There are two kinds of people in the world: those who see Instagram as an ATM, and those who open Instagram only to enter in the matters of others.
I’m not here to judge the latter but to show those who are interested in the former that hell yeah, it’s possible to grow your Instagram audience with the right guidance.
This article is going to explain you the real truth about Instagram: what’s behind the scenes, how the algorithm works, and the best ways to optimise your efforts.
What I got frequently asked is: can anybody become an influencer?
This is not an easy question. I would compare it to another, difficult question: can anybody become an entrepreneur?
The short answer is – potentially yes.
But if we tried to elaborate it a little bit, we would have to take into account several aspects that we usually tend to underestimate, such as:
– is anybody willing to put in 60-70 hours per week?
– is anybody willing to put aside their work-life balance for 5-10-15 years?
– is anybody keen to work like crazy while nobody assures them that they’re going to make it at some point?
That being said, when it comes to online business – people seem not to realise that it’s a hell of a job.
The fact that you can work from a Cafe, a hammock on a Caribbean island or wherever you want, doesn’t exclude that you have to get shit done.
The same applies to social media.
Social media is a powerful tool, but it’s still a tool. If you hope it will make you rich or famous on its own, I’ve got some bad news for you.
Tools help you to become more efficient, effective and productive – only if you use them in the right way.
And it’s not all: if you know how to use them, but you put in 0 hours of execution per day – most likely, you’re not going to succeed.
If you’re ready to put in the work yet you don’t know how to use the Instagram to get the most out of it… You’re in the right place.
Success on Instagram (for personal brands) depends on four pillars: content, visibility, engagement and hashtags.
In the last three months, I’ve been investing much time and money in my Instagram account – and it grew by 11.169 followers in 137 days (have a look yourself).
Let’s cut to the chase, and start balling all together 💪🏼
At the dawn of internet marketing, there was motto among marketers: content is king.
This is still true, mostly on social media.
Content on IG is meant to grab users’ attention and to encourage engagement (comments, likes, shares, etc.). So what should we post to get these two results?
First and foremost, we can’t post randomly: we do need a strategy, especially if we’re not able to produce kickass content at a first stage.
When it comes to crafting your own strategy, your goal is to impact your followers at a first glance.
To do so, you must respect these four guidelines:
a – Determine your objectives: whether you want to hit the explore page or increase your engagement ratio, you need a goal.
As soon as you start focusing on your goal, you’ll be able to recognise what’s working and what is not on your page, and what are the KPI to analyse.
b – Build your identity: this is key. Your followers have to recognise your page immediately; your content has to be unique and to stand out from the rest of your followers’ feed.
Achieving this goal is not easy without the right guidance, what you can do is to rely on your creativity and take inspiration from the pages out there (I’ll write something about where to take inspiration soon, have you already subscribed to the newsletter?).
c – Create a sustainable calendar: If you decide to post once per day, then you have to commit yourself to put out at least one post per day. Watch out, it means that you have to post a high-quality piece of content per day.
Some of my clients used to focus only on publishing (let’s say) once per day, so every day at 10 pm they got in a rush to find some cool picture to post and an inspiring phrase to attach.
Ideally, you should work ahead of time; schedule your content (I highly recommend Onlypult) and be sure you have enough time to go through it at least one more time before publishing.
d – Be original: your voice has to be unique. Don’t reshare content of anybody, f**k their signature! If you have yours, promote it as much as you can; if you don’t have one, just create it.
In the long run, your signature will become your personal brand – and people will see it as an indicator of high-quality content. I don’t need to tell you that at some point you’ll monetise it, do I? 🙂
Here’s how my content has changed during those 137 days.
The 9 pics on the left side are from the beginning of my IG account, the ones on the right side are pretty recent. If they belonged to two different profiles, which one would you follow?
If it was up to me, I would say that visibility is more important than content. It may sound silly, but you can craft the best content in the world – if nobody sees you, nobody follows you.
Now we stand at a crossroads: we can either reach out people manually or automate it.
Reaching out people manually means that we have to follow people and like their pieces of content on a daily basis, around 500 times per day. 500 times per day means that you have to split these actions into as many slots as possible.
Sounds tough, eh?
You want to get your targets from your “competitors'” audiences. People that follow someone into your niche, they’re most likely to find your page interesting and follow it. Pick out 5 to 10 “competitors” and you’re ready to go.
The second way forces us to invest some money in our Instagram page – not everybody is keen to do so, and if you haven’t ever done it yet, you may think it’s a waste of money (by the way, if you do think it – you don’t have the right to blame those who are balling!).
However, it’s all about how bad you want it. Assuming that you’ve decided to put in some money, you now have one more decision to make.
We have three ways to get our visibility sorted without spending 15 hours per day on the platform:
- Getting a bot: I honestly don’t like bots. They’re not very reliable (shadowbans are one of the risks) and don’t allow you to choose among many options.
However, they are extremely cheap and deliver results.
Getting a bot can represent the perfect way to start out with something easy to set up and that doesn’t force you to spend too much money on it.I don’t have much experience with bots, but I’d say that the most popular are Stim and InstaZood; Stim is around 39$ per month, while InstaZood is around 10$ per month. If you want to get a bot, try to spend as few as possible – you can already find some growth hacker for 39$.
- Hiring a growth hacker: the Internet is a wonderful world. Platforms such as Fiverr and UpWork allow you to get in touch with people willing to get their hands dirty for a few dozen bucks per month.Don’t waste your time doing it manually – you can definitely spend your time in a more productive way.
- Hiring an agency: this is the way I went for to jump from 941 followers to 12.11. At Edith Media, we’ve developed a private software that allows us to automate and schedule most of the actions of our accounts.This is probably the most effective way I’ve ever tested, but obviously, it’s slightly more expensive than an ordinary bot (starts from 100£ for personal brands).
Might look like cheating, but it’s not. If your content is not top notch, nobody will follow you back – this is the most solid way to get around 30k as soon as possible.
From that point on, we’ll change strategy.
This point is indisputably related to the first one, but we still need to know how the IG algorithm works. Instagram loves engaging content and the accounts that do engage.
You already know how important it is to hit the explore page – once you get there, if your picture/video is clickable and your profile is pretty good – chances are that you’ll get hundreds or thousands of followers per post.
Hitting the explore page is the main goal of those who are balling on Instagram – to do so, you need a very-high quantity of likes, comments and shares in the shortest possible time.
The more often you post, the better.
Plus, the bigger the pages that engage with your content, the better.
There’s a “blackhat” way to cheat the Instagram algorithm, and it’s called “Powerlikes” – basically, you can set up a shit-ton of likes coming from big accounts (up to 100k) any time you post something (up to three times per day), for around 100£.
I’ve never used this on my personal account, but it works very well. If you find accounts into your niche that provide this service, it works even better.
Anyway – if you get a comment below your picture, ideally you should reply to that comment within 15 minutes (!).
I never do this, my bad – I’ll work on it.
Now, you can be willing to reply to all of the comments you get – but if you don’t get any comment… Well, there’s a problem.
We need to figure out how to get as many REAL comments as possible – let’s talk about engagement groups.
Engagement groups come extremely handy. They consist of 10-20 people into the same niche and with similar sized audiences that drop comments below each new picture of anybody.
Sounds cool, right?
The problem is that IG doesn’t like this kind of interactions – at the very first stage, people used to take part in DM groups and share their brand-new picture into them.
With the latest update, the algorithm tends to decrease the reach of those pieces of content that get shared into DM groups. So, the quickest solution is to move those groups on Telegram or Whatsapp.
Alright, it sounds great but how can I find some of these groups?
Just look for accounts similar to yours, send them a DM and create your own engagement group. When I did it the first time, I used this message:
- Hey (name), I created an engagement group around 10k follower. Would you be interested in taking part in it? Basically, anytime someone publishes a post, fellows have to like and comment it – let’s grow together.
It’s pretty easy and straightforward, feel free to copy and paste it (if you’re around 10-20k, shot me a text and you can take part in mine).
Sidenote: the new algorithm considers actual comments only those that contain more than 4 words FYI.
Hashtags are crucial too.
In point n.3 we talked about the explore page – when you look for a hashtag in your search bar, the platform will show you the 9-best-performing posts (in the section called Top Posts).
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people search for a certain hashtag – a few months ago, they made it possible to follow a single hashtag as it was a real profile.
So, we want to make it among the top posts as much as we want to make it on the explore page.
Any time we post a picture or a video, we are allowed to put up to 30 hashtags in the caption. Are we forced to put all of them? We’re not, but if we use less than 30 we’re not optimising our chances to achieve our goal.
We’ve been given with 30 bullets, shall we use all of them?
Most likely, we want to – so now we need to pick out the most effective hashtags of our niche.
As a rule of thumb, we should pick out hashtags that our account size reflects 10-20% of their usage (practically if your account has 1’000 followers, you should use hashtags with 10’000-20’000 posts).
Several apps and websites will help you to do so, the ones I personally prefer are:
We’ve found a way to get thousands of hashtags in a matter of a click, but we do need only 30 of them (I use even fewer) – which ones should we focus on?
We should focus on three “hashtag categories“, such as niche related hashtags (e.g. #fitness), sub-niche hashtags (e.g. #shredded) and emotion hashtags (e.g. #beastmode).
That being said, we have to answer a couple of frequently asked questions:
- should I put my hashtags in my caption or in the first comment? Since the latest update, you do have to put your hashtags in the caption, otherwise the algorithm will see your first comment as an attempt to cheat it and in the long run, it might lead your account to the shadowban;
- how to separate my main caption from my hashtags? Well, it’s up to you 🙂
It’s just a matter of taste. I usually separate my hashtags using a few points, like this:Caption
Another cool way is to split your caption in Intro+Body+CTA, like this:
But again, it’s up to you!
- can I use always the same hashtags?I’m probably the worst person to ask it to (I’m too lazy to research new hashtags every day), but you should change them as often as you can.The new algorithm tends to decrease your account rank if you use always the same hashtags.A good piece of advice might be to pick out 100/150 optimised hashtags and to randomly put 30 of them in any time you post something new.
If it’s not clear enough, just drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to make it as clear as possible!
This article is quite advanced, if you’ve read it till here – first of all, thank you for your attention – second of all, you know much more than most of the “self-claimed” Instagram experts.
Make the most out of this knowledge, don’t let it rot in your brain. Take action, find a content buddy (I talk about it in this article), post as much as you can, interact with your followers, reach out brands to set up collaborations… Kill it! 🚀
This is probably one of the most interesting eras to live in, let’s not waste this opportunity.
Never in history, anybody has had so many opportunities to make so much money within a short period of time – let’s get our hands dirty and take advantage of this blessing!
Hope this will help somehow.
I’m off, peace out 🙏🏼