Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes


May 17, 2013

Photography Archives

Lately I’ve seen tweet after tweet about why folks Follow / Unfollow on Instagram and other various social media accounts so I thought I would chuck in my two cents.  Last year, a blogger that I respect mentioned in a conversation about how she thought there were smoking mirrors around another bloggers social media following…it wasn’t a bitching session, just a conversation we were having and it got my financial brain working (I’m a trained accountant you see)…can you really fudge your blog stats and social media numbers?!?


^^Sorry about my lack of flat lay skills…I have no peonies or hydrangeas to add!

I’m going to focus on instagram today…I think it’s fair to say that I know a tad too much about Instagram now.  As always I’m going to be brutally honest in the post about the things I’ve done to “grow” my account…I’ve read ebooks (free and paid ones…I regret paying for them so just read this post and I will share everything with you for free!), paid for shout outs (take these accounts with a giant pinch of salt folks!) and using a bot (against the T&C’s of Instagram).  I’m fascinated by why people do this, how they do it, what happened along the way and what the final outcome is!

As I said I am going to be very honest; I will never use my account to sell anything (you won’t see a watch photo pop up in my feed…seriously how tacky are those photos…I digress), this exercise has cost me money.  I didn’t grow my account to make money from it, I just wanted to get an understanding about Instagram overall and the bollocks around it.

Why are people Following / Unfollowing on Instagram?

This is the main question that needs to be answered and I don’t think there is a definitive answer really.  I see bloggers and non-bloggers using this method to gain followers.

From the blogger point of view, I think there is a social media pressure to have a large account to attract brands / PR companies. Sadly, organic growth takes time and for part time bloggers (and even full time bloggers), that’s something that we don’t really have so the easy option is to follow and unfollow on instagram to grow those numbers darn fast to meet the needs of grabbing a campaign, earning $15k per instagram photo (do we even know if this is true?!?) or to make your name in the industry.

Overall, I think as a society we now see bigger as better (I blame the Kardashians for this!…I actually blame them for everything wrong in this world)…unfortunately the concept of quality over quantity is currently out of fashion…tacky is in, classy is out.

Why are people noticing it more now?

This is easy…folks have clocked onto Bots…yes Bots!  They’ve been around for a few years but this year they have become HUGE and they are wrecking your viewing pleasure on instagram.

So what is a Bot?

A Bot is a little robot that goes into Instagram when you’re sleeping or working and likes, comments and follows and unfollows on your behalf.  I used Instagress for this purpose; you can get a free trial for a few days and then you have to pay for the service.

I learnt about Instagress in a paid ebook…seriously…this was their big thing on how to grow your account…it’s just against the terms and conditions on instagram so your account could get deleted if they find out (is it worth the risk?).  If you are going to use a bot then make sure it’s on slow or medium speed…as a fast Bot will get you deleted (that piece of advice cost me $49…free to you folks, free to you!).

There are a few Instagram bot services available now but I just worked with Instagress as it was easy for a non-techie like me.

How can I spot who is using a Bot?

I love it when bloggers state that they’ve grown their instagram following organically…*coughs* bullshit!  When G and I were in Hong Kong and Malaysia last year, it was an eye opener to see who was using a Bot, I was shocked (they were asleep in Europe and we were wide awake in Asia!).  You say you grew your instagram account organically…I say that my arse is a size zero!

How to spot the bot users – check out the little heart tab on instagram and then click over from “YOU’ to “FOLLOWING” and wait to be amazed….the ones with the bots will be liking random photos or you will see an instagram account followed with the words – “started following x, x, x, x, x and 13 others”; they could be doing this all themselves however I doubt it….keep scrolling and you will see the same instagram account pop up numerous times then you definitely know that they have a bot working on their account.

I used to love this “Following” tab as I used to find new accounts to follow that other instagrammers were interacting with…unfortunately the Bots have killed this off now.

Using Comments function on the Bot, should I do it?

No, no, no, no, no!!  I posted a photo about depression on instagram a while ago…I’ve deleted quite a few of the comments that were obviously automated…like great photo…wow…good job!  Yes you can f**k off with your automated comments.  If you don’t have time to leave a relevant comment then just don’t leave a comment at all…don’t let a bot drop comments all over instagram…you could leave a rather thoughtless comment on a photo of someone asking for help.

Is there a website that will show me who is following and unfollowing on Instagram?

I’d heard some chatter on twitter about a website where you can see how folks on instagram are growing their social media skills as it clearly showed their daily growth…obviously I wasn’t at my ninja best on google the night I went searching but with some help from another blogger I can now share the website – it’s called Social Blade…you will fall down a rabbit hole and lose a few hours of your life by snooping on your favourite instagram accounts.


^^You can see how many new followers I gained each day through with my following actions in the Followers column, some of these could be organic as I do gain followers when I post new photos during the day.  I had a bot running on my account as you can see my follow and unfollow action in the Following column….told you I was going to be bloody honest in this post!

Is it easy to Follow / Unfollow on Instagram using Bots?

Yes, you can do it your sleep – you just switch it over between follow and unfollow via the website.

How do you target users?

You can target which instagram users to follow by either the hashtags that they’re using (tag your photos with #travel and you will get a number of likes!) or by followers of another account (basically you’re cloning the account of someone else and their followers).

Did I grow my following using an Instagram Bot?

Yes I have grown my following (I’ve currently got 13,000 followers, so maybe by 2-3000 followers) and are now getting more likes on each photo but I would assume this would have happened over time if I had grown my account organically anyway plus potentially with the new way Instagram is working behind the scenes.

What happens when you Unfollow Instagram Users?

I’m really not a fan of this whole Follow / Unfollow business, it’s just all so tacky.  I do apologise to the people that I have follow / unfollowed when I’ve done this social media experiment.  I’ve had various experiences and comments all via DM which have included the following –

1/ I was asked if I didn’t like their content or had they done something wrong…I wanted to write back, it’s me not you but felt extremely embarrassed to do so.

2/ The guy that sent me a DM saying; Unfollow for Unfollow – I really wanted to send him back a message saying that I was doing a social media experiment but am sure he would have laughed so much at my lame excuse and fallen off his large rock in Derbyshire that he seems to be always climbing.

3/ Thanks for the follow, would you like to buy my products…yeah bugger off!

For the bloggers: Did I get more traffic to my blog from having more followers on Instagram?

In all honesty, I may have got a few extra hits from instagram but nothing like the thousands that I think bloggers are expecting by using the follow / unfollowing method.

Overall is a Bot worth it?

It’s against the T&C’s of Instagram so no however they are getting used by bloggers and companies alike at the moment!  I know people think that there is nothing wrong with the follow / unfollow actions and I do kind of get what they’re saying…they aren’t doing any harm and the person on the receiving end can unfollow them at any time themselves if they want but it all just seems a bit like Mean Girls to me.

Are Instagram missing out in some big bucks?

While there is advertising on instagram, I do believe that they are missing out on a rather big trick here with these bots…affordable advertising like Facebook is obviously required to promote instagram accounts.

So what other tricks are there to promote your Instagram account to grow your followers rather than Bots?

Shout Outs Be very careful about paying for shout outs due to “Smoking Mirrors”.  I’ve used a few accounts and have gained a few new followers but nothing like I was expecting, maybe 10-20 new followers each time a photo was posted on a different account.

One of the accounts that I used for a shout out was looking at buying a new instagram account (don’t ask…yes people are buying instagram accounts with followers!) so they used my photo to promote their account and mine…the account had over 1 million followers and was getting over 10,000 likes per photo…when they promoted my photo I got zilch new followers…yes nothing, 0, nada!!!  Smoking Mirrors…hello buying followers and likes…busted, needless to say he didn’t buy the account!

A nice blogger featured me on her instagram account one Friday and I got 10 new followers…she only had 700 followers!

Don’t always believe the hype around shout outs on instagram and large numbers don’t always guarantee engagement on instagram.

Hashtags – using hashtags correctly will get your photos likes; folks using bots may be targeting accounts using hashtags to like photos in the hope you will follow them once they’ve liked your photo.  If I use the hashtag #travel then I see my likes increase, I’ve really noticed this a lot over the past few months…probably due to the bots working in overdrive.

A few of my photos have been featured (free of charge) by some rather big official tourism accounts on instagram; how – just by using their hashtag that they’ve got listed in their profile…they’ve featured my photos and boom, I ended up with hundreds of new and free followers that love to interact…these followers are like gold dust!

Quality Photos – This is a no brainer folks…only post clear, good quality photos…unless they are meant to be artistic, don’t post blurry photos and then expect likes!  Consistently great photos will get you followers over time organically…slowly but surely…for some it will happen really quickly especially if they have a ‘niche’.

Timings of Photos – apparently you can see when people are most active on your account (I looked but I hated the style of graph they were using…urghhh…my financially brain couldn’t cope!) however due to the instagram changes, I don’t think this really matters anymore…it annoys me that I see breakfast photos at dinner time…instagram please sort this crap out and fast!

I’ve read that you should post 1 – 3 photos per day and once you’ve picked your timings, never change them as your followers expect you to post that often EVERY day…my advice, do want you bloody well want and when!  I get more interaction if I post around 9-10pm UK time…however I once had a photo receive over 300 likes in 10 minutes on a Saturday morning…it really does depend who is online when you post.

It’s okay to skip a few days if life is just too busy…not posting on instagram for a few days isn’t going to mean that the world is going to end…trust me!  You are allowed to take a holiday from social media!

Photo Descriptions – I’m going to put my hand up and say that I used to drop a description against my photo, post then run…now I treat instagram as a mini version of my blog…I add something that I’ve thought about during the day, the weather (how English of me!), a highlight or a low point…strangely people actually converse and I do believe they connect with you via that description and I get more interaction…be yourself and the folks will flock to you!

Instagram Pods – I only heard about these this morning so don’t know much about them however they are there to help promote engagement on your posts.


I’m not sure if this post has answered any questions about why people follow / unfollow on instagram but at least you can spot them easily now (and you can decide to keep following them or unfollow them if you don’t like they way they’ve *coughs* “organically” grown their account!)…unfortunately I think it’s just the day and age we currently live in…numbers matter…bigger is better apparently.

Why did I decide to do this on instagram…I’m annoyed by how many people think this is the right way to grow their “organic” account…one day my instagram account will bloom the old fashioned way (and I’m happy to wait!), by taking good photos and chatting away with random people on this crazy thing that we call “social” media!


Better run…the unicorns need their gin ration for the day!


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