounts you follow will actually be liking your content and engaging. Maybe even less, I would say even like maybe 0.5 out of 20. Think about this from their perspective: if someone follows you and you kind of think they’re cool you might follow back because you’re like “Thanks, man.”

Even if they’re following you and never liked your content to start with, what are the chances that they’re going to keep engaging in your content or taking part in what you do? Very limited. I’m probably not going to look at your stories or give a shit unless you’re really eye capturing or you’re Chris Brown.

If you think about the customer experience on Instagram typically people will find you in their explore feed or tagged by a friend. Then they may like/comment on that post, and only IF they really liked it or saw a couple of your posts before will they then view your profile. You can reach 4 million unique accounts with your posts a week and only receive about 30,000 profile views. A serious drop off.

Once they view your other pieces of content they will then decide to follow you or not. BUT! You’re not in the clear yet. You need them to engage on your content otherwise Instagram won’t readily show them your new posts right away. The higher your follow amount the more important this becomes.

So if you think it’s hard to keep engagement from people who engaged with you at the start of your relationship.. how hard will it be to have people who’ve never engaged with you before to follow AND engage with you? Super hard.

Follow / Unfollow also ruins how Instagram views you. Earlier, I was talking about how to frame your account, how to be able to be identified by Instagram’s algorithm, exactly what content you have and everything like that. Following people affects that. The problem is, if you’re following a bunch of people, whether they’re in your niche or not, they’re following a bunch of people that aren’t in their niche or posting and engaging on random shit. Their purpose is not clear. So if you keep following and unfollowing these people, Instagram is going to become unclear of your purpose as well. You do not want that.

Each month Instagram adds another feature that leans on their AI to understand your behaviours, the content you engage with, the type of content you post and who would be most interested in that content. The more you confuse Instagram’s algorithm the less likely it can show you off in the explore page.

You’re going to have to be doing massive amounts of actions for it to even be slightly viable. Think about every person you follow day. That’s an action. Every person you unfollow a day is another action. At the end of the day, how many actions are you going to be taking? This leads me to my next point.

If you’re doing following and unfollowing people manually with time in between, which would take all fucking day, you’re going to be using automation to help. Doing that will restrict your reach. Instagram will have no idea how to categorize and based off your actions could decide you may be a fake account. Then they will drastically restrict your reach.

I’ve seen a lot of accounts that have up to 400,000 followers. If you have 400,000 followers and your average is 2,000 likes per post … man, your account is dead as fuck. You’re getting probably 20,000 in reach and that’s being generous. You don’t want that. That’s how that gets developed. This brings me to my final point.

It’s going to shit on your reach and your engagement. You can have 100,000 followers, but if only 20,000 people are seeing your shit, what is that going to do to your sales? What is that gonna do for your product? I always tell people to try to get 10,000 followers. 10k is the goal. Once you get to 10k you can be a bit more aggressive with your marketing. You can do swipe-up features and all that stuff. You can really start integrating the business analytics in the backend. You can start integrating Facebook ads.

So to sum up my point, the follow-unfollow method is not a good method. It’s not the way to grow your account. I don’t care if you have a local business or global empire. You’re gonna fuck up your account, the algorithm and your level of engagement. Now you’re going down a slippery slope you don’t want to go down. There are much better ways. You could follow 3,000 people and what are you going to get out of that? 300 followers? Maybe 50 that are actually engaged. Those are savage numbers that are a waste of your time. Do not do that.

There are better ways to grow organically. Niched engagement, cross-promoting between accounts, targeted Instagram ads that have context, even shoutouts for fuck sakes. To me, follow-unfollow is the lazy way and it’s what people who have zero Instagram knowledge do. If you’re a business or you’re trying to promote a product, and I, as the consumer, see that you’re following 5,000 people and only 1,000 people are following you, I’m probably not going to take you seriously.

I have personally never seen one example of an account doing follow / unfollow that is crushing it. I’ve definitely heard stories from people who claim they are doing well. People tell me “I get sales all the time from it!” But… they 100% of the time plateau in reach and start bleeding engagement. They also don’t have any kind of system in place to actually track if those sales came cold from their F / UF methods or if it’s that they got a referral from them actually doing good work.

The 2nd positive case study I’ve heard is for people who have about 20-30 Instagram accounts. These people do drop shipping and use niche specific follow/unfollow to spam people and hopefully attract sales to their website. The same person told me they get about 50-60 link clicks a week per account. From there they get about 2-5 sales per week. Cool! 

In order to do this they have to pre program each account to engage in a specific way. It’ll react to comments on posts, and when hashtags are used. Sounds super tedious. Especially when they have to do it so it avoids attention from Instagram to avoid the ban hammer.

For context, when my @beautify.basics account was at about 70,000 followers I tested a free + shipping offer. With one story post, and promoting it twice in captions/week I was able to push over 2,000+ link clicks to that website. I did every thing wrong at that stage. But I also spent less than 1 hour a day on the account and just crushed their whole operation.

I always recommend to have 1 flagship account and put your heart into it. With all the features available now: IGTV, livestreams, Stories, Highlights, tag-able products, IG Shopping, and hashtag following, you really have the opportunity to build a loyal culture online.

Stay away from Follow / Unfollow.

About Alex Willkie

INSTAGRAM MENTOR As Instagram marketing director at Unicorn Innovations, Alex helps businesses monetize their brands and command a greater online audience. A typical day for Alex includes team meetings, strategizing, posting and streaming live video. This routine must be working, because it has resulted in a crop of new success stories. As a valued social media consultant, Alex Willkie knows personally how to grow an online presence. In less than a year, Alex’s Instagram beauty account, (@beautifybasics), has grown to 5 million followers plus. His mission is to share his expertise to help other business scale their online presence. When Alex Willkie was growing up in Manitoba, Canada, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life. Having excellent role models like his grandfather and dad taught him that if you want to reap success, sometimes you have to plant a little risk. So, tired of taking orders in the traditional workplace, Alex invested his own savings toward his vision -- and it worked. Action-oriented from his workday to his competitive gaming spot, Alex gives 200%. He has learned firsthand that with a strong will and a zealous outlook, you can do the unimaginable – and help others do the same.

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