Grow Instagram followers organically

grow Instagram followers organicallyWith over 1 billion monthly active users Instagram is a promising platform for any brand or company out there. Still many face difficulties in growing their audience.

Yes, we have all been there: you got quality content, excellent copywriting but the growth of your account is not fast enough. In this new blog post, I will give you insights on how I work, what quick wins you can try and how to ‘hack’ the Instagram algorithm in your benefit to grow Instagram followers organically. Ready? Let’s dive in!

Grow Instagram followers organically

Where to start?

This blog post is for those who already have an active Instagram account. If you have at least 10 posts, been active on the platform for 30 days and have at least 1 follower you can continue ?

I want to grow my Instagram followers organically, what’s my first step?

There have been many topics about growing Instagram accounts. Most of them are right. Plenty of them are full of BS (excuse my language). One of the biggest mistakes I see on blog posts, Quora, Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin are companies and influencers advising to post “as much as possible”. They are wrong. Some even promote to buy fake followers

Content marketing on Instagram isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. That said, quantity is important too. Now more than ever with the current Instagram algorithm. It’s a fun game if you understand what you should be doing.

If you want to grow Instagram followers organically you should realise that it’s about quality, not quantity!

1. Understanding the Instagram algorithm to grow your Instagram followers organically

Instagram Algorithm

Your first step is to understand how Instagram actually works, especially her algorithm. No one exactly knows how it works, and you shouldn’t spend to much time trying to understand it to be honest (I’ve spend 1000’s of hours for you already). The only thing which is important is to understand the sole purpose of the algorithm.

The Instagram algorithm is maybe one of the most advanced systems owned by Facebook. Ask yourself this question:

what’s the sole purpose of Instagram?

…keeping their users for as long as possible on their platform.

The only way to achieve this goal is by making the Instagrammers consume as much content as possible, 24/7.

Why is their algorithm important for how to grow your Instagram followers organically?

  • Because it makes sure the people who consume your content are the ones who are actually interested in it!
  • It decides which post go viral via the explore page, and the consumers are actually interested in it
  • The algorithm categorizes your account, which could bring extra benefits for your following

Can’t I simply fool the simple and post what currently goes viral?

Yes and no. As said before, Instagram categorizes your account. A couple of months ago I did a simple test to see what the virality of content was on a dog account. Every day I posted the best-curated content within the dog niche. After exactly 1 month I have grown the account from zero to 2,300 followers.

Exactly after 30 days, I changed the content on the account. Instead of dogs, I started to post the best-curated cat content on a daily basis. Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. I went from going viral every day (explore page views and followers) to a explore page ban
  2. My comment sentiment went from 97% positive to a whopping 12%
  3. Within 7 days I lost +/- 400 followers (18% of my total following)
  4. After 17 days my account was taken offline due to “community guidelines”. Most likely my following have reported my content so many times Instagram thought my account would do more harm than good on their platform.

Know your audience

What happened? The algorithm has categorized my initial account inside the dog niche. Via the explore page I got a lot of following who love dogs. When switching to a different niche (in this test cats) it even took the account offline due to multiple reports.

That said, I still don’t get it why dog lovers hate cats.

I love cats 🙂

Here is what I’ve learned from this test:

  • your first step for how to grow Instagram followers organically is to know your audience
  • Instagram’s algorithm is so smart it wouldn’t let my viral cat content go viral on this particular page. I did post the same content, on the same day and time on a different (brand new account). These posts actually did go viral ?.

2. Understand your customers

You now somehow know the Instagram algorithm. And what her purpose is. To grow Instagram followers organically you need to understand your customers. A tool I love to use is the Value Proposition Canvas developed by Alex Osterwalder.

To get started with the Value Proposition Canvas, always begin with the customer. First, have a conversation with your team about who your customer is. Use the Persona Canvas to sketch the person you are focusing on.

Value Proposition Canvas

UNDERSTAND THE CUSTOMER FIRST
Once you’ve decided which to focus on, write on post-it notes what jobs your customers have to do. Don’t just think about functional jobs-to-be-done. Also, come up with social (work with others) and emotional (feelings) jobs-to-be-done. For instance, when you consider designing a value proposition around cars, is your customer someone who needs to cover a long distance to get to work? Or is your customer someone who undertakes frequent activities with family? These are different people, with different needs, requiring different products to get their job done. Maybe they always drive alone, maybe they have a family or maybe they just want to look good. Ask enough “whys” and you’ll get this info. Pains are normally the easiest to list. What gets in the way of a person’s jobs? Gains are NOT simply the opposite of pains. Instead, gains are the hidden ambitions people have, their goals in life, things that make them successful.

It takes a designer’s mindset to uncover these. Keep asking better questions, dig a little bit deeper. What does your customer really aspire to do that they can not do now? If gains sound somewhat existential to you, that’s probably because excellent gains often are.

WHAT VALUE COULD YOU CREATE?

Finally, once you’ve completed the right side of the canvas, move over to the left side. First, list some options potentially address the job-to-be done that come to mind. You combine these ideas into a clearly defined product/service that creates gain and relieves pain such that the job-to-be-done is addressed in a unique way that resonates with your customer.

Using this canvas makes you think differently about your customers and what you offer to them. What’s more, done well, your customers will think totally different about why they hired you to fulfill their needs in the first place.

HOW TO USE THE VALUE PROPOSITION CANVAS FOR TESLA

Value Proposition Canvas Tesla

In this example, there is a fit between the right side and the left side. Tesla understood very well the potential target audience for an electric car. You can see that the job-to-be done is to commute to work. But it is not only about that. Being different from others and convey an image of success is an important social aspect of the job-to-be-done for this customer segment. Besides that, the person wants to be comfortable while traveling long distances. The pains when it comes to electric cars is that there is a lack of charging stations. You have to search for a parking spot that has a charging point. On top of that, pains are that you frequently have to charge your car, and while driving, you can be afraid that you don’t reach your destination. Design, being recognized for good taste and getting compliments from a friend are some gains in this example. Other gains are safe travels and high-end battery technology.

If we look at the left side at products & services, we see that Tesla has understood their target audience very well. Nice design including a 17-inch screen no car has ever had such a large screen. Just a few options, which radiates exclusivity. Besides that, Tesla has 8 years of battery warranty. We can say there is a fit between the left side and right side of this Value Proposition Canvas.

What does this mean for my Instagram account?

After showing the Value Proposition Canvas, we can conclude that it is very important to know who your customer is, what his lifestyle looks like, and what his real needs are. If you don’t know who your customers are, there may be a misfit with your content. And on Instagram content is king ?.

The canvas gives excellent insights for:

  • understanding who exactly is your target audience
  • content creation which resonates with your audience
  • combine these two and you can grow Instagram followers organically

3. Content

In chapter 1 you learned how the Instagram algorithm works, in chapter 2 we explored who your target audience exactly is. We can now start to curate the right content for your audience ?.

Everyone can post, but not everyone can go viral

Want to know the secret of posts which go viral? It’s a combination of understanding the algorithm, and your audience. That’s basically it!

grow instagram followers organically

You can go viral via the explore page, reaching millions of people without spending a $1 on ads. The statistics of the post above is of one of my accounts with 450,000 followers. WIth an individual post I’ve reached over 850,000 unique people and gained over 1,093 followers. Please note: impressions from “other” are most likely always from the explore page (as the system cannot track it).

My secret?

  1. Over the years I got to know my audience inside out.
  2. I don’t post what I want to share (something a lot of influencers do), I post what I believe my audience wants to consume.
  3. I know the type of content they like, and the Instagram algorithm favors.

Kind of content

Video posts are exploding for growth on Social Media in recent years. The percentage of views of branded video content has increased with 99% on Youtube, and 258% on Facebook between 2016 and 2017. On Twitter, a video Tweet is 6x more likely to be retweeted than a photo Tweet. If you haven’t taken a exact look at the power of social media and video unitedly, you’re in for a surprise. The numbers are big. Really big.

“I see video as a megatrend,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, February 2017

I could go on and on with more numbers like that, but it’s better to show you how to utilize video yourself.

Instagram recently announced a change to the algorithm, “We know that completing an extensive video is a bigger commitment than completing a shorter one… we’ve realized that we should, therefore, weight percent completion more heavily the extensive a video is, to avoid penalizing extensive videos.” Here are some more tips:

Square Format

Although Instagram allows the 16:9 landscape format, I still only use 1:1 or 4:5 formats. Over 95% of the Instagram (and 92% of the facebook) users use the platforms on a mobile device. Experimenting with video format is only one of the numerous ways to deliver content in a mobile-friendly way to users. Apps, mobile-optimized websites & email, geolocation tags, and QR codes, among other tactics, are all things for marketers to consider moving forward.

Statistics of usage square video content

One excellent way to optimize for the mobile user is through the creation and distribution of square video (1:1). Square and letterbox format outperformed landscape in just about every test I ran. With mobile news feed space at a premium, the more genuine estate on a user’s screen your content occupies, the better (that’s why I also love IGTV and Stories).

quick tip: 85 percent of videos are viewed with the volume off, according to Digiday. Make sure you use subtitles in your video if needed.

I’d recommend starting small by creating several 30-second, text-only videos that you share with your audience as mini-experiments. The ability to test quickly and often is key to understanding what works for your audience and where the opportunity lies.

Use hashtags

Finding the right top Instagram hashtags can sound like a struggle. But it isn’t that difficult once you understand how hashtags work on Instagram.

Should I use top Instagram hashtags, and why?

Short answer: YES! You should always use hashtags with your Instagram content:

  1. Using relevant top Instagram hashtags will make it smoother for Instagrammers to stumble upon your content. They might come across your content when using different hashtags. It’s a simple way to gain organic followers.
  2. excellent impact small investment. Top Instagram hashtags are straightforward to implement. Sure, you will need to spend some time researching the right hashtags. But beyond that, they’re simple to expand your following and give your content a boost.
  3. Posts which have used top Instagram hashtags get more engagement. Hashtags make your content discoverable and put you in front of users you may have never satisfactorily targeted.

I dedicated a full post about hashtags right: HERE.

Do you already use IGTV?

I have never been a big fan of IGTV from the start, but with recent updates, I see new possibilities for virality on Instagram. A new feature that will skyrocket your IGTV views for free. Big news: Your IGTV videos will now appear in your Instagram feed with all your other posts. Like this:

Grow Instagram Followers Organically via IGTV

IGTV also gets a huge favor by the Instagram algorithm. I’ve tested IGTV with feed posts and saw a boost of 100% in engagement and 1492% in views with $0 spend on ads. Would you say no to free engagement?

Learn how to skyrocket your IGTV views for free: HERE.

Call to action

Make sure you have a call to action: Give them something to do after (or during) they watched your content with an on-screen CTA in the photo or video, or in your caption. I always love to kick off with a question in my captions, to trigger my audience to engage. You can also add carousel posts (multiple videos or photos in an individual upload) where you can add quizzes (add a comment which dresses you like more: red or blue?), questions (this is my health tip for you, do you have any for me?). Be creative, but make sure the CTA is at the beginning of your caption!

Questions?

I hope this post was helpful, there are still tons of methods I would love to share how to grow your Instagram organically, but I really wanted to highlight the above methods as they currently kick-ass for me personally!

Did I missed anything or do you have a recommendation for me which I should try out? Please leave a comment or send me a message on Instagram: @bramvanhoutum.nl, or reach out via hello@ignanny.com ?

Learn how to skyrocket your IGTV views for free ?

I have never been a big fan of IGTV from the start, but with recent updates, I see new possibilities for virality on Instagram. If you wish to know how to skyrocket your IGTV views for free you should give this blog post a try!

 

IGTV Views For Free

In this blog post, I will tell you how you can skyrocket your IGTV views for free, up to 1492% (you probably can do even better, but this is what I managed to reach).

my first IGTV post only got a lousy 5,773 views, 2 comments and 121 likes ?. 

Instagram introduced IGTV in June 2018. I did my first IGTV post that same month. I wasn’t blown away by the statistics. Back then I tested it on a 300K account which had around 4-5K likes and 100K views per video share on the feed. I waited a few weeks after the release of IGTV to settle in, but unfortunately, my first IGTV post only got a lousy 5,773 views, 2 comments and 121 likes ?.

With companies spending millions of dollars on IGTV content I hoped IGTV would change its format. IGTV shares only got a notification at the top bar in the feed of the posts, and you could share clips on your Instagram Stories (while Stories weren’t used that much also).

That day has come today. Instagram announced a new feature for IGTV which I hoped for months to come.

A new feature that will skyrocket your IGTV views for free

Big news: Your IGTV videos will now appear in your Instagram feed with all your other posts. Like this:

igtv views for free

I think this is AWESOME! The problem with feed posts always has been that I could only upload 1-minute clips (okay, carousel posts could do the trick with a swipe…). But with an IGTV share on the Instagram feed your audience get two options:
1. click the button below the video “watch full IGTV video”
2. watch the clip till the end and get a notification: “keep watching (with a notification how many minutes remaining)”.

IGTV also gets a huge favor by the Instagram algorithm. I’ve tested IGTV with feed posts and saw a boost of 100% in engagement and 1492% in views with $0 spend on ads. Would you say no to free engagement?

How can you get IGTV views for free?

Here is how it works:

1. You upload a video on your IGTV channel

You can’t upload an IGTV video straight in your Instagram feed. You need to upload your IGTV video on your IGTV channel.

2. A video “trailer” will appear in your Instagram feed

The video that appears in your feed is not your full IGTV video. It is a one-minute video. Instagram calls it a “trailer”.

3. The thumbnail of the video in your feed is the cover you uploaded on IGTV

IGTV allows you to choose the cover for your video. It can be a clip from your video, or you can upload your own cover.

Tip: Since your cover will automatically appear in your feed, choose a cover that fits with your Instagram theme (if you want to keep your feed looking a certain way). If you want to see how your feed will look like with your IGTV video cover, you can upload your cover in Preview App. This way you will be able to see how your feed will look like with your IGTV cover and all your other posts

4. The caption is the title of the video

The caption that automatically appears in your feed is the title that you wrote for your IGTV video. As far as we know, you can’t write a separate caption to show in your Instagram feed. Caption = Title of the video.

5. You can only watch the full video on IGTV

People can tap on the video at any time if they want to watch the full video on your IGTV channel.

6. Comments are awesome

If people comment from your feed, the comments will show under your IGTV video too (and vice-versa). This is awesome.

7. Your IGTV trailer shows up in people’s home feeds!

And finally, just like your other posts, your IGTV trailer will also appear in people’s home feed. That’s awesome too! You can catch people’s attention with your video. And it is a new way to get more eyes on your videos and IGTV channel.

That’s it to get IGTV views for free!

What do you think about this new feature? Do you like seeing IGTV videos in people’s feeds?

See you again soon with more Instagram tips!

Setting up your top Instagram hashtags

Which top Instagram hashtags should you use for your brand?

Finding the right top Instagram hashtags can sound like a real struggle. But it isn’t that difficult once you understand how hashtags work on Instagram. In this guide, I will explain what you should do to find your top Instagram hashtags. I will also tell you how you can improve your Insta game straightaway by:

  • explaining what hashtags are
  • what you can achieve with hashtags
  • where you can use hashtags
  • how I set up my hashtag sets for my own accounts and those of my clients

Are you ready? Let us dive in!

What’s the definition of Instagram hashtags?

Hashtags are words or multiword phrases preceded by the # symbol. For example #picoftheday or #sweepstakes. People can search for posts with a particular hashtag, so they’re used to categorize content and track topics on Twitter and different social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Using hashtags helps people find posts and tweets that interest them.

Put simply, hashtags are a way to categorize and group alike content together.

Should I use top Instagram hashtags, and why?

Short answer: YES! You should always use hashtags with your Instagram content:

  1. Using relevant top Instagram hashtags will make it easier for Instagrammers to stumble upon your content. They might come across your content when using different hashtags. It’s a simple way to gain organic followers.
  2. Great impact small investment. Top Instagram hashtags are straightforward to implement. Sure, you will need to spend some time researching the right hashtags. But beyond that, they’re simple to expand your following and give your content a boost.
  3. Posts which have used top Instagram hashtags get more engagement. Hashtags make your content discoverable and put you in front of users you may have never satisfactorily targeted.

How do top Instagram hashtags work?

Like on Twitter and different social media platforms, Instagram hashtags work by organizing and categorizing photo and video content. Every post you share can contain 3 parts:

  1. the photo(s) or video(s)
  2. the caption
  3. up to 30 hashtags (Instagram hack: you can put the hashtags in your comment to make the caption as clean as practicable).

For example, a dog enthusiast can use #dogs #dogsofinstagram or #lifewithdogs.

The hashtag “#dogsofinstagram” that appears in an Instagram post will take you to a page that looks like this:

Your goal with top Instagram hashtags is to enter the “popular posts”. This is a showcase compiled by Instagram of photos (and videos) they think are the most exciting pieces of content within the top Instagram hashtags.

Another reason is you can help Instagram categories your account. The explore page (the place where all the magic happens for organic growth)  is also split up by niche related categories (see image below):

Whenever you use hashtags, relevant words in your caption and Facebook’s FAIR‘s software analyzing your photo. The content also gets a rank classification for the explore page in order that audiences see the right content per category.

Does this mean I can get free followers and engagement with hashtags?

YES and YES! By using 5 to 15 top Instagram hashtags you can get followers, likes and comments. This free audience can convert to clients! Using hashtags is the fastest way for audiences to find you. Hashtags can really get your posts off the ground and into the hands of the right audience. And the good news is that Instagram is always making improvements on how and where we can use hashtags in our posts and stories.

Using relevant, targeted top Instagram hashtags on your posts and stories is still one of the best ways to get your content discovered by audiences on Instagram. And this can translate into more engagement, more followers, and more customers for your business.

So I should spend hours of research on top Instagram hashtags, is it worth it?

YES. Would you say no to almost 110,000 free views via hashtags? If you would like to get the same results using Facebook Ads you should spend around $200-$550 USD to hit the 100K impressions mark. That’s an immense saving per upload. If you got the time, I would suggest spending it on researching the right hashtags for your account.


Pay special attention to the “From Hashtags” metric under impressions. This number tells you if people discovered your post through the hashtags you used.

Instagrammers can now follow top Instagram hashtags

In a big update from 2018, Instagram added the ability to “follow” hashtags (see the photo on #dogsofinstagram). This means you can now stay up-to-date on different topics (or communities) by following a hashtag related to your interests.

Following a hashtag works just like following a user’s profile. When you find a hashtag you’d like to follow you simply open the hashtag page and tap on the follow button.

For brands and businesses, this opens up an opportunity to regularly appear in a follower feed. For example, if you have a branded hashtag for your business, you can invite your followers to also follow your one of a kind hashtag.

This means that your content could appear double in a follower feed — once as they follow your profile, and once again as they follow the hashtag. It doubles your chances of engagement

Add Clickable Hashtags to Your Instagram Bio

In 2018 Instagram released an update. You can now add clickable hashtags (but also Instagram usernames) to your Instagram bio. This makes it easier to build a bio that converts to website clicks, but it also helps the algorithm to categorize your account. You can promote campaigns which use a branded hashtag or stimulate your audience to use the hashtag so you can use User Generated Content on your account.

Use Top Instagram Hashtags in Stories

Before we jump over how to select and bundle your top hashtags I want to highlight one last thing. Did you know you can use hashtags in Instagram Stories? I’ve test running it for months and I see the best results when I use a maximum of 2 hashtags (although you can add up to 10 hashtags) per stories slide. This is giving users yet another way to get their content discovered.

Which hashtags should use you use for your top Instagram hashtags set?

1. branded hashtags

A hashtag I always use in my posts is a branded hashtag. For example, #justdoit or #nike are examples of branded hashtags for Nike’s account. Whenever you have a brand you should consider having a branded hashtag on all your posts, and in your profile.

2. Relevant hashtags to the photo or video

Instagram’s algorithm is smart enough to cross-check the photo and caption. Just because #cats might go viral easier (wild example, never tested it) it doesn’t mean you can use it for your dog account. Facebook’s FAIR software scans photos and will check if there is a cat on it. If that’s not the case, and you’ve used #cat in the caption it will not rank the photo in that particular hashtag.

In this particular image, I’ve used hashtags based on leadership, and quotes. I also added #wolfpack to highlight the wolves in the photo.

3. When using hashtags, don’t go for the biggest hashtag available

You should keep in mind you’re not the only one who wants as much exposure as possible. But long term strategies always work best, also for hashtags. Instead of aiming for the moon, I always like to use smaller hashtags which are niched top Instagram hashtags. Although #wolfpack has over 1,9M photos (and I know I will never rank in the popular posts) it’s been added as a purpose to rank the photo also for wolves. #bossquotes gives me far better possibilities to rank in the popular hashtags as it only has 75,000 photos.

when selecting hashtag sets make sure you don’t aim for only hashtags which have over 1 million photos. Find targeted (but smaller) top instagram hashtags which fit the photo or video you share. I always like to make a set of: 2x 1M or larger hashtags, 7x 100K-250K large hashtags and 2x branded hashtags (maximum of 10 hashtags). Although Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags I’ve experienced better results when I keep the number of photo related hashtags below 15.

4. Community hashtags

Community hashtags are more general and don’t necessarily have anything to do with your company. The benefit of community hashtags is they can make your content more discoverable and build your audience. Air Canada uses #thesix to locate its brand with Toronto. People actively search for community hashtags, so if your brand’s photos and videos show up in the search results, you get instant exposure to an audience.

5. If you use content pillars you can make hashtag sets specified for your pillar

If you (like me) have content pillars for your strategy you can use a hashtag set per content pillar. This saves you a lot of time, as you will always try and upload the same kind of content. I always suggest using 2-3 different hashtags so you can test results how well they perform so you can use it for future shares.

Summary

You need to know which hashtags are your top performers so you can build around them. It takes time to pull everything together. So let’s go ahead and refresh.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Using Hashtags for Instagram makes your content more discoverable.
  • You don’t need to use 30 hashtags in every post.
  • Study your competitors and top influencers to find the best hashtags.
  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant.
  • Always use Instagram insights to measure the performance of the hashtags you’ve used.

Using the tips and strategies you’ve learned here, you’ll be well on your way to grow your audience on Instagram.

Do you have any tips on using hashtags for Instagram that I’ve missed? Leave a comment and let me know!

Fake Instagram Followers: no one wants it, but everybody has them

“Do I have fake Instagram followers on my account?”

In June 2018 Instagram said they hit the 1 billion active monthly users. This puts the Instagram platform in the top few social media platforms. It makes it exceedingly attractive to marketers wanting to use (for example) influencer marketing to generate conversion and social engagement.

The forecasts of 2019 is that we reach up to 2.38 billion dollars spend on Influencer marketing on Instagram (up from 1.6 billion in 2018). It can be tricky to know who to trust when you’re choosing an Instagram Influencer for your next marketing campaign. You don’t want to use an influencer who has fake Instagram followers, or a fully fake engagement audience. This would be a detriment to your marketing budget, but it could put your brand’s integrity at risk!

Why influencers tend to buy fake Instagram followers

Most people think that they can fake it till they make it. I’m no enthusiast of this method, but if you use it make sure you make it. There are millions of fake instagram followers “active” on the platform. Most likely there will be also a percentage of fake Instagram followers following you.

So you are saying everyone has fake Instagram followers?

Let’s start by analysing what a fake Instagram follower actually is.

,,A Fake Instagram Follower is an inactive social media follower.  One who doesn’t like, comment, or interact with posts by an account that they follow”

And yes, every account has ‘fake Instagram followers’, even you! To put things into perspective, you have to keep in mind that almost all fake followers are fake. I rather would like to call them ‘suspicious followers’. The followers can come from:

  • an Instagram bot network (and you didn’t even bought them)
  • account owners who lost their password and made a new one
  • accounts who have been hacked and are no longer in use
  • a growing group of people who are sick of social media and become inactive (ghost accounts)
  • accounts who have shared their login credentials with third parties. They use their account to like and/or follow other accounts without them knowing (they became part of an Instagram-bot network)

I always advice to never ever share your login credentials to a third party you do not trust. You can look up the app via this website  Facebook’s Verified Partner program to see if it’s trustworthy.

On average every account has around 1-5% fake following

This sounds like a lot, but it shouldn’t be a problem. Every Instagram account has this on average. If you are facing a higher percentage of fake Instagram followers on your account you should consider a clean up.

Why should I purify up my fake Instagram followers? Can’t Instagram do this for me?

In fact, Instagram (on a regular basis) purges fake Instagram followers. While for some this is the worst nightmare (as many try to fake it till you make it). For me personally I embrace these purges.

I will try not to get into details, but Instagram’s algorithm has one goal:

  • keep the Instagrammer for as long as possible on their platform.

Whenever you post, Instagram will not only look at the quantity of the likes, but also the quality. If, for example, you have 10,000 fake followers and 500 genuine followers you will have a problem.

The feed posts are based on what you like, and what the majority of the following of the poster likes. Your 10,000 fake Instagram followers won’t engage on your post. The Instagram network will soon categorise the content as “not useful enough” for the platform, and if your 500 genuine followers haven’t been online soon after you’ve posted, the post will get lost in nirvana.

Not only will your post lose impressions from your genuine followers. Your chance of going viral via the explore page (the place where the magic happens) is going down to zero. The only way you can make sure that the people who should see the content, is via paid Facebook ads.

If you are a brand, and you want to use influencers (even when they are verified) for your marketing strategy you should always keep in mind that the 1st step you should make to check what the percentage of fake instagram followers is of the account.

What you should do with fake Instagram followers

Building a real audience on Instagram isn’t rocket science. I always love to use my 3C strategy (content, community and continuity). In terms of fake following you should follow these steps:

  • always try and provide added value to your audience. They are not waiting for another selfie with the same #like4like and #follow4follow hashtags :). That audience doesn’t follow you for what you stand for (but just want to build a quick audience).Some have difficulties to produce valuable content, but out of experience every company, every brand and every individual has so much to tell and share. It maybe looks ordinary for you (because you’ve got so used to it) but for the outside world it’s mind-blowing. If you need help finding your C-factor, you can always reach out!
  • Direct your audience to channels you can control. For example a blog or mailing list. If you are crushing it on Instagram, but next week they decide to change the whole interface and users hate it (remember Snapchat…) they will no longer use it. It’s also easier to analyse your mailinglists, make improved segments and sending the right content to the right people.
  • Clean up your following yourself, period! If you want to get rid of your fake Instagram followers you can simply clean up your following every now and then. Block the accounts which look inactive or suspicious to you. Maybe your growth will slow down (or even decrease) but the quality of the following will go up. An extra benefit for you by cleaning up your fake instagram followers is that it will give a better favour for the Instagram algorithm and a higher percentage of the organic followers will see your content (via the explore page, hashtags or your feed).

Still don’t know what to do, or need a second pair of eyes to look at your account? Reach out for a free 15 minute consult!

People pay thousands of dollars to get verified on Instagram âś“

Recently I received a lot of questions from my customers about how to get verified on Instagram. What is it, what does it do and does it come with any benefits? Long story short it might give you a little bit more authority on the network, but in terms of engagement it doesn’t really matter. With respect to Facebook and Twitter it’s very hard to get yourself verified on Instagram, and due to this there is a huge black market where middlemen sell Instagram verifications via employees of Instagram. As of today Instagram hasn’t released a statement, but it’s still possible to pay for that ‘magical’ blue badge on your favorite social media platform.

Mashable recently received a direct message on Twitter stating: “I mean if Mashable wants to pay for it, I can get you a blue check over night”.

This is a guy who knows a guy, a middleman in the black market for Instagram verification, where anyone from an upcoming influencer will offer to verify an account—for a price. The fee is anywhere from a bottle of wine to $15,000, according to a dozen sources who have sold verification, bought verification for someone else, or directly know someone who has done one or the other.

“These guys pay all their bills from one to two blue badges a month,” another message from the middleman added later.

The product for sale isn’t a good or a service. It’s a little blue check designated for public figures, celebrities, and brands on Instagram. It grants users a prime spot in search as well as access to some minor ‘special’ features.

More importantly, it’s a status symbol. The blue emblem can help people gain legitimacy in the business of influencer marketing and bestows some credibility within Instagram’s community of 700 million monthly active users. It cannot be requested online or purchased, according to Instagram’s policies. It is Instagram’s velvet rope.

But it’s clear from people who spoke on the condition of anonymity, many of whom have their own blue checkmarks, that a black market for Instagram verification is alive and well.

And it’s an open secret in the influencer community.

“It all comes down to money and who you know,” said one seller, who agreed to go by his first name, James. “It’s sad, but it’s kind of how life is, you know?”

Instagram’s underground market

Instagram has helped create this underground market. While anyone can apply for verification on Facebook and on Twitter, Instagram has made itself exclusive and therefore rather elitist. Influencers who have press clippings and work with big brands on sponsorship deals often can’t manage to get that elusive blue checkmark, according to several verified and unverified influencers and people who have sold verification.

James said he got into the market for verification via an Instagram direct message. Previously, he had been buying and selling Instagram accounts that had popular or one-word names, and he decided to message someone with an interesting handle (a.k.a. username). That someone said they were able to take over that account because he worked at Instagram.

And that was the start of a side-business. James would find people who would pay for verification, and his friend on the inside of Instagram would make it happen.

His contact at Instagram charges $1,200 per blue checkmark, and then James will tack on another fee based on the user’s apparent interest or other needs. 

“I’ve Verified on Instagram anywhere from $1,500 to $7,000,” James said.

James, whose day job is running an internet startup, has sold five badges since he started earlier this year with the help of his friend who works at Instagram. His contact at Instagram charges $1,200 per blue checkmark, and then James will tack on another fee based on the user’s apparent interest or other needs.

Only three of his submissions have been approved, however. James and his contact at Instagram have to submit an official form, and they do not want to get caught.

Instagram is aware of this kind of thing.

“You are responsible for any activity that occurs through your account and you agree you will not sell, transfer, license or assign your account, followers, username, or any account rights,” reads a section of Instagram’s terms of use.

James said he has heard of several employees getting fired for selling verification or accounts. When Instagram decided to shutdown about 30 accounts related to cannabis last year, a former employee tried charging people up to $7,500 to reactivate them since he still had access to the feature. He was found out, and his access was officially terminated, according to James.

Instagram declined to comment.

A source who was directly connected to a seller said he was not comfortable with sharing the name or any other details about the person he knew in fear of ruining his side-business.

“He’s actually a good friend and legit makes his income this way,” he said. He personally has been pitched between $3,000 to $7,000 for a blue checkmark.

Getting that blue check is getting harder. Just a year ago, James said his contact at Instagram was able to do five name transfers a week. Now, it’s more like two per week and “maybe one to two verifications,” he said.

James isn’t the only person that interested Instagram users can go to. One entrepreneur pointed us to Alejandro Rioja. According to Rioja’s personal website, he’s an “internet entrepreneur, digital marketer, and computer geek.” His website suggests to connect with him on Facebook Messenger, where after the first prompt a user sees he does account verification:

IMAGE: FACEBOOK MESSENGER SCREENSHOT 

As described in the thread above with Rioja’s Messenger bot, Instagram verification costs $6,000 per account.

“I work with 2-3 people [at Instagram] depending on their availability. The price is $5k-$8k, which varies depending on how easy it is to verify, i.e. they already have press and are somewhat of a known figure. The Instagram employee takes most of it, 60-80%,” Rioja wrote in a Twitter direct message.

The cost for verification is the highest on Instagram because it’s the most coveted.

The cost for verification is the highest on Instagram because it’s the most coveted. That’s in part because it is the strictest, several sources told us. Business on Instagram can be big. Advertisers may be spending more than $1 billion per year on influencer marketing on Instagram, according to a study by Mediakix. An easy way to identify an influencer is via that blue checkmark. It’s immediate legitimacy.

Instagram verification is granted through a form that is not publicly available, but is accessible to some people in the tech and media industries. Former employees, current employees, big media and entertainment companies have a portal where they can request name changes and verification, according to several sources.

They must submit the user’s actual name and accounts along with a form of identity (like a passport) and the name of a contact at Facebook or Instagram. That’s one way Instagram can hold employees accountable to not misuse their privileges for things like paid verification, according to several sources.

IMAGE: SCREENSHOT OF INSTAGRAM VERIFICATION FORM

Attachments can be used to show press clippings, which are an important part of getting through the process. Rioja also offers media placement in various publications that also costs thousands of dollars.

While someone like Rioja may be the seller, someone at Instagram still needs to approve the request. That’s why Rioja says there’s a “money-back guarantee.”

“12 accounts have been verified on Instagram by me. I can’t share the usernames as my clients don’t like this,” Rioja said.

Here’s a step-by-step process of how it works, according to one source who has sold verification and corroborated by two other sources who have bought it:

  1. There’s usually an employee at Facebook/Instagram who is willing to take a bribe or just be a friend. A middleman will be the seller.
  2. The middleman receives cash, which may or may not be split with the Facebook/Instagram employee.
  3. The friend at Facebook/Instagram submits a verification request and crosses their fingers it gets approved.

The black market for verification is an open secret among Instagram influencers. The people who have bought verification might not want to admit it to a reporter, but people aren’t afraid to share to other social media influencers.

“I had a friend that did it,” a tech founder told me. He then texted his friend and asked if they wanted to comment for the story with guaranteed anonymity. The friend confirmed that they paid for verification but declined to comment further.

Once users have a blue checkmark they also join an exclusive club of people who repeatedly get asked for one, according to several sources who have been asked.

“It’s more bragging about how they can get anything, I guess.”

“You end up getting a ton of messages from people asking ‘How you got that check mark, bro?'” said Adam Rose, an actor who is verified on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He got his verifications through the formal processes, without paying any middlemen.

There are plenty of people who may not be able to help but do love chatting about their blue checkmark.

“It’s more bragging about how they can get anything, I guess,” said someone who runs a popular YouTube channel and is verified.

And anything has its price.

H/T mashable

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