Note: I also made a quick YouTube Video about this article if you prefer video format. I rattled off my thoughts on these “hacks” that you can watch here.
“Just post consistently, and you’ll grow” – Says every Guru.
If only that were true…
I recently asked my instagram audience to submit any instagram growth advice that they have been given, so that I could debunk them. Of course if I got any that did work, I would tell y’all! … and guess what? I only got one reply that was meant to be a joke, that was actually a good piece of advice! Which means that the rest of the 53 replies were all bad advice!
In fact, a lot of these can actually harm your instagram growth and flag your account!
So, it’s time to clear the air. These instagram growth “hacks” simply DO NOT work!
1. “Use the Follow/Unfollow Method”
This one was really good in its prime (about 5-6 years ago) before anyone caught on. Now, it will most definitely harm your account and will not lead to any sustainable growth.
How it works:
- Either manually (which takes so much time) or utilizing a bot (which is against Instagram’s policy) you will go and follow a ton of people.
- These people see you in their notifications.
- Hopefully, these people are curious and click your profile and decide to follow you back.
- You unfollow them later and repeat (since instagram caps you at 7,500 follows) and Of COuRsE yOu LoOk CoOlEr WhEn YoU HaRdLy FolLoW AnYoNe *Sarcasm*
Instagram used to be very much more personal. Back when this hack was first being used, if someone followed you and you didn’t follow them back, you almost felt guilty. Which made this method that much more successful. But not anymore…
Everyone Knows About This Method Now:
Once people caught onto what was going on, they immediately questioned everyone and would usually be able to tell if you were going to unfollow. (If someone has more than 3k people they are following, they are most likely using this method. If you watch this account you will see this number get really high, then really low, over and over). Once people realize this, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth and they will most likely NEVER follow you again. —Maybe I’m just petty, but there are 2 people in particular who I knew of and admired that did the ole follow/unfollow on me, and to this day I refuse to follow them! The funniest part of all, was that I was already following them. I got excited to see they started following me. Checked a few days later, unfollowed. BYE FELICIA. They also got #unfollwoed.
Instagram Caught On:
Once instagram caught on to this, they started placing limits. They limited the amount of people you could follow to 7,500 and they limited the amount of people you could unfollow to about 100/hour.
They started shadow banning any accounts doing this or using bots in general. Once shadowbanned, it becomes EVEN harder for people to find you. It’s like instagram jail for those who break the rules.
Followers Don’t “Stick”:
All in all, this method is outdated and does not work. Even when people do follow you, they eventually almost all end up unfollowing you soon after.
It’s simply not worth it, it does not work, and it can definitely hurt you.
2. “Buy Fake Followers to Look Relevant”
NOOOOOOO! I could tell you 1 million times not to do this, and some of you still will. But for those of you who actually want to take advice from a pro, hear me out…
WE 👏 CAN 👏SEE 👏 RIGHT 👏 THROUGH 👏 YOUR 👏 FAKE 👏FOLLOWERS 👏
No matter how good you think you are brands, softwares, and instagram can tell.
If Your Numbers Don’t Match it is Very Obvious:
I have had so many influencers email me asking why they can’t get brand deals, even with 100k followers. Then I look at their page and they only have 16 likes 🚩🚩
You may be able to trick a few people, but anyone can tell that you do not actually have 100,000 followers. Not only is it obvious that you have less followers than you say, but you immediately lose any credibility and you will get blacklisted.
We Have Softwares and Tools That Can Tell Us How Much of Your Audience is Fake:
So, maybe you realize that if you fake your followers, likes, and comments you can get away with looking real. NOPE. There are tons of softwares that can see right through that. Brands are catching on, and they are utilizing these tools.
The Algorithm Doesn’t Like it:
Instagrams algorithm also looks at your numbers and engagement rate when deciding how “good” your content is and how many people to show it to. Basically if you buy fake followers who will never like or comment, your engagement rate is going to be really low.
This tells instagram to show your content to less people because it must not be very good, since not enough people are liking and commenting. This means a smaller percentage of your real followers will see your posts. Which also means you’re less likely to get shares, very low chance of hitting the explore page, and therefore even less chance that people will even see your posts, click to your page, see your “followers” number, and decide to follow you …. which was the whole point right?…
You Can Get Blacklisted and Ruin Your Reputation:
So, maybe you faked your numbers well and you got through the software test. Good for you, you’ve created a completely fake and worthless account.
But, you were able to fool a brand and get them to pay you thinking you’re audience is bigger than it really is… The problem with that:
Now that you’re hired, you have to realize that brands expect you to perform to the level you appear and that they are tracking it all. If you don’t perform, actually sell, or send traffic to the brand, they will soon realize that you are not legit and they will be very disappointed that they worked with you.
This can burn your name in the industry. We actually have a “blacklist” of influencers that we keep. This is a list of influencers who are not legit, don’t perform, don’t follow directions, took the money and ran, or were super rude. Basically, a list of influencers who we will NEVER work with again.
This is especially bad if the brand is working with an agency like ours. Agencies work with 100s of brands and if you’re on our blacklist, you’re also now on the black list of all 100+ brands and future brands. You’ve now ruined your chance with all of those potential brand partners forever.
Hard to Get Rid of:
Something else to note. It is EXTREMELY hard and time consuming to get rid of fake followers in the future. Once you do it, you’re kinda stuck and some people have even had to start over from scratch and lose their real followers.
NEVER BUY FAKE FOLLOWERS, BOTTOM LINE.
3. “Use Bot Comments”
This method is similar to the follow/unfollow method. The whole idea is to leave comments on peoples posts for them to hopefully see your comment, click to your profile, and then follow you.
However, the bot comments have to be pre-set and often times they do not make any sense.
How it Works:
To set these up you generally pick a hashtag. For example, #fitness. Then you set about 20 random comments that you hope will make sense if commented on anyones post who uses the hashtag #fitness.
Unfortunately, they could seem like they make so much sense when you’re setting them up, but usually they don’t.
For example: It could be a post about meal prep with just a picture of food and #fitness. But your bot comments, “Wow! You look great! 💪Keep it up!”
… AND YOU’RE CAUGHT! Very obviously a bot comment, and super annoying when someone realizes.
As soon as people realize that you’re using a bot. There is 100% chance that they are annoyed, and a 0% chance that they will end up following you. Sure, we all like some extra engagement, but bot comments on your photos can also make it look like you are buying fake comments and fake engagement. When I get bot comments on my posts I am annoyed, and I always delete them if I see them.
Against Instagram’s Policy:
Not to mention, if instagram catches you using a bot they will shadowban you, and potentially shut your account down permanently.
4. “Post 2-3 times a Day. Quantity over Quality”
Horrible advice, and oftentimes the only advice these “gurus” are shilling out. You see them posting tons, and they have a huge following, so it must be true!
Reality check, this is their job and they most likely have a team helping them. Which means that they can post a lot (QUANTITY) but it’s also (QUALITY) because they have the team and means to do so.
People who are giving this advice just don’t want to tell you what actually works. Bottom line.
Yes, quantity used to matter before there was an algorithm. Before the algorithm was “judging” content the quality of your content really meant nothing to Instagram and it didn’t hurt your reach. Also, when it was in chronological order prior to the algorithm, your posts got pushed down in the scroll feed by all post that came after. So, basically the more you could post the more chances you had for people to see your posts. But not anymore!
The Algorithm HATES Mediocre Content:
Since the algorithm was put into place, there is no longer a chronological feed. Instagram now ranks your content, and if it’s “GREAT” a lot of people will see it. If its “bad”, hardly anyone will see it.
Quantity is no longer necessary and it is now ALL ABOUT QUALITY when it comes to getting your content in front of more people. Which also = more chances to get new followers.
Also note: Instagram is a business and their main objective is to provide the BEST user experience that they can. In order to do so, they have to sort content to make sure to show you the best content it can.
Too Much Noise Online:
You have to realize that everyone and their mom wants to grow online. There are millions of new posts/day, and if you aren’t providing quality content that shines above everyone else’s, then you ain’t gonna grow girlfriend! lol.
Just think about why you chose to follow certain people.
Example: If I am looking to follow new fitness accounts there are literally millions to choose from. I am going to follow the best of the best who put out the best content. Plain and simple.
Your Feed Should Be Highly Curated Like A Blog
Ever since stories came along, the feed posts are not seen nearly as much.
I want you to think of your feed as your blog, portfolio, and resume. This is where you put your BEST content, because:
- This is where people click around to decide if they want to follow you.
- This is where brands click around to decide if they want to work with you.
- This is where potential clients click around to see if they want to work with you.
This is going to be where you send people from your stories to read and view your best content. Just like people do with their blogs.
How Much Should You Post To Your Feed?
I tell people 3-7 times/ week is all that is necessary. BUT the main qualifier is to post ONLY if it is top quality content. If you can post more than that, keep your quality up, and not burn yourself out- great do it! If you can only get 1 quality post out per week- great post only once!
Feed posts are ALL about QUALITY. Since the algorithm came along, quantity does not matter.
5. “Just Post Consistently and It Will Happen”
Same as above. This is another one that I hear “gurus” preaching.
Yes, consistency is important. You need to be consistent, reliable, and show up for your audience. Consistency is what keeps your followers. BUT consistency alone will NOT get you followers.
To say “just post consistently and it will happen” is a red flag 🚩that this person does not want to tell you what actually works. There is a TON of strategy that goes behind growth, and consistency is just a very small part of the puzzle.
6. “Use Hashtags / Hashtag App”
The answer to this is yes and no.
Always Utilize The Tools That Instagram Gives You:
Instagram gives you 30 hashtags to use on each post. Each hashtag you use is an extra place that your content can be found. With the limited searchability of instagram, this is beneficial and you would be silly not to utilize it. However, this is not going to get you a ton of followers at all.
Hashtags Won’t Move the Needle Much
Again, when hashtags first were added to the platform and hardly anyone was using them, this was a great way to get found and get engagement.
Fast forward to current, most hashtags are super saturated and thousands of people are using them every second.
Hashtags over 1 million posts won’t do you any good. Your post will be out of sight within seconds and your chance of being seen are slim to none.
How to Utilize Hashtags Properly:
- Research: First, you want to make sure that you research the hashtags. You don’t want to use any hashtags that have been flagged by instagram. If you use a flagged hashtag, then your post will be shadowbanned by association, and your account could also potentially be shadow banned.
- Size Matters: Out of the 30 hashtags you should only have 5 that have more than 1 million posts, 5 that have less than 10,000 posts, and the other 20 should be in the middle of those. If your hashtags have more than a million posts you’re probably not going to be seen. If your hashtags have less than 10,000 posts, they are probably not looked up much. But if they fit your niche you will stand out when people do look there.
- Mix it up: If you copy and paste the same 30 hashtags every post, Instagram flags you as spammy. What I tell my students is to make a list in your notes to save about 50-100 relevant hashtags. Make sure you research them first too! You can use this list to rotate them and save time.
The Hashtag App:
I see ads for this app all the time claiming that “you’ll gain tons of followers”. Number one, you have to realize that this app is spending a lot of money on advertising and that means the app costs money. They have to make big claims in order to get you to pay them, and what does everyone want? More followers, faster…
There is zero advantage that the app has over you finding hashtags yourself. That is, IF they follow what I told you above. If they are using oversaturated hashtags then the app is complete 💩.
So sure, if you want to save some time and pay to have the app find relevant hashtags, go ahead. But it has no advantage, and I would suggest you double check and research the apps suggested hashtags anyways (so you don’t really save any time either).
7. “Posting Pictures of YOU Certainly Helps”
My hairstylist has jokes! But she actually gave you guys the BEST clue to gain followers.
My hairstylist submitted this hack as a joke… kinda. What she was saying, was that everytime she posts photos of me and my hair, she does really well and she also gets clients.
Ding! Ding! Ding! The Clue: Know What Works!
The best advice I could give you all to get more followers, is to check your analytics. Your analytics are literally Instagram telling you “hey people liked these posts best, post more of them”
I want you to study your top 10 performing posts under each category:
- What type of photo was it?
- What type of content was it?
- What did you talk about?
- How did you talk about it?
- Was it long form or short form?
Study what works and replicate it, repurpose it, and reuse it. These are the posts that your audience loves (which means the algorithm also loves them) and that you need to create more of!
How to Read Your Analytics:
Your analytics on Instagram are called “insights”. Please note, you have to be a business or creator account in order to access them. If you aren’t already please go change your account to one of these right away.
To check your insights:
- Go to your profile
- Click the 3 lines at the top right of the screen
- Click “insights”
Once you’re in your insights:
- Click Content
- Click “See All” under posts
- At the top, you can use the drop down to check your top posts for all kinds of different analytics.
There are 3 content analytics that are most important when thinking about getting more followers:
Obviously we want to look into which posts got you the most followers.
If you click “follows” you can see the amount of followers you got from each post.
Engagement is important because, it not only shows that your audience liked the post, but that the instagram algorithm will like it too and show it to more people. The higher your engagement the more likely you are to go viral.
I’d be willing to bet that you have almost the same top 10 posts under “engagement” and you do “reach”. (Reach means the amount of people that instagram put your post in front of)
Shares are really important to look at when thinking about attaining new followers. When someone shares your post, they are putting you in front of their entire audience.
Which means a higher chance that new people will find you, trust their share, and want to follow you.
Something to keep in mind for any social media growth hack is that they all have a shelf life. As soon as people start catching on, it not only becomes saturated, but people also take notice and do not follow for that reason.
In terms of Instagram, something to keep in mind is that once instagram catches on to these methods, they will always find ways to limit their abilities to work well in most cases.