Someone asked me this on Instagram just the other day, and I thought it was worth answering here too. It's one thing to decide who to follow when you use Instagram for personal use only. But when you use it for business purposes, it can be confusing as to who you should follow on Instagram.
In all reality, who you choose to follow on Instagram will vary over time. People will change, as will you. What they choose to share will evolve and what you want to see will evolve. So don't feel like you have to have an exact recipe.
I want to start by saying that you should be following a "good" number of people. There is no perfect ratio or average that I can advise you on. However, if you have 1000 followers and only follow 10 people, that doesn't look good. If you have 10,000 followers and only follow 200 people, that also doesn't look so good.
I definitely recommend you follow at least 100 people. Get yourself out there and engaging with others. You can't do that only following 50 people.
Here are some good guidelines to consider for who to follow on Instagram.
Follow Those Who Interest You
This is the biggest and most important tip. Follow those who interest you. This is your Instagram account and you are the one using it. If you're going to be scrolling through looking for images to interact with, you are going to want to see things that appeal to you.
Follow companies, brands, celebrities, photographers, artists, cute animals, and hobbyists. If they share content you enjoy then you should follow them.
Follow your friends, family, and people you've met. If they are people you want to stay connected with, then follow them. You can see their content and stay in touch.
Follow the Good Examples
I highly recommend you find companies and brands in your industry and in other industries who are using Instagram well. Then follow them.
Watch what they do. See how they engage. See what works and what doesn't. Learn from them.
This is especially important when you first get started on Instagram. It's important that you see how others are using Instagram and why. Knowing what works and doesn't work will significantly improve your account success.
Follow Your Customers (Sometimes)
If you have dedicated, raving fans in your customers, it's worth following them back. Engaging with them and showing them you care about them too will go leaps and bounds in the right direction.
But you should still be conservative about how many of your customers you follow. If their content ties in closely to your brand and what you post, then it can be rewarding. But if they post a lot of content that is unrelated or inappropriate, you don't need to follow them back.
Follow Your Partners and Associates
If you are affiliated with other companies or have business partners in your business, follow them on Instagram. It shows solidarity and support while also allowing you to see what they are doing.
Who NOT to Follow
As much as I can say about who you should follow, I can say a lot more about who NOT to follow on Instagram.
First and foremost, don't follow everyone who follows you. This is not authentic and can get you into trouble when you follow and allow spam accounts into your world. Always verify any account before you follow them. They should have a complete bio, real photos and/or videos, real engagement and conversations, and their account should be more than a few weeks old (look at how many posts they have and make sure they have posts going back over time).
I also recommend avoiding follow for follow tactics. Many people will follow you and ask you to follow them back. If they are someone you know or like their content, then go for it. But, in general, these are people just trying to inflate their follower count. They have no real interest in engaging with you or your company.
Be selective in who you choose to follow on Instagram. Because the feed shows you all of everyone's content, you will have plenty to look at. Make sure that the content you see is relevant to you and your business and worth your time. Stay true to you and your brand voice by following people who are in line with that.
And don't be afraid to unfollow someone down the road. I have followed numerous people only to unfollow them at some later date. Sometimes their content evolved and went in a direction that I didn't like. Sometimes they unfollowed me and I decided that it was no longer advantageous for me to follow them either.
Just don't do the horribly inappropriate thing of following someone just to get them to follow you and then unfollowing them in return. This is very bad Instagram behavior!
And there you have my best advice on who you should follow on Instagram. Like I said, it's not a recipe so much as a guideline. It will depend on you and your Instagram strategy. It will depend on what you like to see and who you engage with.
Instagram is all about relationships and the people you follow should be a part of that desire to build relationships.