Recently, I got in a bit of hot water over my Instagram following. Well, let me rephrase that, I got in a bit of hot water with one person on Instagram. Here’s what happened.
I’ve been cleaning up my Instagram following
I’ve been cleaning up my Instagram account by unfollowing inactive accounts. When someone hasn’t posted since October of 2015, I think it’s safe to say that is a dormant account. So I’ve been going through who I’m following looking for accounts like these. And lo and behold, I stumbled across the one account that turned out to be a headache.
It’s a good idea to clean up your #Instagram following from time to time by unfollowing inactive and fake accounts.Click to tweet
I unfollowed someone I met at a film festival several years ago. This person hadn’t posted since, guess what, October of 2015. Whenever I go to festivals, I meet a ton of people. Some become good friends over time, or at least festival buddies, and others become “that person I met once at a party at Sundance.” This person fell into the latter category.
Little did I know, that this account only appeared to be dormant. She was using the account to lurk on other accounts rather than sharing about herself… So she noticed that I unfollowed her inactive account and within hours of my doing so, she contacted me to accuse me of all kinds of nonsense. I suppose I should be honored that I’m “lurk-worthy,” but instead, I just didn’t want the drama. I disengaged, and since I’m being frank, I blocked her.
And that led me to start thinking about the reasons for keeping your Instagram following manageable. I’m not talking about a growth strategy here, but rather an examination of managing those accounts you follow yourself.
If you’ve been trying to grow your following on Instagram, there’s a good chance you may have followed some accounts that don’t truly interest you in hopes that they may follow you back. Or you may have followed an acquaintance because they followed you, and you felt obligated to return the follow. You may have participated in following everyone using an Instagram “like train” hashtag where everyone supposedly follows everyone using that hashtag. You may have followed some people hosting a loop giveaway to try to win a prize. Or you could have followed a bunch of people a few years ago who participate in something that interested you at the time that no longer invigorates or excites you.
There are pros and cons to participating in all of these practices, but at the end of the day, you end up following some people you don’t care about, who you aren’t engaging with, and who simply may no longer have active accounts.
Why manage the accounts you follow on Instagram?
Instagram allows you to follow around 7,500 accounts based on when you opened your account. That’s a lot of people to follow. And because of the algorithm, you won’t see posts from everyone you follow, even if you’re only following a few hundred people.
If you reduce the number of people you follow, you’ll see more posts from your friends as well as posts from content creators you enjoy most.
I advocate getting rid of the dead weight so you can keep your Instagram following manageable. You’ll get more enjoyment from what you see in your feed, and you will be able to more readily engage with content that means something to you.
Unfollowing fake and inactive accounts on #Instagram helps you see more engaging content.Click to tweet
How to identify inactive Instagram accounts
So let’s talk about what to look for in an account that’s deadweight that you can unfollow with impunity.
When you decide to clean up your Instagram account, you’ll first want to clean up dormant accounts. To me, an inactive account is one that has not posted in the past month. However, some people consider accounts inactive if they have not posted in the past week, the past three days, or even the opposite, the past few months.
The first thing you want to do is decide what an inactive account means to you. You will want to determine a time frame that feels right to you. For example, I started with accounts that haven’t posted in the past three months. I felt surprised to find that I was following not only several accounts that have not posted in that time frame, but also by the number of accounts that had not posted in a few years.
How to find inactive accounts to unfollow on Instagram
You may have heard that Instagram has been cracking down on third party tools that manage your Instagram followers. That said, I’m not aware of any tools that specifically identify inactive accounts. (If I hear of one, I will update this article.)
I’m aware of apps that will unfollow accounts that have unfollowed you or that identify your ghost followers, but I haven’t seen one that works to identify the date of their last post. (A ghost follower is someone who follows you but has not engaged with your last 10-20 recent posts.) If you know of an app that does this, please be sure to mention it in the comments. I’d love to check it out.
So that means you have to do this the old fashioned way – manually.
Here’s what to do:
- From your Instagram app, select the list of people you follow.
- Scroll to the very end of the list. This may take a moment depending on how many accounts you are following.
- Then begin to scroll up through your accounts and open each one that you do not recognize as a friend, colleague, collaborator, or content creator that you enjoy.
- Look at the date of their most recent post. If it falls within the time frame you have defined as inactive, feel free to choose to unfollow that account unless you have another reason to continue following.
Yes, this is a bit time consuming. And you do need to be mindful not to do too many at a time as Instagram has limits as to how many follows or unfollows you can do in an hour. I recommend only doing around 40 at a time. I find a good time to do this is when I’m waiting for something or if I’m watching some mindless entertainment on tv that doesn’t require my full attention.
7 ways to identify inactive or fake Instagram accounts to unfollow
You may also run across some other accounts you may wish to consider unfollowing as well while you’re looking for inactive accounts. Here are some other things to look for:
- Accounts that have deleted all of their photos or only have a handful of photos. These may be either inactive or spam accounts.
- They do not have a profile photo and / or have not filled out their profile.
- They are not following anyone and only have a few people following them. I find this happens a lot with old friends. Someone will start a profile, everyone they know on Facebook gets a notification to follow them, and then they never do anything with the account.
- Accounts that have changed their direction so much that you are no longer interested in their content.
- Giveaway accounts – that is, the account exists only to repost giveaway entries.
- Accounts that have obviously been hacked. You’ll most likely know if someone you know has suddenly become a porn star in real life.
- Accounts that are impersonating members of the military. There have been a lot of these fake accounts popping up lately that look kind of legit, but they aren’t. These typically follow a lot more people than follow them back, have fewer than 30 photos, and there’s very little engagement.
If you’re like me, you’ll have other criteria that you look for from content creators that are outside of your social circles. When I’m deciding if I want to follow someone, I look to see how often they use snapchat puppy filters as I don’t really enjoy those anymore. But you may love them, and that’s okay. You may love accounts that share memes or quotes, or you may not. A lot of people have a love/ hate relationship with frequent selfies too. Some people don’t like seeing pictures of food. It’s up to you to decide what you want to see in your feed.
But as you go through, you can weed out the ones that no longer serve you well. But the inactive accounts are the best place to start.
As you go through the list of people you follow, you may run across some you haven’t seen for a long time that you really like. I would suggest that you take a moment to like and comment on a few of their photos. That will tell Instagram’s algorithm that you would like to see their content in your feed again.
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