I am really bored of watching videos on YouTube of people telling me how to grow my Instagram following by some insane amount in 30 days or something, what makes me even more annoyed is that a large amount of them basically tell you to repost content from other more successful accounts, usually going into how to rob them of their best content. If nothing else, this is SO low class, at worse I think it should be illegal.
What really gets my goat is when they say ‘don’t forget to tag the creator’ like this gives you carte blanch with someone else’s work – I mean, some poor guy might have saved up for ages working at mcdonalds, busted his hump to buy a decent camera and pay for a trip to Machu Pichu to get ‘that shot’ and you are getting told by some lecherous little scumbag to tax their work and re-use it, for free, to grow your following? Do me a favour, this comes back to that classic ‘Do it for exposure’ thing that people seem to expect from photographers etc – yes, sometimes it IS worth doing things for exposure, and sometimes I am sure that matey with his Machu Pichu shot MIGHT want to have it reposted to a much more popular account that might drive him traffic and or get him exposure – which, if you are trying some content stealing strategy from a YouTube video is probably NOT you.
What is funny to me, and by funny, I mean not funny, is that there are a load of videos the same as this, so these people not only steal other IG users prime content, but they also can’t come up with an original strategy to grow their accounts nor make YouTube videos. If I saw someone reposting my work, even if its a photo of a coffee, on Instagram and they did it without asking, regardless of if they tagged me (c’mon, what is a tag worth on all but the biggest accounts – literally nothing) then I would be so annoyed at the entitled behavior that I would go to whatever lengths I could to get them to take it down, whatever it was!
I was approached by a beard page that asked to post one of my pictures with no expectations, who linked back to me and who clearly were just showing random beards, that was fine, they asked, I said no worries, they were not making any obvious money from it, the photo was not something I had gone to any great length to capture and had no commercial value to me, and even if it did, it was up to me to say yes or no – that’s how this should work. When I see people trying to position themselves as entrepreneurs or some kind of business genius by reposting someone else’s Gary Vee quote that’s been written out and has a photo of Gary on it, possibly with about three rubbish urls on top of each other on it, it makes me cringe – does that look professional to you? Does it look like you know what you are doing? To me it says I am to lazy to make/source my own content and that isn’t really a quality that I associate with successful entrepreneurs nor business people.
Maybe its just me? I don’t think it is though. I have recently done some testing on Instagram myself and what I have found to work well is to post reasonably regular content of a reasonably high standard and to interact with a LOT of people’s posts in similar niche’s, and when I say interact, I don’t mean bot them, which is possibly the only thing that I think looks worse than this new trend of reposting stuff, ‘this is a great image’ as a comment when its a terrible phone pic of a dropped cup of coffee or something is so transparently bot material that it makes me instantly disregard anything you do or say – same with instantly liking my last 9 photos within about two seconds, its not clever, its not going to make me follow you and whats more, the algorithm does not favor you, it amazes me that people will be so swept up in these processes that they don’t realise that IG has some smart people working for them, they want people – real people – to spend as much time on the platform as possible, and an absolutely fake or engaged audience of followers doesn’t do that, so you get penalised, as DJ Khaled might say ‘congratulations, you played yourself’.
So how DO I grow?..
- Well, I am not the be all and end all when it comes to this, you know your audience better than I do, but, and I sound like a broken record here, you need to decide what your account is about, try and be specific – narrow down as much as you can, certainly until you are established – and then, stick within that niche.
- Once you have decided your niche, get yourself some ideas, think about what you are a) trying to do and b) why. If you have those two things narrowed down, then thinking of what kind of images/videos might appeal to your audience in a way that is meaningful and useful shouldn’t be too hard.
- Generate your own original and high quality content, you don’t have to be a Photoshop master, nor some amazing photographer, but try and put a bit more than the base level effort into your photos (a LOT of people don’t seem to do this) – if you are good at photography or composition or both then great, use these skills – if not, just try and take well lit (in terms of not in the dark, not advanced techniques) photos, use an app like SnapSeed or even the built in photo app to crop down your images – I tend to go for the portrait options because then your image is on someones phone for longer as they scroll if you think about it – and do some basic colour correction etc, not just rely on a garish insta filter.
- Hashtags, people debate the use of hashtags, if you look on youtube and online there are a lot of mixed messages about them, but I personally seem to find the best results from a reasonable collection of hashtags that are targeted to my niche, that don’t misrepresent the content and that add context to the image. Think about how you use hashtags, are the hashtags your adding useful? Would they help you find your content? If not, you’re doing them wrong.
- Post regularly and at the peak time. Now what constitutes peak time for you can vary, I think that the most people seeing your image and people being the most interactive are two very different times, the best way to figure this out is to test, make an informed decision about your audience and post your photo at that time – I tend to try for a one a day kind of regularity, but it doesn’t really matter so long as you don’t just post one photo every six months and then be surprised that nobody is following you, maybe two or three a week is manageable? Anyway, over a relatively short period of time, you should be able to figure out when your audience is most receptive, and when I say receptive, I mean wants to hit the like button and engage with you by leaving comments etc, these actions let IG know that your content is good, people are talking about it and liking it, so it will get shown to more people… because its good! You see? That way people stay on IG longer looking at the good content and they can sell more ads! It’s not hard to figure out whats going to do well, they are not making emotional decisions, they are trying to make as much money from you and your followers as possible and that means selling ads, if you consider this at every stage you will probably have more success.
There are other things, in terms of how you interact with people in IG that can massively help you in your pursuit of followers and brand building, but they can wait for another post, that is more than a little sniff of what I think works and should get you cruising up in numbers if nothing else. I absolutely re-iterate though, that if you are just reposting other peoples work/images, you might have a high number of followers, but ask yourself, why are you interested in your follower number? These people can’t see through your lack of effort and exploitation of other peoples work, what makes you think they will interact with you or your brand, and if they do, that they are the calibre of follower that might actually provide value to you further down the road?!
I like legit followers, ones who are there for my content, who like what I do, who press the button to let me (and IG) know they like it, and who comment and interact with me – those are the people who when I recommend something will listen, who when I offer something for sale, will look into it and see if they want it, because they like me and my work. Not some bot operated or easily lead follow everyone type of person who’s not REALLY interested, and THAT is how I like it, I would take 10000 of THOSE followers over 100k of fake ‘zombie’ followers any day!
Thanks – Charles Greig