Why Do Folks Follow / Unfollow on Instagram?

Lately I’ve seen tweet after tweet about why folks Follow / Unfollow on Instagram and other various social media accounts so I thought I would chuck in my two cents.  Last year, a blogger that I respect mentioned in a conversation about how she thought there were smoking mirrors around another bloggers social media following…it wasn’t a bitching session, just a conversation we were having and it got my financial brain working (I’m a trained accountant you see)…can you really fudge your blog stats and social media numbers?!?


^^Sorry about my lack of flat lay skills…I have no peonies or hydrangeas to add!

I’m going to focus on instagram today…I think it’s fair to say that I know a tad too much about Instagram now.  As always I’m going to be brutally honest in the post about the things I’ve done to “grow” my account…I’ve read ebooks (free and paid ones…I regret paying for them so just read this post and I will share everything with you for free!), paid for shout outs (take these accounts with a giant pinch of salt folks!) and using a bot (against the T&C’s of Instagram).  I’m fascinated by why people do this, how they do it, what happened along the way and what the final outcome is!

As I said I am going to be very honest; I will never use my account to sell anything (you won’t see a watch photo pop up in my feed…seriously how tacky are those photos…I digress), this exercise has cost me money.  I didn’t grow my account to make money from it, I just wanted to get an understanding about Instagram overall and the bollocks around it.

Why are people Following / Unfollowing on Instagram?

This is the main question that needs to be answered and I don’t think there is a definitive answer really.  I see bloggers and non-bloggers using this method to gain followers.

From the blogger point of view, I think there is a social media pressure to have a large account to attract brands / PR companies. Sadly, organic growth takes time and for part time bloggers (and even full time bloggers), that’s something that we don’t really have so the easy option is to follow and unfollow on instagram to grow those numbers darn fast to meet the needs of grabbing a campaign, earning $15k per instagram photo (do we even know if this is true?!?) or to make your name in the industry.

Overall, I think as a society we now see bigger as better (I blame the Kardashians for this!…I actually blame them for everything wrong in this world)…unfortunately the concept of quality over quantity is currently out of fashion…tacky is in, classy is out.

Why are people noticing it more now?

This is easy…folks have clocked onto Bots…yes Bots!  They’ve been around for a few years but this year they have become HUGE and they are wrecking your viewing pleasure on instagram.

So what is a Bot?

A Bot is a little robot that goes into Instagram when you’re sleeping or working and likes, comments and follows and unfollows on your behalf.  I used Instagress for this purpose; you can get a free trial for a few days and then you have to pay for the service.

I learnt about Instagress in a paid ebook…seriously…this was their big thing on how to grow your account…it’s just against the terms and conditions on instagram so your account could get deleted if they find out (is it worth the risk?).  If you are going to use a bot then make sure it’s on slow or medium speed…as a fast Bot will get you deleted (that piece of advice cost me $49…free to you folks, free to you!).

There are a few Instagram bot services available now but I just worked with Instagress as it was easy for a non-techie like me.

How can I spot who is using a Bot?

I love it when bloggers state that they’ve grown their instagram following organically…*coughs* bullshit!  When G and I were in Hong Kong and Malaysia last year, it was an eye opener to see who was using a Bot, I was shocked (they were asleep in Europe and we were wide awake in Asia!).  You say you grew your instagram account organically…I say that my arse is a size zero!

How to spot the bot users – check out the little heart tab on instagram and then click over from “YOU’ to “FOLLOWING” and wait to be amazed….the ones with the bots will be liking random photos or you will see an instagram account followed with the words – “started following x, x, x, x, x and 13 others”; they could be doing this all themselves however I doubt it….keep scrolling and you will see the same instagram account pop up numerous times then you definitely know that they have a bot working on their account.

I used to love this “Following” tab as I used to find new accounts to follow that other instagrammers were interacting with…unfortunately the Bots have killed this off now.

Using Comments function on the Bot, should I do it?

No, no, no, no, no!!  I posted a photo about depression on instagram a while ago…I’ve deleted quite a few of the comments that were obviously automated…like great photo…wow…good job!  Yes you can f**k off with your automated comments.  If you don’t have time to leave a relevant comment then just don’t leave a comment at all…don’t let a bot drop comments all over instagram…you could leave a rather thoughtless comment on a photo of someone asking for help.

Is there a website that will show me who is following and unfollowing on Instagram?

I’d heard some chatter on twitter about a website where you can see how folks on instagram are growing their social media skills as it clearly showed their daily growth…obviously I wasn’t at my ninja best on google the night I went searching but with some help from another blogger I can now share the website – it’s called Social Blade…you will fall down a rabbit hole and lose a few hours of your life by snooping on your favourite instagram accounts.


^^You can see how many new followers I gained each day through with my following actions in the Followers column, some of these could be organic as I do gain followers when I post new photos during the day.  I had a bot running on my account as you can see my follow and unfollow action in the Following column….told you I was going to be bloody honest in this post!

Is it easy to Follow / Unfollow on Instagram using Bots?

Yes, you can do it your sleep – you just switch it over between follow and unfollow via the website.

How do you target users?

You can target which instagram users to follow by either the hashtags that they’re using (tag your photos with #travel and you will get a number of likes!) or by followers of another account (basically you’re cloning the account of someone else and their followers).

Did I grow my following using an Instagram Bot?

Yes I have grown my following (I’ve currently got 13,000 followers, so maybe by 2-3000 followers) and are now getting more likes on each photo but I would assume this would have happened over time if I had grown my account organically anyway plus potentially with the new way Instagram is working behind the scenes.

What happens when you Unfollow Instagram Users?

I’m really not a fan of this whole Follow / Unfollow business, it’s just all so tacky.  I do apologise to the people that I have follow / unfollowed when I’ve done this social media experiment.  I’ve had various experiences and comments all via DM which have included the following –

1/ I was asked if I didn’t like their content or had they done something wrong…I wanted to write back, it’s me not you but felt extremely embarrassed to do so.

2/ The guy that sent me a DM saying; Unfollow for Unfollow – I really wanted to send him back a message saying that I was doing a social media experiment but am sure he would have laughed so much at my lame excuse and fallen off his large rock in Derbyshire that he seems to be always climbing.

3/ Thanks for the follow, would you like to buy my products…yeah bugger off!

For the bloggers: Did I get more traffic to my blog from having more followers on Instagram?

In all honesty, I may have got a few extra hits from instagram but nothing like the thousands that I think bloggers are expecting by using the follow / unfollowing method.

Overall is a Bot worth it?

It’s against the T&C’s of Instagram so no however they are getting used by bloggers and companies alike at the moment!  I know people think that there is nothing wrong with the follow / unfollow actions and I do kind of get what they’re saying…they aren’t doing any harm and the person on the receiving end can unfollow them at any time themselves if they want but it all just seems a bit like Mean Girls to me.

Are Instagram missing out in some big bucks?

While there is advertising on instagram, I do believe that they are missing out on a rather big trick here with these bots…affordable advertising like Facebook is obviously required to promote instagram accounts.

So what other tricks are there to promote your Instagram account to grow your followers rather than Bots?

Shout Outs Be very careful about paying for shout outs due to “Smoking Mirrors”.  I’ve used a few accounts and have gained a few new followers but nothing like I was expecting, maybe 10-20 new followers each time a photo was posted on a different account.

One of the accounts that I used for a shout out was looking at buying a new instagram account (don’t ask…yes people are buying instagram accounts with followers!) so they used my photo to promote their account and mine…the account had over 1 million followers and was getting over 10,000 likes per photo…when they promoted my photo I got zilch new followers…yes nothing, 0, nada!!!  Smoking Mirrors…hello buying followers and likes…busted, needless to say he didn’t buy the account!

A nice blogger featured me on her instagram account one Friday and I got 10 new followers…she only had 700 followers!

Don’t always believe the hype around shout outs on instagram and large numbers don’t always guarantee engagement on instagram.

Hashtags – using hashtags correctly will get your photos likes; folks using bots may be targeting accounts using hashtags to like photos in the hope you will follow them once they’ve liked your photo.  If I use the hashtag #travel then I see my likes increase, I’ve really noticed this a lot over the past few months…probably due to the bots working in overdrive.

A few of my photos have been featured (free of charge) by some rather big official tourism accounts on instagram; how – just by using their hashtag that they’ve got listed in their profile…they’ve featured my photos and boom, I ended up with hundreds of new and free followers that love to interact…these followers are like gold dust!

Quality Photos – This is a no brainer folks…only post clear, good quality photos…unless they are meant to be artistic, don’t post blurry photos and then expect likes!  Consistently great photos will get you followers over time organically…slowly but surely…for some it will happen really quickly especially if they have a ‘niche’.

Timings of Photos – apparently you can see when people are most active on your account (I looked but I hated the style of graph they were using…urghhh…my financially brain couldn’t cope!) however due to the instagram changes, I don’t think this really matters anymore…it annoys me that I see breakfast photos at dinner time…instagram please sort this crap out and fast!

I’ve read that you should post 1 – 3 photos per day and once you’ve picked your timings, never change them as your followers expect you to post that often EVERY day…my advice, do want you bloody well want and when!  I get more interaction if I post around 9-10pm UK time…however I once had a photo receive over 300 likes in 10 minutes on a Saturday morning…it really does depend who is online when you post.

It’s okay to skip a few days if life is just too busy…not posting on instagram for a few days isn’t going to mean that the world is going to end…trust me!  You are allowed to take a holiday from social media!

Photo Descriptions – I’m going to put my hand up and say that I used to drop a description against my photo, post then run…now I treat instagram as a mini version of my blog…I add something that I’ve thought about during the day, the weather (how English of me!), a highlight or a low point…strangely people actually converse and I do believe they connect with you via that description and I get more interaction…be yourself and the folks will flock to you!

Instagram Pods – I only heard about these this morning so don’t know much about them however they are there to help promote engagement on your posts.


I’m not sure if this post has answered any questions about why people follow / unfollow on instagram but at least you can spot them easily now (and you can decide to keep following them or unfollow them if you don’t like they way they’ve *coughs* “organically” grown their account!)…unfortunately I think it’s just the day and age we currently live in…numbers matter…bigger is better apparently.

Why did I decide to do this on instagram…I’m annoyed by how many people think this is the right way to grow their “organic” account…one day my instagram account will bloom the old fashioned way (and I’m happy to wait!), by taking good photos and chatting away with random people on this crazy thing that we call “social” media!


Better run…the unicorns need their gin ration for the day!


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  1. October 3, 2016 / 10:22 PM

    Interesting experiment! A blogger friend and I recently caught out a blogger for clearly buying followers or using bots etc – she boasted about reaching 50K then the next month had fallen to 15K… it’s so sad that people feel the need to do this! Sadly I think there are a lot more people out there who aren’t being completely honest about their following and are hoping that they won’t get caught out…
    I love instagram and am very selective about the people I follow etc and will continue to do so even if people carry on with these shady tactics. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to reach 1K soon, let alone aiming for 10K!
    Connie recently posted…Duck and Rice, SohoMy Profile

  2. October 3, 2016 / 11:02 PM

    This was such an interesting post, thank you so much for posting it. I love all the research you did into making this – alas, my Instagram will slowly struggle on by itself!

  3. October 4, 2016 / 7:29 AM

    Best post this week that I have seen, I don’t even look at some people’s photos and blogs anymore for all of these reasons… posting at funny times of day and night has been an eye opener ;)

  4. October 4, 2016 / 2:36 PM

    I’ve been trying to grow my (long neglected) Instagram lately and reading all sorts about strategies to do it. Everyone says ‘post great content’ but you see some amazing accounts with 500 followers and some awful ones with 50k so it’s not all about the quality of your photos. Apparently follow/unfollow does actually work at growing numbers (if that’s all you care about) but it’s one of those things which always make me a feel a bit dirty (and immensely annoys me when people do it to me – I just unfollow them back so it’s a waste of time all round!). I shall stick to slowly slowly!
    Lucy recently posted…September 2016 On the LuceMy Profile

  5. October 4, 2016 / 6:36 PM

    I love this post! When I found out you could buy followers on social media I was simply astonished. I wondered why anyone do that? I have my suspicions about a few accounts and I’ll be checking that link later….But I guess in answer to the question about why do it, if you’re happy in your career, earn enough to pay to do all the things you want to do (without needing/seeking out freebies) then there’s little financial incentive to buy followers. I guess in some sectors (probably fashion & beauty in particular) numbers really do matter so I can see why people do it. I’d be interested to hear what people in PR agencies think about this. For the sake of integrity, I hope the PR agencies engaging with bloggers/IGers use this sort of tool to weed out those who’ve bought followers.
    Sian recently posted…Gluten Free Travel: Changes to In-Flight Catering on British AirwaysMy Profile

  6. October 5, 2016 / 12:50 AM

    I’m so glad you wrote this post, because over the last few weeks I’ve really started noticing it, too!! I thought maybe it was just me noticing the increase! I think that if you’re buying followers, you’re probably social media-ing for the wrong reasons…
    jess @ ordinarygirlextraordinarydreamer.com recently posted…Through my eyes: The Yellow City of Hoi AnMy Profile

  7. October 6, 2016 / 9:26 AM

    This is so interesting. I had no idea that there was a bot who’d beetle around and do all this for you! Very dodgy. I know that some people buy likes and followers in the hopes of getting instagram famous and then get sponsorship deals, but I just think, how sad! Your bought followers aren’t actually interested in what you’re posting, and as soon as you unfollow them they’ll unfollow you back. I’m also certain that PRs will begin to wise up to this (if they haven’t already) and folks with bought followers won’t get the outcome they were hoping for.

    I notice that on your average monthly figures, you’re only up net 30 followers (per day?) after doing all that follow/unfollow work. Seems like a lot of fuss for folks that are just trying to game the system, too. It is all very Mean Girls! Thanks for the eye opener. I’m happy with my exclusive following, no bot nonsense for me!
    Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad recently posted…Our 30th birthday dinner: Pie in the Sky, Skydeck ChicagoMy Profile

  8. October 6, 2016 / 8:52 PM

    Wow, I really had no idea about any of this. What a crazy world we live in!! Thanks for sharing all of these insights :)

  9. October 8, 2016 / 8:10 AM

    Fascinating stuff. Kind of makes feel less of a failure when it comes to instagram and indeed other social media’s, life keeps getting in the way……or is it the other way round? Thanks 😄
    Rebecca recently posted…Delicious Stuffing ReviewMy Profile

    • October 9, 2016 / 10:38 AM

      It’s so sad that people think this is the right way to grow a social media account Rebecca…and you are not a failure by doing it the right way!

  10. October 8, 2016 / 2:19 PM

    Kelly, thanks a lot for sharing your insight and experiment results on this. I agree that the pressure from the brands is huge and that nowadays quantity seems to win over quality. This is sad because it makes bloggers obsessed with numbers (guilty of this myself) and forget about why we started blogging in the first place – love of writing and desire to just share our experiences. I also find this whole follow/unfollow game ridiculous. There have been so many times when I got messages saying “I followed you, now follow me back” and then frustrated follow-up texts in the line of “You didn’t follow back so I am unfollowing.” Pretty annoying to say the least.

    • October 9, 2016 / 10:40 AM

      I think as bloggers we do become obsessed with numbers (and I was guilty once but not anymore!) however quantity doesn’t mean quality especially if your bot is only choosing folks to follow that aren’t very active on instagram…whats the point really! Most of the people that have followed me this weekend will unfollow me as I can tell from their following numbers thats what they’re doing. I hate those comments Nano, they drive me bonkers! It’s got all very annoying lately! xx

  11. October 10, 2016 / 1:10 PM

    This drives me insane! I use a lot of the hashtags that are targeted by bots (in parenting and travel) and it is really sacking my enjoyment out of instagram. I’ve started to block those account now that are doing follow/unfollow game. I hope that will help…

    Btw, shared on twitter!

  12. October 11, 2016 / 12:06 PM

    Really interesting post. I’ve been talking to other bloggers about this in various FB groups a lot recently. It seems rather silly to try to play people when most have Crowdfire or other similar tracking tool. Before long the follow/unfollow tactic just won’t work anymore. Everything has its day and people get wise to games. Hearing your very honest thoughts on it confirmed what I already thought, but I hadn’t realised exactly how bots worked. I’d much rather have a smaller but more engaged following and I think brands are starting to realise that makes sense too.


  13. Howard
    October 25, 2016 / 1:45 PM

    Sometimes there are no reasons. If your Instagram following is really important for you then use services like zen-promo.com . It will help you to build it, get followers, unfollow unfollowers. It is simple enough.

    • October 25, 2016 / 8:18 PM

      I think you’ve missed the point of the post Howard! I know what services to use, it’s more a case that the followers aren’t authentic and we’ve become obsessed with numbers! Thanks for the comment

  14. December 22, 2016 / 10:45 PM

    It’s crazy how perfectly timed this post is. I was recently approached by one of these ‘bots’ and, in all honesty, was considering giving their 10 day free trial a go (little did I know it was against Instagram’s policies). I’d been mulling over the decision to start the trail for a while but each time I thought about it I felt really uncomfortable; the whole process just isn’t genuine. After reading your post I’ve decided it’s definitely not for me and I’m happy with my small Instagram following and I’ll stick to growing it slowly (very slowly).

    Instagram needs a ‘new year, old me’ overhaul in 2017. It needs to clean up these kinds of schemes and go back to it’s old algorithm which people have been begging them to do since it changed.

    • December 29, 2016 / 4:03 PM

      Lucie I am totally with you with the “new year, old me” overhaul in 2017 – let’s hope they are going to do something as it’s just super pants at the moment and the engagement factor is appalling as you can’t grow unless you use bots!
      I look at accounts with 120k followers and see they have only posted 300 photos and think to myself hmmm you used bots didn’t you and feel like they’ve lied to me.
      Everyone things they can get rich on instagram hence why everyone has become obsessed with bots xx

  15. January 22, 2017 / 1:01 AM

    Actually, I think if it’s done correctly, instagram bots can be useful engagement tools. E.g if you set the bot to like similar posts to yours you will find your engagement goes through the roof! But things like spamming comments are just obnoxious.

    • January 22, 2017 / 11:18 AM

      I’m sure they can however it’s against the terms and conditions of instagram. If Instagram wanted us to use bots then they would be marketing this themselves. Personally I think Instagram is dead until they start sorting out the bots x

  16. April 21, 2017 / 2:12 AM

    Ok I’ve literally just read this!!! So good and I’ve been having major issues with the whole unfollowing thing that I actually dm someone the other day because I was so sick of it (and he was a kiwi)!!! He followed me one day, asked me to join a travel blogger Facebook group, unfollowed me the next day and then the next day posted in the fb group for everyone to put their insta names so he could follow them. So I laid into him on the fb comment section shaming him and then private messaged him. He said his bot was doing it and how can I expect him to follow thousands of people on insta. I left the group and blocked him. I’m so so so sick of! I just want people to follow me if they like my photos and not bother otherwise, it’s exhausting! Phew, rant over but glad I’m not the only one feeling annoyed by this situation.
    Sara recently posted…Kruger National Park – The Good and the BadMy Profile

    • April 21, 2017 / 8:59 AM

      Bloody kiwis hehe but I totally understand what you mean. Like anything Sara, if you are going to use a bot then work out how the thing works as there is a function that only follows each person once to avoid issues like the one you had. I have had a similar experience with a luxury travel blogger that followed me 4 times in one week on twitter so I blocked her on every social media app as she annoyed the hell out of me…what annoys me the most now are the bloggers that say they’ve grown their following organically but I’ve been watching them for the past few years and nothing was organic…if they lie about that then why would I trust them as a reviewer! Honestly blogging has just become a huge con!! Xx

      • April 23, 2017 / 1:51 AM

        It’s probably the same one who I blocked for that very reason…. haha!