Saturday, April 29, 2017

How I Was Cheating the Instagram System

I remember when I first started posting on Instagram, almost two years ago. I was convinced that I was inspiring people with the pictures of my planner and how I organized my life and made it look pretty. Over time, I realized I wanted to show people more than just my planner, I wanted to show them my life. 

I often hear that Instagram is a very superficial social media platform. That people, including myself, will go out of their way to take the most Instagram-worthy photo because no one wants to share the ugly side of a situation. Sometimes I believe this is true, but other times I think about how much different of a person I would be if I never started Instagramming.

Would you believe that last October I was only at 3,500 Instagram followers? Even with how busy my life has become in the past 6 months, I’m currently hovering right around 8,000. Did I buy followers? No. But, I did invest in an “Instagram Decoded” guide to help me understand how to beat the algorithm and build my Instagram brand.

So what was I doing?
     Comment Pod
Comment Pods are a huge thing nowadays with Instagram. Have you ever wondered why so many of your favorite accounts always have comments on their photos from your other favorite accounts? It’s probably because they are in a pod together.

Seriously though, once I joined one pod, I wanted to join more. At one point, I was in FIVE comment pods, all with different (and awesome) blogger ladies.

As nice as it is having people to always engage on your photos, there is a downside to comment pods. Certain people don’t reciprocate but expect engagement. Comments became less genuine. Rumors about Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm scare people. After a while, it started to lose its spark.

     Follow / Unfollow
If you are an active Instagram user, you’ve probably seen this number-growing tactic often. You get a new follower, you follow back, and then (hours or days later) they unfollow you.

I wish I could say that I haven’t done this, but I’m not a liar. In the “Instagram Decoded” guides I purchased, there is a whole chapter on how to get the most out of this system. And honestly, it works. I believe that this method is one of the main reasons that I was able to grow 5,000 followers in only a few months.

     Mass Planner
Mass Planner is a program that you can pay for to automate your Instagram actions (following, unfollowing, liking, commenting, etc.) It’s very similar to Instagress. Recently, Instagress was shut down for not complying with the Instagram Terms of Use. Instagram's TOU states that you should not use automated services to run your account. The “cheat” with Mass Planner is that it somehow appears to the Instagram server that you are doing all these actions, not a program.

Yes, essentially, I’m pleading guilty to using an automated program to run my account for a brief period. I was lucky and did not have my account banned.

The automated feature is very nice, I will not lie. I was spending hours a day following, unfollowing, and engaging to try and make my digital presence known, when I could easily push a few buttons and have the program run while I’m at work. It was so simple to set filters to only follow and engage with people that follow my favorite accounts. I was gaining hundreds of new followers a day and I thought that people were sticking around because they liked what I posted.

BUT honestly, when you think about it, they'll probably follow me back and when the program unfollows them, they'll unfollow. This is the way that Instagram seems to work, I know I’ve even been a victim of this. People can see right through fake accounts, and the last thing I wanted to do was become fake.

I’m not proud of myself.
I quit most of my comment pods. I stopped using the follow / unfollow method. I terminated my Mass Planner account. Why? Because I realized how important organic engagement is.

As much as I want to think of myself as a brand, I’m not a robot. I don’t have people working under me. I don’t mass-produce anything of value. I don’t make thousands of dollars per Instagram post. I took a step back and realized that for people to not see me as a robot, I needed to stop being one.

Want real engagement?
The real way to build your brand on Instagram is to be real. If it was easy, everyone and their mom would have 10K+ followers and 100% engagement. Although I might have gotten caught up in the aspect of the increasing numbers, I did manage to take away a few helpful tips from the Instagram Decoded guide.

  • Be consistent. Post at the same time every day, have a theme, know what your audience wants to see. 
  • Understand hashtags. Use relevant hashtags on your own photos. Go through the images posted on these hashtags and engage with the photos you like. 
  • Engage. Turn on notifications for your favorite accounts so you can engage when they post something new. Spend time going through your feed and commenting on photos. Leave genuine comments. 

I feel like in the past two months, I’ve changed my mindset about Instagram completely. I’ve started to not focus on the numbers so much, but more on the quality of the content that I’m putting out there. I want to make my feed relatable. Am I expecting to lose followers? Probably. But I can only hope that you, my readers, will stick around with me while I figure myself out.

1 comment :

  1. I enjoyed you take on Instagram. It's the social media account I use the least in regards to blog promotion. I want to keep mine more personal so I don't worry a lot about followers.