Are your followers real or fake? It’s time to start thinking about how not to grow your Instagram following.
Instagram is a powerful tool, and it’s fun too. I use it at work, to grow our brand’s reach and spread the gospel. I use it out of work, to look at designer cats and share pictures of my glamorous life. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone not looking to grow your Instagram following. Followers represent success. If you have a business, they mean customers and conversions. For private individuals, they represent fame and popularity. And for the elusive ‘Influencer’, placed somewhere between the two, followers are money.
But you knew this already. Maybe you’ve already some other guides on how to grow your Instagram following – there’s enough out there – but it’s not just about doing the right thing. You have to avoid the wrong way of acquiring followers. By taking unhealthy shortcuts, you might end up harming your success and even your own self. This is our guide on to how not to grow your Instagram following. Check out our pictures along the way, for a glimpse of how we get it right.
1. DON’T pay for followers from a click farm
We should get this one out of the way early. This is the best-known illicit technique for getting attention on social media. You can pay straight up cash for followers. They are all fake accounts and computer programs known as ‘bots’. These bots are even able to like and comment on your pictures. Bots can be linked to both fake and real accounts, as we’ll see later.
2. DON’T Spam People
Like for like. Commenting and liking on the posts of fellow ‘grammers is a basic technique to grow your Instagram following. You find other people in your niche, get involved with some content that you like. Leave a few remarks sharing what you think, keep it friendly. But this basic interaction is abused by unscrupulous users copy-pasting the same inane phrase across reams of posts, regardless of how relevant it is. Do you really want some idiot commenting ‘Looking Good Hustla! 😎Let’s Rise And Grind! 📈’ under a picture of your dog? No, you don’t. So don’t engage in this type of behaviour.
3. DON’T abuse filters
Instagram is synonymous with its filters. In the early days of photo apps, they were the bleeding edge of new. You could make everything look like a sunset! Or black and white! Or like a vintage picture! Furthermore, heavily saturated colours even smooth out skin tones and correct light imbalances. However, they have become rather passé. The unfortunate truth is that you will need more subtle image processing if your pictures aren’t good enough as they are. When you reach for the filter button, remember that less is more.
4. DON’T pay to be featured
You’ll find there are plenty of accounts out there dedicated to sharing the content of others. They might accumulate inspiring wedding pictures or stylish locations. If they pick up some of your work, you’ll probably notice a welcome boost in followers. Of course, that is if they do it the legitimate way and give full credit. But recently, it’s become more common practice for these types of accounts to build their following using this borrowed content and then starting to charge. So, they will ask content creators to PAY to be featured on their account, to boost their profile. This is a dangerous and unhealthy dynamic, and to encourage this practice will end up hurting the entire community.
5. DON’T think that ‘Sex Sells’
We’ve all heard the famous slogan. It might make you picture a sleazy, skeezy ad executive with wandering eyes and a creepy demeanour. That’s not cutting it for the digital generation. There’s no doubt that sex and sexuality plays a huge role in Instagram. But commissioning scantily-clad pictures to flog your product is a dated approach that will turn off consumers. If you have to ask, then it’s best to stay away from potentially sexist imagery and themes in your digital strategy.
6. DON’T use bots
Back to the bots. They’re not the Terminator but these guys are still pretty powerful. You can pay for digital services that will perform tasks for you, en masse. These bots will follow, unfollow, like, comment, and more in huge numbers. However – again this is just going to hurt you. First of all, if Instagram detects this activity they may sanction your account. Furthermore, they will only create a poor quality following, as well as angering people for the same reason as demonstrated in #2. That’s not to mention recent warnings about how they can endanger your own safety.
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7. DON’T degrade images
Here’s a general tip for pictures. Every time an image is downloaded and shared on, particularly in the JPEG format, the quality goes down. That goes even more when you are screenshotting said image, and adding filters. Don’t do it. You must only accept high-quality images to share on your account or look like a rank amateur. Blurry images, glaring pixels, slammed textures – no one wants to see these things.
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8. DON’T follow-unfollow
Follow back. It’s a foundational exchange across countless social media platforms. It’s really simple – you follow me, I’ll follow you. You don’t have to follow this edict, but it can be a good way to gain some followers. Although, it shouldn’t be your main strategy. However, it’s possible to betray this fundamental technique. Simply by following large amounts of users, and then unfollowing them when they reciprocate, you might gain a large number of followers. But this is the wrong way to do it. First of all, chances are that these followers are not interested or engaged in your content in a meaningful way. As a result, they are worth nothing more than a number on a screen. Secondly, when people realise that this trick has been played on them, they react with anger. So instead of increasing your popularity, you reduce it.
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9. DON’T join the mafia
Racketeering, smuggling, bribing politicians. You’re not involved with any of that are you? Chicago gangsters aren’t the mafia we’re talking about here. No, it’s the Instagram mafia you’ve got to worry about. Don’t worry, they aren’t going to rob you for your likes and follows – at least not directly.
Certain groups of seriously savvy users have been ganging up to manipulate the App’s algorithm. Let’s break it down quickly: the ‘explore’ page can make or break a post. If a post is featured on there, then it can easily generate huge attention. And one way Instagram selects posts for this page is the amount of interaction a post gets within the first few hours of its creation. So, people create groups and organise to all post pictures at the same time (often 2pm NYC time). They then all start to vigorously like and comment on each other’s posts, likely boosting them to the explore page. From here they get massive visibility. This has all been exposed recently by a former Instagram manipulator.
10. DO keep it real
It’s all false. The issue with the Mafa tactic is that ultimately the interactions you’re getting are NOT going to be long-lasting. The techniques outlined here are unethical and flimsy. They are poor ways to grow your Instagram following. If you are manipulating figures using money and schemes to get followers and interactions, you are defeating the whole purpose of the Instagram platform. It’s appealing because these metrics are indicators of a customer base, and gives you a chance to reach out to a genuine audience. If your audience isn’t genuine or doesn’t exist at all, then you really are wasting your time.
Your Instagram strategy should aim at results, not numbers. You can spend all your time and money playing games with bots, algorithms, and sketchy overseas follow farms. But you’ll find yourself down the line short on money, and short on conversions.
This advice should help you to create a robust, legitimate strategy for growing your brand on Instagram. A thorough digital strategy is vital for any business. Enjoyed our guide to how not to grow your Instagram following? Take a look at our affordable, expert marketing services for venues to learn more about what you need to be doing.