There are a lot of posts and programs out there that tell you how to grow your following on your blog, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Most of those talk about creating and curating your personal brand, so that everyone who sees something of yours will know that it came from you without even looking at the account handle. And, of course, a lot of people who listen to this advice want to monetize their social media presence.
First of all, let me say: if that's what you're trying to do, rock on. Get it, girl. Hustle, as they say. (I don't say that. But it is said.)
Second, I'll absolutely admit that I'm probably not your target audience if that is what you're trying to do, so you probably won't care about what comes third.
But here's what comes third: I just had an urge to go through everyone I follow on Instagram, and I ended up unfollowing everyone whose accounts I don't enjoy looking at or engaging with. Without agenda, almost everyone I unfollowed was either actually a brand or a person who has made an effort branding herself (or, in rare instances, himself). If I read a handle and couldn't think of a single personal thing about the account holder, I unfollowed that account.
I unfollowed accounts whose Instagrams look like they belong in magazine editorials.
I unfollowed accounts that don't post any "real life" photos.
I unfollowed accounts who make a overwhelming effort to grow their followings or satisfy sponsors.
Of course there are some exceptions to this. I still follow a few actual companies I love, companies that have great customer service both offline and on, like Room and Board, Rugs USA, Crane & Canopy, and Boden. And I still follow some internet friends who are also entrepreneurs and make a living online and by advertising online, like Kristen and Heidi and Lauren and Megan. But people - not social media managers, but private individuals - who commercialize themselves and filter out everything human... those are the ones who were unfollowed the fastest.
I don't care what your grid looks like. I don't care that your lighting isn't always perfect. I don't care that you only edit photos in Instagram and found out that people edit photos for Instagram in multiple apps before posting them to Instagram by reading one of those "how I edit photos for Instagram" blog posts.
I care that I know your dog twitches in his sleep because you posted that silly video of him chasing rabbits in his dreams. I care about the beef stew that you posted even though it looked disgusting because, in the caption, you explained that it's your boyfriend's favorite meal. I care that sometimes you take a photo of your shoes because they're cute and they make you happy, not because you're angling for a free pair or fulfilling a sponsorship agreement.
I care that your selfies are usually face-on, your eyes smiling straight into mine instead of staring demurely at some invisible point on the floor just under your left shoulder. That's the relationship I want with the people I spend time with online. The one where you're you, sharing yourself. Not your brand.