17 February 2019

How to Grow Your Instagram: Why Not to Buy Fake Followers & Likes

I am not stating that I have everything worked out when it comes to Instagram, but I thought I'd share tips that worked for me to grow my following (especially as so many people have asked). This is going to be super lengthy but hopefully informative so brace yourself.

A message to fellow Instagrammers and brands
It takes 1000 hours of practice, to master a skill’ - Unknown Instagram quote from a cute profile.

Let’s sit on the above for a second and do some quick maths If the average (although it’s probably way higher) time spent on the app is one hour per day, and we do this everyday that’s:
1 x 7h= 7h per week x 52 weeks = 364 hours on Insta per year.

That means If you’ve been using the app for just less than three years, then congratulations! You’ve just earnt a three year degree in understanding how Instagram works.

Moral of the mathematical story is, I want to explain how EASY it is to detect Instagrammers who purchase/use bots to 'grow' their profile! If we can spot it then you definitely know big brands with big analytical software can spot it faster! Saying that, influencer marketing is still in it’s start up phase so some (sadly even big) brands haven't caught wind yet and do pay/sponsor profiles who's followings are totally not real! This is shocking, but sooner rather than later big brands will realise when ‘bot’ followed accounts genuinely have lower engagement and that ‘50k follower’ account won't look so sassy compared to their return on investment.

Social media, brand and influencer marketing managers if you stumble upon this post, please feel free to take note, lol.

How to detect fake likes/follower on Instagram Profiles

I'm sure that most people know these tips already - but I was talking to a friend about it, and surprisingly she had no idea, so this may help some people. The easiest way to detect fake followers would be to literally click on the followers of a person, scroll a bit, and see if you notice anything suspicious..

Fake follower symptoms:
  1. Many profiles with no profile picture
  2. Random letters for usernames that make no sense; for example ‘eyofdsbgfy' or something along them lines
  3. Accounts full of stock images e.g from google
  4. Accounts with no photos/one photo
  5. Many accounts with either a high following or high followed number or both,  E.g 6237 followers, 6123 followed
  6. Many accounts from a certain demographic or country - a) If the instagrammer is from the UK then it's suspicious if they have thousands of Russian (фдчййкклл) or arabic followers *

* obviously there are REAL Arabic and Russian profiles, but firstly, does it make sense that these accounts are following these people? If the Instgrammer is for example a beauty blogger in the UK, why are random old russian and arabic men following them? Lol. Also it's not limited to just Russian and Arabic profiles, but they're the current examples I could find.

Fake likes symptoms
Spotting fake likes on pic is similar to spotting fake followers. If they uploaded within the hour:

  1.  Are the likes coming from any suspicious profiles? Are loads of the likes from a random demograph (like the arab and russian profiles I spoke about above?) 
  2. Are the suspicious profiles even following the Instagrammer? The algorithm usually won't show your profile on the explore page in a matter of seconds. 
  3. Do their likes surge out of proportion in a matter of seconds? 

Of course, likes can come from hashtags and the explore page (which is great), but if you’re suspicious than they’re probs mostly from bots!

Also, I think lots of 'organic and real' profiles attract a minimal amount of bots and fake profiles, so if you see one or two on your page, I think that's just something that happens. A good tip though, is if a 'bot' follows you, block them! They aren't real, it will only lower your reach and dilute your engagement.

Free bot finding software
So let's go onto my fave site ever - Socialblade. This is the best thing lol. Again, I'm sure so many people know this! You can see when people are bulk purchasing followers by going on this site, and searching a profile. Let me use examples.

Here's an example of socialblade stats of someone who is buying bots. One day, they lose followers, but the next day they gain +522. Then, they lose around 1000.. and then purchase 1000 again. lol. Basically, the reason they lose so many is because Instagram are somewhat good at removing bots from accounts. Not always, and that's why people still manage to grow their accounts, but for example on this profile, Instagram deletes them, but the person just buys more. Vicious cycle.

Let's give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes too though! If they sometimes grow by 500 or 1000, they may have been reposted by a big account or have had REALLY good engagement on a pic, or for example held a giveaway! But if there's too much inconsistency, mad increases and losses - that's bot buying. I wouldn't base one search on socialblade as someone bot buying, check it for a few days/weeks and also check their followers and see if you can spot fakes!

Let me show you an account that is being consistent.

You could also consistently lose followers, it doesn't mean the profile is fake - the person may just be inactive/having a bad week lol.

Please also note - if you use social blade and look at the 13th Feb 2019, nearly EVERYONE lost Instagram followers from an 'Instagram glitch', but in the next few days Instagram gave them back; just a FYI.

You can also spot people who use follow/unfollow bots or 'technique' when they follow +250 people on a day, then remove 250 people in the next few days - also not a good thing to do these days. There's actual sites and apps to do it too, where people put their details in and then a computerised system will then follow people automatically. You can target to follow people of the same niches etc but again Instagram knows you're doing so now!

Why Buying Fake Likes & Followers Won't Work

I think this will be a pretty quick topic to address. Ages ago you could get away with doing stuff like using third party apps to automatically follow and then unfollow people. People could also get away with sending fake followers and likes to their profile and still seem 'popular' and be shown on the explore page etc. This is all inauthentic and Instagram knows ways to detect that now.

But now, sabotaging your own profile with fake likes and followers is the biggest mistake you can ever make. Instagram can EASILY tell and weed out who is buying their likes. Think about it, they have the algorithm watching your account, seeing who's growing +1000 every day with no hard work. What do you think they'll do with that info? They'll limit your reach babes. They won't show your uploads to organic people, won't post you on the explore page, and do everything in their power to limit your reach! That then turns into a vicious cycle, where you'll be constantly sending fake likes and followers to your account, therefore ruining your profile :(

Say for example you send likes to your most recent post, in the first hour. The algorithm will 100000% detect that and it'll flag your profile up, hence reducing your limited reach. Organic is key!

Instagram also put out a statement saying they're going to delete fake likes and followers from people's accounts at the end of 2018. What happened this week with the Instagram 'purge' was linked to this I reckon, but I don't think it worked the way Instagram wanted it to. For example, it said I lost 500 followers, but then my actual 'number' on my profile didn't take into account them 500 losses. I suspect there was an error in showing the correct following numbers when they did the purge. So my opinion is that they will do another purge soon, and that's just another reason to not even bother trying to get instant gratification and sending bots to your account! They're coming for you!

The 'Algorithm' and why you need 'modernise' the way you use Instagram

So let's start by me explaining what I mean by the term 'modernise'. Like I've already mentioned, a few years ago it was really easy to not get 'caught' with these tactics. Therefore, getting instant gratification, making your page look 'organic' and without Instagram itself cottoning on. You need to change the way you use instagram now, especially if you want to grow your profile. You can't simply just post and leave, and expect to grow. You really just can't, and that's because of the algorithm..

I really don't want to touch on the algorithm, because this is all Instagrammers talk about nowadays. But here are some things that will affect the way the algorithm treats you:
- Not being active
- Not regularly posting
- Inconsistent following trends. Randomly following hundreds of people, then unfollowing them!
- Not engaging with people

Now, this is just things that I've noticed that helped me with the algorithm, and I know it's probably SO much more complex than these few points, but I think I got the fundamentals pretty spot on!

Tips to Grow Your Instagram

Again, I'm just going to put a few tips that I found really help me grow on Instagram. I'm still a really really small account, in comparisons to others, but I think it's important to remember it's not always a numbers game, and it's definitely not a competition. I'm also not trying to claim that I've worked everything out, because I most definitely have not - just sharing some tips that helped me!

1) Do stuff your followers like. If you find an image of yours did better than your usual, DO MORE OF THAT STUFF. For example, my make up flat lays don't do as well as my outfit posts, so I of course post more outfit posts. When I visit places around London, mainly places that haven't been seen before, I'll get more saves, hence the picture does better!

2) Niches - basically, I don't actually agree with the term 'niche'. I just think, if you're on Instagram and want to grow a following, you need to know what you're growing for. If you're on instagram just for likes and follows and instant gratification, what's the point? Do you have a message to convey? Are you passionate about something i.e. makeup, travelling, fashion? Find something that no one has done before, and make it your own!

3) Follow people, but don't just follow people for follow backs. Use the app like the social media app that it is. Follow people you are GENUINELY interested in. Follow people who's feed you love, and those who have similar accounts to you. Don't expect a follow back, and also don't unfollow them once they follow you - that's probably the worst thing you can do. That's why it's important to follow people that genuinely interest you, so you can comment, engage on their pictures, get to know them etc without having to unfollow them. For example, if I come across someone's feed I love, I follow them, irrespective of if they have less or more followers than me! I don't expect a follow back, but it's great if they do as then I can engage, they can engage, and everyone's engaged. If I notice someone engaging with me a lot, I always check their feed out, and most likely always follow them back!
Here’s a tip - spend 10 minutes a day trying to find 10 profiles you genuinely like, irrespective of if they are a big or small profile.

4) Engage - this seems like such simple stuff, but it is very very important. If you're not gonna show love to people by commenting on their stuff, saving their stuff, liking their stuff, you're not gonna get much back loves!

5) Don't worry about numbers - Honestly, don't. If you want brands to work with you, they'll work with you usually irrespective of the amount of follows you have (not all, but some will, which will get you the experience to go places!). They'll see your work, especially if it's some good good work, and they'll WANT to work with you. Go at your own pace, don't think you need to reach a certain level to get 'sponsored' and 'paid'. Along with that, don't make sponsored and paid work your end goal. Your instagram page should ALWAYS start off as a hobby and something you're passionate about - not just a career. Please, don't wake up one day, quit your day job/university and think you can start a career on Instagram - you'll set yourself up for failure that way. Put in the work, and watch your page literally grow. You're also never going to wake up one day with 100,000 followers.

6) Focus on your content- I did just touch on this but instead of focusing on your follower number, focus on your content. Make sure your content is what you want it to be. Let's take a make up blog for example, create that content. Take swatches and flat lays, write reviews of products, do make up related content, take GOOD content and people will find you!

7) Engage with the brand you're posting and writing about. Ok so this is my biggest irk. So, let's say for example someone posts an outfit from Fashionova. Tags Fashionova, wants to be reposted, but doesn't follow the page?! I'm sure brands see that. I know some brands have openly explained that if you're not gonna even follow the page, you're not gonna get reposted/a like from the brand! These are small changes you can make that may open up wider doors for you!
Further, if you want a brand to work with you, the best thing to do is to show them you already love the brand. Create content for them before approaching them, for example I was posting Charlotte Tilbury related content since 2014 and 4 years later the brand contacted me. It took me 4 years, and I'm still not even remotely a large account, but I guess they notice hard work!

8) Tags & Hashtags - don't overuse them & don't tag nonsensical (oooh big word) tags. Tag related to what you're posting about but don't over use them.

9) Use Instagram the way it wants to be used. If they introduce a new feature, you'll get more reach. For example, start creating content on IG TV, use polls, use instagram stories, follow hashtags etc. I'm sure it all helps!

10) Don't put your eggs in one basket - pls. Instagram could make any change which can affect anything. Take your content to a blog, to YouTube etc and it'll probably be the best decision you make!

11) Followers. And. Growth. Isn't. Everything. (Bit of a silly message to convey when you read the title, I know)

Ok so I know that was SUPER lengthy but I hope it helped. I'd love if you could share this with your friends, especially so we can make sure we are supporting organic profiles and I'll love to know if this has helped you at all?! Leave me a comment, or a DM over on insta, and if you have any questions feel free to get in touch!

P.S. I'd love to do one on how to contact brands and how to monetize your blog etc, but I'll only do that on request so please let me know otherwise it's never happening!

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