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To follow or not to follow?

It can be tough to decide how best to grow your brand on Instagram, and the questions seem endless. Do you want to follow any and everyone you can possibly find whether they are interested in your industry or not? Is there a good timeframe to stay following someone before you can unfollow? Do you want to follow back all of those who choose to support your brand by following you?

There’s no single answer to any of these questions, as it really depends on your brand’s personality, your brand habits, and the goals of your social media presence. But in general, sticking to your brand means staying authentic, so here are some ideas to help you navigate the world of growing your brand community through Instagram follows.

The Follow/Unfollow Method

If you’ve ever wondered why some random influencer with 17.5k followers has suddenly followed you at 3 a.m. and has unfollowed you by mid-afternoon the next day, you’ve been on the receiving end of the follow/unfollow method. The method—which involves following users by finding them through a hashtag search, by rooting through industry peers’ followers, or other more questionable methods, waiting awhile, and then unfollowing—is employed with the goal of gaining more followers.

Normally, the success rate with the follow/unfollow method is about 20%, as far as gaining follow-backs, but the research can’t tell how many of those followers are hyper-engaged and how many are simply an extra number to add to your followers count. Both types of followers, of course, have their advantages.

If you really want to gain followers en masse, this might be a route to help you do so, but remember to keep in mind what kind of brand community you want to grow, and try to use the method on followers who would truly add to your brand community—are they fans of your industry, do you anticipate them engaging with and sharing your content, will they buy your product? Making sure to search highly relevant hashtags, and following those who follow your competitors or industry peers will help you reach out to users most likely to be interested in your brand.

If you choose to pursue the follow/unfollow method, make sure you wait 4 to 5 days to unfollow someone. Research demonstrates that folks will notice an unfollow that happens within 3 days, so don’t let impatience set you up for failure.

Choosing To Follow Back

If you’re followed by a fan, an industry peer, or an influencer, you might wonder if you should follow them back. If they are a great fit for your brand—they’re a big fan who shares industry-related content on their own page, they’re a competitor or other industry peer you might want to keep up with, or they’re an influencer with a passion for your product and industry who might be a future collaborator—go ahead and follow them back!

If you’re not interested in their content and you don’t anticipate engaging on their page, it’s okay to think twice about following back. You want to make sure you’re focussing your time and energy on users who are going to help grow your influence and brand community, so it’s important to save space on your follow list for influencers you do hope to collaborate with, and fans who will become brand ambassadors, officially or unofficially.

Of course, if you’re a small-business with a tight-knit community feel, you might want to follow back every fan who follows you—if that makes sense for you, do it! Remember to support and engage anyone you do make a meaningful connection with on Instagram, so that you truly are growing your online community and tapping into the resources that gives you.

No matter what you do, make sure your focus is always on growing a sustainable online brand presence. If that means choosing who you follow carefully, don’t be afraid to put in the time! How do you manage your Instagram follows? Tell us about it below!