I love Instagram. It’s one of the hottest new frontiers in marketing, and honestly, it’s a lot of fun. Taking pictures, researching hashtags, applying filters, making new friends—you certainly don’t get to do that when you run search ads.
However, as enjoyable as it can be to market on Instagram, it can also be downright frustrating, predominantly because of the tactics some people use to get ahead on the social platform. There are lots of “cheats” that you can employ on Insta to game the system and gain followers quickly, and it really drives me crazy sometimes.
In this article, I’m going to break down a few common “cheats” people use when building an Instagram following and share my tips on how to be successful without compromising your integrity.
1. Buying Followers
Just like on Twitter, you can buy followers on Instagram. It’s pretty cheap to do—you can purchase a few hundred follows for around $5—which makes it really attractive for individuals and brands that quickly want to boost their supposed popularity.
Let’s be honest—follower count is pretty much the top measurement of success of Instagram. So yeah, it’s tempting to drop a few bucks and see your follower count skyrocket.
Follower count is the biggest measurement of success of Instagram, so yeah, it’s tempting to drop a few bucks to boost that number.
Here’s the thing though: They’re not real followers. Most of the time they’re not even real people, just ghost accounts. The point of marketing is to connect with potential customers, so why would you pay for a bunch of bots to follow you? They’re not going to engage with your content, talk about you with their friends or buy what you’re selling.
For that reason alone, there’s no point to purchase followers. If you need further convincing, though, realize you’re just putting up a facade of popularity—and anyone who knows Instagram will be able to see through it. Fake followers are easy to spot. If you have 5,000 followers but only get 50 likes on a picture, I’m guessing you’ve got a lot of bots in your ranks.
2. “Like For Like”
The other major Instagram “currency” is likes. More likes = more success, so people, again, find ways to cheat the system and rack up likes on mediocre posts. You probably have seen what I’m talking about: A picture that’s OK at best, but has hundreds of likes. It’s pretty disheartening, especially when you post an awesome image only to receive minimal engagement.
Unless the person is a celebrity, chances are they employed some less-than-honest tactics to get those hearts. For instance, you can use hashtags such as #LikeforLike or #Like4Like to get people to heart your photo—in exchange, you just have to like one of theirs.
There’s nothing wrong, per say, with using hashtags like this, but again, it’s pretty phony. Those people don’t actually like your images—they’re just looking to boost their own purported popularity. In the long run, these tactics really won’t do much to help you achieve your marketing goals, so why bother?
3. Disingenuous Follows
Finally, one of the most annoying trends on Instagram—IMHO anyway—is soliciting “follow backs.” Basically, users with similar content will follow you in hopes that you’ll look at their page, like their stuff and follow them. Here’s the kicker though: Within a few days, they unfollow you.
As someone who’s just trying to be real and connect with people on Instagram, it’s super annoying to watch my follower count jump up 10 people then drop right back down the next day. Seriously, in a given day, I usually get 10–20 new followers and lose the majority of them within 48 hours. There are actually several accounts who have followed and unfollowed me so many times that I blocked them. It’s annoying and disingenuous, and I have no patience for it.
How to Succeed on Instagram Organically
Sure, employing these tactics might help you get ahead today, but cheats are ultimately not going to help you achieve your marketing goals. You’re not getting real, genuine engagement, only a facade.
That said, here are some tips on how to get more organic engagement on Instagram:
- Use Strategic Hashtags
I’ve talked about hashtags before, and I’m sure I’ll talk about them again. Instagram gives you 30 hashtags per post, so make the most of them. Figure out what hashtags your ideal followers are looking at, and cater to them!
- Post Quality Content Regularly
I’d recommend posting twice a day, but make sure you’re putting out pre-planned, high-quality images.
- Engage With Other Users
Make friends! Don’t just like the images in your feed—explore hashtags, discover new people and start conversations.
- Be Patient
Sometimes I’ll go months without gaining any new followers, but then gain 20 in a week. You can’t rush results, so be patient and keep at it.