The Uncool Instagram Follow Unfollow Trick Explained

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Last updated: November 1, 2022

If you’re on Instagram, you are most likely familiar with the follow unfollow trick. It’s a simple method to increase your followers count and lower the number of people you follow. In the world of Instagram, the bigger this gap, the better.

The Instagram follow/unfollow strategy encapsulates much of what I dislike about social media. There is a place for social media, but it also tends to bring out the worst in people.

Keep reading, and find out why you should stop using the follow unfollow strategy right now.

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How Does the Follow Unfollow Instagram Trick Work?

So how does this silly method work? It’s actually very simple:

  1. An account follows you on Instagram.
  2. You are happy, flattered even, so you follow them back because you’re a nice person.
  3. They unfollow you a few days or a week or so later.
  4. They hope you won’t notice they have unfollowed you.
  5. They have increased their followers count.

That’s it. Definitely not rocket science material, which is probably why it’s such a widely used strategy. But it’s also a very uncool strategy you should never use, unless you want to be an uncool person.

This trick is like that fake friend who is only a friend because they want something from you. Seriously uncool. When you’re guilty of doing this, just ask yourself what kind of person you are and what kind of person you want to be.

Browsing on Instagram

The Psychology Behind the Follow/Unfollow Method

Over the years, social media has evolved into a somewhat fake and plastic environment, driven by hierarchy and status. The more likes and the more followers, the better. Because it “looks good”. And that’s precisely what drives the annoying follow/unfollow strategy on Instagram.

Not only are people who are guilty of implementing that strategy trying to artificially increase their followers, but they are also trying to decrease the number of Instagram accounts they follow. Yuck.

They do this because it gives them more status and authority. It places them higher up the social media hierarchy. It makes them look good, more powerful, and more influential.

Instagram selfie

You know, people have always had a thing with hierarchy and status. Or should I say, power. People naturally enjoy having power. It’s in our blood. It’s like being back in high school. The more “friends” you have, the more popular you are.

And this is reflected in how some of us behave on Instagram. If we have a good number of followers and only a handful of followed accounts, that makes us look more powerful and influential. It gives us a sense of status. We somehow feel drawn to that concept.

How to Detect Follow/Unfollow Offenders?

It’s not difficult to recognize Instagram accounts that are guilty of executing the follow/unfollow method on Instagram. But it’s mostly the Instagram newbies who fall victim to it.

Here are a few red flags to look out for:

  • Their followers count is much higher than their following count.
  • Their followers count is much higher than your followers count. This is because offenders love targeting smaller Instagram accounts.
  • Their niche is often unrelated to your niche.

Instagram account stats

How to Deal with Them?

If you’re almost certain that a new follower will be unfollowing you a couple of days later, simply ignore them. Don’t follow them back. Don’t increase their followers tally. The more you use Instagram, the better you will be able to recognize these offenders.

If you’re not 100% sure, by all means, follow them back. Then a week later, you can check whether they are still following you. You can use (paid) apps for this, or you can do it manually. Simply keep a list of suspects and once a week, you can go through that list and cull the ones that are no longer following you.

This only works if you’re a small account, though, otherwise it would be way too much manual work. But over time, you’ll get better at recognizing offenders and suspects, and it’s actually quite satisfying to get rid of Instagram follow/unfollow offenders.

4 Reasons to Stop This Method Now

Many Instagram users implement the follow unfollow Instagram trick, desperately trying to increase their audience. But this strategy can come back and bite you.

Here are four good reasons why you should stop the follow unfollow Instagram trick immediately.

1. Your credibility is at risk

People are getting smarter, Instagram is getting smarter. The follow unfollow method is a dirty trick, and more and more people are picking up on this.

“The dirty follow unfollow Instagram trick shows your true colors and puts your credibility at risk.”Click to Tweet

Ask yourself, how do you want others to perceive you and your brand?

2. It’s disrespectful to other users

Social media should really be about networking, and supporting and engaging with each other. By following and unfollowing people, you’re being very anti-social. And you’re also contributing to creating an artificial world that social media has become.

If you don’t want to be disrespectful in real life, then don’t be disrespectful on social media either.

3. You’re not really growing much

Yes, you may be able to grow your Instagram followers by using the follow unfollow method, but you’re definitely not growing your engaged audience.

“You may be able to grow your Instagram followers by using the follow unfollow trick, but the engagement on your account will tank.”Click to Tweet

A lot of the followers you’ve gained with this method don’t actually care too much about you or your brand, and won’t be engaging with your content either. So then it’s really just a numbers game.

4. It shows your true colors

By behaving this way on Instagram, you’re basically showing the world what kind of person you are. Unreliable? Untrustworthy? Fake? Hidden agendas?

To give you a concrete example, a social media crazy real estate agent operating in my area recently followed one of my Instagram accounts. Looking at her account, I classified her as a suspect. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt and followed her back.

Unsurprisingly, a few days later, she was gone. She unfollowed me. Of course she did, because she’s a social media fanatic who loves attention and status, and doesn’t care one bit about my account that she initially followed.

So when it’s time for me to sell my apartment, I will not be hiring her as my agent. She probably won’t care, but that’s not the point. The point is that she puts her reputation on the line with that silly Instagram follow unfollow behavior. It really is one of the most annoying Instagram habits.

What to Do Instead?

From a personal and business perspective, I prefer to use social media the way it should be used. I try to share valuable and interesting stuff that I expect my audience will appreciate.

And when they do, they might just press the like button, they might follow me, they might comment, and so forth. Over time that audience will grow, engagement will increase, and more people will become aware of the brand I represent. In other words, I try to keep things genuine and natural.

And you know what? Keeping it real actually works. By all means, follow people and businesses, but don’t cull them a few days later. Stay connected and engage with the content they share on their social media accounts. That is how you will be able to grow your Instagram followers organically.

Yes, this is probably a very slow process. In the world of social media, keeping it real requires patience. But at least you can take pride in being genuine, and your growing audience will love you for it.


The Follow unfollow Instagram strategy exposed

AJ Mens

AJ Mens is a digital marketing professional specializing in WordPress, SEO, affiliate marketing, and content strategy. Following a career in IT, he has been involved in creating, growing, buying, and selling web properties since 2015.

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  1. Great article. Like you say though it’s laborious (I have 4000 such types) to remove follow/unfollowers, it’s also very satisfying. The more posing, pouting and product-placing they are the better! These people ruin Instagram.

  2. Very simple. Instagram has to create a trick where when a trickster who first followed you, and later unfollows you, must also get automatically unfollowed by you.

  3. Thanks for the article! I’m new to Instagram and I started noticing this… it’s such a lame thing to do. Another disappointment from “social” media and people in general. Cheers.

  4. @Dupatta. My aim is simply to show some interesting stuff, for my own pleasure, and for my children, family, relatives, friends, etc., wether they “like” it or not! My “ego” doesn’t need an army of followers, and I don’t have the desire to be a powerful and important guy on Instagram. Why should I? What does it mean to be successful with a lot of unknown, perhaps even not really interested people? Why wasting my time worried about anonymous people “hunting” likes, and begging for them? Have fun and take it easy.

    • Follow/unfollow isn’t used to pretend to like someone’s feed so they feel obliged to follow you back. It’s just a means of putting a notification onto someone’s phone. They see your content, if they like it then they follow if not then they don’t.

      It’s playing Instagram’s system, it’s not playing people’s emotions. Well it shouldn’t be, but let’s get this straight, if you follow someone back just because they follow you, then who’s the one being fake here? “I like you, because you like me”, that’s uncool.

      Also you mention niche, anyone with any sense would only use this method with relevant accounts. Accounts that actually may be happy you’ve shown yourself to them.

  5. Great article and I must say quite different from all the advice out there on the Internet.

    I tried doing what you recommended in this article. But, what I experienced, followers don’t grow on your account just because you have great content.

    As Instagram has grown exponentially, so has the competition. So, people try to take alternative routes in order to be successful.

  6. Why don’t Instagram show us who unfollows us? I wish Instagram would show us who unfollows us, and that would probably stop all the fake followers who play the follow unfollow game. It is so annoying and is what takes the fun out of Instagram. I can’t tell who is fake or real so if I get followed without the follower looking at my pictures I just ignore them.

    • I agree Jack, it’s very annoying. I thought the same thing, why can’t Instagram show us who unfollows us? I guess that could actually make matters worse, and more people would start unfollowing others. Maybe Instagram will come up with a solution to this problem eventually.

  7. I could not agree more! If everyone stops trying to “game” social media they would not need to keep changing algorithms in an attempt to reduce unnatural use.

    Please just stop it, it is not authentic and the sooner the brands paying Instagram influencers realise just how fake this all is the better.

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