Follows are 5 times better than likes for growing your audience

Have you ever spent an hour in the evening liking tons of photos on Instagram? Did you notice a few days later that your followers didn’t increase much despite all those interactions? There’s a good explanation for that, which we’ll dig into below.


We asked our data science team to analyze the effectiveness of likes vs follows for gaining followers. They also looked at likes and follows combined. We have a large customer base and the results represent a huge variety of Instagrammers, from small businesses to influencers, bloggers to enthusiasts. Regardless of the type of account, the content posted, or time period we looked at, the results looked similar for everyone: follows absolutely destroyed likes for driving account growth.

Let’s look at the numbers a bit. Over any recent month, we did many tens of millions of likes or follows for our customers. We track who followed back and can attribute new followers to the likes or follows we did. So we know who you gained as a follower and why. This is the foundation of the Gold Nitro targeting report, which you can read more about on our Help Center. After crunching all that data, we found that follows converted at a rate 5 times greater than likes. (5.58 actually but let’s just truncate not round!)

The reason for this greater growth from follows is a little thing in the Instagram app, a deliberate choice Instagram made to make follows more important. The follow button in the activity view makes it super easy to follow someone back, but likes require extra work to follow back.

Instagram app activity likes follows jpg

When we look at accounts doing both auto likes and follows, the story is much the same. Instagram limits overall account activity, so every like we do is less effective than a follow, but you can only do so many total likes and follows over a period of time before getting blocked. This showed up in the numbers: accounts with both likes and follows enabled had 20% less growth than those with follows only.

What’s this all mean for you? You should still like photos that you, well, like, but that’s more to shape your feed and give good karma to others. If you want to grow your account, follows are the way to go. Gold Nitro can help save you many hours a week and grow your account for you, you can learn more on