Unmasking Marketing - The Strangest Thing Just Happened On Instagram...

So I was on IG and realised that I didn’t follow Gary V on Arkom’s insta. His content cutting edge and his advice for these platforms is normally relevant – so I followed him and looked through his recent posts and liked a couple...

I busy myself checking the dates of my all posts to add to my analysis database (after realising I wanted to track patterns across different times of the year to see if there was anything in that.)

I went to update the list and then when I came back - I had 12 more followers! Over the course of 10 minutes I’d gained 12 followers. Given that it had taken me 20 days to reach 50, that seemed unusual!

insta followers

I was really happy with reaching 50 in the first month, since my target all along was 500 for the year - I was ahead of schedule and exceeding targets. And I’d felt like I’d earned the 50 followers...they’d grown slowly and steadily having posted original content which I'd put a lot of effort into.

This sudden surge of followers felt hollow by comparison.

It actually took me upto the list of accounts that I was following (67) so that felt superficially quite nice, but it didn’t feel earned.

I did some reading presuming that it was bots or that maybe it was a social media company who managed a range of people who was following all the same accounts.

On a couple of them that definitely seemed true, but it wasn’t like the accounts were connected.

TIP: An easy way to check is to go on the profile that’s just followed you and check their following list. If you’re way down the list of following, the chances are that they’ve just mass followed a bunch of profiles hoping to get follows in return.

I also wondered if Gary Vee or a similar influencer just released a video advising people to go out and follow a bunch of accounts or something? I wrote that off though as it was too weird for all these unrelated accounts just followed us specifically though.

Then I read something online that said it can be to do with people checking who you’ve followed and interacted with on a certain hashtag or something. I don’t get how this works even...my guess is they need additional software to reverse engineer what you’ve liked or followed recently...and trace it back to you? (update: this definitely happens, at least to some degree)

instagram comment quote

There’s the chance that people just literally sit refreshing Gary V’s following list and following whoever appears at the top of it.

The follows have stopped now, so that could be it. Once you go so far down that list maybe you disappear entirely?

Whatever the actual reason is behind it, this is not a set of followers that I expect to stick around...it will be interesting to track the fluctuations of followers over the next couple of days to the weekend.

It’s a strange old world on Instagram, the followers and following seems very artificial at times...this is obviously the vanity affair I am looking to avoid as I’ve mentioned before throughout the Unmasking Marketing series.

It’s hard to know exactly what to do about it though. The worst part is when you get a comment and you're not 100% sure if it's genuine or not. You have to respond in case it's real, but then if it isn't real, you look like a mug who thought it was.


I now know what it is. (Or suspect I do). I did a little test. I unfollowed Gary Vee and followed him again immediately. 6 new followers in the last 2 minutes. This is so weird. Like, if I wasn’t scrupulous, it feels like I could just sit here all day and abuse this and to anyone on the outside it would seem like I was doing a great job.

But I’d know.

Even as I’m typing this I’m getting new followers...it’s bonkers! I could just do this over and over again every 20 minutes and show real time how many followers I’m attracting and then I could write some BS book THE KILLER SECRET TO GROWING AN IG ACCOUNT TO 1 MILLION FOLLOWERS.

I should really do that actually. I’d make a lot of money.

Another Update:

It's almost certainly at least a mixture of bots working for people’s accounts.

I did it on my personal IG and some of it is just follows, but there are arbitrary comments written within seconds of someone following me, like “Love Your Profile” or “This rocks! Will love to connect more!” “Hi there, what’s good today ? So much value on your page (on my personal insta there most certainly is not so much value) What are you working on?”

Not only that, but there is definitive overlap between the accounts that followed Arkom’s and the accounts that followed my personal profile. I think there’s definitely a blend of bots and people (or maybe click farms! Don’t make me post another video of a Chinese Click Farm!) just refreshing Gary V’s followers list because these accounts that have liked both of my accounts didn’t do it immediately.

Either way this is why you should be skeptical about whatever you see on Instagram. Don’t let the numbers fool you, and never buy followers - because these are not engaged audiences that will buy from you or recommend you. They are literally just numbers on a screen. If that’s all you’re after, then go ahead and buy followers.

But you might as well just follow and unfollow Gary Vaynerchuk every 20 minutes and you can get the numbers for free anyway.

Final Update:

The bots come and go after a set amount of time or depending on whether or not you follow them.

I'm gonna do a post soon on the dark side of Instagram - after a conversation I had with someone who employed a lot of the "tactics."

If you've just joined the Unmasking Marketing series, check out our other articles: