Instagram Rules for Following Other Users: A Few Must-Knows

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 16, 2024

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Social media platforms are all different. Instagram is the visually “aesthetic” platform; Twitter is for text threads; TikTok is for dance challenges and so on. However, one thing these apps have in common is that they allow people to see others’ content by following them. Every app also has its own rules and limitations for following others. But today, we’re taking a deep dive into the most important Instagram rules for following accounts.

Following someone on Instagram is as easy as tapping a button on their profile. But it’s such an impactful gesture. It connects you to communities interested in the same things as you and allows you to discover cool content.

But you can’t just be happy-go-lucky with who you follow and when you follow them. Keep reading this guide to learn all the rules you need to know about following pages on Instagram.

Someone holding a phone displaying their Instagram profile, along with their following and follower count.

What Does Following on Instagram Mean?

If you’re unfamiliar with how social media platforms work, you might be asking, “What does following on Instagram mean anyway?”

The act of following someone on Instagram essentially means “subscribing” to their account. When they post photos or videos on the platform, you’ll see them appear on your feed. That makes it super easy to stay on top of what these accounts are sharing online. If you don’t follow someone, you’ll only see their content if you visit their page. You’ll also stumble upon their content on the Explore page or Reels tab if Instagram recommends their posts to you.

Following others is the main way of connecting with people on Instagram. Users will typically follow friends, family, acquaintances, and a few brands and influencers they like. You can always change your mind about following someone on Instagram by unfollowing them.

An iPhone with the Instagram symbols for follow, like, and comment above it.

What Does Followed by Mean on Instagram?

Following someone is quite self-explanatory, but what does “followed by” on Instagram mean? Basically, it means that a specific account on Instagram follows another user.

“Followed by” is essentially synonymous with “followers.” Any time you see “followed by,” it indicates who follows and is interested in a specific page.

When you visit someone’s Instagram page, you’ll see the line “followed by” next to the names of people you know. Those names are people who follow the page you’re on. This is the platform’s way of telling you that you have mutual connections with this account.

A User’s Followers vs. Following Ratio Tells You a Lot About Them

Everyone on Instagram has a followers vs following ratio. This pertains to how many followers you have in relation to how many people you actually follow. If you compare these numbers, you’ll learn a lot about the user behind them.

For example, if someone has many followers but a low number of people they follow, it means they’re quite popular. This is typically what the followers vs. following ratios of influencers look like. They might be picky about who to follow, but they have thousands of people in their fanbase.

If someone has around the same number of followers and people they follow, they likely always reciprocate follows. They might be the ones who follow only friends and family, aka people who are more inclined to follow them back.

Very few followers with a high following count is the ratio that raises a few red flags. Sometimes, this could be indicative of a spam or bot account. They’ll follow tons of users on Instagram but fail to get the same enthusiasm about their page. Of course, this could only mean that they’re not very influential, but they love seeing other people’s content.

4 Key Instagram Rules for Following Other Accounts

If you discover pages you love on Instagram, it can be tempting to go on a follow-spread. But before you follow everyone and their mother, there are some Instagram follow rules you need to know. Here are the most important ones set by the platform.

1. You Can Only Follow 7,500 Accounts

Instagram limits the number of people anyone can follow to 7,500 accounts. They set this rule to reduce spam on everyone’s feeds and to ensure people only see content they actually love.

If you try to follow someone when you already follow 7,500 pages, an error message will pop up. If you see anyone following over 7,500 people, it means they followed all those users before implementing the rule.

2. Don’t Follow Too Many Accounts in a Short Amount of Time

It’s not the best idea to mass follow or unfollow people on Instagram in a very short time.

Instagram has systems in place to track everyone’s platform activities and detect inauthentic activity. If the app flags your account for following too many people too fast, it might think you’re using a bot. This can lead to some temporary bans and restrictions that last anywhere between half an hour to a few days.

So, it’s best to limit how many people you follow in a day. Instagram doesn’t recommend a hard number for this. But try to keep it to 10-15 accounts every hour to be safe.

3. Don’t Use Automation Tools To Follow and Unfollow Accounts for You

Avoid using automation tools and software to follow or unfollow users for you, even if their convenience can be tempting. This goes with the previous rule. The Instagram team makes it their mission to keep inauthentic activity out of the platform. Plus, it violates their terms of use.

When you automate a program to follow accounts, you give a bot a script to do an action repetitively. This is a hard no on Instagram and can alert the platform that you are trying to generate fake activity. If Instagram finds you guilty, it could subject you to the much-dreaded shadowban. Yikes!

4. Avoid Buying Followers From Sketchy Sites

Buying followers from third-party sites isn’t just against Instagram’s rules. It will also harm the quality of your fanbase. When you buy followers from sketchy sites, you might receive ghost followers or bots that don’t interact with your content. While they’ll pull up your follower count for the optics, your engagement rate will sink severely.

Instead of buying fake followers online, implement organic growth strategies to build a real, genuine, engaging audience. Churn out high-quality, captivating content and interact with people authentically.

A man holding a fan of four twenty dollar bills.

4 Unwritten Rules About Following and Being Followed on IG

All the rules we laid out above are those set by Instagram to keep the platform a safe, enjoyable place. But those aren’t the only rules you need to know about when it comes to following other users’ accounts.

There are also a bunch of unwritten rules every Instagram user with good intentions keeps in mind about following others. These rules aren’t “official” by any means. However, they’re awesome practices for maintaining an authentic and positive atmosphere on the platform. Check out these unwritten rules everyone in the Instagram community should know about.

1. Don’t Feel Pressured To Follow Anyone Back

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re “rude” for not following them back. Just because someone follows you, you are not obligated to return the favor. Don’t give in to the peer pressure to follow back. Instead, be as picky as you want with whom you follow on Instagram.

Remember—there’s a limit to how many people you can follow on the platform. So, it’s best to follow only accounts whose content you really want to consume and see on the feed.

A woman nervously thinking while holding her phone.

2. Don’t Just Rely on Follow for Follow Instagram Accounts

Follow-for-follow Instagram accounts are pages that follow others only to get them to reciprocate the gesture and follow them back. Some of these accounts are sketchy spam and possible scam accounts. However, there may be a few genuine people trying out this strategy to gain more followers for their page.

Regardless of whether the user behind this strategy is real or fake, don’t rely on it to grow your page. You might love the thrill of getting followers so easily with this tactic. But it’s not sustainable. Once you stop following follow-for-follow pages, your follower growth will reach a plateau or maybe even plummet.

To consistently gain high-quality followers, use sustainable growth techniques like using hashtags, networking in your community, or running ads.

3. Refrain From Following Someone and Then Unfollowing Them After

Another tactic people use to get more followers is following others and waiting for a follow-back. Once that person follows them, they’ll unfollow their page.

This is a super manipulative, fake, and insincere way to “grow” your fanbase. If you need to betray and use someone to get more followers, it means there’s something wrong with your page. Instead of trying this, focus on producing high-quality creative content that wins over genuine fans.

Don’t get us wrong. Unfollowing someone is valid if you no longer want to see their posts. But don’t do it with the intent of getting rid of them after they follow you.

4. Don’t Follow Users That Go Against Community Guidelines; Report Them Instead

There are plenty of content rules listed in detail on Instagram’s community guidelines. Here are some of the most important ones to remember:

  • Nudity except for those in some contexts, including breastfeeding, health, art, and gender confirmation procedures. Basically, nudity isn’t allowed when it’s in provocative and sexual content.
  • Any content that threatens physical harm and financial harm to others.
  • Hate speech that discriminates against anyone based on their gender, race, disability, skin color, and more.
  • Photos, videos, music, art, and more could be infringing on copyright. You can report stolen content regardless of whether you’re the copyright owner.

If you come across a page on Instagram that does any of the above, don’t follow them. It’s your responsibility as a compliant, respectful Instagram user to report them instead. This allows you to contribute to keeping the platform safe for everyone. Plus, it keeps your feed clear of dangerous, unethical, and unsafe content.

A woman holding up her hand, where a sticky note with an “X” mark is stuck on her palm.

Keep These Rules in Mind for the Smoothest Instagram Experience

Following interesting Instagram accounts is what fills your feed with exciting, engaging content. But you can’t just follow pages for tactical, malicious reasons or by using automation tools. There are rules to follow to ensure that you have the smoothest user experience on the platform.

Keep in mind all the Instagram rules for following we listed down when checking out compelling accounts. By understanding what you should and shouldn’t do, you’ll face no problems with following others.

Now that you know the rules for following others, it’s time to make sure others follow your page, too. If you want to grow your Instagram page fast, work with Path Social. We use AI to assess your page and find the audience that resonates most with your content. We promote your posts to them, boosting your visibility and growing your fanbase exponentially. Gain more followers today!