Instagram is the titan when it comes to making money for most businesses. But how in the world can you bring droves of followers to your account?
Well, this one is the most difficult out of any social media company. Instagram, which initially started in 2010, was a picture share program, and once hashtags and business accounts began, it started to create a sense of gain-culture. How many followers do you have? How many comments do you get? As the years have gone by, it’s driven people to absolute madness, depression, doubting the work they are putting out, and the fear of missing out.
Yet, we still worship this app as the TOP of TOPS when it comes to Small Businesses, Public Figures, Influencers, and verification has made it even more lucrative. If you don’t have the blue checkmark, you can’t make the big bucks. So HOW can you succeed on an app like this?
I’ve found some new techniques that I will share, and I will also share some of the techniques that DON’T work, that way you don’t make the same mistakes!
ENGAGEMENT IS ROYALTY
King, Queen, or the Non-Binary version of such, Engagement is the most important thing, and it might even be more important than your followers, believe it or not. The reason being? It proves to brands and to Instagram that your content and profile is worth pushing further into the algorithm and that you have a fanbase or audience that will engage, be interested, and potentially buy from what you’re promoting.
How do you build engagement? A few ways:
- Work with hashtags! The hashtags you use are only part of how to find people to view your content. You should be checking out the content of others who are also using the same hashtags as you. Engaging with their content will push your content that is hashtagged with the same tag up in the algorithm. Some who use social media strategies do this right when they post, that way they see your username, and potentially your content sooner. Commenting tends to get more eyes back to your content than likes do, so be sure to comment, but if you comment on every single photo, you will be looked at as spam, so only comment on content you think is worthy of a comment! Same with likes, if you go hit a hashtag and like every piece of content, you will be flagged as spam or stopped from posting for a full week.
- Befriend others that have content like yours. For example, as we know, I am a Cannabis Influencer and Entrepreneur, so I have made lots of buddies in the Cannabis scene. Finding people that you dig, connecting with other influencers, or connecting with the people who like some of the same brands you do can help you create a community of people that are interested in the same things you’re putting out! Likewise, if you are a photographer, target hashtags and larger content creators and befriend those people. As you connect with more people that are like-minded, you will also be suggested for follows by Instagram.
- Some industries create “Engagement Groups,” and while Instagram itself does not LIKE these groups, and has punished some groups for them, many people get their engagement from forming little group chats with likeminded content makers and vow to comment on all of their posts, and like them. Some people even go as far as to require in the groups that you comment 4 or more words (considered the best engagement you can get) and saving people’s posts to make them look more valuable to the algorithm. What many DO say about the engagement groups is that you should never send the actual post into the group chat, because then Instagram will realize that the content is being filtered through an engagement group. So keep that in mind if you start one, or if you decide to individually make commitments to other friends to like for like, and comment for comment.
STORIES, REELS, IGTV
Video is supposed to be the new frontier, and while we’ve seen this with the popularity of TikTok, Instagram is still trying to hold onto its users by creating comparable functions. Stories, much like viewing a public Snapchat, IGTV, the answer for YouTube, and recently Reels, Instagram’s attempt at fighting TikTok, all of these video-based functions will help grow your account and will be pushed slightly heavier in the cases of Reels and IGTV, because Instagram wants these products to thrive.
- STORIES: Obviously, Stories are less permanent shares for your content, but you can make them as unofficial or official that you want. Many people strive to create short-form videos on a daily basis in order to share on stories, now Reels, and on TikTok. The more unique your content is, the more people will view that content. So if your unique content is your day-to-day life? GREAT! If you devote your stories to sharing content you like, as well as your own, SUPER COOL! If you create exclusive graphics or videos and put in a ton of work, EVEN BETTER! But be sure to use them! One of the pieces of intel I got as far as Stories were concerned by some other social media mavens is that you should post at least 10 stories a day. Now, that may seem exhausting if you already can’t keep up – but if you even do as something as to share a friend’s comment (think back to those friends you made, you can share their content and hopefully they will share yours as well), it’s worth making sure you hit that quota most of the time if you’re looking to build your account.
- IGTV: At one point, Instagram really thought that they had the next YouTube on their hands. While that is totally inaccurate in 2021, the functionality is there for those who want to use it. Longform video isn’t a bad thing, it just sometimes is a commitment that not everyone is ready and able to make. But for those who are interested and can generate long-form video, IGTV can be a huge asset in the fact that you can share this long-form video without having to exit to a different platform and have to build another audience. This gives opportunities to people who are creating Live Shows, Podcasts, and more to share their content. It’s also important to note that if you do an Instagram Live, you are now prompted at the end of the Live to share to IGTV, that way you can hold onto your live streams, and get more views on them.
- REELS: The newest of the family, Reels, as I said, is the IG response to TikTok. While the algorithm does not even come CLOSE to TikTok’s superiority, Reels has created a new space for those who don’t want to go on TikTok, as well as people who are creating content that does not fly on the TikTok servers. Cannabis, for example, is a prime case of this, as TikTok will not let you post any visual and sometimes even audio that relates to the plant. It only lasts for 30 seconds, rather than a full minute like the Tok, but many users are enjoying the new feature, but not fully embracing that as their only content. You can add music and captions, and they recently added new features that are similar to the duet function.
Now the important thing to note is this when it comes to both Reels and IGTV: If you do not put the preview of your videos on your grid, it is a hell of a lot harder to get eyes on them. The algorithm just does not do those videos justice. If you put it on your grid, it’s going to show up in the main feed, versus having to look at a Reels feed or IGTV section, and the main feed itself will push those videos – IF THEY ARE ON YOUR FEED. You can try and share them to your stories, but you’re still going to get more eyes on the main preview. It is so ridiculous what little technicalities you have to follow when it comes to this!
IS IT WORTH PLAYING THE FOLLOWING GAME?
Back when Instagram was first started, a technique to gain a following was to follow a shit ton of people, and then eventually unfollow them, and hope they don’t notice (DICK MOVE). And to tell you the truth, the first half (following a shit ton of people) used to work really well. It sometimes still works, depending on who you follow. But is this a good way of gaining followers? Not really. Not only does it make your following count go up, but it will also bog down your feed with people you don’t actually care about, and if you are following people who aren’t like-minded, aren’t posting the same type of content you do, or they don’t engage with you, it’s not going to do you any good following random strangers.
Another point to note: If you have a lot of followers that don’t interact with your content, or haven’t posted since 2015, it might be a good idea to remove them as a follower, and open up that slot to more engagement from other followers.
SHOULD I BUY FOLLOWERS?
Most social media gurus will immediately start screaming “NO NO GOD NO! NO!” Michael Scott style. But in some situations, it has proven to be helpful. At an early point in my career, there were festivals that I was trying to get into as a Concert Photographer, and they had a “follower count quota” in order to apply. So I did what I thought was necessary, and bought a little chunk to put me over a certain amount. It suited me well, I got into the shows, but since after amassing my own following, have deleted those followers… Manually.
It took forever, but the reason I deleted those was because when you post content to Instagram, it begins to push that content out to who’s following you, right? Well, if you have a shit ton of fake people following you, it’s pushing it to nowhere. Those people aren’t interacting with you or your content. They don’t exist! So then you are robbing your current followers from seeing your work, when that’s already hard enough given all of Instagram’s restrictions.
Another reason to not buy followers: Your Insights. If you are working to get big deals as an influencer, one of the things that brands will ask for as a requirement of the contract is the insights to that post. This means screenshotting and handing over proof that your content was seen by x amount of people in Reach, Impressions, Likes, Shares, Saves, etc. If you are pushing content out to fakes, your fakes are going to not show up, therefore your Reach, Impressions, all that will not be there. Now, there are some people who do buy these things. There are tons of sites out that offer fake comments, likes, Reach, Impressions, etc., but faking all of that gets extremely expensive. Another issue is that if you have purchased non-quality followers within your country, a good chunk of your Insights as far as who’s viewing your content will be skewed to other countries, typically in the Middle East. If someone requires all of your insights, you’re gonna get caught.
If you are a small business rather than a public figure, buying followers isn’t AS BIG of a deal. You have a product you are selling, and so the only thing that would really hurt your business is that those followers that are fake aren’t going to be buying your product. But many companies immediately launch their Instagram and buy followers to look more legitimate. The only flip side is that if you are somehow using your social following to get a business loan from an Angel Investor, or investors that want to see those insights. But if you plan on self-funding your operation, getting 10K in followers will at least offer you a swipe-up functionality in your stories, that way you can directly link who’s viewing your stories to your site and products.
So the bottom line is this: If it will help get enough onto your account to help people assume you are “worth the follow” – because people do that (they look to see how many followers you have before considering following you), and you have like, 40 followers, then maybe it would help to boost yourself up to get started. But once you start amassing a real following, I suggest immediately deleting those for your account’s value. And even if you are a business, as you gain notoriety, filter out those fakes so you have a more genuine audience moving forward.
HOW MANY TIMES SHOULD I POST A DAY?
This one I have to defer over to @themrspedersen on Instagram. Rachel Pedersen is a marketing expert who has gained tons of popularity for sharing her tips and tricks, to the point that her accolades earned her a TEDTalk. She put up a video that shared that Instagram is looking for you to post 3-5 times a day in order to grow your account. YIKES! For those of us who create our own content, and have to hire makeup, a photographer, a team, that seems like a lot of work! But in reality, here are some general posting ideas that can help you meet this quota without nearly as much effort:
- One photo of you a day (Could be a well-shot selfie or a professional photo)
- One video of you a day (Make a “TikTok” of something. Show us your breakfast, show us what you’re smoking, etc)
- One quote block / tweet a day (these work great for mental health, social media marketers, educators, and thinkers)
- One photo of a product, a trinket of value, a blog post, (if you’re a Cannabis person), show the smoke you have today, or something scenic (could also be another photo of you if you’ve got them)
- Throwback photos of yourself, your business, telling a story
- If you have any new pieces of you in the press
Now I’ll be the first to admit, when I saw this I was like “Are you fucking serious, Rachel?” but she’s right. After seeing her post, I decided I would hold a case study (which is still currently in progress). I am posting 3x a Day (I’ve hit 2x the past couple days, I got a little burnt out), and my insights are through the roof. My professional dashboard indicates that I have reached 26.9K accounts in the last 30 days, which is 211.3% more compared to February 4 – March 5. Posting that much has generated more eyes on that content. And while maybe not every person sees every post, but if someone sees my afternoon post, they might catch my morning post later on. Using that logic, you’re going to bring more organic eyes to your posts because you are posting more.
What if my followers get annoyed with me posting that much? That might be a question you’re asking. The issue with posting that much is yes, it might alienate certain people in your audience, or make them realize they are still following you on Instagram, BUT – the people who like your content and are really into what you are doing will stick around. And who would you rather have there anyway? Someone who hate-follows you, or someone who actually wants to tell you that you’re doing a great job? I’ll take the latter.
At the end of the day, if you are creating quality content, people will be interested. Hell, I’ve seen people create not-quality-content and still get ahead, but if you are consistent, and you find your “tribe,” nothing can stop you from succeeding other than inconsistency and lack of striving to beat yourself, not others. The more you use your content to constantly one-up YOURSELF, the better your content will be, and that will translate to people who interact with you.
Instagram is such a beast that I can’t BEGIN to even scratch the surface of all of what’s involved, but this is your first crash course into it. If you have any requests or questions regarding Instagram, please feel free to reach out on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, etc and I will attempt to deep dive and find out if there’s more info I can share!
School of ACRONYM is an initiative put forth by Ami Nicole aka ACRONYM in which she teaches tips and tricks for Social Media, Branding, Content Creation, Cannabis Content, and more. Continue to check back weekly for new content in the School of ACRONYM section on acronymofficial.com/zine, and if you would like to donate monetarily to this initiative, you may use the following channels:
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