How hard is it to grow on Instagram? Nowadays, you really need to stand out if you want to grow. Instagram has become so saturated that outfits, flatlays or cupcakes don’t make the cut anymore. You need to innovate and be different consistently. However, doing something a bit more mainstream does not mean you can’t grow. Despite what a lot of people may think, outfits on white backgrounds, monochrome feeds and makeup flatlays still work on Instagram. So how is it that it is so hard to gain followers then? Let me explain!
I started Instagram back in 2015. Back then, I had no clue what I was doing but there is one thing I had understood. To gain followers, you had to engage with a lot of people. So I did. A few hours, everyday, for a year. I got to 10K in no time. And then, growth stopped. Because I had stopped engaging. With people I was following, with my followers and with other people. Worst, I started losing followers! My reach and engagement were also very low.
In a desperate attempt to recover that growth and get higher engagement, I tried diverse technics, most of which are deemed dodgy nowadays. And they are, I will not disagree with that. Threads, follow/unfollow, pods, I tried them all. More than once for some, on a regular basis for others. Until I realized a handful of things that turned into valuable lessons and I reached the conclusion that by using technics such as follow/unfollow, I was contributing to making Instagram a very bad place and making it very hard for everyone, myself including, to grow.
Yes, the algorithm had nothing to do with my lack of growth. Instagram was not responsible for my poor engagement, slow growth or bad reach. I WAS. And so were all the people using the same technics. While trying to rectify all those issues, I used technics that Instagram did not like at all. Thus the app punished me for it. Thus, that problem I had tried to solve got worst, trapping me into a vicious circle. Pissing of a lot of people that I followed and unfollowed in the process.
As a consequence, although I am keeping my main Instagram account, I have decided to start a new one, just to do some experiment. I want to see how it is possible to grow in 2019 organically and genuinely.
After almost two weeks of running this new account, I can 100% guarantee that you can stop complaining about the algorithm or anything relating to the functioning of the app itself. Because Instagram has nothing to do with you stalling on there. If only, they are trying to make it as fair as possible for everyone.
Get ready for the groundbreaking news.
The algorithm is not responsible for the lack of growth on the app.
It is YOU who are. You, me, us.
It is people using follow/unfollow, bots, pods, fake likes, fake followers, automated softwares, mass followers.
But mostly us, yes.
How is it that I get between 30 and 50 new followers a day on this new account and still my follower count does not budge?! How is it that while I am following all the good rules of Instagram, I still do not grow? 30 hashtags from my niche, 2 images a day, regular engaging and commenting on other photos, following people in my niche… I am doing it all by the book and yet… I am stuck…
Because other people are making it impossible for me, you and other people to grow. So, how is this possible, where do those followers newly acquired go to never come back?
1. The follower/unfollower
The follower who will unfollow a few hours or days later is probably the most frustrating one. It is because they are actually people doing it. Not bots, real people. Whom you think liked your account although, they did not. You might see them follow you a few times, raise your eyes to the sky and either block them or let go. But the thing is, your follower count increases each time you publish a photo to decrease some time later.
THE THING TO KEEP IN MIND: Following/unfollowing to get more followers faster looks like the most legit way to grow… if you do it manually. BUT, because it is so time consuming, everyone uses automated softwares. The downsides of the technics are
- Using an automated software breaches Instagram’s T&C’s. You could get your account suspended, which means you’d had done all this for nothing.
- Using an automated software is expensive and the question is whether it is sustainable for you. Surely, you’d have other more worthy things to put money into.
- Using an automated software works as long as you use it. Stop following/unfollowing and your growth will either slow or stop. If you decide to unfollow all the people you had followed until now, you’ll lose many followers, so really, you’ll be back to square one and would have done all this for nothing.
- You’ll piss off all the influencers you might follow and unfollow. They will see you, no matter what you think. They might block you, or DM you or just report you. Even worst, they might name and shame on Twitter.
2. The fake follower
With the rise of influencer marketing, a lot of people are interested in a career as an influencer. As it is an industry still in its infancy, a lot of people still do not know where it is going and how to measure it. As a result, many brands will base value upon follower count only. So of course, the more followers you have, the more likely you are to get brand deals. Which might push some (actually a lot of aspiring and established) influencers to buy fake followers and inflate their numbers. And so, those fake followers need to come from somewhere. So you have bot farms creating thousands and thousands of shell accounts. Those might randomly follow you when you post a new photo even though you never bought fake followers.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND: Buying followers is incredibly cheap these days. It is the easiest technics to increase your follower count. This technic has many downsides however:
- Buy as many fake followers as you want. They are shell accounts that are quite recognizable. People can spot fakes from a mile away. No profile photo, high following for a low follower count, no photo, dodgy bio, etc. People will know right away if you cheat. You will either get a shitty reputation, be at the center of rumors or again, be named and shamed on Twitter.
- Instagram can spot fake accounts, shell accounts and ghost followers. The app is smart like that. And so, Instagram cleans the app of fakes constantly. As a result, all the fakes who have bought will be deleted and your follower count will drop. There goes your financial investment.
- Because yes, buying followers might seem cheap at first, if you need to constantly buy new followers to offset Instagram deleting fakes, in the end, you’ll spend an incredibly high amount of money.
- Buying followers often happens through a third party app, which is again, breaching Instagram’s T&C’s. Furthermore, more and more influencer apps like Takumi, can spot whether or not you’ve used a third party app to inflate your numbers and will not accept you on their app. So there goes your potential paid partnerships too.
- Fake followers won’t be active so your engagement will remain very low, forcing you to buy likes, which is another big financial investment.
- For the one who never bought followers and is randomly followed by a bot, this bot will follow you, make it look like you’ve got more followers, but will disappear some days later as Instagram will have deleted it.
3. The algorithm complainer
I grew up the eldest of five, have been living in different countries, have gone through my fair share of shit, but I think I am still quite resilient, patient and have a high level of tolerance. However, there isn’t a thing that make me raise my eyes to the sky more than people constantly complaining about the algorithm. No, Instagram is not hiding your photos from your followers. It is not hiding them in your hashtags either, as the app confirmed the shadowban does not exist.
THING TO KEEP IN MIND: The algorithm is hard to go around and it sure influences who sees and does not see your photos. Your photos not showing is a result of a combination of your behavior on the app and your followers behaviors and preferences.
- The algorithm functions on a very specific way. It is completely dedicated to showing you the most relevant content to YOU, based on previous activity FROM YOU. If you liked outfit photos previously, the app is more likely to show you outfit photos on your feed later.
- The same goes with your followers. They will see on their feed content that is relevant to them, based on content they have liked and commented on previously. It means that if they do not like your latest photos, Instagram will think that they are no longer interested and won’t show them your next photo. It might be because they forgot to like the photo (which can happen) or just that they don’t find it good enough, as heartbreaking as it is
- The issue is, when people stop engaging with your content, that they are less likely to share it with their friends, and that the app is less likely to recommend it to their friends when they follow new accounts. Which will impact your growth.
- Thus it might be worth taking a step back and have a look at your content. If it were you, would you like it? Would you stop scrolling to like that particular photo? Or do you think it is too similar to what others are doing and you do not stand out anymore? What would you like to see on the app? Why not do it yourself?
4. The inactive influencer
You want to grow on the app. Great. You want everybody to like your content. And comment as well. Great. You want people to talk about you, talk to you, praise your content, share it with other people. And yet… you do not take the time to engage with people. And then complain that no one likes your content and that your engagement is shit.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND: Surely you know by now that things go both ways, right? If you do not engage with anyone, why would they engage with you? Why would they do so much effort to like, comment and try to start a conversation with you to be ignored by you?
- Growth on Instagram, when genuine, is affected by two main things: your behavior on the app and other’s behavior on the app. The more people like your content, the highest engagement will be, the highest you’ll rank in hashtags and the highest are your chances to show in the explore feed.
- People will happily interact with your content. That’s what Instagram is for, it is a social media. Social is the important bit. Which requires, two sides. Talking to a wall is not nice. Thus, if you do not reply to people, talk back to them, answer their comments, why should they carry on trying to talk to you? They’ll just give up at one point. So there goes your engagement. Bye, bye, it was nice while it lasted.
- It goes both ways. Interaction is a two way process. If someone comments on your post, reply to that comment. Maybe go like a photo and comment on a photo of theirs. Everyone appreciates when their voice is being acknowledged.
- How you engage with other people will impact your growth a lot. Sure showing in hashtag will help your growth. But if you want to attract people’s attention, have them check out your feed, you need to talk to them. On Instagram, you will like and comment on their photos. On a regular basis and in a genuine way but it is as simple as that.
There can be multiple reasons why your content does not perform on Instagram and why your profile does not grow as fast as you’d like. Some reasons are completely out of your control (i.e. follow/unfollow and shell accounts, the algorithm in some ways), while other reasons will require more activity on your part to be fixed.
Then, it comes down to you to either change how you use Instagram, review the content you are creating, be active enough on the app to get noticed, make friends and create relationships or have people talk about you… or just take a step back or think whether it is worth it putting so much effort into Instagram. It all comes down to what use you’re making of the app and whether you’re ready to invest the time and effort required to grow on there.
DISCLAIMER: I came clean in my previous post and I am doing it again here. I fully acknowledge that my use of follow/unfollow tactics in the past was shitty and contributed to make Instagram hard to enjoy for others. Thus, I am just trying to draw a line, start fresh and learn from my mistakes.
Instagram can make people feel so bad for a handful of reasons, whether self-esteem or growth-wise. It does not mean it is a bad place or that nothing good comes out of it. Not everyone cheats. A lot of people are working very hard. Genuine growth is possible. And to those who may have tried it the wrong way, it is never too late to start fresh and be better. Although I do believe that sometimes there is nothing you can do about the algorithm, I also do believe that most of the time, the solution is just at arm’s length and it just depends on us.
Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope you liked this post.
See you soon,
*The dress featured in the photos of this post is a gift from JJ’s House.