I Pretended to be an #InstaBlogger and Increased My Like Average by 94%
I thought of my profile as the product and comments and likes as advertisements.
Let’s get right to it. On October 1st, 2018, I was consumed with the overwhelming urge to become an Instagram blogger with an aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed. You know, the ones where it seems like bad lighting doesn’t exist and everything must live in a white backdrop.
Up until this point, I was not a habitual poster. In fact, I had only posted to Instagram three times in the past nine months. I had 283 followers and no bio because everyone that followed me on Instagram already knew me, so I didn’t see much of a point.
In spite of my unimpressive account, I spent the next two days researching. On top of reading many articles on the subject, I turned to the bloggers I already followed. I analyzed their posts, contents of their captions, and post frequency. I wanted to know everything, nothing was left to chance. Post frequency, post time, hashtags, profile layout, profile color scheme, and username were a few of the first variables I started planning out.
My research molded my original plan to become a person with a pretty Instagram feed into a month-long experiment on Instagram engagement and growth tactics. My feed became part of a greater picture.
As far as an explanation goes, I did all of this to see if I could. (Which is usually why I do most things.) Is it possible that a person with virtually no Instagram presence and no brand to sell people on could organically grow a following?
Before I began posting, I decided to abide by the following rules:
- All growth tactics had to be organic and honest.
- Post a minimum of 4 times a week.
- Stick with this experiment for a month.
After I felt prepared, I uploaded my first post.
First mistake: jumping on board trends because they do well for others.
I decided to post a #flatlay (#flatlaysquad, #flatlaystyle, #fromabove) as my first post. Flat-lays are to Instagram what Ariana Grande is to pop music: iconic. In order to orchestrate a beautiful flat-lay you have to be organized, picky, and patient. I am none of these things. The result? An uninspired post with only 25 likes. Not surprising. This is boring and impersonal to who I am.
While we may live in the age of digital overload, people still flock to authenticity.
I realized this a week into my experiment and my numbers quickly started to improve.
Here is absolutely everything I did to get 100 new followers in 22 days and increase my like average by 94%.
#StepOne: optimizing my profile.
I began by changing my profile to be more receptive to new people. I took all of my favorite blogger’s bios, wrote them down, then looked for commonalities. Most blogger bios contain emojis, their location, and a description of what kind of blog they are all packaged up in a vertical/one to two-word style. I mimicked the style, content, and created Instagram story highlights with customized icons.
I also changed my username to something a little blogish. Read the usernames of the bloggers below and you’ll get what I mean by that. I used to be @luceroivettte. I then became @luceropoststhings.
After I felt comfortable with my profile, I focused on my “content.” I needed a cohesive color scheme, layout, and focus. I spent some time researching color schemes and layouts, some of which are intense by the way and eventually settled on a concept I liked and knew could pull off. I used the Preview app to plan my feed before posting. The app also helped me look up hashtags and organize them into groups for future use. I definitely recommend it.
#StepTwo: taking and uploading a photo.
In terms of content, it was a little difficult to come with new things to share five times a week. Although I’m free to pretend, I’m not an Instagram blogger. A lot of their posts are related to brand deals and business promotion. The idea of posting pictures of myself five times a week made my skin crawl. While some people strictly post photos of themselves, I settled on a balance between photos of myself and photos of the world around me.
A lot of full-time bloggers have professional photographers to do their shoots for them, I figured a tripod I found on Amazon with a cellphone mount and wireless remote was basically the same thing.
Taking the picture and editing it to fit my new color scheme was the easy part. Uploading it, an entirely new beast. First, I needed to add the right hashtags to make sure it would be seen. Honestly, I used to think hashtags were pretty lame. I only ever used them ironically or at conferences.
Hashtags make all the difference. I now average at twenty hashtags a post. With every post, I would choose hashtags relevant to the post itself then I would add brand-specific hashtags that were applicable to every post, such as #PersonalBlog and #EveryDayGirl.
I learned a few days in that using the most popular hashtags guaranteed that my post would not be seen. The mass amount of users would bury my posts. I made a new rule to only use hashtags with less than 700k posts under them.
Second, the time you post makes all the difference. While there is some disagreement among analysts, it can generally be said that Wednesdays at 3 PM and Thursdays at 11 AM are two of the best times to post. Sundays are the worst. I stuck to posting around 3 PM on Wednesdays and 11 AM on other weekdays. I posted on Sunday only once to see how I would do and, true to my research, that post did the worst throughout the month.
I have my post, the color scheme is correct, it fits into my layout, I’m using 20 relevant hashtags with a higher likelihood of being seen, and I post my photo at a high-traffic time. Now comes the real work.
#StepThree: building an audience.
I thought of my profile as the product and comments and likes as advertisements. The most effective way to distribute ads is through targeted audiences.
I started by interacting with accounts using the same hashtags I did. I would like a few posts and leave a comment on one of them. While some people just comment “great pic” and call it a day, I made sure that my interactions were genuine. I would go ahead and follow some of these accounts if I found them interesting.
A second way I would find people to interact with would be to go through the follower list of an account posting similar content and hashtags. From there I’d execute the same plan: like some photos, leave a comment, if I really liked their account give them a follow.
I also made sure to respond to people commenting on my posts and would follow back most people that followed me.
The method is simple, but effective especially when done for at least one to two hours a day. After a month, this is the growth I saw:
This method works and it works well. It is cost-free and an organic way to grow a following.
A few #warnings and tricks I learned along the way.
A lot of larger accounts have increased their numbers using the follow-then-unfollow method. While I find the method dishonest, it does work. When you start tagging yourself in commonly used blogger hashtags these people will find you and follow you, wait for you to forget, then unfollow you. If I had kept the data on how often my follower count would go up and down, the chart would look like a rollercoaster.
Also, people will try to get you to pay for views, likes, and followers. Some are outright sketchy. They will message you from an account with over 100k followers and ask you to PayPal them $35 to be featured on their account. This may sound oddly specific, but I’ve gotten five messages from accounts exactly like this. These people are not your big break. Ignore them. A more insidious version of this is when a blogger with a large following offers “Instagram Influencer” boot camps, e-books, coaching, webinars, etc. I saw these ads and posts everywhere when I was at the height of my experiment.
I don’t think the bloggers offering these services are ill-intentioned, but I do think they’re pointless and a ripoff. I had a measly 283 followers, no product to sell people on, and I still managed to nearly double my profiles traffic. You do not need an e-book, you just need to be dedicated.
If you are interested in growing your following to promote your brand, business, or just for fun I do have a few final tips.
- Space out your content. Just because you took 10 incredible photos on Monday does not mean you have to post them by Tuesday. Wait a while, stockpile them. It will be so much easier down the line when you aren’t in the mood to shoot something new or aren’t able to.
- You must be willing to devote time to building your audience every day. My experiment ended a few weeks ago and I stopped logging on as frequently. I have lost around 20 followers so far.
- Be authentic. Cold commenting on people with similar interests can be so disingenuous. Don’t leave a comment or like a photo because you want your follower account to go up. Do it because you want to build an audience and they’d be the perfect member. Social media can be very contrived, don’t contribute to that.