An Instagram Growth Hack To Avoid

PMF Creative Staff


PMF Creative Staff


August 6, 2021

An Instagram Growth Hack To Avoid

We may be showing our age a bit here, but remember the days of MySpace? This wildly popular social media platform was launched in 2003 and was the most popular social media website through the early 2000s. We all know that MySpace became the forgotten sibling when Facebook came along, but we learned a few vital things from MySpace.

  1. Your profile has to have the coolest wallpaper possible
  2. HTML isn’t just for the professionally trained coder
  3. Your profile music has got to be fresh
  4. Choosing your Top 8 is the most important decision you could ever make

Aside from all of these more humorous lessons, MySpace taught us a lot about the culture of social media and how we can leverage online social platforms to build our personal “brand.” Facebook and Instagram have furthered this process over the years and have become two vital outlets for building your personal and business brands.

Social media isn’t just for individuals anymore, but it has expanded to be a place for nonprofits, businesses, organizations, and even churches to interact with their followers, customers, and fans. 

The follow and unfollow trick

MySpace also taught us something about social media engagement and how to fudge the numbers a bit to get ahead. 

For example, there was a little method called “PC 4 PC” that originated on MySpace. This code phrase stands for “pic comment for pic comment” and was something you would tell a fellow MySpace friend to encourage them to interact with your photos. 

Basically, it was a virtual pinky swear to comment on your friends’ photos if they commented on yours too. 

However, there was a major issue: middle schoolers ruled MySpace. So the moment you commented on a picture, and your friend responded, you would sneakily go back and delete your original comment. And hence, the whiles of middle school deception found its way to the Internet. 

As we know, history tends to repeat itself. So this method of conjuring up sneaky social media engagement has stuck around even in the days of Instagram. However, the motivation is no longer 14-year old drama and gaining popularity, but getting ahead in your social media presence and beating the ever-changing algorithm.

The reality is that social media engagement is important if you actually want to create brand awareness, gain new followers, and expose more people to your content. There is one crucial mistake that promises a great reward but doesn’t deliver: the follow/unfollow method.

This method operates a lot like the PC4PC method: you follow an account hoping that the account will return the favor and follow you in return. 

This method, in theory, isn't inherently bad. 

It would make sense that if you follow an account, and they know you (or are intrigued by your brand,) they will follow you back. It’s pretty simple, right? It’s almost like if you were to buy someone dinner, you might reasonably expect them to buy you dinner the next time around.

However, the middle school trolls of MySpace days don’t retire. As a result, many Instagram users have overused the follow unfollow method. In particular, there are automated systems that employ bots to essentially follow a ton of accounts for you with the click of a button. There are even ways you can customize the types of accounts the bots follow. 

Why you should stop using the follow unfollow Instagram hack immediately

Follow/unfollow is a quick fix to follow a bunch of people with hopes of them following you back. Then, like those pesky 14-year-olds on MySpace, you can retract your “follow” yet still retain the follower you gained. This method worked for a while, and you had the potential of gaining hundreds of followers per week. 

However, this method has lost its effectiveness over time. Social media platforms, particularly Instagram, have begun to prioritize the relevancy of their users’ feeds. As it currently stands, the algorithm works to only display content that is relevant to the user. This is based upon the types of content you consistently interact with through comments, likes, shares, etc. 

With the emphasis on relevant content, the follow/unfollow method falls flat. If you follow someone, they follow you, and then you unfollow them, the likelihood of true social engagement taking place is pretty low. If this new follower doesn’t build a true connection with your profile, they will not engage with your content, and thus your engagement rate will plummet. 

To illustrate this further, let's go back to the analogy of buying dinner for a friend. A relationship must be established over time before you are at a place where you jump right into giving or receiving favors. Maybe this is why we can treat our followers so poorly: we view them as just a number and not a friend. 

The reality is that the number of followers you have is not nearly as important as your actual content engagement relationships. Similarly, this is just like the number of friends is not nearly as important as the quality of those friendships (that’ll preach!) 

Sure, high follower counts may seem awesome, but the true test of the health of your account is your engagement rate built through comments, likes, shares, and other quantifiable interactions. 

Think about Jesus: He had thousands of followers but only 12 disciples. A follower is completely different from a disciple: the first is a spectator and a fan, the latter is a participant and an engager.

When we do the follow/unfollow method, we show our followers that their importance starts and ends at their number in our follower count. This is a truly terrible way of engaging with people you are seeking to jump on board with your business, organization, or church’s mission. 

While this method can achieve a higher follower count and yield quick growth, that growth is not rooted in anything substantial. 

We all know that relationships are bound to fail if they start off on the wrong foot. If your relationship is predicated on what the other person can do for you instead of how you can serve them, there are bound to be issues. The same translates to your online relationships with your followers! The relationship will thrive much better if both parties contribute their reasonable part.

3 tips to grow on Instagram organically

If you’re looking for true, genuine, organic growth, the follow unfollow hack is not the way to go. Instead, building good relationships with your followers organically is much better. 

Here are a few practical ways to add to the quality of your follower/followee relationship and give your audience content they truly want to see!

  1. Give the people what they want. Are your followers into videos or static images? Insta Stories or grid posts? Live videos or Q&As? Getting a gauge on the types of content your followers interact with most will help you to decide which media you should emphasize most.
  2. Engage with your followers’ content. This is a time-consuming thing to do (especially if you have a bigger account), but simply shooting someone a DM or commenting on one of their photos says a lot about your relatability. It shows there are real people behind your account! 
  3. Bring value to your audience. Aside from just meeting the need of the type of content your audience wants, actually providing content that brings value and meaning is vital. Are your posts more than just sales pitches? Do they encourage deeper conversations through questions or prompts? Do they get people thinking?

Growing your Instagram account is so much more than increasing your follower count. It involves consistency, relatability, and true relationship building. Not only does the follow/unfollow method not jive with the algorithm, but it also, in a sense, devalues your followers and makes them feel like just another number. 

Instead of doing it the quick way, it is so worth the while to build true relationships that shift from gaining followers to building friendships!

Need a bit of help managing and growing your social media presence? Our social team at PMF Creative totally has you covered. Reach out to us to figure out how to grow organic followers, enhance your content, and reach even more people!

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