Comprehensive Insider’s Guide to Instagram Growth Hacking
Written by Jenny Gao (@otherworld.ly + @theroamess, New Zealand travel influencer and photographer) aka JG my business partner. She's awesome. Feel free to connect with us. We will try to answer any more questions.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: Equipping you with 2017 knowledge
- Determining how Instagram can serve you
- Instagram’s secret account health rating
- Summarizing prerequisites: Skip if you already know this
Hashtags/Authentically engaging with others
- Content is (and always will be) king
- Understanding algorithms
- Automation method
Targetted F/UF/ Auto-liking/commenting
- Powerliking method
What is it and why does it work?
General vs niche
- My personal suggestions
Plain and simple: A lot of guides currently out there serve last year’s (and even last last year’s) knowledge on how to growth hack Instagram accounts. They’re still telling you to furiously hashtag and that the only way to grow organically is by manually commenting and engaging with influencers in your niche.
This guide aims to equip you with current, detailed, comprehensive insider’s knowledge on every strategy influencers with multi-million follower networks are using to grow accounts (sometimes from scratch) rapidly.
1. Determining how Instagram can serve you
To get the most out of this platform, you must know what you ultimately want out of Instagram. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do I want to sell a product/service? If so, in what niche and at what price-point? A $7USD trendy fiddle-gadget or $12 holographic lip gloss will require a different strategy to a $497 e-course or $3000 website branding packages.
Am I growing a page for an already established business, or am I growing a new business fresh? If said business is already established, what industry is it in and what kind of content will be genuinely compelling to what audience? If business is from scratch, what content will be used to generate interest and engagement?
Am I growing a personal page for myself, aiming to make a name myself as a thought leader/influencer in x niche?
What is the account’s ultimate end-goal? Is it to sell a product/service and have Instagram be a source of income, or is it to increase personal impact and reach?
2. Instagram’s secret account health rating
Unknown to the public eye, Instagram has a health score for every single account on its database in its back end. When a new account is made, its health is at its fullest. From then onwards, there are several ways your account’s health can be compromised. Why is your account’s health important, you ask?
Have you ever wondered why some huge accounts (over 100k+) have a comparatively poor amount of likes/comments per post? Say on average they don’t even break 1000 likes/10 comments. It is because the account’s health is poor and has been red flagged by Instagram’s algorithm enough in the past for it to be penalized to the point where its content is barely reaching its huge audience. Every action that decreases your Instagram account’s health lowers your engagement and the amount of followers/potential for new followers that Instagram pushes the posts out to.
These things decrease account health:
People reporting your account/content as spam or inappropriate
People unfollowing you
Soft bans (occurs when you’ve done too many actions too quickly)
Changing your display picture
Changing your username
Using any kind of automation software/third party tool/scheduling tool
If you’re thinking “Man that’s a LOT!” I agree with you. Compromising your account’s engagement simply for changing a display picture is a little extreme, but know that Instagram penalizes you with your followers’ best interest in mind. All of the above are inconsistent behaviors, and inconsistency confuses followers. Do your best to avoid these.
3. Summarizing prerequisites
Skip this if you’re already rather seasoned with Instagram basics. This is to cover all bases for those who aren’t familiar with the below, or would like a refresher.
Use hashtags that have between 500,000 - 1 million posts so your posts have some time to circulate within them before getting drowned out by sheer volume. Not sure what hashtags to begin with? Go into the top influencers of your niche, and dig around in their posts for hashtags they’re using and make a compilation of them. Only use the ones that have a healthy amount of posts in them (not under 100,000 and not over 900,000 preferably). You get a max of 30 hashtags under each post, so use them effectively!
Authentically engaging with others
Instagram’s community is incredible for its magnitude of human interaction. Ensure you’re always being yourself and posting captions and content that is a true reflection of your values, messages and lifestyle. Find influencers of similar sizes to you in your niche and make friends! This really isn’t a growth strategy as much as it just fun - this is the true beauty of Instagram, and what keeps it thriving as the biggest and most engaged social media platform above overs.
4. Understanding algorithms
On the contrary, Instagram rewards consistently like no tomorrow. It’s not uncommon for big accounts (over 100k+) to post up to three times a day to maximize growth. If you don’t post for a few days, you’re compromising your account’s potential for organic growth. Sometimes not posting for a few days can even stop organic growth permanently, so if there’s anything to ensure you do to guarantee success with Instagram, it’s to be as consistent as possible.
Post once a day at least.
An Instagram post’s lifespan is the most paramount in its first 10 minutes of going live. The more engagement it receives within this time, the more it’ll reach the rest of your followers and the likelier it’ll reach the Explore page, which is where you are exposed to new eyeballs (and hopefully new followers).
The timing of your posts is just as important. Almost universally, people are most active on Instagram at 9am, 12pm and 3pm EST.
5. Content is (and will always be) king
Instagram’s golden rule: Quality should always be your first priority. All other growth strategies come second to incredible content. If you apply all these strategies upon sub-par content no one is interested in, you’ll receive less than favourable results. Set yourself up for success by researching what constitutes as high quality content in your niche. It’ll vary greatly. For travel/luxury, beautiful vibrant photography is king. For comedy/humour, it might mean applying current meme trends on top of your own niche.
Cooler shades (like blue)
Engaging captions with a question or a call to action
6. Automation method
F/UF is a controversial growth strategy, but still hugely touted one. Find large influencers who already occupy your niche, go into their followers list and follow all the recent followers. Follow no more than 100 at a time to avoid being picked up as spammy behavior by Instagram. Here, a follow is a way of saying “Hey! Look at me, I exist,” and it will usually prompt a large amount of traffic back into your page. The idea is that if they’ve already followed large influencer A (who has similar content to you) they’ll be interested in yours too, and follow you back.
You can repeat this process up to five to seven times a day. Instagram allows you to follow up to 7500 people, so once you’ve hit this number, do a mass unfollow and repeat the process if you wish.
You can use services like Instagress.com to auto-like and leave auto-comments to accounts that are within your niche. This, like F/UF, serves as a “Hey! Come look at my account!” and will bring traffic over to your account. Be wary with these services as Instagram doesn’t like them and if your account is new (fresh) you’ll be subject to being banned quicker. Test and always err on the side of caution with automation services.
Your goals with any automated growth for Instagram should be to accelerate your account to a point where your new community/influence is credible, self-sustainable and grows on its own organically. Automation is much cheaper than growing with powerlikes, but it does potentially come at a cost to your account’s health. I'd personally not use it at all.
7. Powerliking method
What are powerlikes and why does it work?
Powerlikes are likes/comments from a network of large accounts (100k+ accounts are considered large) as soon as your post goes live. The intent is to play into Instagram’s algorithm where a post’s first ten minutes are most crucial for gaining traction and determining how it'll do in reaching beyond your current following.
It works two-fold: By flooding traffic from the large accounts over to yours from the ‘Following’ tab, as well as triggering the algorithm to recognise that large accounts are enjoying that piece of content.
This will not only increase the post’s reach to more of your current followers but increases its chances significantly in hitting the Explore page, where you’re reaching beyond your current audience and grow organically and quickly.
Telegram is a messenger app that has become solely used for Instagram engagement groups. It's hugely popular as you can code bots that take over the entire process for you, making everything automatic.
Below are screenshots of arguably the best and most exclusive engagement group, XPLOR Rounds.
Prerequisites: 80k+ followers, 2k+ likes per post avg
At precisely :50 each hour, the bot asks all wanting to participate in that round to drop their accounts. This just means you type in the username of the account you'd like engagement on, I.e.; @theroamess
- At :00 (on the hour), the bot automatically spits out a list of everyone who dropped their account. During peak times like 9am EST, this list is super long. The longer the list, the more engagement you'll be getting, therefore the better.
- Everyone goes and engages with every account on the list, and reports back when they're done with ‘D @username’ so the bot can check. In some groups, you're only required to like the most recent post. In XPLOR you like the last three posts. This only works if everyone participates, so Telegram round hosts don't hesitate to ban leechers.
General vs niche rounds
There is a divide in opinion on whether it’s better to use general rounds (where everyone is of different niches) or niche rounds (where everyone is in your niche, i.e., fashion.)
I'm of the opinion that doing engagement rounds with those in your niche always trumps rounds across niches, but you might find that there aren't enough people in your niche alone to have any real impact. Rounds are only effective if there are at least 50 participants, and if you're, say, a mommy + vegan + travel influencer, you might be too “niched in”. Stick to general rounds with more participants.
Your goal with powerlikes is simple: hit the Explore page, where millions of new eyeballs and potential followers await your content. Hitting Explore as frequently as possible is how huge influencers and networks grow hundreds; up to thousands of followers a day.
How do you know if you've hit Explore?
Your likes/comments on that post will be significantly higher than average, followed by a steady stream of new followers. You can further check by randomly going into the profiles of those liking the suspected post and seeing if they follow you. If they don't, they most likely found that post via Explore. Congratulations, you've succeeded in expanding your reach! Now try and repeat this success as much as you can.
8. My personal suggestions
Determine what you ultimately want your account for. If your goal is to use it to sell a product/service, you may need to consider what demographic you’ll eventually sell to and grow an account with primarily followers in a certain age group or country.
Determine how fast you’d like your growth - whether it be slow and steady long-term, or as quickly as possible.
Determine how “healthy” you’d prefer your account. If you want your account as healthy as possible, it’s probably better to invest in powerlikes/organic growing strategies. Automation software and services will penalize your health slightly but is a potentially cheaper alternative.
Determine how much money you’re willing to invest in growing an Instagram following.
Post at 9am, 12pm or 3pm EST daily. Ensure your content is the highest quality you can make it, and keep aiming to improve. Genuinely engage with your audience: ask them questions, get to know the frequent commenters, and leave them call to actions (like tagging friends). Care about what they'd like to see from your account, and what your account does to serve them.]]>