So you’re looking to grow your Instagram account but you find yourself getting next-to-no likes or comments? Not to worry, this is a common issue for most people, especially when Instagram update their algorithm for the 1000th time. In this post i’ll not only explain how to grow your account organically, but also how the Instagram algorithm works, so you’ll remain ahead of the competition regardless of any future updates.
The real answer to growing your Instagram account is to consistently produce high-quality content. It’s as simple as that. The key is to get a perfect mix of quality & quantity, posting regularly enough to stay in your follower’s feeds, but also making sure that the post is good enough to spark their interest. The inclusion of relevant hashtags is also going to be vital if you want new people to find your content.
On one of my Instagram accounts, @unreal.tattoos, it took me around 2-3 months to start getting any traction. For a long time it felt like I was just posting to myself, but I stuck with it because I knew I was posting great content, three times a day, of top-quality tattoos from some of the world’s best tattoo artists.
My persistence paid off as I started to gather followers and likes, not many comments mind you but that didn’t worry me. As the account continued to grow, people began to share my content with their friends and naturally my account would grow more & more each day. Heck, nowadays I get over 1,000 new followers each day.
But… How does the Instagram Algorithm work?
To put it simply, if people like your content then Instagram will show it to more people, if people choose to ignore it then they’ll show it to less people. You’ll want to test what works (and what doesn’t) over an extended period of time, then start producing more of the content that’s getting the most engagement.
If your posts gain enough interest you may even find that it goes viral in the Explore section of Instagram, however this is usually the result of having a solid & engaged following in the first place, of which they felt compelled to share your post with others. They pass it on to someone else, then that person shares it & so on.
The nightclub analogy
One way I could explain how the Instagram algorithm works, is to compare your Instagram feed to a queue outside a nightclub. For this example let’s call the nightclub; Barbados, after a local nightclub that recently closed down where I’m from. Man I’m gonna miss jumping around to Rednex’s Cotton Eye Joe.
The first group
But anyway, at the front of the queue are the people that absolutely love Barbados. They’re in there every weekend and they love every song that gets played, they love it so much that they often message their friends to come join them at the club. The people at the front of the queue are your most fanatical followers, they often like & comment on all of your content and as such they will be shown your content first. They like to share your content on posts, stories and DM’s.
The second group
Next in line, are the group of people that also like Barbados but weren’t in as much of a rush to get there as the first group was. Nonetheless they’re in the queue, they like what they hear and they’re ready to go in. These are the people that like most (but not all) of your content, and have maybe dropped one or two comments in the past. Following the first group, they will be next in line to see your content.
The third & fourth groups
Now this is where it starts to get interesting, as the first two groups had already established a liking for Barbados, so it’s a pretty good bet that they’ll be turning up to the club tonight, but the third group tend to be 50/50 towards Barbados. They’re always there for the cheesy-hits, but you rarely see them on Drum & Bass night. These followers like some of your posts, but not all of them. It really depends on how good your content is and whether it resonates with them. They have certain topics that they like, they like when you post Keto diet recipes but they don’t care for your gym routines.
But anyway, this third group has seen your latest post, and they’re reading through the caption, this situation can go one of two ways…
Scenario one (good)
The third group can hear the music from outside the club, they can hear the echoes of Summer of ’69 and they’re living for it right now, they love a bit of Bryan Adams and they like what they hear. They enter the club, and the people behind them (in the fourth group) move forward. They’ve seen your post, they’ve liked it and they’ve even left positive comments too. The people behind them have seen that they’ve said good things and now are looking to see what the fuss is about.
Scenario two (bad)
The second version of that story is that whilst they were waiting in line, the sound of Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!! was making their ears bleed. They detest the Vengaboys and decide to move onto a different club. Criminal, I know. A few people at the back of the line edge forward as the queue gets shorter, but it turns out that they can now hear the music and also have a dislike for the Eurodance sensations, so they decide to leave too.
There’s hardly any interest tonight, so the manager of Barbados decides to section-off half of the club, leaving less room for anyone else to come in. Instagram realises that your post isn’t getting much interest, and as such decides to show it to fewer people.
Soon you’re just left with the fourth or fifth group, which is just the people who are only outside the club because they needed a cigarette, and they don’t even like clubbing. The last group of people are those that rarely engage with your content, and are less likely to see any of your posts. Chances are they might not have even seen your latest one.
Let me clarify
For those that got lost in my analogy of the cheesy-nightclub, Instagram likes to share your post with your existing followers in order of who engages with your content the most. This isn’t going to be an exact science though, as even your most die hard fans might have a day away from Instagram every now and then, and as such they’ll show it to the next-best option, and so on. As mentioned earlier, if people like your post then more people will see it. If people don’t like it, then less people will see it. Simple.
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How to beat the Instagram Algorithm
Aside from just posting great content at the right time, there’s a few other things that you can implement right away that could significantly increase your account’s growth. I’m not suggesting that you’ll get instantaneous results overnight, instead this will require persistence and consistency, if you’re the type to give up easily then this might not be right for you.
As already mentioned above, a big reason why I successfully grew one of my many accounts is because I was posting three times a day – every day. Now i’m not for one second suggesting that you HAVE to do this, but it’s certainly going to help if you can post multiple times a day. I can certainly understand that most people don’t have the time or energy to create images, videos & captions for one post a day, let alone 2, 3 or 4. With that being said, try to post at least 3 times a week – but make sure it’s great content that people want to see.
Another reason why my account has gathered over 100,000 followers (and counting) is because of my consistent use of hashtags. I include 30 hashtags in the comment section of each post. 30 hashtags are the maximum amount of hashtags that Instagram allows you to use, and I strongly suggest using all 30.
If you scroll through each of my posts you’ll realise that I do two things, firstly I mix up my hashtags with each post to ensure that Instagram doesn’t view me as a spammer, but most importantly I ensure that all of my hashtags are relevant to the post – which isn’t too difficult with this specific example as they’re all tattoo related. But my point is, if you’re running a personal account and the picture is of you eating a pizza – make the hashtags about you, the pizza and the contents of your caption.
Engage with others
The clue is in the name, social media. If you want to grow big on Instagram then you’ve got to be social, whether that be with your existing followers in the comment sections, or on the posts of other accounts. At the end of the day you’re trying to gather the attention of real people, so you’ve got to start treating them like humans. Respond to every comment, be genuine with what you say, ask questions, do whatever it takes to stand out.
Remember, the numbers don’t matter
I feel I need to add this at the end of this post because I see so many complaining that they’ve only got X amount of followers, and I have to be real with them… your follower count means nothing. The amount of followers you have is not a true reflection of how many people like you, or how many people want to purchase your products or services. Instead of focusing on how many likes, comments & followers you have, focus on the amount of real interactions you’ve had with your followers. How many people have you truly connected with?
Beating the Instagram algorithm and growing your account organically requires both quality & quantity, as well as the persistence to carry on even when you’re effectively talking to yourself in your captions. Make an effort to produce the best content in your niche, and post as often as you can. The addition of thirty, relevant hashtags with each post should help increase your reach and is vital to growing a large, engaged following.
What’s been your experience with Instagram so far? Do you like it? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below