When you are trying to grow your Instagram account and hit a plateau with no increase in the number of followers and the ever declining engagement, it is tempting to google something along the lines of “grow your instagram fast” and apply all the dirty tricks listed in the first good article you open.
Since some of the advice out there violates Instagram rules, while other – not being wrong in and of itself – has unexpected ways in which it may backfire anyway. Let’s take a closer look.
Before we dive into the more weighty topics of follow-bait and pods, here’s a quick heads-up to avoid a few popular tips that often do result in steep follow count increase but have quite a few drawbacks. Avoid getting caught up in the numbers game and keep your followers and your account.
Plain old spam
Whether you are paying an army of bots to follow you for just $9.99 or doing all the mass liking and commenting to get you noticed manually, any major boost in activity puts your Instagram account at risk of a temporary or permanent ban and even account suspension. Good luck getting that cool brand username back;) (At present, Instagram does not allow reuse of usernames of suspended and closed accounts.)
The more wholesome alternative to this approach is to authentically like, comment and follow accounts that actually interest you and are relevant to your brand.
Posting several times a day
This might sound counterintuitive, but there is such a thing as posting too often. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in case of Instagram posting that means staying within the average of 4.9 times a week. Turns out, that’s exactly how often the most followed brands on Instagram post.
Considering how difficult it is to maintain top notch quality for regular posts, you might want to give your audience a break and engage with the most active part via Stories instead. “Make sure you aren’t reusing content from your feed in the Stories though,” recommends our social media guru Oksana Danshyna. “It feels lazy and wastes the time of your most engaged users. Your content should be complementary, but not identical,” she adds.
Focus on quality more than quantity by finding ways to deliver as much value for your followers as possible – this will give you better engagement rates and can potentially result in some of your content going viral.
Being a slave to your theme
Consistent theme makes your account look more professional and more attractive for new followers, which is arguably an effective way to boost your following but, ironically, this can be the very thing to drive them away in the long run. Repetition and predictability of your posts will leave followers in a persistent state of deja vu – haven’t I seen one exactly like this just last week?
Respect your audience’s effort put into all that scrolling and double tapping by posting content that’s useful for your followers first and in line with your theme second.
Instagram feed of user petersyn_clothing. Credit Instagram
Now that we’ve covered all of the easier topics, let’s get to some of the more nuanced areas of instagrowth.
Yes, you heard that right – using select themed hashtags might actually get you in some trouble on Instagram.
Lists of banned Instagram hashtags have been making rounds for quite a while. hashtags get banned permanently or temporarily, but no official list exists. Yet, the pitfall of using any of the quietly banned hashtags is that they will get you shadowbanned – this is not an officially announced ban, but word is it prevents posts from appearing in other people’s hashtag searches.
In all honesty, shadowban is bordering on an urban legend status as some experts swear it’s bogus, while others insist the sneaky ban does exist. Yet the very fact that actual tools exist to determine whether your Instagram account has been shadowbanned, as well as the amount of talk about the secret Instaban, lead one to believe that the general consensus leans toward the idea that the ban is real.
In order to avoid the flagged tags, it’s recommended to only use the hashtags suggested by Instagram when you start typing in your keyword after the #. You’ll probably be surprised to know that a seemingly innocuous hashtag #desk is on the naughty list. You can check if any of your posts were shadowbanned using a respective online tool. Here’s the analysis of my Instafeed by Triberr:
Either automated or manual, the good old mass follow-unfollow is one of the most widely recommended ways to grow your Instagram account fast but there are a few much-discussed problems with this method.
First and foremost, it’s plain unethical – when you are following someone’s page, it signals your interest in the content the account is putting out there, meaning if you only follow them for the possible followback you are essentially deceiving the person, wasting their time by demanding attention while having no intention to return the favor (while pretending that you do, no less!). Plus, do you really expect people to want to buy your product or service if you follow-bait them?
It’s ok to follow and then change your mind once in a while, but systematic follow-unfollow behavior will get you blocked by many of the people you’ve followed and then unfollowed, as well as put you at risk of getting blocked by Instagram itself (for spammy behavior). Most Instagram users will instantly assume a follow from an account with 20,000+ audience is follow-bait. At best your attempt will be ignored and at worst – your account will be blocked by the user.
If you automate the process, imagine getting blocked by a few hundred users in a couple of hours – that is certain to raise a red flag with the Instagram algorithm. Let alone the fact that automated following, even if you calibrate your bot to only add active accounts who either followed similarly-themed pages, comment on certain posts or submit own posts under select hashtags, will leave you with a ton of not engaged with your content users who followed back out of boredom, politeness or guilt.
Moreover, by employing the follow-unfollow tactic you run the risk of being blocked from following new accounts, liking or commenting for a few hours, days or weeks, you may also get shadowbanned or you even lose your account altogether, just read all the horror stories on r/Instagram subreddit.
Finally, the pods. The holy grail of instagrowth that boosts engagement and creates genuine comments while getting you to the top section of your niche hashtag.
A pod is a community of users, typically with similarly themed accounts, who agree to notify each other (usually via a chat service) about every new post any of them makes, so that the rest of the group would immediately like and comment on the post, artificially signalling Instagram algorithm that the post is hot, hot, hot with users and deserves being shown to as many eyeballs as possible. That’s the world we’re living in, ladies and gentlemen, – seeking to impress an actual piece of code:)
What are the risks of being part of a pod? Well, apart from the obvious timeouts (or suspension!) for spam liking and commenting, it’s also been reported by some users that Instagram algorithm has actually learned to filter at least some of the pods, ignoring the artificial engagement boost from the same set of accounts every time.
But don’t be too disappointed – participating in a pod isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you think about it, pods only create what is essentially an echo chamber for your content – with the same people liking and adding their not necessarily genuine feedback, you don’t get a chance to build a real community around your brand and learn how you can be of better use to your audience and customers.
I’m sorry to say this, dear reader, but it looks like the good old quality content, knowing your audience and the value you can bring to them, as well as manual and genuine engagement with other users are the classics you’ll have to head back to, even if you want your numbers to grow asap. Unless you’d rather have a 40,000+ account that can’t get a hundred likes on a good day, that is. Fleetingly pleasant for the ego, bad for actual marketing results.