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  • Writer's pictureAmy Brady

Why the Follow/Unfollow Strategy Sucks (and 12 Ethical Alternatives That Don’t)

In the realm of music marketing, where success often hinges on the strategies we choose, the temptation of quick fixes to boost social media followers can be strong. Now, I’m all about returning the favor to bands and others who take the time to follow me – that’s how new connections are made. But do you know what irritates the hell out of me? The follow and unfollow tactic: when you hit that 'follow back' button in a show of camaraderie, only to see to see they unfollowed you just a couple of days later. To me, this is the lazy scheme of a superficial band whose music probably sucks. If numbers are what hold all the value to them, why would I believe that an artist will bother putting any effort into creating quality tunes? Clearly they've already met their goal of accumulating mass followers with little-no effort required. Here’s the thing they’re missing – a bunch of followers doesn’t necessarily translate to true fans. You can have a million followers, but it doesn’t mean shit if none of them are buying your music or going to see you play live.  And can we please talk about algorithms for a moment? After all, they are the invisible dictators that ultimately shape our social media experience. While it’s true that they do favor accounts with a higher follower to following ratio, there’s a bit more to it than that. The follow/unfollow method might promise an easy shortcut, but it’s not doing any favors for your algorithm rankings….and it may even get your account action-blocked by Instagram. So, let’s collectively decide to ditch the shortcuts and dive into 12 ethical and authentic ways to foster real Instagram growth. It’s about building bridges, creating content that resonates, and engaging in ways that matter. Because in the world of marketing your music, it’s the connections you make that truly strike a chord.

Unmasking the Follow/Unfollow Myth

1. Genuine Connections are the Way to Go

For bands and artists looking to build a strong fanbase, being real is what matters most. When you follow someone and then suddenly unfollow them shortly after, it doesn't create a genuine connection with true music fans. It shows you value numbers over fans; The real magic happens when fans feel like they understand you on a personal level. By interacting with your fans and showing them you value their support, you have a much better chance of keeping them around as dedicated supporters. It's the personal connection that turns ordinary listeners into your biggest supporters

2. Don’t look like an asshole

I’m not saying you are an asshole. I mean, you may be - but you also may be a perfectly lovely human being who was given some bad advice. However, in the music world, authenticity speaks volumes, and maintaining your brand's reputation is as almost crucial as the music you create. All that the follow/unfollow trick does is portray you as insincere, and - let's be honest - as kind of a scumbag. It overshadows any genuine effort to keep fans engaged. It suggests that you prioritize social media fame over creating quality music and ultimately damages your reputation, hindering any potential for a meaningful bond with your fans.

3. The Unfollow Ripple Effect

The majority of your newly gained followers aren’t dumb. And while some simply don’t pay attention, many of us do. I personally take the time every month to check for and remove unfollowers (via a third party app) on not just my personal account, but for all three of *my business accounts as well. If even just 10% of your new followers bounce just days after giving you a follow, the algorithms pick up on the sudden dip in your follower count. This mass exodus signals to the algorithms that your content sucks, leading your posts to be shown to fewer people. This quick trick will oftentimes end up causing way more harm than good.

4. Algorithms: A Double-Edged Sword

Speaking of the little digital gremlins of social media, algorithms prioritize engagement over numbers. Disinterested followers reduce content visibility, limiting potential reach to genuine music enthusiasts. While a high follower count may seem like success, real engagement is what matters. Your goal shouldn’t be based on your number of followers, but rather on gaining followers who will engage with your posts and feel a connection to your music. These are the people that will amplify your content's reach. Temporary follow/unfollow schemes inflate numbers but dilute your authentic fan base - which is vital for a successful music brand.

5. Conversion Blues

Large follower counts mean very little if those followers don't convert into devoted fans. An artist’s success is measured by true fans, not a meaningless number. Your goal should be to put in the work and achieve those numbers by gaining fans who actually like you, not just ones who feel bad and give you a pity follow back. Genuine engagement and connection drive conversions, while hasty tactics yield hollow results.

12 Authentic Strategies for Instagram Growth That Don’t Make You Look Like a Fuckwad

1. Crafting Engaging Posts

Craft and share captivating content that brings your music journey, live performances, and studio sessions to life. Let your music resonate with fans through every post.

2. Navigating the Hashtag Game

Research and use relevant hashtags within the music niche. Find a balance between popular and niche hashtags to expand your content's reach among those genuinely interested in your tunes.

3. Meaningful Engagement

Respond thoughtfully to comments, spark conversations in your captions, and genuinely connect with your followers. Cultivating a supportive community around your music reinforces your brand's authenticity. If you find that your schedule doesn’t allow you the time for meaningful engagement, consider hiring a social media manager.

4. Collaborate for Impact

Forge collaborations with fellow musicians, bands, and music brands to introduce your talent to a fresh wave of followers who share your enthusiasm for melodies. Share their stuff on your page and ask them to return the favor. And always make sure to tag the other bands, promoters, venues, etc. when you share show posters or anything where others are involved.This leads to the potential of getting more shares of your post. 

5. Storytelling Through Stories and Reels

Harness the power of Instagram Stories and Reels to provide followers with glimpses into your musical journey. Share snippets of your creative process, behind-the-scenes moments, and intimate performances.

6. Elevating Fan-Generated Content

Inspire your fans to create content influenced by your music. Reposting user-generated content not only celebrates your fans but also amplifies the impact of your music.

7. Sparking Excitement with Contests and Giveaways

Organize music-themed contests or giveaways that encourage followers to join in by following your account and participating. The excitement generated can attract a chorus of new followers.

8. Crafting a Cohesive Profile

Ensure your profile picture, bio, and link unmistakably reflect your musical identity. Clearly communicate who you are and what listeners can expect from your content.

9. Timing: Syncing with Peak Engagement

Unearth the optimal times when your target audience is most active, and schedule your posts accordingly to maximize your content's reach and engagement.

10. Building Bonds within the Music Community

Engage authentically with accounts in the music sphere – fellow artists, fans, and influencers. Meaningful interactions can pave the way for reciprocal support and connections.

11.Connecting on a Personal Note: Sharing Band Stories

Share anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories about your band’s journey. From memorable moments during rehearsals to funny tour experiences, letting followers in on your band’s unique stories can create a personal connection that resonates with fans.

12. Embracing Patience and Persistence

Cultivating a true fan base takes time. Consistency in your content, engagement, and value delivery will eventually resonate with your intended audience, forging a lasting connection. It may take some time and elbow grease, but I promise it will be much more rewarding when you know that the people following your music are folks that actually want to be there.

Final Thoughts:

The rules of music marketing aren't really all that different from the general rules of life: don’t be a dick, treat people with respect, be your authentic self, and keep working hard to achieve your personal and professional goals. I think that once you get there, you will find that what you’ve accomplished feels much better than some fake stupid number on a screen.

As always, if you ever find yourself in a social media rut, remember that Beyond the Pit is always here to lend a helping hand!


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