How and Why You Should Be Paying Attention to Your Unfollowers on Instagram

Last updated June 12, 2018

We already know that Instagram has undeniable influence in the world of social media. It has become one of the top social networks with 800 million active monthly users. To sweeten the pot, that number is expected to reach and surpass the billion mark this year. This makes Instagram one of the most important social platforms for businesses, and those that haven’t started using it are missing out on an incredible opportunity to build major brand awareness.

But, we also know that more than 70% of businesses based in the United States are already leveraging Instagram as part of their digital marketing strategy. A number like this means it’s time to stop talking about why you should be using Instagram and redirecting the conversation to reflect what happens when your audience follows, or unfollows you, on the network.

You might have noticed a key word in that last sentence – unfollow. It’s something that we don’t like to talk about. In fact, it’s incredibly easy to find information on attracting and keeping followers, but not much on what happens when they decide to leave. Unfollowers on Instagram are the elephant in the middle of the room that nobody wants to acknowledge.

We say it’s time to face it head on to learn how unfollowers affect your business and what you can learn by analyzing the followers that say goodbye.

What Happens When Someone Unfollows You on Instagram?

It’s a great feeling when you first create an Instagram account. You’re full of ideas and can see the potential, plus your number of followers has no place to go but up. It’s exciting to see those numbers rise as more Instagram users follow your brand, engage, and share your content. You suddenly realize how incredible this is and wonder why you didn’t jump on board sooner.

Then it happens. You notice that your numbers aren’t rising anymore, and you take a deep breath, realizing that it’s completely normal to plateau before building up again. But, one day you see that those numbers aren’t only not going up, they’re actually falling.

Panic sets in and you wonder what to do next.

It’s this very moment that’s often the make or break point for a brand’s success on Instagram. You can either overreact and end up losing more followers or look at it strategically and figure out what’s going wrong.

Unfortunately, way too many small businesses chose the overreaction route. It starts by looking at all the usual suspects for decreased engagement, and in response flood the gates of Instagram with a heavy stream of brand centered content. After all, the more you can get yourself out there, the better chance that you’ll gain followers.

This is true only if you have a strategy. Instagram is about storytelling and getting the timing just right. Too much content centered around your brand makes you seem too salesy ant best, and straight up desperate at worst. If you really want to turn this ship around, you need to step back and take a good look at why your old followers left before you begin to worry about building you audience back up.

Why People Unfollow Brands on Instagram

The first step to analyzing your unfollowers on Instagram is to understand the behaviors and motivations of your audience. The answer is often nuanced and can’t really be blamed on just one thing. If your brand is relatively new to Instagram, then it can be even more difficult to pinpoint the issue since you’re working with a limited history of successful growth.

Brands that are fairly well established have a definite advantage in that they have history that they can look at and spot changes that might have contributed to the decline. Losing followers is bad enough, but what’s even worse is the domino effect that almost always happens where you end up losing even more.

The most common reason that a person unfollows is that the brand’s message just isn’t aligning with what they want to get out of Instagram. For example, Instagram is all about keeping its users engaged through visual storytelling. It really isn’t the place for obvious advertisements or marketing. The approach should be subtle and leave them waiting for the next post.  If you haven’t tapped into the art of Instagram, you’re going to lose followers.

Inconsistency, posting too much or not enough, and appearing too promotional are all ways to decrease a brand’s value to their audience. It’s time to analyze your strategy, and the followers that left, to uncover the keys that will put you back on top.

How to Analyze the People That Leave

It’s super easy to leverage analytics about the people following your brand because the data is everywhere. Understanding why the leave and how to get them back is far more complex. The trick is learning how to use the data you have access to and create a complete picture that gives you insight into the behaviors of your followers.

You spot patterns, notice where change happens, and adapt. Pretty simple, right?

Actually, it is. We live in a digital world that absolutely loves numbers. If you think that digital marketing professionals are magicians with a crystal ball that can see into the minds of your followers, think again. We all use tools that help us better understand your audience and what makes them tick – or unclick the follow button.

You can start with simple account metrics that will clue you into which posts and followers are causing the most movement. It seems basic, but what’s special about your top followers? How are they different from the ones that left, and what type of content are they loving? It could be that you’ve been targeting the wrong audience and simple metrics like these can help you easily identify if this is what’s happening.

Smart businesses usually go further with their analytics. Tools like Hootsuite Analytics, Iconosquare, and Quintly can serve as Instagram sidekicks to help you identify what keeps followers by your side and what makes them leave.

Instagram is a powerful marketing tool, and it’s worth the effort and time to invest in the analytical tools that help you win back followers before they say goodbye for good. If you have questions, it’s always a good idea to contact a local digital marketing team that can help you better understand how to optimize Instagram for your brand. The potential is there, you just need to know how to reach it.

giles thomas


Giles Thomas is the founder of AcquireConvert, the conversion rate optimization blog that teaches ecommerce stores how to increase conversion rates and profits. He is the Founder of Berlin based ecommerce growth agency Whole Design Studios, a head mentor at the Google Launchpad Accelerator and a member of the Google Experts program.


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