*this post contains affiliate links*

As an entrepreneur building my business on Instagram, I get a ton of noise in my ears about how to grow your following quickly.  Unfortunately, many methods sit on the line of taboo, and although they worked well in Instagram’s infancy, their effectiveness has dwindled more and more over the years.  With each update, Instagram’s algorithm is getting more advanced and accounts that use “spammy” tactics for growth and engagement are becoming easier to flag. But, the algorithm shouldn’t be the only reason you should think twice about using these methods.

Taboo Tactics

As unpopular of an opinion as this might be, I just have to come out and say that I’m not a fan of any of the following methods for growth and engagement on Instagram, and I’ll explain why with each:

Follow/Unfollow Method

If you are unfamiliar with the follow/unfollow method for Instagram growth, this is when you follow a bunch of accounts, wait a period of time, and then unfollow them if they haven’t followed you back.  I have seen many profiles using this as a growth tactic, and many of them still unfollow even if you have followed them back.

To me, this is a transparent tactic that shows the intention of the account right from the start, and I have to admit that I tend to frown upon them when I notice.  It shows me that their only concern is to gain followers, and they are not interested in building a relationship. Massive turn off!


Bots are essentially robots that you can connect with your account, set specific parameters for profiles to engage with and follow, and let it do all the work for you.  While this type of automation sounds like it could be a good idea, by utilizing it, you lose the human aspect of building a relationship on Instagram.

Accounts using this method are usually pretty easy to spot because their comments are more generic, and I’ve also seen instances where the comment didn’t align with the image or caption at all.  Typically, these comments end with a nudge to check out their page, and some even go so far as to ask directly for a follow.

Bots can also utilize the follow/unfollow method for growth, and it does so within the parameters set by the account holder.  You can narrow down the type of accounts you wish to follow, so in that aspect, it helps you find new profiles that you may not have noticed otherwise.  However, what I typically see with accounts using bots for Instagram growth is that they unfollow as soon as they receive a follow back. Again, massive turn off, and I’ll usually unfollow them in return.

Buying Followers

I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re unfamiliar, this is when you pay a service, and they provide you with followers.  While these may promise real, organic followers who are genuinely interested in your content, that’s not always the case. I can typically sniff out these accounts when I see they have thousands of followers but less than a couple hundred likes on their posts.  The algorithm isn’t THAT messed up!

So, while none of these methods are technically wrong, I feel they somewhat defeat the purpose of utilizing Instagram for marketing small businesses.  The main focus should always be about community and building relationships. Yes, I’m an advocate for automation, but only with the intent of saving time, not robotizing. (Is that a word? I don’t care, it is now.)

Ok, so what can I do instead?

If you search ‘Instagram growth’ on YouTube, you’re going to see pages of gurus and experts claiming to know the secret to growing your account quickly.  Let me save you a little time. (Or maybe a lot of time if you’re anything like me and get distracted by other videos!) The secret is effort, quality, and consistency.

First, you have to put forth an effort.  What I mean by this is don’t expect people to just come to you.  Start by looking at accounts already following you that are either current customers or those you’d like to have.  Spend a few minutes on each account to look through their posts and get to know them a little. Pay attention to the hashtags they’re using and create content for them.  Include some of their hashtags with yours when you post, and engage on their content as well. Remember to keep it genuine (don’t just post an emoji and run), and you’ll start to see some interest in your page.

Second, produce quality content.  When I say this, I mean that you should be mindful of not only your images but your captions as well.  As I state in a previous blog post (which you can read here), your image along with your caption should present an entire picture.  Even if you only post a quote in a graphic, include either something meaningful or something to gain engagement in the caption. (Just an example.)  Also, don’t forget about Instagram stories. By using them creatively, you can easily broaden your visibility.

Finally, stay consistent.  This is where I feel automation is helpful.  There are various services and apps that will help you plan the look of your page along with scheduling your posts.  These are great timesavers, and they will also help you stay on target with your Instagram marketing strategy.

Now, I get that you need to follow others if you want to gain any followers on Instagram; however, I highly recommend narrowing down the types of accounts you follow to those that inspire you and those that you’d like to work with.  Also, you can keep an eye on competitors by following the hashtags they use, effectively freeing up more to follow.  Although Instagram allows you to have millions of followers, it only permits you to follow 7500 profiles, so strategy is a large key to making it work for you.

The main complaint I see about each algorithm update on Instagram is that there’s a drop in engagement, reach, and visibility.  Don’t let noise like that discourage you. Staying consistent and using all that Instagram has to offer will help keep you ahead of the algorithm so that you can continue to grow.

Bonus tip: Collaborate with others.  Reach out to similar accounts to create a follow loop or for interest in a combined giveaway exclusively for your Instagram followers.  By working with other businesses, you’re helping each other grow, and who doesn’t love a win/win?

Look, I understand the desire to gain a large following quickly, but the more taboo methods of growth can hurt your account rather than help.  Not only do you risk the possibility of having your account locked by Instagram for using “spammy” tactics, but you also risk the trust and even respect of your following.  Remember that nothing worth it comes easy, and it’s worth it to have followers who genuinely care about what you post.

Want more tips on marketing your business on Instagram? Grab my free download: 4 Easy Tips to Enhance Your Exposure on Instagram. In it, I give you 4 simple, actionable tips to help you grow your reach and followers. Download it HERE

Are you still a little lost, or do you feel like you’re doing okay but know you could be doing better on Instagram?  Let me help! Contact me today for a free discovery call to see how I can assist you with your Instagram marketing efforts.  Contact me HERE

Need a little visual inspiration for days you’re not sure what to post?  Check out my shop on Creative Market for Instagram graphics packs and templates for stories. Follow along for updates and new items coming soon! Check that out HERE

Also, grab up the freebies on Creative Market! New fonts, stock photos, social media templates, and other graphic elements are available each week, so don’t forget to check back! Grab your freebies HERE