Dirty tricks will not make you Instagram famous

Dirty tricks will not make you Instagram famous

Let’s start by setting things straight here. Yes, I want to grow my following on Instagram as a way of furthering my career as a storyteller. And since you are reading this article chances are you have a similar purpose with being on Instagram.

Maybe it’s just to validate your ego, and that’s totally fine too. We all need validation. Let me know in the comments, by the way, if I am completely wrong here. As far as I am concerned, though, you and I both need to quit the bullshit if we want to get some real value out of being on Instagram.

I just recently joined Instagram and quickly saw a pattern in most people’s behavior there. People would follow me only to unfollow me shortly after. I also received a lot of comments on the photos I posted. Some people would like five or more of my photos, but for some reason none of those people wanted to follow me, even if they apparently liked my work so much. I was perplexed to say the least.

So I went to google to check out what this thing about follow/unfollow and mass liking photos was all about and got a whole lot smarter on the inner workings of Instagram. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, right?

Consider this for a second though. The net result of how people are using Instagram is millions of people spending valuable time they could spend doing or creating something worthwhile on this never-ending game of following and unfollowing each other. How silly is that?

My question for the interwebs is this: how many people do you think stop to consider whether the followers they get really matter in any significant way?

I want followers. But I want followers who gives a real damn about my art, and I couldn’t care less about everyone else. I also don’t want people to like my photos for just any reason whatsoever. I want people to only like my pictures if they genuinely think that what I am producing is worthwhile spending time looking at. My sole hope with displaying my art publicly is that it can brighten someone’s day or that it moves someone in one way or another. I view art as a way of making what is otherwise for many a grim world just a little brighter.

You’d think that Instagram, or I guess Facebook really, would care about all of this? It can’t possibly be good for business if your whole business model is based off of people who really don’t care about other users and only about themselves?

I don’t think they care at all. What Facebook and Instagram cares about is how much time people spend on their platform. Because the more time you spend on Instagram the more advertisement they can sell. As users we are the product.

Of course this is not the whole truth. I know there are many genuine people on Instagram, but I can’t help but feel that they are hard to find sometimes.

I didn’t want to write this article to bash all the following/unfollowing going on. I just wanted to address why I think it is a bad strategy and for the most part a waste of time to do so. Don't get me wrong. I think follow/unfollow will get you thousands of followers! It works! But wherein lies the real value of THOSE followers?

I think there are really only two ways to be successful while at the same time being happy and proud of what you have accomplished. And that is a) working hard on a core set of skills, and b) networking. “Network, network, network!” as Steve Balmer (formerly of Microsoft) used to say.

Working on building a core skillset

My goal is to be a good writer and photographer, maybe even earn some money from either or both eventually. I strongly believe that the best way to get there is to get out there the trenches and get mud on your hands. I.e. get busy with taking photos and learning about Photoshop and Lightroom.

Don’t get me wrong, I am upping the time I spend on social media management, but I believe that I should be spending at least 5 times the time I spend on Instagram etc. on working on my core skills. The bonus is the more I work on my skills the more great content i'll have to share on Instagram and elsewhere.

I think that if what you produce is of a consistently high value, and by that I mean much higher than most, followers will come without having to hesitate to these follow unfollow methods.

Network, network, network

I don’t think you’ll be successful from skill alone though. You have to get out there and sell yourself. I learned that the hard way through maybe 50 + tinder dates. In the beginning I was horrible at the whole first date thing; now I don’t have a problem with it at all and have had much more success because of my experience with promoting myself, so to speak.

But wait a minute, didn’t I just tell you not to promote yourself? No, I told you not to follow and unfollow people mindlessly. Yeah, they are also real people just like you and me.  Not just numbers to make your ratio right.

I think that if you want people to care about you, you have to show them that you care about them first. So while I will continue to build relationships on Instagram, I am dead certain I will have more success with actually going out in the real world and connecting with people face to face.

Next week I am going to go shoot a badminton tournament for free. This allows me to a) work on my skills, and b) connect with people. Maybe I’ll be lucky to take some great photos of a player, who will then recommend me to his or her friends and family. Maybe I won’t. It’s a chance to take, but I am sure that it’s a lot better strategy than to follow someone and the unfollow them again once they begin following me.

When you go out there and take an actual photo of someone you connect with them for life. When you follow someone and then unfollow them again you are showing them that you don’t care about them, only about how many followers you have.


So to conclude, I think that time spent on tactics to get more followers is wasted time you could have spent building your business by creating actual content that’ll give people a genuine reason not only to follow you, but to like and enjoy the stuff you post.

What do you think? Am I completely out in the woods here? Is there a grain of truth to what I am saying? Please let me know what you think in the comments section.

Jakob Scheel

Jakob Scheel

Jakob is a Copenhagen-based Anthropologist who does Project Management by day and Photography by night.
Jakob Scheel

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