It’s been about 9 months since I started my Instagram experiment, and if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s this: purposefully maintaining an Instagram account is really hard. From having the time to constantly produce unique content to keeping up with interactions, it’s an exhausting experience. So when I found myself moving into a new apartment and working at a summer camp for a week in the same month, I figured this would be the perfect time to try something new: leaving my Instagram accounts alone.
In the past, what I’ve experienced is that if I stop posting, the ratio of people who follow/unfollow becomes unbalanced, so it looks like a ton of followers are jumping ship when in reality you’re just lacking an influx of new followers.
I’m monitoring two accounts: one which had over 3,000 followers (@jonesdoeslife), and one which had about 286 followers (@zoraflorasays). Coming back after a month of not posting consistently, this is what I learned:
The size of your following, that is. During my month hiatus, my larger account continued to blossom. Despite the fact that I wasn’t posting, I still managed to obtain around 700 followers with about 6 posts. I didn’t keep track of the daily followings, but the average was approximately 20 new followers per day.
In contrast, my smaller account (which has an average of 3 follow/day on good weeks) flatlined. It went from having 289 followers to 286 just from me doing absolutely nothing.
Why Size Matters
These results make complete sense: the larger the account is, the more self-sustaining it becomes. Starting a successful account is hard – it can take months to get noticed by anyone that isn’t a bot, but once you obtain a critical mass of followers, the algorithms start working for you.
I’ve observed that some of the people who follow my larger account are very new to Instagram (as in, they-have-no-pictures-and-only-follow-5-people new). This makes me think that my profile has made it to the list of “general interest” profiles which Instagram will automatically sign you up for. Because of my follower count, it’s also easier for me to get visibility on people’s “Explore” page or to show up at the top of a hashtag. Because of this, I don’t have to work as hard to get people’s attention.
My smaller account, however, doesn’t get any of that natural algorithmic boost. It has less than 500 followers, gets less than 100 likes on each photo, and is a pretty standard personal account; when this account goes on vacation even the people who follow it don’t care. This account also doesn’t have the luxury of massive user engagement to boost the photos into people’s feeds, so taking a break meant a month of not gaining attention from new users because I wasn’t manually liking photos and interacting with users – honestly, I was surprised I didn’t lose more followers.
Large accounts can sustain themselves and grow even if new content isn’t being posted (albeit it will be a slower growth). Smaller accounts don’t have this luxury.