** NOTE ** This book used to be for sale on Amazon and on various other websites. After seeing it circling around on the web ripped off, I decided to make it free and available for everyone. Might as well read it from the source and not risk downloading some sort of a virus while trying to learn the ultimate Instagram growth strategies 😎. You can leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. Enjoy!
After reading all the books I could find and going through numerous expensive courses, I still felt like I was missing a lot of information. Almost everything I found reiterated the same points without teaching me anything new. The advice I received was essentially to pour thousands of dollars into buying shoutouts and running bots in order to grow.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have thousands of dollars to throw at people in the hopes of getting a shout out that made a difference. Even if I did, I still wouldn’t drop that kind of money after witnessing free and organic Instagram growth strategies work so well. Time and time again, I would see a new car account pop up with 20K followers and think to myself, “Oh wow, I must be missing something.” Without fail, after doing a little digging I would discover that those accounts went from 0 to 20K followers in just a week. You’re right, smelt fishy to me too.
Let’s be clear about one thing. That kind of Instagram growth strategies legitimacy is close to NOT possible unless you are a) a celebrity b) an insanely well-established brand that finally decided to step out of the stone age and make it’s Instagram debut or c) a time traveler. In fact, Instagram considers all new users “high risk” for the first few months and permits their account very limited engagement. With the increase of spam accounts Instagram, as a platform, has become very careful and smart.
Instagram is a community that cares a lot about how clean and efficient its operation is. In its early days, it was full of untapped opportunity. Quick growth was not hard to accomplish, and, as a result, we have a ton of Insta-famous people that make a living solely from this platform.
This is not the case anymore. Organic Instagram growth strategies are very hard to accomplish without spending a single penny. The accounts you see blowing up right in front of you from the get-go bought batches of fake followers from companies that have “follower farms”. They also almost certainly run bots that auto like, auto comment, and auto follow/unfollow. I will talk more about these bots shortly.
When I started out, no one laid this out for me. Even when I read all those books, not one author explained how things actually worked. Better yet, a large chunk of those self-appointed “experts” weren’t being honest themselves! Shocking, right!? Not really. Those social media “gurus” who claimed to have a secret formula to explosive success were in fact utilizing the same tools I mentioned previously; boosting their accounts by way of follower purchases and bots. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if they would have just fessed up to it.
If that weren’t enough, a lot of strategies enlisted by these “experts” are now becoming frowned upon by Instagram. Forced engagement tactics such as asking one’s audience to comment on a post if they agree, asking them to tag a friend, asking them to share a post, etc., are already not working on Facebook. They will soon also stop working on Instagram.
Knowing all of this, I chose to not be a disgruntled fella. After all, no one likes rants all over social media. I decided to be the guy who enlightens people about the realities of Instagram and how the social platform truly works. I grew tired of all those “expert” advertisements and hidden messages asking me to buy more products, bots or pay for shoutouts. They can shove their shoutouts up their you know what.
In turn, I decided to write my own book – a real, beginning to end, honest guide to Instagram, no details spared. My aim is to answer all of your questions, even the ones you didn’t know you had, help you grow and to help you discover Instagram’s potential as a powerful social platform.
If you’re planning to grow your business by utilizing Instagram Influencer marketing, I can help save you a lot of money. You will be able to tell which accounts have grown organically and which ones have exploded artificially, rendering them essentially useless. I will also help you figure out how they did it, whether it was by way of purchasing batches of fake followers or running bots. With this knowledge, you will be equipped to skillfully navigate the social media world, grow an organic following based around your niche and produce quality content that will separate you from the pack.
If there’s one thing to take away from this chapter, it’s this; organic Instagram growth strategies may be slower than the fake ones but sweat equity will produce the quality return you’re looking for. Fake followers don’t buy products that you might want to sell in the future, neither do they engage with your content.
Instagram is free! Let me say that again – it’s f-r-e-e! What’s better than building an asset that required zero capital to start? If you are not planning on paying for shoutouts or running ads to promote your Instagram account (don’t, it’s a waste of money), you really have nothing to lose.
Instagram helped me make a ton of connections in a new city. I knew one person when I moved to Ohio. After running my Instagram account for a mere two months, I had formed a car group of more than 20 guys and that was just the beginning.
We went from meeting up to drive around and take pictures of our cars to hosting car shows and being known as Cbus Bimmers (Columbus BMW Crew). Meeting all those cool people resulted in many great memories and enabled me to build strong, lasting relationships – all thanks to Instagram.
Instagram can also save you money. I have received huge discounts on car parts, received free apparel, gadgets, etc. as a result of my sizeable Instagram account. In return, I’ve given a shout out to the company that provided me with the item. That’s easy money! I’ve saved a few thousand dollars just thanks to that.
Your account can give you leverage. If you’re getting mistreated by a company that has a social media presence, your negative reviews on Instagram could impact their reputation, and in turn, their sales. In this day and age, social media rants don’t go unnoticed. I’ve seen one of my friends deal with a company that decided it was okay to send him a set of the wrong sized wheels and not replace them with the right ones. My friend expressed his anger in a well worded post and a ton of his followers went on that company’s page and dropped their own comments. Believe me, that company noticed. It took them a day to make it right; something they weren’t willing to fix for weeks! Power of Instagram.
If you’re planning to start your own brand, be it clothing, car parts, slim tea, etc., your brand can strongly benefit from a following that you’ve built prior to the launch. When I first realized the potential of Instagram, everyone around me laughed and said it was a waste of time. Fast forward several months and those same individuals were begging me to teach them how to grow their own Instagram pages.
Some of them opened businesses that required a social media presence, but they just didn’t know how to make it happen. Some of them have read the same books that I have read, and they became even more confused. Some books aren’t telling the whole truth and are mainly used to upsell some other product.
Let me save you some time and money. Most of the courses and books will waste your time by teaching you things you can find on YouTube or Google for free. Then usually conclude by throwing in a “secret” about how to gain real followers super-fast. You won’t like the secret, I know I didn’t. You need to pay for shoutouts! This means shoutouts from an account with say 100K followers will set you back $20-$50 a pop. A shoutout from a 1M+ followers account will set you back $1000. That’s a lot of money to dish out for something that’s not guaranteed.
They also tell you that you need to form engagement groups and that you will see good results from it. Unless your engagement groups are in the exact same niche and they all have high numbers of followers along with great engagement rates, they will be useless. You’ll have to put in some time researching people to invite to your engagement group and hope everyone participates. I’ve been a part of several of these groups and truth be told, most of them don’t last longer than 2 months. People get tired of liking and forcing out comments on posts that they truly don’t care about.
Instagram algorithms are very smart, and they start categorizing comments as not-relevant to their engagement calculations. So even if the Engagement Calculator on Influencer Marketing Hub is showing you good engagement for an account, that doesn’t mean Instagram agrees. Repeated likes and comments on every post are being discounted by algorithms, but not by other calculators. This is very important to understand if you are running a company and are looking for influencers to promote your brand. Looking up engagement rate without digging deep, will not paint the true picture of what is really going on.
Before I go any further, I want to make sure you understand Instagram’s vision. Instagram is more than just a platform, it’s a community. By signing up for an Instagram account, you agree to be a part of a community and abide by a certain code of ethics. Instagram expects members of their community to participate and bring value to one another. This isn’t unreasonable considering the opportunities that are afforded by this platform. If you don’t contribute or are suspected of engaging in shady activities to boost engagement, you will get penalized.
Instagram is evolving every day and it’s getting smarter too. Black-hat (shady) tactics used to work before, but now most of them don’t. The community has cleaned up a lot and in order for you to stay relevant within the platform, you must play by their rules. Keep it clean, keep it classy and keep it engaging.
Since I got that off my chest, let’s start learning some things about our beloved social media platform.
Shadowbanning came into play in early 2017. During the earlier stages of Instagram, posts would show up on your feed in chronological order. This made it easy for accounts to get likes and comments. The bigger the account was, the more likes it would get, since all of the followers saw their posts. This also increased their chances of coming up on the Explore Page.
Nowadays, Instagram’s algorithms have evolved and become quite complex to figure out. Instagram can “hide” your posts from most of the people that follow you. It’s rumored that each one of your posts are only shown to between 10% and 30% of your followers, and the rest of the people are left in the shadows. They don’t even get to see your post unless they specifically look you up.
After Instagram implemented shadowbanning it came out with another tweak in the algorithm. It started shadowbanning hashtags. If you’re using 30 hashtags, only a portion of people that look for those hashtags see your post. Shadowbanning has made the game of Instagram more complicated to play, but, at the same time, it has enabled smaller accounts to do well so long as their content is good. At least that’s what I have seen throughout my experience with the platform.
Seeing engagement on my posts drop significantly use to really frustrate me. I started to think that they were doing this because they wanted us all to pay for our posts to get exposure. However, the more time I spent on Instagram, the more I realized that by making these changes, Instagram is cleaning up the community.
Accounts that have bought followers are now losing them and are scrambling to keep looking legit. I find it hilarious to see huge accounts complaining that they are getting screwed over by Instagram because they are losing followers. They fail to tell the full story of them cheating their way to the top in the first place.
The first type of shadow ban is the follower shadow ban. Back in the day, it used to be that 100% of your followers on Instagram saw your posts. Therefore, if you had a large following, getting on the explore page was never an issue. Instagram started judging every post according to its performance during the first 15 minutes. The more reactions your post got right away (likes, comments, saves, shares), the more people the post would be shown to. Accounts that saw your posts, were constantly changing. However, it seemed like the more you engaged with an account, the more that account saw your posts.
There have been numerous times where I have not seen a bunch of my friends’ posts. I only saw them once I went to their accounts. After I engaged with a few of their posts, they started showing up on my timeline once again. Instagram’s reasoning behind this is they aim to make the user experience as pleasant as possible. Sounds good and all, but I gather that they probably make others pay to get the engagement that they are used to. Either way, that’s the game of Instagram and we are just playing it. If you can’t adapt, then you will be very disappointed, and your account will eventually dwindle.
If limiting your post exposure to your followers was not enough, Instagram’s newest algorithm update is shadow banning hashtags. What does this mean? Just like before, your posts are now not showing up for most of the people that are looking for the hashtags you used. Let’s say that you used a hashtag #instagram, only a small portion of people that search for those hashtags will see your post.
If you use the same hashtags over and over without switching them up a bit, you’ll feel the consequences. I switch mine up with every post. I have a set of 30 hashtags that I use consistently with only a 5-6 of the hashtags changed constantly. However, now I started noticing that adding hashtags in your posts is less and less relevant.
You can check if your post is shadowbanned by going to this website and typing in your Instagram handle. You should do it a few minutes after you post because if you wait longer it will just show up as shadowbanned so you will not know the truth. The point is to see if your hashtags were shadowbanned from the beginning.
When new people see your posts, a lot of times they go to your profile to see who you are. If your profile is attractive enough, they will hit the follow button, if not they will leave. There are a lot of parts that contribute to the overall attractiveness of anyone’s page.
Think of your account as a sales funnel, but without trying to sell anything. Your profile pic must command attention to get people to come to your page. You then have to convince them that your account is good enough for them to hit the “Follow” button.
Before you start building your profile, you should think hard about who your audience is. What’s your goal with your Instagram account? Think about which locations you’d like to target (time difference is a very important thing to consider), gender, age group, etc. Build an avatar in your mind of who will be your ideal viewer or follower because that is who you will have to target with every post.
TARGETED AUDIENCE AND NICHE
Besides gender, age group, location with time zone, your avatar will depend heavily upon the niche that you are in as well. Think of a niche as a category. A niche could be cars, beauty, fitness, healthy lifestyle, photography, etc.
Let’s say, if your targeted audience is males between the ages of 18-35 living in North America and interested in BMW cars, you can take a few routes in building a profile.
Since I have a pretty cool looking car, I decided to make a profile where I post pictures of it. It was not done for the reasons of showing off. In fact, I kept my face out of the pictures at all times and no one even knew it was my page unless they were in the car community.
Firstly, I wasn’t really thinking about Instagram as a great land of opportunities. But the more I posted, the more connections I made if I wanted them or not. My initial thoughts, however, were, “Who in the world is going to like pictures of the same car every day?” Let’s be real here for a second. I understand people liking cars, but someone not getting bored of looking at the same car over and over is mind blowing.
Instagram doesn’t work the way we think. By following you on Instagram, people feel more connected to you than on any other platform. It’s almost like each influencer has his own little army of loyal people that don’t mind seeing a ton of pictures of the same object or a person. 36K people don’t mind seeing my car over and over either.
Your niche doesn’t have to be as specific as mine (one particular car). It could be much broader. If you’re into fitness, food or 3D printing for instance, make your account about a broader topic. Start posting and see what works and what doesn’t. If you’re in a fitness niche, start posting pictures of bodybuilders, powerlifters, cross-fitters, marathon runners, or your own fitness journey.
If you do not have a lot of content yourself but are passionate about a certain topic, start an account based around that topic and repost other people’s work while giving them credit. The right way to do this is to ask for permission first. However, time and time again I have seen my own work being reposted without even asking. As long as I was tagged in the picture and mentioned in the caption, I could care less if they asked me or not.
When I switched over to an Instagram Business account and started seeing analytics, I could clearly tell that my audience was mostly men, mostly from United States and Turkey, between ages 18-35. Only 11% of the followers were women. Now this might not seem like a lot of information, but it is a very good starting point.
If you have an Instagram business account, you can use it to check out the analytics of your performance. If not, you could use apps such as Iconosquare or Analytics to get a lot of data pulled up for you.
After you have quite a few posts from each category, analyze the results and pick out what performed the best in terms of likes and comments.
While reviewing posts, don’t pay much attention to Bot comments such as thumbs up or “This is great.” Just remember, if the same comment can be posted on any post, more likely than not it’s a bot. Disregard bot comments completely. Even though they help your engagement rate to go up a bit, they’re worthless to what you’re trying to accomplish here.
Once you pick out the winner, capitalize on your new findings. If you see that crossfit is what gets you the most engagement, focus on that. Keep focusing on that topic until you see your Instagram growth strategies curve flatten, then broaden your niche by adding bodybuilding or fitness models, whatever you decided will do well based on your research.
Don’t guess and don’t trust what you think you know. People are unique, yet they think that everyone’s opinion will match theirs. Big mistake. Quit guessing. Go out there and test. It doesn’t cost you any money, so there’s really no excuse not to.
PROFILE PICTURE – SMALL BUT POWERFUL
Profile pictures are one of the most overlooked aspects on Instagram. Any time you comment on anyone’s post, the first thing that others see is a tiny profile picture of your account. You need to try to capture the attention of any account that sees it for that split second and make them want to check your page out.
If you have a business as a brand, you should put your logo inside of the profile picture section. Make sure that it doesn’t get cut off or it will look unprofessional. Your logo should be clean and simple, yet catchy. If the name of your brand is long, abbreviate it and make it look good.
If your page is about you, post a headshot of you. If your headshot is funny, it can attract more attention. If you are a public figure, a professional headshot with you in a professional attire would be okay.
For the longest time, I had a profile picture of me having my arm around the rear bumper of my car, while I was sitting in a chair next to it. My car and I were enjoying the view of a lake and the beautiful sky. There was too much going on in the picture and you could barely tell what it was. It was too crammed in and I bet money that it could have impacted my account by pushing potential followers away.
At the time of writing this book, I have a front shot of my car without the bumper on. The picture piques curiosity of people that have never seen my page before. It’s provocative in a way, and people are curious to see what’s going on.
BIO – WHY SHOULD PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU
This section of your page is where you describe what the profile is about. Keep it short and simple, simplicity wins most of the battles on Instagram.
As you can already tell, Instagram will not allow you to hop down to the next line while you are inside of the Bio. To have your profile looking neat, you will have to write out your bio in a notepad application on your phone. Format it in the app and then copy and paste it to your Instagram page bio. That is the only way right now to do it properly.
Please don’t take this lightly, as cluttering words in a bunch makes your account unattractive right away and can cause people to go back. The main goal should be to give your new page visitors the least amount of reasons to not follow you.
You should use emojis in your bio. People like emojis, and not many people like to read dry lengthy text. If you are an entrepreneur, you could use a dress shirt and a tie emoji in your bio. If you are a racecar driver, you can use a race car emoji to resemble that.
Simplicity and attractiveness will give you a huge head start over other accounts that are just starting out. No one likes to read clustered text, but at the same time you should not leave your bio empty. Be straight to the point, funny, engaging and use some cool emojis.
You will hear this time and time again in this book: quality matters! I cannot stress enough how important it is to take high quality pictures! In this day everyone is used to super-high-quality pictures. With most of the smartphones taking better quality pics than older cameras used to, there is no excuse to product grainy or pixelated content (unless you are taking pictures in the dark).
The quality of pictures you take will get better with practice. When I first started taking pictures, I was terrible at it. I was so bad that my own mom didn’t double tap my posted pics. Then a friend of mine introduced me to the world of editing pictures and I haven’t posted an unedited pic since.
Two of the apps I found to work the best for me were Adobe Lightroom and VSCO. I initially started using VSCO but was introduced to Adobe Lightroom. I switched and never looked back. I have also incorporated Adobe Photoshop as well into my photo editing apps mix.
When taking pictures, make sure it is easy to tell what the main object in the picture is. There is an unwritten rule that the main object needs to be at least 1/3rd of the whole picture. If your object is too far away, your engagement might not be as good as you would expect. Since my profile is focused on my car, if I take pictures where the car is further away, my engagement numbers tank.
If you choose to repost other people’s work, please make sure to give them credit! Tag the account who you are “borrowing” the picture from onto your post as well as mention them in your caption. It would even be better if you DM the account and ask if they don’t mind you reposting on your page while giving them credit. You could start a good relationship with a lot of accounts this way.
To become good at editing pictures, please look up tutorials on YouTube. I have made a few videos myself where I show how I quickly edit pictures on mentioned apps.
Oh yes, before I forget. I also use an app called Plotagraph from time to time. This app allows you to make your still pictures have moving parts. So, if you have a picture by the water, with Plotagraph you could make the water move while everything else in the picture is standing still. It will loop the movements so the edited parts of it will look live. I also have a tutorial on how to do this, on the Followers Blueprint Blog.
There are a lot of other apps out there, so you will need to do some research to find the ones that fit you best. In this book, I will only mention apps that I have personally used and still use.
If you are an influencer, you can take some of your better pictures and turn them into a meme or a background to a motivational quote by using apps or services like Canva, Adobe Photoshop (mobile), or a ton of other apps that are available. While doing so, you should always use your Instagram handle at the bottom or somewhere in the picture so that if your post gets shared, you will automatically get proper credit.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, But Videos Will Get You Impressions…
Videos are a great way to capture your audience’s attention and Instagram is now allowing us to post up to 60 seconds of video footage (you could post multiple videos now as well). A video counts as viewed after a viewer watches it for at least 3 seconds. For a lot of odd reasons, videos seem to go viral much more often than pictures, so choosing not to post video content, is an enormous missed opportunity.
How do you encourage people to spend more time viewing your videos? For starters you need to start with a catchy thumbnail. That is the first thing that your viewer will see, so make it count from the very beginning! Even if your video is not great, if you have a catchy thumbnail, the person viewing it is very likely to wait around to see if it will live up to the hype that your thumbnail projected.
A big mistake I see a lot of guys and girls make, is leaving their video thumbnails completely blank (usually a black screen). That is not inviting whatsoever and is a cause for poor performance of the post.
Videos are more engaging than pictures, and people love them. If you find a cool video online, you could download it to your device by using savefrom.net website. Once downloaded, you can upload it onto your Instagram page as a post. Once again, you should be mentioning where you got the video from and give proper credit.
If you are an up and coming influencer, you could take these downloaded videos, or create your own videos and use an app called Square Fit Photo Video Editor (free) to add space on top and bottom of the video. This will allow you to add your own text onto it. You could write your message on top of the video and include your Instagram handle at the bottom of the video. This way you protect yourself from having your video shared by other accounts without any credit given to you.
Another way to create your own post that will be classified as a video, is by using an app called Plotagraph. As mentioned previously, this app saves your photos in a video format. So, your Plotagraph upload will count as a video and you will be able to track the amount of views it received.
If using this app, please make sure to save it onto your phone first. Do not post from Plotagraph straight to Instagram because that tends to decrease the quality of your video. Another thing to keep in mind before saving your video that you have just created, is making sure that you are saving in the MAX resolution. It’s 2018 already and no one is ok with watching a grainy video on the internet.
Now here is a beauty of posting pictures that were edited with Plotagraph. For a video to count as viewed, the viewer needs to watch the first 3 seconds of the video. To get the viewers to watch 3 seconds of your picture with moving parts is not hard since it is unique and not many accounts are doing it. These initial reactions will give your posts a better score with Instagram’s algorithms and they will seem more relevant. The more relevant your posts seem, the more people Instagram will show your post to.
If you are running a page that’s mainly focusing on posting pictures, you should throw in videos from time to time. Since I started posting a video with every 5th or 6th post, my engagement rates have really picked up. Instagram loves when a page is using all of the tools available.
Even if you have low following at first, your videos have a chance to go viral even if it’s just within your niche. Every single time I post a picture with moving parts or an actual video, I get tens of thousands of views. I have seen numerous small accounts (below 1000 followers) get 20K+ views on their videos and their number of followers skyrocket overnight.
I have just seen one of my friends who only has 5K followers, have a simple video of his go over 340K views mark and it is still climbing! From what I am seeing at the moment, he has already gained 500 new followers just through this video alone in the past 3 days.
Posting video content is a huge opportunity that is still not being utilized by A LOT of the accounts. If you are serious about growing your account, make sure to not be one of “those guys” who are missing out.
As I have mentioned previously, there shouldn’t be a time where you skip a day or two from posting. There also should not be a time when you just don’t have content to post. Just think about it. Content is everywhere around you. You can use anything as a photo prop. Cool car, cool wall, cool thing you find at the store, cool scenery, etc. You get the point.
Let’s say you are locked in a room and can’t leave it. There is absolutely nothing interesting with you or around you. You have a few options still, so don’t rush into giving up and not posting anything that day! Here are a few options off the top of my head…
Repost your old content. No, it is not taboo to do so. I have done it multiple times. People are forgetful, and they don’t mind. I am very sorry if this will offend you in any way, but you are not as important to people on social media as you might think. Even if they remember, it will take extra effort for them to come out and say something to you. And even if they do, all you have to say is, “Yes, I really liked this picture and wanted to share it again.”
There is less Instagram Police than you think. So, do not worry and recycle when needed. However, as with anything, know your limits. You shouldn’t be going around and reposting every single picture that you have ever posted.
Give someone else in your niche a shoutout. I have done this a few times and it worked like a charm. I was running out of content to post during winter and decided to give a few of my buddies shoutouts. I took their best performing pictures and reposted them on my account. They did well, not great, but well. Reason being, people are following you for your content, for your pictures and your videos. They are loyal to you, and a lot of times reposts get much lower engagement.
Even though, that is likely to be the case with every shoutout you give out, your flow of content is continuing, and you are staying relevant. Just like before, do not overdo it either. If you start reposting other accounts’ pictures over and over without posting your own content, you will start losing your audience. Unless you are an account that focuses on reposting pictures of other accounts.
Find viral content. Another thing that I have found to work very well is finding content in your niche that has gone viral or has potential to go viral. Imagine the exposure your account would get if you posted something awesome and it takes off like a rocket!
Just as before, make sure to give proper credit to whomever you have “borrowed” a picture or a video from. Asking for permission is the first thing that you should be doing before posting anyone else’s content on your page.
Possibly one of the most common questions that I have received time and time again. To tell you the truth, there is no right or wrong answer for this question. I guess the most correct answer would be, “Well, it depends.” But that’s not what you want to hear, so I’ll tell you what works for me and what has worked for numerous other successful accounts.
I have seen 3 time windows that work very well for me without missing a beat. Well, I lied, they don’t work so well during the weekends. However, nothing works very well on weekends.
The times that I have seen work the best are as follows:
- Between 7am and 10am Eastern Standard Time (EST).
- Between 11am and 12pm EST.
- Between 5pm and 7pm EST.
If I am not crushed with work during the day, I try to post 3 times a day. Ideally the times to post would be as follows: 8 AM, 12 PM, 6 PM. You might notice that the gap between the first two posts is only 4 hours compared to the one between 2nd and 3rd posts of 6 hours. I have based this schedule solely on the numbers that I have reviewed of my best performed posts within the past year. I follow my stats religiously and adapt to the ever-changing situations. Best times to post, haven’t really changed much for me over the past year.
If I had a very busy day, I would ideally post at 9 AM EST and 6 PM EST. The least you can do is post twice a day. It will keep you relevant within the community and the algorithms as well as will bring in a steady new flow of followers so long as you are providing quality content.
Although these times have worked for me, you should do some research on other accounts in your area. If you want to focus on acquiring new followers from a different time zone, you should adapt your post schedule accordingly.
I have seen a lot of success while posting at 10 PM EST or even 2 AM EST as well. You might wonder, what’s the reason for that? Some people across the country are starting their day (Europe and Africa) at that time or are halfway through the day (Asia and Australia).
Because Instagram is a visual content platform, language barrier is not an issue. If your post is good, it will get the right reactions from people no matter which side of the world they are in. That is the beautiful things about the Internet. You can reach audiences and build connections with people that are on the other side of the world by simply uploading quality content.
As a first example here we have @carlifestyle account for whom posting often is one of their Instagram growth strategies. It seems to be working quite well for them!
As far as your Instagram growth strategies go, how often should you post is a pretty import part to cover. There is no right or wrong answer to this question either. Through my experience I have formed a very strong opinion about this subject. Based on the trends I have been witnessing, you should post at least twice a day unless you have already reached a very high number of followers (250K+). When you are just starting out, start posting twice a day, but post very good content to gain the trust of Instagram.
Later on, when you see the effect of your Instagram growth strategies, you can slowly increase this number to 3 times a day, then 4 times a day and so on. I try to never post more than 5 times a day because a new post will kill off the exposure for the previous posts that haven’t died out yet.
When you make a post, most of engagement happens within the first few hours. From my experience, the first 4 hours is when most of the magic happens on the post. Your posts will start up strong for the first hour, then peak, and then start dying out by the time the 4th hour comes around. If you are not too busy with real life, track your post progress and get ready to post another picture or a video when you see that the last engagement with your most recent content happened within 1 minute or longer.
Some huge accounts are known to post every hour, but they have a very large following, so their engagement will be good on all of their posts. These accounts are playing the numbers game. Once they post, engagement is through the roof and a lot of their content hits the Explore Page and takes off from there. But initial likes and comments mostly come from their own follower base, so building a good momentum and traction for them, is easy to do.
That being said, when you are just starting out, your initial engagement will be low, so you will not be getting on the Explore Page from the beginning. 1-minute gaps between engagements will happen much sooner than it would for someone with a large following base. That does not mean that you need to keep posting. Let Instagram warm up to you, and keep your posts spaced out properly. Posting too much from the beginning will classify you as a potential spam account, which will reduce your exposure significantly.
The biggest piece of advice would be, do not skip a single day without posting. If you do, it will be hard to hop back into the ballgame and it is almost guaranteed to lead to frustration. I have noticed that even accounts with huge followings have to deal with significant drops in engagement when they skip a full day without posting anything.
Instagram wants you to commit to the platform and post regularly. It started to remind me of YouTube quite a bit where the views you receive depend a lot on how active you have been recently. Trust me when I say this, it is not easy to regain relevance with Instagram’s algorithms.
I have seen accounts blow right past me mostly because they were religiously posting at 4 to 6 times per day. The fastest growth I have seen was accomplished by accounts whose Instagram growth strategies got them posting up to 10 times per day. At that point, it is hard to come up with the content, so they started reposting content from other accounts with proper permission and credit given back.
I understand that you do not want to “SPAM” your followers’ feeds with you posting pictures numerous times per day. Keep in mind that the good ole Shadowban is protecting your followers from ever facing that problem. So, no need to be afraid, since a big portion of your followers will never even see your posts unless they directly search for your account. And that is the sad truth.
Just as before, people always look for a “magic number” of hashtags to post as well. Once again, there isn’t one. However, I can teach you what worked for me. When I first started my account, I was struggling a bit. Then a friend of mine showed me a trick on how to use 60 hashtags. The same trick works today too, but not as well anymore. I’ll tell you how at the end of this section, so bear with me.
After interviewing numerous successful accounts, I have realized that there really isn’t a set number that works for all. Some accounts only use 5 hashtags, and some use 60. I have personally only seen 30 to 60 hashtags work well for me. But some people would disagree with me.
For instance, some books that I have read on Instagram growth are telling its readers to not use more than 5 hashtags. They say that 1-3 well targeted hashtags or no hashtags at all is key. Have you ever tried to make a post without including a single hashtag when just starting out on Instagram? You will be lucky to get 1 like, and no I am not talking about the like you are going to give yourself to make yourself feel better.
After the most recent Instagram algorithm change, I have tested multiple posts with no hashtags, very few hashtags and 30 hashtags. It seemed as if all of the posts were getting very similar exposure. However, the difference was in who sees your posts. With hashtags more people that were not following you saw your posts. That increased the chance of me getting new followers because my profile was seen by a new set of eyes. Posts that I used no hashtags on, were receiving less than 20% of new people seeing it. To put it in perspective, if you are just starting out, your posts will not be seen by anyone.
One of the biggest problems with the books and courses that I have read is that most of them assume that you already have over 100K followers or more. The particular one that stated not to post a lot of hashtags went from 17K followers to 90K+ in a matter of a few weeks after buying batches of followers and running bots. If that was the case with you, you shouldn’t have to use any hashtags whatsoever if your account is not legit to begin with. Just let the bots do the work for you.
The way I look at this is this … Each hashtag gives you an opportunity to gain exposure and your post to be seen. So why not use as many as you can? While that mindset worked very well for me before, the platform has caught onto it and seems to be hunting for accounts that are abusing the glitch in the system and continue posting 60 hashtags.
Since that method is not very attractive anymore, I choose to go with the second most attractive option; using 30 hashtags. It complies with the rules of Instagram (in this case unwritten hashtag rules), and at the same time, it gives my posts maximum exposure that is possible to get through the hashtag route.
Instagram is laser focused on providing great experience on the platform. If you post garbage content, your results will reflect that. I am truly starting to enjoy the platform much more since it forces accounts into providing quality content consistently.
Posting 60 hashtags, step-by-step walkthrough.
- Pick a photo that you want to post and write out your caption. DO NOT put a single hashtag in the caption! If you do, this will not work! I can’t stress this enough … I have had my fellow Instagrammers come back to me and say, “Hey dude! It doesn’t work!” Well … It doesn’t work because they didn’t follow instructions.
- Publish the post.
- Add the first 30 hashtags as your first comment to the post that you have just published. Don’t be shy, commenting first on your own posts is not a thing that anyone looks down upon. At least not anymore. And yes, you should have two sets of hashtags already pre-made in your Notepad app on your phone. Make it in a way where all you have to do is copy from the notepad and paste it onto Instagram. Make sure to have them ready for a quick copy paste, or you will lose your momentum trying to type out 60 hashtags under your post.
- Go back to the post and click the 3-dot icon (“…”) on the top right corner (Edit).
- Go down to the bottom of your caption for this post and paste another 30 hashtags.
- That’s when the magic happens, and your post now has 60 hashtags … You are welcome.
Can you still use this method, and does it still work? Yes, it does and yes you can. However, since using 30 and using 60 hashtags have yielded almost identical results every time I tested them, I decided to only use 30 from now on. It is up to you on which route you decide to take.
I have also made a video walkthrough for those who think that it was hard to follow my instructions above. Click this link to be re-directed to my YouTube video.
This one is huge. So please pay attention. Due to the algorithm changes that we have gone through on Instagram, it is harder than ever to gain exposure. Hashtags are one of the most important ways that we can still have our posts seen by others. Especially if you are just starting out!
Where do you start? Remember when we talked about picking out your niche and deciding what your account should be about? During your thought process and the research that you have done, you should have come across a few successful accounts in your niche. These accounts are now your competition. You can be friends with them, however, you want to beat them at the numbers game.
Since they are already considered successful, more likely than not, they have already done their homework on what hashtags to use in their posts. If it is working for them, why wouldn’t it work for you? When I first started, I went through numerous successful accounts in my niche and looked for hashtags that I saw multiple times on different pages. That’s how I started putting my list together. Ok, that’s how I started putting both of my lists together of 30 hashtags apiece.
Why try to reinvent a wheel, when it’s already out there? Save yourselves the time and hassle and follow in the footsteps of others that are successful at doing what you want to be doing.
For all of your others, that think that I’m just being a lazy wanker, here is how to do your hashtag research. Two websites that I use a lot to come up with lists of hashtags are: all-hashtag.com and hashtagify.me. First one is to give a quick list of 30 hashtags and the second one is to let you do your own research on each one of them.
All-Hashtag websites are known to give you a lot of unrelated hashtags. You will have to handpick the ones that you truly want to use. I haven’t found a better way to help you handpick your hashtags than by using the Hashtagify website. Both services are completely free (I’m all about those savings after all).
In my niche, I personally try not to use any hashtags that have less than 1 million posts under them. To see the number of posts, go into the Search section of your Instagram app and type in the hashtag. The number of posts with that particular hashtag in them will show up right underneath the hashtag itself.
The list that I keep in my Notepad app on my cell phone, only has 25 hashtags. I left room for another 5 hashtags to keep the list fresh and adjusted for every day or every post. Since no post is the same, I switch things around. Let’s say one post is of a beach, I could use #beach #sun #sand #ocean #waves. Next post could be with the mountains in it, so I would swap those 5 hashtags for #mountains #canyon #views #hills #nature.
I also base my spare hashtags on the days of the week. So, each day I use a hashtag for that day. If today is Tuesday, I use a hashtag #tuesday. At the time of writing this, #tuesday has almost 13 million posts under it. Needless to say, people use it and look it up a lot.
Word of advice. Do not keep reusing the same exact list of hashtags. You are guaranteed to get shadowbanned. Why? Because repetitive actions lead Instagram into thinking you are a bot. Terms and Conditions of Instagram clearly state that “You must not access Instagram’s private API by means other than those permitted by Instagram.”
API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is what bots tap into to act like they are you and go like/comment/follow/unfollow for you. As I have mentioned previously, Instagram is fighting the shady tactics at the moment. They are cleaning house and you should not risk making them think that you are a bot.
Bots are risky business but are widely used in the community. I have grown my main account without using a single bot or buying any followers. However, I can see how bots could be helpful for businesses or people that just do not want to put in the work to grow organically. I will talk about bots later on in this book.
It is now possible to not only follow accounts but also to follow hashtags. Instagram came in with this update in late 2017. What does it mean for us? It means that hashtags are almost as important as posting high quality content. It means that your account has even more chance of being seen by others as long as it uses hashtags.
To capitalize on this new update, you must choose your hashtags carefully and make sure they are the ones people are looking for. That is one of the biggest reasons why I try to not use hashtags that have under 1 million posts under them.
Another super important thing that you need to be doing is posting hashtags with all of your Instagram stories. Just think about it. Not many people are doing it, which means that there is very little competition at the moment. Your story will show up at the very top in the bundle of stories at the top when search for hashtags that are tagged in the story.
Once again, you are increasing your exposure for free. It takes no effort to add a hashtag into your story. If you don’t want to look scammy, make the hashtag super small and stick it in the corner where no one will look. As long as it’s in the story, it will show up.
Hashtags alone are giving you three ways of gaining exposure:
- 30 hashtags for people that look for hashtags that you added to your posts.
- People that follow hashtags that you have under your posts have the ability to see your posts now even if they are not following you.
- People that search for hashtags now can see your story if it has that hashtag in it, even if they are not following you.
I think that you understand by now how important hashtags are for your accounts’ Instagram growth strategies. Do not be lazy, do your research and utilize it to its full potential. There is no reason not do so, especially when it doesn’t cost you anything.
You already know that adding hashtags to your stories is very important. It gives you free exposure and puts you in front of other people that aren’t following you and would not see your page otherwise. The benefits of utilizing this free exposure possibility will start adding up even if it seems like they are small at first.
Instagram stories last 24 hours. This gives a 24-hour window of your content be seen by people that search for the hashtag.
Another way to gain exposure through stories is to tag your story to a location. In order to do so, swipe up on the screen of your phone in story mode and select the first option which says “Location.” Then pick the location that you want to associate your story with and share the story. Now you have increased your exposure even more since people in that location or the proximity of it can now see your post for the next 24 hours.
Another neat feature of Instagram stories now is the ability to run a Poll. You can ask your followers anything and gather information for free. You can ask questions such as “Should I post more of my car or me?” and then adjust your game plan by the results that you have received. You are showing your followers that their opinion matters, and that you are paying attention to them. I feel that it is very important to keep the communication going with your mini community (your followers) and adapting to what your people want.
Instagram stories have much more to offer, though. When you are utilizing this tool that Instagram has given you, you gain participation points. As I have mentioned previously, Instagram likes participating members of the community. By utilizing the functionality of the platform and providing value and entertainment to others, you become a valuable asset to Instagram.
The goal here is to be liked by the algorithms. Participate and play by the rules and you will be rewarded, don’t and you will be penalized.
As you have just learned, Instagram stories are important for these reasons:
- When you post a story, you can be seen by the people who follow you. They see your story, and they might go on to engage with a few of your latest posts. This can increase your relevance in the eyes of algorithms and you get more exposure.
- Using hashtags in your story will make the story not only visible to the people that are following you, but to the ones that are not. All they have to do is look for that hashtag in the search bar on the app. Your story will be popping up with the other stories that have used that hashtag. You get more free exposure and a chance of new accounts giving you a follow.
- Tagging the location onto your Instagram story will show up at that location and locations around it for the next 24 hours. This gives your page another boost in exposure and possible new followers.
- You can gather data from your followers and use it to adjust your game plan. However, to gather good data, you have to ask the right questions.
Doing a lot of Instagram stories is a less important task than hashtagging, however, they are not to be taken lightly. If you goal is growing your page, you need to do a lot of little things right. They are all adding up as you go, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.
This leads me to another point. Whenever you make a post, make sure to tag a location onto it. Once again, tagging a location onto your post will show your post in and around that location for people that are looking it up.
When you go to search a particular word on Instagram, you have a few options: Top, People, Tags, Places. The last one is places and guess what happens when people click on it after typing in a name of the place that you just made your post under? Yup, you will show up as a recent post. The bigger the location, the more posts are tagged under it, the harder it is to rank.
It becomes similar to the hashtag game where you can rank in the top 9 posts for that location if your engagement has been good enough.
This is another way to get free exposure. Little things add up!
Tagging an account directly onto your post can only be done if the post is a picture. You can tag up to 20 accounts. I do this with every single picture, simply because the account would have to go and check the picture out in order for the notification to go away.
Yes, it can be a bit annoying, but it has been one of the only ways I have gotten some of my posts reposted by 4M-15M accounts without spending a single dollar. Can you imagine what happens if a 15 million follower account reposts your picture and tags you in it? Because of reposts by huge accounts, I was recently able to gain 3000 followers in a mere 10-day stretch.
Tagging these accounts on my pictures was the reason my posts were noticed in the first place. So far, I haven’t annoyed anyone so much that they would block me, so this strategy has worked out for me quite well.
Do not confuse tagging accounts on your picture with tagging accounts in your caption. If an account is huge, tagging them in your caption will go unnoticed. A-1 million-follower account gets 100 notifications in a matter of seconds. If one of those notifications was you tagging them in the caption of your post, it will never be seen or noticed.
Tagging huge accounts directly onto your pictures, increases the chances of you getting noticed and perhaps may even result in a repost.
You have probably seen a lot of accounts that are business accounts, even though they do not represent any business. My car account is one of them. When making the decision of which route to pick, personal or business, you will need to take into consideration a few things.
If you are just using your Instagram for fun, you shouldn’t worry about upgrading to a business account. Even though upgrading is free, you might be more prone to get targeted by Instagram to get ad revenue from. This theory is not confirmed by me nor is it confirmed by anyone I know, but rumor has it that business accounts get reduced engagement because they are being pushed into a situation where they have to pay for ads in order to gain exposure.
Personally, I am a control freak and I want to know as much as I can. I want to know how much my accounts have grown in the past day, week, month, etc. Who is following me, where are they from, are they males or females, what’s my best engagement days during the week. Simply put, if you are focused on growing and understanding your audience, my advice for you would be to get a business account.
UPGRADING TO A BUSINESS ACCOUNT
Interestingly enough, it is not as complicated as it sounds. All you really need to do is create a page on Facebook for you Instagram account. It is very easy and doesn’t take long at all, I will not go into detail on how to do it in this book, simply because you can find that information within 5 seconds with a quick Google search.
Once you have the page created, you will have to go into your Instagram settings and link the Facebook page that you have just created to your Instagram page. Once Instagram gathers enough data, you will start seeing your account performance, simply by clicking stats icon (vertical bars) in your home page (bottom right icon in the app).
Quality of the posts is very important, and we have already gone over that. However, let’s not confuse what quality posts mean. When I mention quality, I’m referring to your posts providing value to the viewers. Are your posts engaging, interesting, challenging, funny, outrageous?
There are a few things that I have seen to work well time and time again. Let’s go through each one of them now.
People love to smile, and if you can make someone smile or laugh you will capture their attention. Just take a look at all of the meme accounts on Instagram. They have generated millions of followers and are still growing fast.
Think about what type of posts you share with your friends when you come across them. Usually it’s something funny, relatable or outrageous, isn’t it? Humor triggers the “feel good” emotion in your body. People love to feel good, so posting something funny will yield good results for most of the time.
Let’s go through what happens when you post something funny. This will be very similar to the events that will take place after posting other types of posts that we will cover as well.
- You post a funny meme, picture or a video.
- The post is originally shown mostly to your followers. In the first 15 minutes or so, the Instagram algorithm is going to figure out if it is good enough to be shown to others based on first viewers’ reactions.
- Your post gets shared, liked, commented and saved more than your regular posts.
- Instagram determines that the post is more relevant to the audience viewing it, therefore it classifies it as a good quality post and starts showing it to more and more people. Even the people that are not following you get to see it now.
- More people like, comment, share and save the post. It scores even higher on relevancy scale. It gets shown to even more people. Now your post has been seen by more people that are not following you, than the ones that are following you.
- This is where you start to notice that you started getting a ton of new followers considering your account is set up correctly (makes new visitors want to follow you).
- The post could be performing very well for 24 hours or even more. I have had a post do incredibly well for 48 hours, however most of the posts do not pass a 24-hour lifespan before they die down completely.
As much as people love to laugh and smile, they also are very likely to share misfortunes that they find on Instagram. When my car was sitting at a shop for 6 weeks getting its front bumper repainted, I posted pictures of my car having no bumper. The picture went viral within the niche. Got me tons of engagement, new followers, and time on explore page. I have seen the same thing happen with other accounts that have a much lower following. Their accident pictures would blow up on Instagram and would be the highest engagement posts they have ever posted.
The post that by far out performed others that I have posted had humor tied into misfortune. It was a BMW crashed into a tree and the caption said “the new BMW M Tree” instead of BMW M3. Get it? People thought it was as funny as unfortunate and shared it a ton of times with others. That post alone received 165K impressions, 5100 likes, and almost 500 comments.
The same chain of events would happen to other types of posts as well, as long as they trigger a strong emotion in people’s minds. Good or bad, it does not matter much. When something is extremely outrageous, even the quality of the picture itself isn’t as important anymore. The value of the post outweighs quality of it.
How many times have you seen a post blow up based solely on the fact that it angered a ton of people? You do not want to go around posting a bunch of content with an intent to get people pissed, however, this little strategy has been seen to work time and time again.
Look at how much attention our last presidential election got. So many people were angry about one candidate or another, they kept sharing the “fake news” with others. Things were crazy, but think about how big an impact to the country’s future this outrage on social media has caused?
I found out about this method once I saw a post of one car that has an engine in the front, photoshopped as if it had an engine in the rear. So many people got angered by it, shared the post, commented on it expressing their frustration, and many saved the picture as well. This picture was posted by a friend of mine who at the time only had 2000 followers.
The results after the post had ran its course was insane. He had gained over 1000 new followers, his post got over 4600 likes, 144 comments and was even reposted by some huge accounts! Think about it. His follower base increased by 50% as a result of only one post!
If you ever find something like this happen in front of your eyes on Instagram, put your own twist on it and post it quick! Time is of huge essence. The later in the game you are the less of a chance you have to go viral yourself.
I did the same type of edit on one of my pictures and posted it. Once again, a ton of people were outraged. The others thought it was hilarious. All commented, liked, shared, and saved the post. It got reposted by 2 accounts with over 4 Million followers each, one account with 1.4 Million followers, and a bunch of other accounts with followers between 100K to 800K.
How much money would you have to spend to get that type of exposure if you decided to pay these guys for shouting you out? I understand that’s what a bunch of other books and courses are telling you to do, however, I think that thinking outside of the box and making unique content can work better for you.
Results of this post on my account were insane. I only had a little over 30K followers at that time. This post has achieved the following numbers:
- 141K Impressions (95K from explore page/27K from my followers/19K from people sharing it)
- 6049 Likes.
- 266 Comments.
- 744 Saves.
- 348 Follows – people clicking that follow button right after viewing your post.
Another type of post that you can utilize to your advantage is a very unique post. Just like the Outrage post, you will need to keep your eyes and ears open to come up with new ideas. If you see something unique and super cool, try to implement a similar concept onto your posts.
One example of what I have done to get great results with these types of posts. I was browsing Instagram and came across a very cool post. It was of a car sitting still but exhaust pipes were producing large amounts of smoke. After digging deeper, I have found out that the person was able to accomplish this post by using the app called Werble.
As you have probably already guessed it, I have created a very similar still picture with blueish smoke coming out of the tailpipes of my car. In the caption I asked a question, “Will this pass smog test?” See what I did there? I made a cool post, and wrote a sarcastic caption. The results for this post were not as good as the Photoshopped Outrage post, however that still got me almost 64K views, 3400 likes, 500 saves and almost 100 comments. That post alone got me over 300 new followers in a 24-hour period.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you need to think outside of the box and be creative if you want to save money. If you have a lot of cash burning your pockets, go ahead and try to pay for shoutouts from these huge accounts. I am not a fan of spending money when I don’t need to, therefore I would rather think of ways to create content so good that everyone would love to share it for free for me while I reap the benefits from getting credit for it.
If your post goes viral or semi-viral (viral in your niche), you should hop on the wave and ride it out for as long as possible. Here is what I did to gain 4000 followers in 8 days after posting that outrage post that received crazy engagement and shares.
I kept posting my best content back to back to back! Yes, you want to do it, because now your profile is considered “hot” so your posts are very likely to get good exposure.
You should respond to most of the comments that you receive. If your post has provoked someone to be negative on your post, stay classy. I usually ignore or say something like, “thanks!” If I see that a comment is a bot comment that’s super generic, I just respond with an emoji of thumbs up. You can respond any way you want, even with a middle finger if that’s how you feel at the moment.
You might wonder, why answer every comment? The answer is simple, to continue the conversation going, to build relationships, to look approachable so others are not too scared to comment either. It is also necessary in order to boost the relevance score in the eyes of Instagram algorithms. Unique comments get good algorithm scores, the more comments you have the more relevant your post becomes.
Once your post goes viral within your niche, keep pushing out great content but let it run its course. After my picture blew up, I posted absolutely nothing for another 24 hours. I did this strategically because every new post you post, is very likely to kill off the exposure of the previous post. I think Instagram has set it up this way to make it harder for us to grow. It’s sort of leveling the playing field where you can’t have 10 posts going all at once and blowing up resulting in your account growing by millions of followers a day.
I am a firm believer in the ability of any account to ride the wave out forever as long as the content is just as good as the previous one that blew up. Unfortunately, my niche is not that exciting, and I can’t keep coming up with crazy edits or super interesting content over and over. It would be much more easily done with a personal account where the theme is much broader than a single car.
You can find ideas by browsing Instagram’s explore page or searching for anything new and exciting happening on the Internet. Things that have worked in the past and haven’t been used in a while will still work well if tweaked a bit.
I keep a notepad of ideas that I have for my account which include photoshop edits that I want to do at some point, along with places where I would like to do my other photoshoot at. This way I also keep myself accountable to make those ideas come to life.
WHY WEEKENDS SUCK
Yes, I said it. Weekends usually are the worst days for Instagram, so please do not waste your best posts from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. I used to think that Sunday evening Instagram started doing better, but it has proven to be a false belief time and time again.
I generally try to hold off on my best posts for Monday through Wednesday. After that, I see a decline in user engagement.
Simple reasons that come to mind are that people are busy living their lives over the weekend. As glued as we all think that others are to their phones, on weekends, people still tend to socialize and do other fun stuff than just sit on the gram double tapping the screen. Sometimes a post that is made in the morning of one of the weekend days can still do ok, however once it gets later in the day, do not expect good engagement whatsoever.
When I was just starting out, it was not easy to get people to like my posts. For a while my goal was to get 100 likes per picture. To get to that goal, I have tested different strategies and I came across one strategy that I used for a very long time. Now I simply do not have time for it, but when I do, I still use it.
Let’s say you made a post and it is not performing very well. Your likes slowed down quite a bit, and you are nowhere near your goal. What you can do is go to your search tab on Instagram app and search for the main keyword in your niche. Once the screen populates with the posts under that hashtag, do the following:
- Write a personal comment on each of the 9 top posts for the hashtag (first 9 posts that show up, usually separated with a space from the posts below them). Do not sound like a robot.
- Start from the very first post after the top 9 and like EVERY SINGLE POST. Okay, not every single post but all of the ones that are not scam or not pornography (yes, Instagram is working hard to fight pornography being spammed across the platform but there are still some that slip away).
Most of the posts that are under the top 9 posts on any given hashtag, are posted by accounts with a low following. Let’s say you double tap on a picture that was posted by an account with 100 followers. That account doesn’t get many notifications and is likely to check out most of the accounts that are liking his/her post.
Because your profile picture is attractive and peaks people’s interest and your profile is making people want to follow you (if you have done everything correctly up to this point), you are not only likely to get some likes back, but you are even likely to receive new followers. All from simply liking a bunch of pictures of accounts that are similar in size or smaller than you. The bigger your account gets, the easier it is to gain new followers.
Be careful and space out your liking streaks. You simply cannot like 1000 pics in a row. Instagram will not allow that to happen. I used to go in spurts of 100 pictures liked and then take a break. Then come back and like 100 again. Currently I have become lazy and keep liking posts until I see Instagram not letting me like any more posts. When that happens, I see the red heart go back to being white. It’s Instagram’s nice way of saying, you need to take a break, pal.
Now let’s talk about why you should comment on all of the posts in the top 9. Think about it this way. For those posts to get up to the top 9 they have to have a lot of followers or they are considered “hot” at the moment. You leaving a comment is like leaving a mark that can get noticed by more people than just the account whose post it is.
If you like a post, chances are that only the account who posted that piece of content will notice that you liked it. However, if you post a comment, especially an interesting one or one that gets an answer from the creator of the post, you are going to have your little comment sit under the post forever. Now, not only you got noticed by a big account, but you also increased the chance of you getting noticed by other accounts.
As you can probably tell by now, I am trying to teach you guys and girls on how to increase your exposure across the Instagram platform for free. If you implement what I am teaching you here in your everyday Instagramming, your journey towards becoming an influencer on Instagram will get much smoother and easier.
The hardest part is the start. Until you reach 1000 followers, not many other accounts trust you and want to engage in your content, let alone follow you. Instagram doesn’t trust you at first either. You have to gain everyone’s trust by posting consistently and providing great value.
This instagram growth strategy has been used by influencers from the very beginning of Instagram. Shoutout for shoutout happens when accounts of similar sizes agree on posting each other’s pictures/videos at the same time. A lot of bigger accounts delete these posts after a few hours from them going live, in order to keep their page looking clean.
For smaller accounts, it might not matter as much if they keep the post on their page or if they take it off after a few hours have passed.
The whole point for shoutout-for-shoutout types of deals is to tap into other account’s audience and see if they will decide to follow your account. Very rarely do two accounts have the same exact accounts following them. The opportunity to be seen by new sets of eyes is out there, and you should utilize it. I personally have done this with a decent level of success a few times. However, because my followers are used to seeing a particular yellow car, they do not engage much when I post other people’s cars.
If you are in a broader niche and you have been making posts around a broader subject, your posts could perform very well. If you think about it, that’s exactly how huge reposting accounts have grown their following.
There are a few ways you can do shoutouts. You could simply repost a picture of another account and tell others to follow them. You could take a screenshot of their page and ask your followers to follow them.
Or you could do a collab with the other account. This is by far my favorite. Collabs are where you meet up with another influencer and do a shoot or a video together. Then both of you post on your profiles and give each other a shoutout. Not only because it seems and feels less scammy, but because you get to build relationships.
When doing shoutouts, it’s very important to stick to your niche. If you are a surfer and you do a collab with a cat lover, chances are that the results will not be as you might expect. But then again, you never know unless you try. As for me, I like to stick to the things that I already know that work, so doing a collaboration with someone in your niche, should be the safest bet.
A lot of bigger accounts are in focus groups. A focus group is a closed group either on Instagram DM’s, FB Messenger or Telegram. These groups are made with one goal in mind, to boost engagement of posts for each member of the group.
The way it works is simple. Let’s say a group has 15 members in it (Instagram group chat max), every time either one of the members makes a post on Instagram, he or she will right away share that post to the group. Everyone in the group then will go on and engage with the post, either like or comment, usually both.
The purpose for this type of forced engagement is to increase relevance of each post for the members in the group. Let’s say the accounts have around 10K followers, by each one of them engaging, Instagram algorithms are forced to think that the post is relevant since all of these decently sized accounts are engaging in it.
That was the case before, however, nowadays algorithms have become much smarter. What I have been noticing is that these types of engagements are now being overlooked by Instagram while calculating the relevancy score of these posts.
Machine learning is getting better and better with each day. It is just a matter of time before the Artificial Intelligence of Instagram will catch up with the same accounts liking and commenting on all of the posts by the same accounts day in and day out.
While this method still could work, there are a few annoying things that you will have to deal with. I have been a part of a few engagement focus groups myself and I noticed the same trends with each one of them. People tend to stop participating and doing their part as time goes by. It gets to the point where most of the people will not even participate on others’ posts but will keep posting into the chat expecting others to participate.
Another thing that is very common is that a lot of people don’t take the time before forming these types of groups filtering people out. Let’s say I want to form a group of accounts with 10K followers, so I go in and add these accounts into one chat. That’s not the way to go about it.
First thing I would do is I would check to see if these accounts grew organically or are accounts with a bunch of fake followers and fake engagement. I will tell you exactly how to figure out who is faking and who is not in next chapter.
Once you have made a list of accounts that are not faking, you should DM those accounts and ask if they are agree to participate in a Focus group and are willing to do what’s expected from every account in the group. Once confirmed, go ahead and invite all to join the group. From this point forward, you will have to keep others accountable for doing their part, since you cannot kick anyone out of the group once they are part of it.
I have been a part of a few engagement groups in the past. Some of them were put together by friends of mine that were not too familiar with Instagram. When I started doing some digging on the accounts that were in the group, I found out that out of 15 accounts only 3 were legit (including me). So, the group realistically only benefited the fake accounts.
This chapter might be one of the most interesting chapters for many reasons. I was excited about learning how to spot accounts that are faking it, because it opened my eyes to the reality of how many accounts are lying about their success.
There are a few ways I check the legitimacy of accounts. The most important website in my opinion is Social Blade which is free to use. Social Blade shows you the stats of every account that is in their system. Most likely than not, if an account has a larger following, it is included in Social Blade’s database and has been tracked.
The things you need to pay attention to are under a tab “Detailed Stats” where you can find change in followers for the last 30 days. If you see an account drop in followers every single day, that could be a big indication of that account purchasing fake followers in the past. Instagram is cleaning up and accounts with a lot of fake followers are losing followers daily in huge amounts.
Do not get hung on what I just said and classify every account that’s losing followers as a fake though. To understand it better, you will need to go into the page and go through posts. If an account has changed its theme or started posting low quality content, or not posting at all, it will lose followers naturally.
The most obvious fakes are spotted when they keep losing followers every single day and one or few days out of the month they get huge boosts of hundreds or even thousands of followers in a single day. Even then, you should go to their profile, scroll to the day of the big boost in followers and see how the post performed. It is very unlikely that a post with 1K likes resulted in 1K followers.
Graphs is another very important thing to take into consideration when deciding if account has cheated or not. On the same website, scroll down to the bottom of the “Detailed Stats” page and look at the three graphs provided for you.
Total Followers graph shows the graph for how total number of followers for that account changed over time. If an account grew completely organically, you would see a very smooth curve going up. If an account was buying followers to keep looking like it’s growing, it will have a lot of little spikes all across the curve. It will look like tiny little teeth on the upward curve. If they bought a lot all at once, the curve will have a sharp rise and a sharp stop.
Even after I have posted semi-viral posts, my curve jumped up fast, but it died out over time and so there were no sharp edges after it peaked.
Another curve that you need to pay attention to is named “Total Following” and this curve can be used to figure out if the account was running follow/unfollow bots. If you look at the Total Following curve and it looks like Dow Jones performance during trading hours, then it is pretty clear that this account ran bots that followed and unfollowed other accounts.
Using bots is against Instagram terms and conditions, so they should be used at your own discretion. I have personally never used a bot or bought any followers on @ignastym4 account and am planning on keeping this account free of any spammy tactics. I will keep on testing all of Instagram tactics that I come across.
I do have to admit that I have used bots for purposes of growing my ecommerce accounts as well as other businesses. I have no reason to be dishonest about it and I do not think that it is right of others to buy followers and bots and then sell courses on how they grew their following quickly and how they can teach you to do the same as well. Please do your homework when it comes to listening to people’s advice.
Engagement vs Fake Engagement
When companies look for influencers to contact to promote their products, they always check the engagement of those influencers’ pages. If engagement is not good, they will not do business with them.
Engagement is usually calculated by adding the likes and comments from the 12 most recent posts and dividing by the number of followers. When doing so, make sure that the last post was up for at least 4 hours before doing the calculations. If it is posted within 4 hours, disregard it and count engagement on the next 12 posts while skipping the most recent one.
If you are lazy, like myself, plug in Instagram handles of accounts that you are trying to check out into Influencer Marketing Hub website and it does the math for you.
The numbers you should go by are as follows:
- Huge accounts (over 1 million) should have around 2% engagement, but nothing at all below 1%.
- Smaller accounts should have between 3 and 10%. The smaller account, the more engagement it should have.
When taking into consideration the number of comments, make sure that the comments are not repeated. Some accounts ask other accounts to comment 5 or so times per post to boost their own engagement rate artificially. If you would only check Influencer Marketing Hub and not do any further digging, accounts that have been using this strategy would look legit on paper. However, it is easily spotted that they are “boosting” engagement rates if you look closely and analyze their posts. Save your money and time. Do proper research.
Another way to see if an account is worthy of getting a shoutout from is by checking if the accounts that engage with its posts are repetitive. If they are, this would be a sign of an engagement group liking and commenting on the posts. To get an accurate engagement numbers you would have to disregard those accounts commenting.
What if you already have 100K organic followers? I will not beat around the bush and try to act like I have a lot of experience in this type of scenario, since my account is nowhere near that large yet. However, I will share all of the information I compiled from the books I have read by big influencers, course that I took and interviews that I have conducted.
In this part of the book, I’ll be going through each thing that you should be paying attention to. By implementing them all, you will have your strategy as optimized as one could get. If there is anything else that you think that I have missed during this part or any part of the book. Please feel free to shoot me a DM on Instagram @ignastym4 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is one method the big accounts live by. However, it seems like Instagram is going to be following Facebook’s footsteps and will not allow anymore. The method is known as engagement bait, where influencers ask their audience to participate.
I’m sure all of you have seen posts that ask for you to type “YES!” if you agree, to comment/share/like a post, to answer a question that the influencer is asking in the post, and a bunch of other variants with the same purpose. That purpose is to force out an engagement out of you so that Instagram algorithms give these posts a good rating and keep showing them to other people.
Facebook has come out and warn marketers that this type of strategy will be penalized from now on in Facebook. Guess who owns Instagram? Yes, Facebook does. Chances are, Instagram is going to be (if not already) using the same principle and their Artificial Intelligence bots will not hesitate to demolish your chances of exposure if you use engagement bait. You’ll have to either adapt or struggle.
Sadly, engagement bait was a huge part of every book and course I have paid for and studied. You might be able to still use it for a short period of time, but chances are, it will get crushed very soon. If you are a smaller account, this evens out the playing field even more for you. Bigger accounts can have more people interact with their post, forcing engagement helps them even more.
SHOUTOUT FOR SHOUTOUT BETWEEN LARGE ACCOUNTS
This method works differently than when you have low following. Let’s say if you have an account with 100K followers and you want to exchange shoutouts with an account that has 200k followers, you will need to make a deal that makes sense for both. Since you have half of the followers of the other account, you will offer 2 shoutouts for one of theirs.
This would go the same way if you want to get a shoutout from a 50K account, or get approached by one. You would do 1 shoutout for that account in exchange for 2 shoutouts from their account. Usually, shoutouts shouldn’t stay up for very long. I would advise to not keep them up longer than for 4 hours. Why 4 hours? Most engagements on posts happen within the first 4 hours unless the post goes viral. If it does, then keep letting it run and bring in engagement.
Shoutout for shoutout is one of the free Instagram growth strategies tool that has been utilized from the beginning of Instagram. It is getting harder now to gain big amounts of following due to algorithm changes. I have tested shoutouts recently and noticed that every time I did a shoutout for someone else, impressions on the post were very low.
Huge accounts are still doing it, and it seems to be working for them still, so you will not know the truth unless you try yourself. As I have said before, if you want to win at the game of Instagram, you will have to test a lot. With the information I am sharing with you, there should be no problem.
This method is very widely used by super-fast growing accounts. It is probably by far the quickest way to becoming “instafamous” but it costs a pretty penny. Accounts with 100K followers and more charge $50+ per post, accounts with 1M and more followers can charge upwards of $1000 per post.
If you have a lot of money to spare, this method will be one of the best ways to grow. If you are an influencer and you grow large enough through these types of shoutouts, you can start getting paid for shouting out others as well. So yes, there is a big initial investment at the beginning, however you are growing an asset that can bring income later on.
Since this book is mostly written about free Instagram growth strategies, I will not spend a ton of time on the subject of buying shoutouts from big accounts. Most of the books that I have read on Instagram growth strategies stated that this is by far the best way to grow your account.
From my personal experience, finding the right influencers to purchase shoutouts from is not an easy task. There are lots of ways that those influencers can trick us into thinking that their account is legit and that they have lots of engagement. Later we realize that the engagement was caused by automation and fake accounts. If you choose to purchase shoutouts, please do a very proper research on who you are buying them from.
It would make sense for you to pay for shoutouts if you are running an Instagram for an ecommerce store or a product that you are selling. Otherwise, there will be no immediate return on investment.
If you are a brand, you could DM bigger accounts and see if they would be interested in receiving your products for free. In return they should make a post of them using your product and post it on their account.
This can be a very beneficial strategy because influencers are seen in a post using your product. You are getting a shoutout on their pages at a cost of only your product. If your product sells for 100 dollars but it costs you only 20 dollars, you have spent a mere 20 bucks plus shipping to get in front of a lot of new eyes.
For bigger accounts, sending free products might not be enough. You might have to also send some money for them to post your products on their page.
If you want to put your brand name on influencers’ Instagram profiles, you will have to pay them much more than you would for a single post. However, the main benefit of this strategy would be that their account now has your brand’s name on it and people can see it 24/7. Unlimited exposure through work that the influencer is doing, without you putting in any labor yourself besides the initial contact and payment.
Seems that the more tools, provided by Instagram, that you use, the more you are liked by the platform. Using live videos is one of the ways in getting your audience engaged. During the videos you can communicate with your audience effectively. You can even ask them to go and engage on your last post, comment/share/like. Things that soon will be frowned upon on posts, you will still be able to do on live videos.
You could ask your audience to go and like your last post and comment on it. In return, you can promise to comment back to the first 20 people that comment. If you promise that, you must deliver and make it count! If people see you engage with your followers, others are more likely to engage on your posts as well. Some accounts that are HUGE, do not answer to their followers on their own, they have staff members that do, or they don’t answer at all.
Another method that I have seen work very well on other huge accounts is telling your followers that you will respond to the LAST 10 comments. Or you can say that the last comment will get a shoutout on your story! This will bring in endless comments onto your post since everyone will want to be the last account to comment by the cut off. This method seems to work very well but seems to also be one of the shadiest ones, I’ve witnessed.
If your posts are thought provoking but do not necessarily sound like engagement bait, people will share their opinions on them and Instagram should not shadowban them. However, this strategy should be done taking the risks involved into consideration. I wouldn’t want to be the reason why your accounts is flagged as an engagement bait account.
Asking for opinions should be treated the same way. If you see a sudden significant decrease in your post engagement, you will need to tweak your strategy. If you say something like “top or bottom?” in your post, you are likely to get shadowbanned in the near future once “engagement bait war” moves onto Instagram. However, before it does, you could use it and get a lot of people responding one-word answers which would still count as engagement and would boost your posts’ relativity.
ENGAGING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
In my personal opinion, no matter how big your account gets, you should still be responding to comments, DM’s, questions. People love connecting with large accounts, if a simple comment back to a follower of yours can make their day, why in the world wouldn’t you do it? It doesn’t take long!
It’s a win-win-situation. You respond to a person and make their day, the person is happy and has a smile on his/her face, other followers see that you respond, and they engage in your content more due to the fact that you don’t feel “too cool” to respond to your followers.
Responding to comments is one thing. Can you imagine what kind of impact it would have on your account if you checked out a few accounts that engaged on your posts, and commented on their posts? Take a moment and think about this scenario. You have 250K followers for instance, and you see someone commented on your post. You then go on and check out their profile, see something cool and drop a comment. That person will light up in happy feels and will show that to his/her friends. Now they think that you are cool too, and they go follow you as well.
Don’t underestimate the power of being personable. The growth of your accounts will be a much smoother sail if your followers don’t feel like they are following a snobby account that never responds or engages back with the audience. You get out what you put in.
With a large account, you are more likely to have your posts to gain traction quickly. Frequency, however should still use a similar principle as with a smaller account. As soon as you see your engagement die down, make another post.
A lot of bigger brands post very frequently without even letting their previous posts die down. These accounts are usually brands and are much more likely to have all of their posts go viral, so they are much less concerned about posting too often. Brand exposure is what they are aiming for and their posts being consistently pushed to the masses, is a strategy that works for them.
If you were Selena Gomez (if you are reading this, chances are you are not), you can even post once a month and you would still get extremely high levels of engagement. But then again, she is the second biggest Instagram account after… you guessed it, @instagram.
As you can see, the best strategy, once again, depends on the goals, the audience and what your profile is about. There is no way to tell what will work better for you. You must test and then decide based on the data that you have gathered.
If you have chosen to go this route of posting a lot of content during the day, do not think that you will annoy your audience to the point of getting unfollowed. In instances like this, Instagram shadowbanning is your friend. Only a portion of people that follow you see your posts. Only a portion of people that look for the hashtags that you have in your posts, see your posts. So, no need to be worried that you will be showing up too much on everyone’s feed!
Another method that is getting popular is taking over another big account. I have seen big brands such as SONY or BMW let other influencers take over their account for 24 hours. This brings in freshness and keeps it much interesting than same things over and over.
Since big brands only let influencers to take over by invitation only, you will have to take a different route. You will need to find other influencers that have similar size following and see if they would be interested in doing a takeover collaboration on each other’s accounts. Do not go after just anybody that you can find. Do proper research and make sure that you trust the person running the account.
I would strongly advise to change your password after each of the takeovers just to be safe. It is always better to be safe than sorry. It is completely up to you what you do or show during the takeover, but it would be very beneficial to both accounts to introduce a new face to a new audience.
Another way to get a lot of engagement on your posts is through contests. As mentioned before, with algorithm changes, Instagram is starting to go after the accounts that are trying to force out the engagement. Holding a contest is one of the things that Instagram doesn’t want you to do anymore.
When starting a contest, most of the accounts ask for other accounts to comment, like, and share their posts in hopes to win a prize. The fact that they are asking for users to engage, is considered engagement bait. Quite a few big account Instagram growth strategies were based on contests. People kept commenting, liking and sharing in hopes to win a freeby, that resulted into Instagram algorithms getting tricked into thinking that the post is “hot” and boosting its exposure.
The more people saw the post and checked out the account, the more people followed it. It is going to be a lot tougher for new accounts to be built on challenges as such from this point forward, so always think outside of the box! If by the time you are reading this it is still not too late, you should still utilize this strategy.
We have all seen tons of transformation contests going around on Instagram. They are out there because they work! People love to feel like they belong to a cause. Challenging people to change their lives in a positive way and share their results with the world is powerful.
Think of it as starting a movement. And not any type of movement, but the one that helps people and creates value.
You can come up with many types of challenges. For instance, good ole weight loss challenge, recipes challenge, who photoshopped it better challenge, most beautiful nature pic, most extreme pic, pets doing funny things challenge. The list goes on.
You could announce your challenge in your bio while asking people to use your hashtag and tell them that you will be reposting one submission daily or weekly. Do not make your challenge to be longer than a week. With the distractions in the world, people’s attention span has become smaller. Having weekly reposts of your followers will definitely boost the engagement for your account and will bring in a lot of new faces.
If you know an influencer who is in the same niche as you, and resides in your area, you should reach out to them. Once you reach out, try to see if they would like to meet with you for a photoshoot or a video collaboration.
I used to do that all of the time (still do) with other car accounts. We would set up a time and date to meet and take pictures of our cars together. Once we take pictures and edit them, we would post them on our social media accounts and mention each other’s Instagram handles in the caption and tag them onto the pictures as well while asking our audiences to follow.
As opposed to raw shoutouts, Influencer Collaborations ends with better results because you are still in the picture. Your posts will look less spammy since you are just mentioning the account that you hung out with in your post. Nowadays, people are conditioned to be looking out for spammy content, even from the people that they follow.
As mentioned previously, your other option is focus groups. When you have a higher following, other accounts with a similar following take Instagram more seriously, since they know what it can be used for. Getting those accounts to participate equally usually isn’t as hard as it is to get lower following accounts to participate.
When gathering accounts for a focus group, make sure to set up the times that you want them all to participate. All should be posting at similar times and should expect others to be available to engage with the posts.
Also, as previously mentioned, make sure that the accounts you invite in the group are legit. Do some digging and make sure that their following isn’t fake. You would be surprised how many fake followers an account can have. I have seen accounts with over a million followers that are fake, so be cautious.
If you have a business account on Instagram, you are already familiar with Instagram trying to tell you that you should “boost” your posts. While it might sound like a great idea to get your post seen by an additional 4000 people for a mere $5, I highly advise against it.
Yes, I have tried to run a few of my posts as ads in hopes to gain followers. The result after spending a few hundred dollars was 0 followers gained. Yes, ZERO. I was not frustrated about it because that was the result I was expecting to get.
If you see a post that has a word “Sponsored” at the top of it, you are very unlikely to hit the “follow” button. That’s the same way other people think when they see your own sponsored post.
Even if your post was selling an amazing product, the likely outcome would be a sale of that product. Following the page that posted it, would be the last thing on my mind. Instagram hasn’t figured out the way to display paid posts in a way that could bring in potential followers. You will not gain followers, you will only gain likes, but that’s not what we are here for.
There are a few ways to monetize your Instagram account. In this section, I will go through the most common ways to monetize your Instagram account. I am in no way an expert at monetization of Instagram accounts since I have not looked at Instagram as an opportunity for business. Well, until now.
I have done extensive research on how to make money by using your Instagram account, and in this section of the book, I will be sharing my findings with you. Monetization channels go as follows:
- Get paid to do shoutouts.
- Get paid through affiliate links.
- Make your own products or merchandise and use Instagram to sell them.
- Get sponsorships and “rent” space in your Instagram bio.
If you have a business account and are over 10K followers, you are given the opportunity to add links to your Instagram stories. You know when you are going through stories and at the bottom of some stories you see “See More” with an arrow pointing up? That’s the option that you get after passing 10K follower mark.
This neat little function can make a huge difference because it makes it convenient for your audience to only swipe up instead of going through a bunch of hoops.
If you are posting links that are shown to public, you should consider using either google link shortener or bit.ly softwares to help you shorten the links. Bit.ly is very cool option because it lets you track the traffic that goes through your link when it gets clicked.
Get paid for shoutouts
If you grow large enough, you can start getting paid for shoutouts. You could do either story shoutout or a post shoutout. Usually post shoutouts don’t stay up for more than 4 hours simply because there is not much value after 4 hours have gone by.
If you have around 50K followers, you can start getting paid $20 dollars and more per shoutout. 100K followers and up $50-100. If you get to 1 million followers and your engagement is great, you could charge $1000 per post or more!
If you are wondering why anyone would pay for a shoutout, think about this. Why would a brand try to waste the money and time trying to figure out their targeted audience and optimize for it, when they can ask someone who has built trust with its audience, to put the product in front of it? People trust influencers that they follow, so they are more likely to purchase a product that is recommended by an influencer. They are much less likely to buy a product that randomly pops up on their feed by a company that they are not familiar with.
Even though shoutouts seem to cost quite a bit of money, companies save money by paying influencers to post on their behalf.
Other accounts that want to grow fast are paying bigger accounts to get shoutouts as well. It is very common to see that happen. If you choose to do business with other smaller accounts and do paid posts, you need to make sure that the account reflects what you stand for. Don’t garnish your own brand by doing business with shady accounts.
I am not affiliated with any one of these marketplaces and do not have much experience with either one of them. Please use your own caution, do your research and use it at your own discretion. Last thing I would want to do is to get any one of you guys and girls to get screwed by a shady company.
A lot of companies use affiliate marketing as a way to advertise their products. The way affiliate marketing works is simple:
- A company creates a product and posts it on affiliate network.
- Affiliates that are part of the network find a product and decide to promote it on their channels (YouTube, blog, Instagram, Facebook page, etc.).
- Affiliate network provides the advertiser with a link used to track their sales.
- Affiliate posts the link and promotes it on their chosen channel.
- Sales happen, and affiliate collects a percentage on every sale. Creator of the product collects the rest.
This is a win-win situation for both the company that created the product and the advertiser/affiliate. Affiliate gets paid commission for every sale. Product company sells their products without having to spend any money upfront on advertising. Only time company pays anything is when their product has been sold.
Affiliate network makes sure that there is no missed commission by making the links in a way where they are being tracked from person clicking on it all the way to the purchase. Amazon has a great affiliate network itself. By signing up to be an Amazon affiliate you are going to receive around 10% affiliate commission for every product you sell.
If you are using certain niche products, chances are that they are already on some type of affiliate network. Why not post an affiliate link of that product on your account and open the door for opportunity to make sales?
You are not spamming people since you use the product yourself. I would advise to stay away from trying to push products that you haven’t used yourself. I pride myself on only being ok with running promotions on products that I use and would stand behind.
Affiliate programs that I have used before are Amazon, ClickBank and Share-a-Sale. There are many more that you can discover with a quick search on Google.
Another option for you to make some money after acquiring a decent size follower base would be by selling your own products or promoting your own ecommerce store. To start an ecommerce business, you need some initial investment in products. So, if you are strapped for cash, you might want to go with drop shipping which is part of ecommerce as well.
If you are intimidated, don’t be. Everything you need to know is available online. Most of the stuff that you need to know is available for free. It will take you some time to wrap your head around ecommerce, but once you do it’s a fun ride.
You have probably seen a lot of ads pop up of some funny looking guy telling you that he is a guru of eCommerce and he can’t teach you how you too can make 10K a week. This is one of those tactics where an eCommerce store owner blows a ton of money on ads and is pushing any type of product just to show sales to you and sell his/her course.
Most of these “gurus” never show you how much money they spent on Facebook ads or paying influencers. To them it’s just an unimportant detail. But it just happens that marketing costs are most likely their highest costs.
The platform that I found to be the best for hosting your own ecommerce store is called Shopify. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial and it is by far the easiest platform to understand.
Drop shipping is a way to make money by selling a product to a consumer without ever touching the product. With drop shipping business model, you are essentially a middle man, sort of like a broker between wholesaler and the consumer.
Business model is simple to explain but fairly complex to get to work. You need to set up an ecommerce store on Shopify and contact suppliers whose products you want to sell. Once approved you can add the products to your website and start running ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google, or another platform to try to sell them.
When drop shipping you only pay for the product if you have sold it. So, let’s say Joe bought a basketball from my drop shipping store. I would receive a notification that Joe paid me and then I would go to my supplier’s website and order that product. Instead of entering my information, I would add Joe’s information into shipping address details. Since I get a discount on the product, I get to keep the difference between what Joe paid me and the discounted price that I paid.
However, that’s not just it. I also must pay for ads to get Joe to come to my online store. What first seemed like a lot of money, is now not looking as great once we take out the money we spent on ads.
Drop shipping still works until this day and chances are it will not be going anywhere. Chances are that you are very familiar with the world’s biggest drop shipper; Amazon.
If you are a fitness coach, life coach, cryptocurrency guru, marketing guru, etc. you can put together a website and advertise it through your own Instagram account. It will not cost you anything to do so since you are using your own account and could help you in building your brand and generating sales.
Before trying to sell anything make sure that you are providing solid value to your audience. Do not come out pushing product down everyone’s throats. Warm them up to the idea and build anticipation, so that by the time you release your product it will perform well from the beginning. If you are providing value for free, then your paid content must have even more value, right?
You could get on Instagram live and ask your followers to subscribe to your mailing list, in return you should give them something of value. You could use a free guide or a small free training course. You could also hold webinars and invite your followers to join in for a limited time only. The goal here is to collect email addresses, one of the oldest marketing strategy for online businesses.
Focus on generating leads (collecting emails) rather than just trying to sell a product. Pushing your product non-stop might make you a quick buck but will push a lot of people away. You need to build trust, provide value, collect emails, warm people up to the idea of your product, then sell.
If you are starting a clothing line, there are quite a few shopify apps that you can install onto your ecommerce store that can help you get started at almost no cost (still have to pay for shopify website). Two apps that I have tested out are printful and printify. Both work great but have different price points and quality. These are not only apps that you could use, so if your research tells you to go with a different app, that’s fine as well.
The way these apps work is this. You upload your own designs to the app on your store, then you pick out the material that you want your product to be made out of. Then you pick sizes and push the product to your store. If you are creative enough, opportunities with these apps are endless.
You could browse online for design ideas and see if there is anything similar to what you would like to do. I usually go to etsy.com to get some good ideas for my products. Then by using those ideas I create a design myself or outsource it to fiverr.com or upwork.com.
You can sell more than just t-shirts. You could sell towels, coffee mugs, hats, etc. This would be a great way to test out your product ideas without burning through a lot of cash. Once you see someone performing well, you can put money together and buy a bulk shipment.
You could literally start a store without investing any money in it besides paying for shopify store. That is if you do not spend any money on ads. The goal here once again is, to grow as much as possible and use your follower base to get your posts high engagement rate and be shown to a broader audience.
When you upload a post with your product in it, your followers will engage with the post. Because your follower base is large, it will be much easier to spread through Instagram than it would for an account that’s just starting up.
While this type of monetization of your account isn’t bringing in money to you, it can potentially save you quite a bit. I have done this myself where I received multiple products where I was asked to take a picture with the product and my car in return.
It doesn’t have to just be a keychain or a tiny electronic device, it could be a set of $8000 wheels! It could be anything. I have been on Instagram for a while now and have talked to enough people to understand the power of it. I have successfully received HUGE discounts on parts myself.
When you have a large account people and companies start taking you more seriously. There are plenty of stories of huge companies flying guys and girls out around the world to participate in their events and communicate to the public on behalf of the brand. Sounds like a pretty cool lifestyle to me.
You could either get contacted by a company out of the blue offering you sponsorship opportunities or you could contact companies yourself. I have done it both ways and it worked out well for me. Personally, I am still receiving a few hundred dollars’ worth of goodies a month and have saved thousands of dollars in the past year alone.
Do not let the money blind you. Remember that without your audience trusting you and engaging with your content, there will be no brand. You need to grow and maintain your audience. Provide value to them constantly to keep them interested in what you have to share.
Focus on your niche and stick to it. I see time and time again guys that have built solid following in car niche, that start promoting kitchen items or other things that have nothing to do with cars. At least they should have stuck with things you can use along with your car, like car chargers, dash cams, trackers, etc.
You need to also pay a lot of attention to what you are promoting. If you would not use the product yourself, you should not try to sell it. I mean you could, but then again, you will not be able to stand strong behind the product when questions start rolling in.
Numerous of times I got offered to promote products that I thought were useless or hideous and I just couldn’t do it. The deals were great, but there was no way I would look like a fraud in front of my audience. Make sure that you stay true to yourself and your audience, don’t be that guy that stops caring about the longevity of the account and keeps pushing anything and everything.
Now let’s talk about automation. Up to this point in the book I’ve been sharing with you how you can grow your Instagram accounts in proper ways. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age most of Instagram Accounts with large following have used automation in one way or another. The purpose of running software that will help you grow fast or purchasing followers is all tied up into social proof.
If you see an account that has a very large following, you will right away think that this account is legit. Well, that’s what you would have thought before reading this book, now you will go dig and find out that most of them cheated at one point or another.
I used to look down at all of the accounts that cheated in the past, now I only look down at accounts that cheated in the past and claim to have grown their following absolutely organically. Looking for shortcuts is human nature, and when money and time comes into play, a lot of times it looks like a no brainer.
That’s when automation comes in. A lot of times it is referred as “botting.” I have never used a bot on my @ignasvee account, but I have tested out quite a few on my ecommerce stores and other business accounts. By far the best one that I have found is called Instaposts (no longer around, don’t Google it).
There are other tools that have some functions of this web application, however none of them have them all. Don’t fall for scammy marketing videos that you see every day and do your own research.
I have seen numerous of people that have 50-100K followers on their pages that are promoting Instagram bots telling others that’s how they got their following so high. Sounds too good to be true? Well it is. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t fact check all of those accounts.
The very sad part is that 99.99% of these accounts bought large amounts of followers before they released their ads. People that don’t do their research end up wasting their money while these scam artists sit back, count cash and laugh at how much smarter they are than others.
Follow the steps that I have mentioned previously in sorting through who is telling you a fairy tale and who is telling the truth. Go to socialblade.com and look at the Total Instagram Followers graphs and see if there were any sharp break offs that came after sudden jumps. Also look for patterns of followers dropping every day. If an account is posting every day, there is absolutely no reason for it to keep dropping in followers.
A ton of accounts that are huge are using at least one function of what this application has to offer. If asked they will of course say that they aren’t using it. On Instagram, people that use bots act similar to the people that use steroids in real life. You see them grow much faster than others, it’s very obvious, but they will deny it until the end.
I started researching Instagram automation when one of my friends with a large (250K) account started commenting the same stuff on every single post of mine. I was like, c’mon bro, are you ok? Why do you keep saying the same thing on every single pic of mine. Then he admitted to using a bot. He said he couldn’t engage with all of his followers and people that he is following so he had to look for a way to keep him engaged with everyone. Running a bot saved him a ton of time.
I was a bit shocked, but not completely blown away. I understood that once you grow large enough it’s hard to keep up without being completely consumed into your social media accounts. I started looking around and realized that virtually every big account is running some type of software. Even though it’s against Instagram’s policies, they seem to still be around and well. The key factor of running an automation software is to set it up where you run low risk of overdoing it. Knowing what’s too much is key.
Instaposts app is set up in a way where all of the thinking is already done for you. You do not need to worry about daily or hourly limits on likes, follows, comments. The software knows and will keep you legal. That is not a guarantee that you will not get your account banned temporarily or permanently but the accounts that I have checked out are still around.
Ideally, when you are just starting off, you should set all of your settings either to “Auto” or “Medium” at the most. This way Instagram will get warmed up to the fact that you are becoming more engaged with the platform. Within a week of letting it run at this pace, you should bump it up to “Fast” or “Very Fast” and watch the magic happen.
Organic Instagram growth strategies are slow and painful; however, they are the most rewarding in the end. Even though I managed to grow my car account organically to a decent size without spending a penny or automation, I have used automation services to gain traction and social proof to my ecommerce store pages. I will go over the game plan how this could be beneficial to your online business or an influencer account as well. But first let me cover the ways this application can make your life easier.
This function was the first thing that caught my attention when looking at Instaposts application. If you are like myself and are a busy person that struggles to post at the right times or to post period, you would like this function. Instaposts lets you schedule your posts ahead of time. While other apps offer to notify you when to post, this application does it for you without even bothering you.
If you spend a few hours putting your posts together, adding hashtags and captions in them, you will not have to move a finger afterwards besides interacting with your followers. I have successfully done this myself with a few accounts with only time being spent 1 day out of the week where I set future posts up.
But wait, there’s more! No, I’m being serious. If posting your scheduled posts for you isn’t enough, it also lets you put down the first comment under that post. And that comment should be your set of hashtags. Pretty neat stuff.
Can Manage Multiple Accounts
This software has a few options where you can manage one account, 3 accounts or even 15 accounts (ideal for businesses). I have seen a lot of new companies popping up that are managing multiple Instagram accounts for companies or individuals and making a living out of it.
If you are interested in starting a social media management company, this could be one of the ways to get it off the ground. I have been managing a few accounts that I do not own with the help of Instaposts app as well.
Auto DM Feature
Yes, you know those DM messages that you get sometimes after following a certain account? Messages that are welcoming you to the page and thanking you for hitting the follow button. Those messages are set up by using automation services as well.
It is a nice and easy way to say hello to your new followers and is very useful if you are a brand. The only thing that would be left for you to do is coming up with a unique and not too robotic message. This software can make your life much easier, but you would still need to put in some of the work yourself.
Auto Follow/Auto Unfollow
Instaposts also lets you set it up to follow and unfollow accounts that are in your niche. You can set them up in a way to only target accounts that are using hashtags that you use as well as location that you are in. It even lets you to go after your competitors’ followers.
Yes, with this software you can target to follow and unfollow all of the people that are following your competitor’s account. Another awesome thing that barely any other services offer.
This function is the least invasive since you are only liking pictures of other accounts that have hashtags that you set your app to follow. It can also be set up by location and competitor accounts.
The idea behind this function is the same as when I taught about forcing out engagement. Your account will go like pictures in hopes to get the person to come back to your page and like a few posts in return or give you a follow. It works like a charm once you grow bigger (past 10K). At that point people will trust you more and will be much more inclined to follow you.
I really like this feature because it can go around 24 hours a day liking pictures for you and attracting traffic to your page. Imagine how much time you would have to spend a day to like 1000 pictures? We are all very busy people, so we do what we have to do to save time.
If that was not enough, you can also schedule this app to automatically repost from other accounts onto your page. It took me a bit to understand what this meant. Might sound confusing so allow me to explain.
It is possible now to create an account that will take posts of others on autopilot and repost onto your account. No need to enter caption, hashtags, etc. Everything is pulled up from the source.
I am currently testing this function with one of my accounts where I set up a bunch of accounts to pull content from with proper credit given to them. At the moment, I have scheduled this account to be reposting 2-4 times an hour. It is by far my fastest growing account at the time, and yes that includes the @ignasvee account.
If you have no patience or are pressed for time, you could use the following tactic (as I’m sure that quite a few accounts have used it already):
- Start a brand-new account and post around 15 pictures within the next 3-5 days while using all of the tips mentioned above.
- Then purchase around 10K followers or so from one of the follower selling pages.
- Now it’s time to try to get yourself caught up with legitimate followers, so you will need to sign up for Instaposts and schedule a ton of posts in advance.
- Start out by scheduling 2 posts a day, then each day raise the number of posts by one until you get to around 10 posts.
- Make sure to put hashtags in your post caption and change sets of hashtags around a bit with each post.
- At the same time set Instaposts to go around on Instagram and like pictures under hashtags in your niche.
- Set Instaposts to do follow/unfollow under same or similar hashtags that are going to show posts under your niche.
- You could set up “Auto comment” feature as well but running a bot that comments nonsense is really getting people frustrated lately, so I’m not sure if I would do that (I never did it myself).
- If you are selling any products or service, you should also set up “Auto DM” feature where you welcome your followers and could maybe even give them a discount code.
I hope that I was able to provide value to you through this book. I have tried to explain the inner workings of Instagram to the best of my knowledge and ability. I have given you enough strategies and ideas on how to grow your Instagram account, that you should not have any more problems of getting stuck.
There are quite a few ways of growing your pages organically and there are quite a few ways to give your accounts a boost while spending some money. Whichever route you take, the goal should remain the same; provide great value to your audience and keep on growing!
The value of having a large Instagram following is undeniable. For the longest time not many people saw it, including me. Nowadays presence on Instagram is getting to the point of becoming a necessity.
Don’t listen to the background noise and people that are making fun of you for posting on Instagram every day or people shaming you for doing so. They are the people that will be begging you to teach them how you did it fairly soon.
Keep taking action and become consistent with it.