Don’t we all…
Ever since Instagram changed its algorithm (away from chronological feed), creatives and social media entrepreneurs have felt the ‘struggle’ of stagnant or slow growth on Instagram.
Today, I want to take you on a journey of Instagram growth, trial and error, and what not to do. I’m about to get WILDLY transparent with you over a few controversial topics. Since I myself, I am a Social Media Manager, there may be times throughout this post that your chin drops. “OMG SHE DID WHAT?!” moments too… I want you to stay in it for the long haul. Read the whole post, and see how my Science brain & experimental process background was put to work to make YOUR Instagram strategy THE BEST – possibly at the downfall of my own personal IG account. THEN, stay tuned with how I plan to FIX my own account. A rags to riches story. lol
Instagram Growth Step 1: THEME
In June of 2017, I got serious about my strategy on Instagram. I was in direct sales at the time, and Instagram Stories had just launched. I was starting to see a great ROI from my presence on Instagram, sharing products and hacks using the products I promoted. I did a lot of research on how to maximize efforts on Instagram and found that an overall theme was where I needed to start. Branding, if you will. Initiating an overall theme included consistent pops of color, filter, & aesthetic and captivating grid.
It became a full-time job (overdramatization lol) almost to overhaul my account – archive posts that were of little to no value for my newfound account theme, planning my grid so it was visually appealing and with the overall goal of enticing more humans to tap that follow button and double tap my posts. Essentially, my Instagram strategy took on the over-all look of being put together. And it was working! I was building followers and growing my account. PLUS, making sales. YASSS!
Instagram Growth Step 2: ENGAGE
So, I had my gorgeous grid to captivate new followers, I was posting content that added value to my followers, and I was growing at a rate of about 25-50 new followers a post, averaging 150-300 new followers a week. WOW right? (This was with minimal targeted hashtag strategy too, mind you) Next up in my research on how to best grow, I read that actually being social on social media was important. PAUSE…. why did someone need to tell me this?! Seems rather blatantly obvious, right?! WRONG. SO. MANY. ACCOUNTS. are trying to take the easy way out in growth, brand awareness and more, that this is an epidemic on the social space – robo-accounts that have literally no human interaction behind them… stay tuned for that rant another day.
I started using some engagement methods I read about, a few courtesy of Gary V, Bob Heilig, and some other various conglomeration of tips. Holy Cow, engaging with other accounts was working! Stay with me here, remember, I’m still new to the whole MAXIMIZING my IG for business with this new algorithm at this point…
Then I started to get antsy. I wanted to see the same results and put in less work. I wanted a hack that followed the Instagram Policies and Procedures, wasn’t a bot, and still allowed me to show face in front of other accounts within my target audience… Then entered PODS.
Growth: Instagram Engagement Pods
You’ve probably heard of these by now. If you haven’t, a ‘Pod’ is a group of people (representing social media accounts), sometimes categorized by niche, that come together with a common promise to help other pod-mates with engagement on their social posts. So, for example, if we were in a pod together, I would alert our pod that I had a new IG post up and our pod mates would go like and comment on my new post. The goal of pods includes immediate boosting of the Instagram algorithm on posts so that the algorithm sees your content as pertinent, takes that into account, and will pump it out to more viewers, increasing your reach and the performance of your post, seemingly organically.
Sounds too good to be true, right? I’m a huge believer in working smarter not harder, and pods were appearing to be just that answer! Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I’m still a believer that if you can find the right pod – within your niche, like minded people that you actually like the content of, etc – that this can add another dynamic factor into your instagram strategy. BUT you can also achieve pod-similar results by just engaging with your followers and building a loyal base around your own content truly organically.
Should I buy Instagram Followers? I really want the swipe up feature!
This is a common question we are asked as Social Managers. The appeal of the swipe up feature in Instagram stories is SO enticing, looks amazingly convenient, and makes your account appear even more bad ass, right? So why don’t you just pad your followers so you can have this feature already?!
Maybe you tried to get verified and Instagram denied you. You’re even more drawn to the ‘buy real followers’ google search. I know I was, so you know what we did? Michelle and I hashed it out for a few weeks. YES, WEEKS… Don’t do it, do it, don’t do it, do it…. We sat down and pro/conned it. We wanted real true results to show our clients from our own hands and experience rather than here-say from other resources.
So, we did it. We chose to use my personal Instagram account to test our hypothesis: Buying followers will benefit an account for SWIPE UP feature in IG stories, making the reach of static posts lower, but worth it for ROI in stories. Since stories are on the rise of popularity and more people are turning to stories to digest information, we took the plunge.
When we initiated our experiment, my account had grown on it’s own from 1300 in July 2017 to almost 6.5k in September 2018. In hopes to not alert the masses that we were initiating this experiment, I slowly started to add padded (bought) followers to my account. A few hundred here, a few hundred here. Finally making it to just a touch over 10k at the end of 2018. The initial report of buying these followers that we saw included short-lived boosting of my account by way of suggested accounts to follow (noted by acquiring MORE than I paid for followers. So, some were organic and a side acquisition outside of the ones I padded my account with.) IN THEORY, we were hoping that buying followers would have extreme ROI in regards to the swipe up feature, and would negate the potential engagement downfall.
SWIPE UP WAS HERE for my account! I was ready to see all kinds of hits to my blog and affiliate sales. I knew they probably wouldn’t happen overnight so I created some strategy around when and how I would share this type of swipeable content.
First month, I posted 20 swipe up links. 2 click throughs (1 to my blog). Zero Sales
Second month, I posted 20 swipe ups links, 6 click throughs (only 2 to my blog). 1 Affiliate Sale.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this, whether that’s enticing enough for you to pad your account… but for me, THOSE data points are NOT cutting it. Especially for what I saw happen to my static posts and their reach and engagement…
So, what happened after you bought followers?
- I got swipe up in my IG stories!
- My follower number PLUMMETTED quickly – naturally because IG is removing spam accounts EVERY DAY. Which is embarrassing as it happens.
- I was nervous each time I went to log in to my IG that it wouldn’t let me in for the fact that I was working their system in an unapproved way.
- My engagement went down, overall, and in regards to % engagement (total likes/comments per follower)
- It feels icky, fake, disingenuous.
- I started hating Instagram.
Should I buy Instagram Auto-Likes?
So now, we can see that buying Instagram followers is a gateway drug. Because here we sit trying to counteract the poor engagement my feed was getting with auto-likes.
So, why Auto-likes…? & what happened?
- WHY? It is a known fact that Instagram gauges content within about the first 15 minutes of life of IG post. It takes into account the frequency of your likes received and the potential interest your post will get within the IG community. If it ‘ranks’ well, IG pumps it out to more accounts to view, increasing your reach. Sounds like a FAB fix, right? Sounds similar to a pod without having to manually click links and like/comment but without using a bot, no?
- ‘Worked’ for a while – in the sense that it pumped my content up to more people to see within the first 15 min of post life.
- BUT, this tactic did NOT help me rank within hashtags – which was where I wanted to be.
Like I mentioned before with buying followers, it’s essentially up to you with how you choose to run your account, BUT, no one is fooled with your likes from Russian or Chinese accounts on your southern belle niched blog IG. Those are obviously not your target audience, and anyone who taps the ‘x likes’ portion under your post will not be caught in your web of lies.
I stopped using auto-likes. I felt icky and like a LIAR.
VANITY NUMBERS AND HOW THEY ARE KILLING YOUR INSTAGRAM STRATEGY
STOP looking to FOLLOWER number and LIKES number to validate your account. STOP IT RIGHT NOW! No swanky feature on IG is worth the internal turmoil and potential exposure of the fact that you’re working the system. Dishonesty is the downfall of your brand, and the quickest way to losing your loyal following.
That last sentence has been why I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while. My science brain has been DYING to share the findings, and advocate for micro-influencers with HIGH engagement but a low following. Our intent of this experiment was to quantify data for our clients, even if I took one for the team trialing it on my account. I hope you were deterred from buying followers and likes for your instagram, no matter how desperate you’re feeling for certain features. I want to invite you to my rags to riches story as I come out from under the blow of buying likes and followers! I want to invite you to join me in my efforts as I revive my account and come back! Employing my steps will also help your account grow too, a win win!
Join our SOCIAL EMPOWER TRIBE today!
STAY TRUE TO YOU. IF YOUR FOLLOWING IS LOW, THAT IS OK!!!!! Strive for building up your engagement. Strive for building a community around your posts, and a space where people are yearning for more content from you that they can’t help but comment on!
JUST SAY NO TO BUYING ANYTHING ON IG – FOLLOWERS OR LIKES. JUST DON’T DO IT! & while you’re at it, step away from the idea of follow/unfollow. Don’t do that shit either.
So, how are you coming back from this ‘bought’ blunder, Syd?
I’m so glad you are still here to read this. That you made it through my WILDLY transparent and controversial post, as a social media manager, to this point.
3 Steps to TRUE Instagram growth (& how I plan to resurrect my account):
- (I’m not counting this as a step for you) Remove the spam followers (this will take some time as there are a couple thousand of them. I’ll also go through and remove people I’m following that I am truly not engaging with or interested in their content)
- STEP 1: Factor back in ample time, daily, to engage within my target audience, hashtags, and other accounts in my niche.
- STEP 2: Get back to my strategy and batching my OWN content, & continue to add value for my followers.
- STEP 3: Get back to my micro-influencer status – 2019 is the year of the mdicroinfluencer with more brands turning to niched accounts with specific, loyal, followers to boost their brands and bring awareness to what they have to offer. Brands are turned away by accounts that have high followers but low engagement (hmm, interesting huh?! lol). So, don’t get distraught if you have a lower following, but are getting good engagement – your content is King, but engagement is Queen!
Need help strategizing your content? Read this post.
SHARE THIS, PIN THIS, POST IT EVERYWHERE TO DETER YOUR CREATIVE FRIENDS FROM BUYING FOLLOWERS AND LIKES.