If you’re an author with a platform on Instagram, also known as Bookstagram to some, then you’ve probably had this happen to you. You make a new post, or join a Follow Train (more on these in Part 2), and you gain some followers. Being the nice person that you are, you see that they’re fellow authors and follow them back because hey, we all need some support, right?
Fast forward a few minutes later and you notice your new follower count is dwindling. But why, you may ask yourself? How have I offended thee? It’s not you, sweetie. It’s absolutely them. I’ve seen this happen more and more and most of it has been perpetuated by fellow indie authors, bloggers, and book reviewers.
It’s a tactic used by influencers (or people who fancy themselves one) where they go follow a bunch of people to see who will follow them back. Then they immediately turn around and unfollow them because it looks better to have more followers than people you’re following. Or so people have told me.
While that might be true, and everyone’s free to do as they please, just know that some of us take this offense seriously. Especially since our main purpose is to garner support for our work and support the work of others. It may help you get your followers, but it hinders us, and I don’t believe in hurting other people for personal gain.
Now, this isn’t directed at the people who physically can’t follow anymore people (the max you can follow is 7,500 people on Instagram). We see you, and we understand your situation. We also know that if you could follow more people that you absolutely would and we truly appreciate that. This post is specifically about people who know what they’re doing and use this tactic often.
It’s one of the reasons I rarely join a Follow Train. They became cumbersome, especially when people don’t actually follow the rules. Most Follow Trains I see out there specifically mention “don’t follow to unfollow,” but some people are meant to be rulebreakers, I suppose.
The writing community talks, and sometimes, they do out these types of people on Instagram. There’s a certain professional etiquette that I think we all expect out of our community and if you keep getting caught doing it, someone might just say something.
The fact of the matter is, we want to support you and your work, but not under false pretenses. It’s not about you unfollowing us – it’s about you lying to us. Because when you hit that follow button, we truly believe you want to support us, just like you’re saying you are. And if you’re using this tactic, then you’re wasting our follows as well.
If you’re a new author or simply new to Instagram and want to know how to combat this trend, there are ways, young grasshopper. There are many apps that allow you to see who follows you back and who doesn’t. The app I currently use is Ins Master and I use the free version, but there are so many out there.
There are also some signs you can watch out for. If they have an extremely low following count on their profile, then chances are they probably don’t follow a lot of people back, or intentionally keep their count low. This doesn’t mean they’ll unfollow, but it’s a good indication that they may participate in this practice. Safe to say, it’s a little suspicious. Unless, of course, you’re a celebrity or a well-established business/brand.
Some people may think after reading this that I don’t follow people who don’t follow me and I just want to point out that’s not true. I most certainly follow others and have never expected a follow back, but that was my choice to make – not one that I was baited into making with a fake follow. There’s definitely a difference.
All in all, be mindful of the game you play, because it may come back to you one day. Have fun on social media but don’t be that guy. Indie authors thrive on community support so if you don’t actually support us, then please, don’t follow us.