Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about how I gained 1.1k Instagram followers in a month. But since then… *crickets*.
I’ve had people ask me what happened. How I was able to get that many followers in just 1 month but then it was like my account fell off the face of the earth. Since I shared that blog post, I’ve gained probably 2,000+ followers on Instagram, but only 200 of them stuck.
I don’t think it’s because my content stinks. Or that I talk too much on Instagram stories.
I honestly think it’s because so many people think the follow-unfollow rule is the only way to gain followers.
If you’re on Instagram, then you know what it’s like to have random accounts follow you and if you look at their profile they are following over 3,000 people. It’s normal!
Honestly, I’m at a solid point in my Instagram relationship where I don’t care when this happens anymore.
I know that my followers are going to spike when I share a new post with 20+ hashtags. I know that my followers are going to increase when I decide to follow a new account.
And I don’t get upset when I look at my account a day later and of the 7 new people that followed me, somehow 9 of them unfollowed me.
You see, I get it.
Because I’ve used this strategy.
You know when I started on Instagram, I told myself that I was never going to us the follow-unfollow rule. I told myself that I could gain followers without it.
But then after I worked my booty off to gain those 1.1k followers that I gained in 1 month, I knew there had to be a better way to gain Instagram followers.
In case you haven’t read that blog post, I spent several hours a day on Instagram. I would go through hashtags, like 10 photos, comment on a couple, and keep going until Instagram blocked me.
Then I would wait an hour and do the same thing.
To say the least, it was draining. And a giant waste of my time. So after that month, I tried out the follow-unfollow rule.
I followed at least 50 new accounts a day and then a couple days later I would unfollow all the people that didn’t follow me back.
And what I noticed is that my account did grow fast! I was seeing a real return on my investment you could say.
But after a while, I got sick of this strategy. It was still a lot of work and I felt kinda shady.
Plus I didn’t like the pictures I was seeing on my Instagram feed. They weren’t of people that I actually cared about. So I decided to stop and I unfollowed 500+ people.
And you want to know what happened?
I lost about 300 followers in a day.
After my experience with the follow-unfollow rule, I told myself that I would NEVER do it again.
And here’s why.
With the follow-unfollow rule, you can get a lot of new followers but what you don’t get is a lot of followers that actually care about you.
You either get people that are just following you blindly. Or you get people that are following you because you are following them. And the second you unfollow them, they will leave because they really aren’t interested in you… they were interested in the number.
PLUS you look mega shady.
You put off an image that you don’t care about other people you just want them to follow you.
And in my mind, if you are trying to create a credible brand for yourself, this isn’t the strategy that you want to use.
When I started on Instagram, I had 0 followers. I created my account from scratch and I didn’t tell anyone I knew about it.
So gaining new followers was a serious struggle. And every morning I would wake up to check how many followers I had. And if I had fewer followers than the day before, I would get upset.
My mood was dependent on how many Instagram followers I had.
But now I have a much different mindset.
You see, a lot of people just want followers. They just want the number. But that’s not really going to help push you forward in the online world.
It’s incredibly more important to have the right followers rather than all the followers.
With an engaged following, you are more likely to build up credibility around your name and your brand resulting in more engaged followers later on. And you’re more likely to get brand deals and sponsored posts because your followers are more likely to actually act on what you say. And that’s what the brands look for!
Engagement rate is huge. And if you don’t have followers that want to engage with your content, then you have a larger problem.
NOTE: I talk more about this in my ebook, The Blog Hustler. I actually have a whole chapter titled The Chase For More Followers and another chapter about how to gain Instagram followers without using the follow-unfollow rule. Find out more information.
If you’re coming from my Instagram fam, leave a shout out in the comments section.
Today, my Instagram strategy is much different from where I started. For the past 6+ months or so, I’ve practically given up on trying to grow my Instagram account. Because I think it’s a waste of my time.
Here’s the big thing, Instagram isn’t that great at driving traffic to your website.
I encourage you to take a look at your Google Analytics and check to see where your pageviews are coming from.
For me, most of my traffic comes from Pinterest and Google. Less than 5% of my traffic comes from Instagram. And 5% is being generous!
So why would I waste my time trying to grow my audience on Instagram when there is no real return on my investment there?
Now I use my Instagram account as a place to connect with my audience and provide you with more behind the scenes content that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. I also share more of my quick thoughts and advice that isn’t worthy of a whole blog post in my mind.
I’m not writing this blog post to tell you that I’m calling it quits on Instagram. And I’m not saying that Instagram isn’t worth the investment because it 100% is!
I love Instagram because of the connection I get with my audience. I don’t get that connection on any other platform.
I have followers who are genuinely excited to see my Instagram stories and comment on my Instagram posts. I have followers who ask me questions and give me feedback on what content to create next.
And of course, I have some followers who go from Instagram to my website. But it’s a rare few.
So I’d rather focus on the engagement side of Instagram to make a real connection with my audience so they keep coming back for me.
These days, I’m all about Instagram stories.
I use them on a daily basis to keep my followers updated with what I’m working on, what’s coming next to TCB, and to provide tips on things like blogging, social media, making money online, website design, SEO, motivation, entrepreneurship, time management, and so much more.
I mean, Instagram stories are kinda like my brain dump. It’s where I share every silly thing inside my head that I think my audience would like to know.
But the best part about Instagram stories is that they only last for 24 hours.
Some of the stuff I share on Instagram stories I feel like isn’t worthy of a blog post or an Instagram post. But I still want my audience to hear it. So I turn to Instagram stories.
I honestly believe that Instagram stories are the secret sauce to creating real engagement on Instagram.
It’s worked wonders for me and I know it can work wonders for you too.
I debated calling this tip “share content your audience wants to see” or “share content that’s worthy of sharing”.
Several months ago, I got a DM on Instagram asking for my help. This person wanted to grow their Instagram account and they said they were sharing posts they thought their audience would like but yet their account wasn’t growing.
And the problem with this is that they were just sharing photos that had no purpose.
They thought that if they posted selfies and full-body (dare I say sexy) shots, then they would gain followers.
It breaks my heart to think that this is what some people believe they have to do to grow their Instagram audience. But it happens all the time! I was even one of those people that thought if I posed in a certain way I would get more likes.
But simply sharing these photos with a silly quote as a caption isn’t doing anything for you or your audience.
My favorite Instagramers to follow are food and wellness Instagramers because they know how to use the platform!
They share photos to include recipes, workouts, or their thoughts on a certain topic. Rarely ever do I see these people just sharing a cute image of themselves with a small caption. Instead, they put real time and energy into creating Instagram blog posts.
If you want to improve your engagement on Instagram, then I recommend creating posts that are worthy of sharing. Put some time and thought into it and your hard work will pay off.
I’m probably not the best one to be giving you advice on this subject because I have a set Instagram content calendar and I rarely ever stick to it.
But I’m recommitting to it in May!
It’s no secret that Instagram rewards people that are on the platform more. The more you are on the platform, the more you are posting, the more you engage with other people’s content, the more likely you are going to appear for others on Instagram.
So if you are posting photos once every blue moon, then you can’t really expect to get quality engagement on the platform.
If you aren’t trying to grow your followers like crazy, then you don’t have to post once a day. But you should be posting at least 3 times a week. And when you have a schedule you like, stick to it! People like routine. So if you post every Wednesday afternoon, don’t disappoint.
The one area of this that I’m really good at is Instagram stories.
I’m active every single week day on Instagram stories. It’s rare that you get a day where I’m not talking on Instagram stories.
What I hate to see is when people post 10+ videos to Instagram stories one day and then they don’t share anything on stories until 2 weeks later.
You can’t expect your audience to show up if you don’t even show up.
So just like sharing Instagram posts, you need to stick to a routine when it comes to Instagram stories.
Now you’re probably wondering how this strategy actually works for me.
I mean since I’m not focused on gaining followers, what is this strategy really doing for me anyway?!
And to answer your question honestly, it’s doing so much good for me.
I’m no longer obsessed with checking my numbers, I’m not dependent on having more followers at the end of the day, and my relationship with Instagram is much healthier.
When it comes to my engagement, I have around 1,750 followers and 6 out of the last 9 photos I shared have over 10 comments. And one of them even has 17 comments.
My Instagram stories are viewed by over 50 people every single day. And my audience sends me DMs on a daily basis.
Although I’m not focused on growing my audience, I honestly believe that they mindset will start bringing in more followers over the next year. As of right now, I’m darn happy with where I’m at.
So if you’re at a point where you aren’t noticing any real return on your investment with Instagram, I would encourage you to take a step back.
Instagram isn’t a search engine. It’s not made to drive traffic to your site. It’s a social media platform, it’s designed to help you be social.
So start taking the time to be social with your audience and just let it be.
You’re supposed to be exactly where you are right now. The success you’ve been hoping for will come in time.
Earlier in this post, I talked about how I purged who I was following on Instagram and I unfollowed 500+ people.
But that wasn’t the only time I purged my Instagram.
Just last month I decided to unfollow about 600 more people. And my goal was to get the number of people I was following down to around 100 or so. As of the day I’m writing this (April 22nd), I’m only following 127 people.
Now you’re probably wondering why I decided to do the second purge of people. And when I posted about it on my Instagram, I had one of my followers describe the situation perfectly:
I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with Instagram. When I wasn’t obsessed with the number of followers I had, I was obsessed with checking it every hour to see what people had posted. Talk about major #fomo.
It got to the point where Alex had to say something to me. There would be days where I would be scrolling through Instagram while he was talking and I completely ignored him. It was that bad.
So I decided to remove myself from my personal Instagram and only use my TCB account. Now it’s been a year since I stopped using my personal account.
But again, some days I notice that I want to scroll on Instagram just to waste time. And I was letting people influence me that I didn’t really even care about.
There are a solid 10 people on Instagram that I want to see what they are doing every day. I feel inspired by their work and I like to support them. So why was I following people I didn’t want to follow?! It just didn’t make any sense to me.
So I unfollowed 600+ people and now I get on Instagram and honestly love the content I see.
I can actually get through my feed in less than a minute and get off Instagram because I’m all caught it.
It’s the best feeling in the world and I feel like my relationship with Instagram is healthier than ever.
So if you’re thinking about doing a purge, I highly recommend it. It’s like a breath of fresh air.
How are you currently using Instagram? Have you noticed any real return on your hard work spent on Instagram?
If you’ve got a different mindset from me (or even the same), I wanna know!
What are some of the best Instagram tips you have when it comes to growing and engaging with your audience on Instagram?!
Help out some of the other members of the TCB community by sharing your thoughts in the comments section down below.
And if you are a member of my Instagram fam, don’t forget to give a little shoutout.
Not following me on Instagram yet? What are you waiting for?! I share exclusive content (almost) every single day.
Cathrin (Cath) creates content that encourages bloggers & online entrepreneurs to be themselves, chase their passion, and create their success online. 1 year after started her blog (TheContentBug.com), Cath left her full-time position working in the digital marketing industry to pursue her dreams of being her own boss. In weekly blog posts, sporadic YouTube videos, and constant talking on Instagram stories, Cath hopes to spread her story and be an inspiration to others who desperately want to change their lives.