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Instagram Following Strategy: The Great Debate

By: Melody Maleitzke, Director of Social Media, Barbri

August 29, 2018

How many accounts should your brand be following on Instagram?

BARBRI director of social media marketing Melody Maleitzke

Melody Maleitzke, Director of Social Media, BARBRI

Good question.

Curious about the latest follower limits myself, I recently reached out to my friend Jenn Herman, an Instagram expert, on Facebook Messenger to find out.

A bit unexpectedly, a heated debate about following and direct engagement strategy on Instagram ensued.

Social marketers can stand to learn a whole lot from debates like this one, so here is our debate for your viewing pleasure:

Melody: Hey girl! I have a hopefully easy question for you. Is there a max number of accounts a Business Instagram account may follow? I’ve seen 7500, but I thought that’d been lifted.

Jenn: You can follow up 7500 accounts of any type (business or personal, public or private). I haven’t heard anything about that being lifted.

Melody: That’s a bummer. Businesses should be allowed to follow all their customers, if they want. ?

Jenn: In theory, yes, but it would be impossible to see and interact with all that content anyway. Anything over 1000 is essentially unmanageable.

Melody: So, it’s better to just search relevant hashtags and engage customers in 1:1 that way, than responding to their content in your feed? (I’m making the case for why you want to follow your followers. Especially if you’re a small to mid-size business.)

Jenn: I don’t usually recommend following your customers. Most people post the worst stuff, and who really wants to follow that?!

But you can follow a hashtag—whether your own, or one in your industry or local area where your audience hangs out. This will populate content into your feed that is created on that hashtag. You like it, then they get notified. Fresh new eyeballs, plus your existing customers get love if they’re creating content on that hashtag.

When someone likes or comments on your posts, you could head over, check theirs out and throw a few likes on their posts too.

Melody: I’m a “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” kind of gal, even on social. Reciprocate the love. With the current limit, people are gaming the follower/follow ratio by following you and then unfollowing you. Then they can keep gaining followers, but stay under the 7500 follow limit. It seems false to me. I hate it, actually.

Jenn: Oh, I agree that the follow/unfollow method is unnecessary. But businesses don’t unfollow to keep it under the limit; they unfollow because if you don’t follow an account back within a certain time frame then they decide you’re not worthy of their follow.

That speaks to the whole best practice that you should only be following accounts you actually like and want to interact with, not just accounts that you want to get to follow you back.

I’m with you on “do unto others.” And, yes, when a local business follows a customer, it makes that customer feel good. But I’d rather get comments, replies or direct messages from a business. This shows genuine interaction and interest. Not just a follow and then being ignored for the rest of the time.

Melody: I think that, as a brand, you really should be commenting, replying and direct messaging your customers and not just about your product/service related posts. I have found that customers are delighted and surprised when I (as the brand) like posts not related to our brand. I actually take time to watch their Instagram Stories and interact with them. I win loyal customers and brand ambassadors after that happens.

Which brings me back to: To follow or not to follow your customers? How would I have seen that my customer Jane Doe had an Instagram Story about her new puppy she rescued, if I (the brand) wasn’t following her?

I think it’s about being more than just a brand. It’s about bringing the humanity and human touch to the social sphere.

Like Bryan Kramer always says, Be more Human.

Jenn: In theory, I agree with you! And you’re right, you wouldn’t have seen that Story if you weren’t following her. And, yes it totally builds great relationships with your audience.

I’m just a cynic and realize that most of the people you’ll follow will post low-quality content…and I don’t want my feed filled with that stuff. ?

But, yes, I think we both agree that the genuine interactions (however you get to them) are paramount to setting yourself apart as a brand.

Melody: You’re the cynic and I’m the optimist. I love it. Yet, we can both agree that genuine interactions are a key to setting your brand apart.

Your Social Shakeaway? Set your brand apart by doing the unexpected on Instagram. Have genuine interactions with your customers. Comment on posts and Instagram Stories that are not related to your brand with sincerity and appreciation.

Follow Melody on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @melodylovesthis

At The Social Shake-Up