Before I delve into the details, let me clarify by writing that this post isn’t about promoting my Instagram account, nor about boasting about what happened to my account. I’m writing this post to be an informative one for those wondering what exactly happens when a user gets on Instagram’s Suggested Users list. The Suggested Users list is a list of users on Instagram that are recommended to be followed, and is presented to every new account upon creation. For those of you who are wondering how one gets on the Suggested Users list on Instagram, don’t hold your breath—nobody really knows how one gets on the Suggested Users list, so I will merely give my thoughts below, on how this can be done. Now, let’s get to the details.
Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List the First Time
This section will explain what happened to my account when I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list the first time. I don’t have any screen captures of this event, so this will be a recollection of what I remember. On May 29, 2014, at 12:29pm, I received a Direct Mail from Instagram congratulating me for being put on their Suggested Users List. That DM looks a little like this:
To see if they actually respond to their DMs, I decided to write back to them and thank them for putting me on. This dialog went a little like this:
With two emojis, this conversation ended before it actually began.
My Instagram account at this time was strictly photos taken with my iPhone, or my iPhoneography. Before being put on the list, my follower count was approximately 1100. I didn’t know what would happen so I decided to just enjoy the ride to see where this took me. Within minutes I started getting followers. My activity list was just a list of messages stating xxx started following you. At one point, I was receiving more than 1000 new followers per 12 hours. This barrage of new followers continued steadily for the next 14 days.
By the end of the 14 days on the Suggested Users list, my total followers count was somewhere in the upper 20,000s. What’s one to do with all these followers? Not to worry because as weeks went by that number started to diminish little by little. There’s a number of reasons why you may start to lose followers:
- People who initially followed you no longer had an interest in your account.
- Spam accounts who automatically follow people on the Suggested Users list may unfollow you just as quickly.
In fact, I remember even months after being put on the Suggested Users list, I was still losing a small number of followers. It wasn’t until months down the road where my total followers finally settled down to the low 20,000. Fast forward a few months later when Instagram decided to purge inactive accounts or those that they found to be spam, and I found myself with even fewer followers afterwards. My total follower count after this purge settled to be around 18,600. From then on, my follower count fluctuated somewhat but was always around the 18,500-18,600 mark.
Here’s a summary of the roller coaster ride my follower count went through the first time on Instagram’s Suggested Users list on May 29, 2014.
Who Are These Followers?
Now that’s a good question. The Suggested Users list is shown to all new users who create an account for the first time. You can also get to the list through your settings pages. And more recently, when you follow an account, a list of three other similar accounts will be suggested for you at that time as well. Whether the people on this list come from the Suggested Users list though, I do not know for certain.
I would gather that many of these followers are people who created an account out of interest and curiosity. These people may not necessarily continue to use the app and therefore will likely never engage with you on your account. So although you may have a large number of followers, those who actually engage with you may only be a fraction of those followers.
It’s important to note that just because they don’t engage with you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t see your photos. I’ll talk a little more on this below.
So How Did You Get Put On The Suggested Users List?
There are a number of sites out there that will tell you how to get on the Suggested Users list. While these techniques may be valid, there really is nothing proving that they work. The first time I was put on though, I was consciously following those very tips:
- Post regularly good quality photos.
- Engage with your followers by replying back to their comments on your photos.
- Visit your followers stream and engage with them on their photos.
- Visit other non-follower’s photos and like and comment on them.
So, is that what I should be doing with my account?
The whole point of social media platforms is to connect with other like-minded individuals. If your goal is to meet new people and connect with them, then yes, doing the above will likely get you further than if you were to simply ignore those steps. Don’t forget, joining contests and doing collaborations will also get you noticed by other members, increasing your chances of gaining new loyal followers.
Being On The Suggested Users List The Second Time
The second time I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list, it happened a little differently so this intrigued me quite a bit. On October 19, 2015 at 2:31pm, this time I received an email from Instagram congratulating me for being on the Suggested Users list. That email looked a little like this:
This took me by surprise though, since this came at a time where I was only sporadically posting at best. There were times where I wasn’t even posting, commenting, or liking, for five- or six-day stretches. I was certainly not following any of the four points mentioned above. My followers count was roughly 18,500 on that day. And this time, Instagram put me on their Suggested Users List for three weeks.
I decided to do things a little differently with my account this time. For the longest time I prided myself in uploading only my iPhone photos on my Instagram account. This time, however, I decided to now include my Nikon photos to my account. The difference in quality is still very much noticeable and so I decided to up my account to the next level along with my follower count.
So how was I put on the Suggested Users list the second time?
If you look at the email above, they gave you a link to click to suggest other users. If someone else was put on the Suggested Users list and got this same email, perhaps they remembered my account and decided to suggest me at that point, regardless of how often I was posting, commenting, or liking.
This would show that Instagram does listen to what other users are saying by taking their suggestions. It’s just a wonder why I was never presented with this option the first time around.
So what does this mean?
This means, you’re still better off cultivating a loyal base of followers by connecting with them through comments and likes. The more top-of-mind you are to other people, the more you’ll likely be suggested by another user to be on the Suggested Users list.
Here’s a graph of my follower’s numbers from the time I was put on, on October 19, 2015, to the time I was put off the list, exactly three weeks later.
The increase in followers this time was incredible. At one point I was getting almost 700 new followers an hour. November 6 had an increase of about 7,000 new followers over the course of only 12 hours as well. I really don’t know where all these people are coming from!
At the end of being on the Suggested Users List, my follower count was roughly 153,600, an increase of 830 percent!
Engagements, Follower Count, and Likes Oh My!
With such an increase in number of followers, you hope you will get an increase in engagement as well. My likes and comments have increased a lot, but my posting dSLR photos have definitely made a difference in this as well. My engagement and like levels may not have increased by the same amount as my follower count had, but I have noticed more interaction from my users.
You can see here that seconds after I posted a photo to my account, people will immediately start to like it.
While being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List, I would still be getting followers while people would be liking my photo that I just uploaded seconds ago. Notice how there aren’t any comments though? Liking only requires a double-tap while commenting requires more effort and time.
With a large amount of followers, how come engagement isn’t as high?
There could be a number of reasons for this. I mentioned above that many of these followers may be new to Instagram and therefore may not use the app on a regular basis. These people may not engage with you as much as someone who loves photography and goes on the app several times a day. I believe this reason alone yields in an imbalance between follower count and engagement.
What about impressions?
Impressions are a metric for marketers to measure the success of a social media post. For example, YouTube views can be equivalent to its impression figure. The number of open e-blasts may also be used as an impression.
Instagram can be a little different though since you never really know who may or may not have seen your image. For example, if your follower count is 100,000, then your potential impressions may be 100,000 as well—although this is likely never the case. People who don’t necessarily like or comment on your photos may still see your photo, which will count as an impression because down the road, those people may still very well remember your photo.
The takeaway to this is your photos may still get a large impression because of your follower count, but your engagement may not be as large because of their decision to not like and/or comment on your photo.
Does Any Of This Matter?
This is a question you’ll have to ask yourself. To some people, these are just silly numbers. To others, they mean more potential for partnerships and collaborations with brands. Whether this matters, depends on what you want out of your Instagram account. I welcome new experiences and opportunities so I’ll see where this takes me—if anywhere. If I continue to post high quality photos and be inviting to my followers, I hope to cultivate a loyal following where people will want to come back to my stream for more of my photos.
Personally I am very thankful for being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list twice, as I enjoy engaging with new people around the world. If I am able to show my photography to more people, I will be more motivated to continue and learn the craft to better myself as a photographer, all the while making friendships around the world.
Have you been put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list? Do you even care about any of this? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear what you think about all of this.