To Top

Growing your Instagram account the organic way can eat up a lot of your time. Luckily there are methods that help speed up the process…. If you do it correctly.

These are methods that help speed up the growth of your account, but when abused, they can backfire.

Instagram Engagement Groups

Instagram loves when their users interact with each other, and rewards users for it. As a result, ‘Instagram engagement groups or pods’ were developed to leverage this.

What are Instagram engagement groups and how do they work? Different engagement groups have their own rules, but generally, it is a group of people who agree to give each other likes and comments whenever they upload a new post.

Groups are most effective if accounts are in the same niche and preferably have a huge following.

For a while, it was a great way to boost your engagement, and even have your content placed in the explore page. This was great before the last big Instagram algorithm update, as all accounts shared the same explore page.

With Instagram constantly updating their algorithm, one of the major changes they recently implemented was making the explore page more personalized to the user. This  means that if your post gets on the explore page, you won’t necessarily see an organic boost.

Are Instagram Engagement Groups Worth The Effort?

No. Here’s why:

  • It’s Inorganic: This is the type of engagement Instagram hates. They are aware of tactics like this and will punish you for it.
  • Meaningless Results: Congrats! You’ve gained a ton of engagement, but does it actually benefit your account? You won’t get boosted because Instagram knows how you got it, and the people you get engagement from are from your own group. They generally don’t care about your content.
  • Fake Influencer Status: Want to get sponsors and free stuff from big brands? Your fake engagement is obvious and brands that are smart enough can sniff this out easily.

Instagram is aware of tactics like these and can limit your organic reach, making growing your Instagram account close to impossible.

The better alternative to this is to genuinely engage with other users and posts within your niche, rather than participating in an engagement group. You won’t receive the same instant reciprocal engagement, but the engagement you’ll receive will be genuine and from people who are actually interested in your account.

Following and Unfollowing Instagram Strategies

For a while this was the go-to method to grow your account as it was the fastest way to gain more followers.

However, today it doesn’t work as well. Here’s why:

  • Poor followback ratio:  When you follow an account, you expect them to follow you back right? Not anymore. Thanks to bot accounts exploiting this, you’ll find that users have a10-25% followback rate.
  • Ghost followers: If you even achieve a 10-25% followback rate, only a small portion of those followers will legitimately engage with your content. There is no point in having a huge following if less than 10% of users actually engage with your account.
  • Account credibility: It’s easy to spot accounts who do follow and unfollow a ton. If an account is following over 2000 different accounts, they are most likely using a follow and unfollow Instagram strategy. If an account has less than 10% engagement on posts compared to their follower count, the same can be said. It is also possible that they could’ve just bought followers.
  • Bot-aware: People are aware of bot accounts on Instagram. Mass following people will make your account seem like one of them. People are very unlikely to follow back if something feels inorganic.  

That said, following and unfollowing done properly can give you that initial boost when you start growing your account. Gone are the days where you can send hundreds of follow and unfollow requests per day. Nowadays you have to limit the amount of people you follow per day and the rate you do it at. Doing too much too often will raise a red flag. You also have to make sure that your following count isn’t significantly larger than the amount of people who are following your account. The key here is to make your activities and account look as natural as possible.   

Instagram Powerlikes

Not all likes are equal.

This is similar to the Instagram engagement group theory, but instead of exchanging engagement with a closed network, you just get likes and comments from accounts with a ton of followers.

Here’s the idea: accounts with a big following like your posts, their followers see that they like your post, those followers check out your post, and if your content is good, you potentially have a new follower or an extra ‘like’.

The other benefit of this method is that a like from an account with a lot of followers is valuable, as long as the account is high quality. Much like domain authority with SEO, account authority also plays a role in the Instagram algorithm. As such, Instagram powerlikes can be a good way to organically boost your engagement,

Here’s the problem with Instagram powerlikes. No one who has spent time and resources growing their account to 50k, 100k, 500k followers is going to risk their account’s trustworthiness by putting it into a spammy Instagram powerlikes network. They will engage with accounts only they genuinely care about, and won’t take the risk giving random unrelated accounts engagement.

The accounts that are willing to sell you powerlikes are all part of networks with other accounts that sell Instagram powerlikes as a service. These accounts generally aren’t high quality accounts, have non-genuine engagement and typically don’t give any value to your account through a like, since they do this for tons of other accounts. Think of it as diluting their value. The majority of these accounts are actually inactive and dead.

Instead of paying influencers for likes, it would be best to pay them for a shoutout instead. Influencer’s fans are keen on following what they follow, so if an influencer directly tells their followers to check out your account, they will check out your profile, and it will be up to your content to persuade them to follow you. Think of this as receiving qualified leads.

Instagram Contest Strategies

Who doesn’t like free stuff?

Instagram contests are a great way to make your post go viral, as the main requirements are for people to like your posts, follow your account and tag their friends.

Great, now you’ve gained a ton of followers from your Instagram contest post. You think that more followers would mean that your audience would consist of more people that want to see more of your content. Nope!

These are the followers that you don’t want as they likely don’t care about your content. They only cared about the free stuff you were giving away. The only way this has proven to work effectively is if your content is 100% on point and captivates new visitors. If that is the case, this could be a good Instagram strategy for you. However if your content is not captivating, what you will likely gain from an Instagram contest post is just a ton of ghost followers.

For example, let’s take a look at @xyiencecanada. They ran a contest that rewarded a free graphics card. That post picked up 2100 likes and their account grew to 8000+ followers. This contest was held on January 21 of this 2019.

Since then, their average likes per post is a mere 155, which means their engagement rate is sitting at a pitiful 1.8%

However, if you are keen on using a contest to promote your account, the safest thing to do to minimize the amount of ghost followers is to know what kind of content people follow you for, and keep pumping out that same content.

Buying Instagram Followers & Likes

People are too focused on the number of followers that they have. In order to make their accounts look more popular or credible, people buy Instagram followers, and they are usually pretty cheap to buy. However, these accounts that follow you are bot accounts, that don’t engage with your profile at all. So to combat that, people buy likes for their posts to make it seem like they have high engagement.

Their goal is to achieve more social proof but it’s 2019, and people are aware of fake followers. It’s as easy as looking at your follower list and seeing if the profiles that follow your account are real people. It’s easy to spot when a large number of bot accounts are following you!

There is no benefit to having bot followers as Instagram devalues your account as a result  of suspicious activity (massive spikes in followers). And to top it all off, Instagram is continually deleting bot accounts, so those 2000 followers you bought could be gone in an instant.

You might think buying followers will give you an initial boost, but in reality, your account will be doomed from the start. Avoid buying fake followers and likes all together.

What have we Learned About Instagram Strategies?

There is a recurring theme with these Instagram strategies inauthentic engagement. Instagram is constantly fighting off activity that hurts their platform and takes away the genuinely human user experience that the app gives its users.  

If Instagram catches you practicing methods like these often, your account will get flagged. In a past article, we brought up Instagram’s shadowban, and this is the type of punishment your account will be subject to. Your organic reach will go down, your posts will only be shown to a percentage of your followers, your posts won’t show up on hashtags, etc…

Growing your Instagram account using these tactics without getting penalized by Instagram requires patience. Abusing these tactics will leave footprints behind for Instagram to notice what you are doing. The safest way to grow your account, is to take it slow, and make sure you look authentic.

So there you have it. Instagram strategies that can help boost your growth as long as you don’t abuse them. Next time, we’ll go in depth with more organic ways to bring engagement to your Instagram account.

Get Monthly Tips to Level-up Your Marketing

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Click Here for last month’s issue


Matt Cox

Managing Partner

Partner at Konstruct Digital, where everyday we help our clients grow their businesses through the magic of inbound marketing. Developer by background, marketer by passion, I love working with customers to ideate innovative marketing solutions which deliver solid measurable results. I sit firmly in the interchange between left and right brained thoughts, and jump at any chance to leverage both my marketing and technical expertise.