NOTE: This blog post is part 18 of my INSTAGRAM SERIES - content all about helping YOU manage your way around instagram. In the INSTAGRAM SERIES I've touched on subjects such as why am I losing followers on instagram , how the instagram algorithms really work and how to get paid influencer work on instagram. Just click here to find all the other parts in the series.
'What if organic growth on instagram is no longer possible? What if I post my most amazing images on instagram, use the best hashtags, leave thoughtful comments but still don't gain new instagram followers?' It's a question one of my creative community members asked a few weeks ago and one that somehow lingered in my mind. Like her, many of the talented and committed creatives I speak to daily are struggling to gain real traction on instagram or worse, losing followers week after week, month after month.
Then this Monday when many of you forwarded this blog post/youtube video to me (thank you everyone :)), in which the author laments that it is impossible to grow on instagram anymore UNLESS you use dishonest tactics, bots and questionable growth hacks, I thought it was time for me to share my thoughts on the current state of instagram by tackling some instagram myths she speaks about and address the all important question: Can you grow your following organically on instagram in 2018?
INSTAGRAM MYTH #1: THE BIGGER YOUR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWING THE MORE MONEY YOU CAN COMMAND FOR INFLUENCER WORK
NOT NECESSARILY! As I mentioned in this blog post all about how to get influencer work on instagram, brands do NOT look at your follower numbers only. They are much more interested in the engagement you get, your unique voice, your ability to own your niche, your authenticity and the quality of your work. Brands are incredibly clever when it comes to spotting accounts full of fake followers and I would challenge any suggestion otherwise. (I mean think about it, would you part with 1000s of dollars without doing some research and ensuring you get a return on your investment?)
Does this mean that there aren't cases where people get away with banking a big paycheck despite having fake followers galore? Of course not! It has happened in the past and it will happen again, but the truth is if the influencer partnership doesn't result in a noticeable positive difference for the brand they are unlikely to work with the influencer again.
If you want to earn a living and establish a long term career as a food blogger, photographer, writer, stylist or content creator I would urge you to think twice before buying fake followers. It's only a quick, short-term fix that is unlikely to produce the income you want with potentially detrimental long-term effects on your credibility and creative career.
INSTAGRAM MYTH #2: THE INSTAGRAM ALGORITHM IS KILLING CREATIVITY
SORT OF! As outlined in this blog post, consistency (AKA having a strong dominant style and same visual identity) is generally rewarded by instagram users and instagram algorithms. However for the food photographers and stylists I know, creating the same type of images day in and day out - even if it increases follower numbers - can feel really stifling. This is because being consistent and producing the same content over and over again inhibits the opportunity to explore, to embark on creative play and to push boundaries.
Interestingly though I have felt a movement emerging consisting mainly of micro-influencers who are pushing back against this trend of consistency, eager to try new things, DESPITE the possibility of losing instagram followers in the process or being 'penalised' by instagram's algorithm. I have now joined their brigade and do you wanna know something funny? I feel I am attracting a brand new audience who is excited about the creative journey I'm going on whilst holding on to my loyal audience who is intrigued to see where this new journey will take me, or should I say us.
Ask yourself this: Are you bringing something unique, exciting and exceptionally beautiful to the table? Are you proud of your work and feel that you've progressed to the edge of your creative capacity? If the answer is YES, congratulations, that's awesome, you've arrived and don't need any of my advice.
If the answer is NO, then listen up: Why not set trends rather than follow them? Why not change up your feed, create images that stand out for all the right reasons? Why not step away from a mundane formula you know works to allow yourself to grow as a creative? Because - and this may sound radical - could it be that you're not growing because the content that you're producing is safe rather than brilliant?
INSTAGRAM MYTH #3: YOU CAN'T GET WORK AS A CREATIVE UNLESS YOU HAVE A LARGE INSTAGRAM FOLLOWING
HMM LET'S UNPICK THIS, SHALL WE? I think it is fair to say that some agencies and brands will be turned off if you have an instagram account of less than 200 followers even if your work is really good. I think it's also fair to say that it will be very hard for you to get influencer work on instagram if you have a very small following (less than 1000). However please remember instagram is not the only channel through which you can get work as a creative and the people I know who are really crushing it in their creative careers are the ones who use instagram as part of a wider social media and business strategy, not as the only one.
My humble opinion is this: Create a social media strategy that works by exploring LOTS of different channels rather than putting all of your eggs in the instagram basket (remember I talked about that in this blog post too!). I have had too many clients come to me over the last few years, banking on a big instagram breakthrough without having a solid plan in place to make it happen OR a thoroughly thought out plan B in case it doesn't. It's for this reason I developed the 1-day small business mastermind program, to help those who are serious about setting and hitting their goals.
INSTAGRAM MYTH #4: IF YOU USE BOTS, JOIN COMMENT PODS AND PAY FOR LIKES, COMMENTS AND SHARES YOU CAN GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWING QUICKLY
TRUE! SORT OF! You can buy followers and - depending on how much you pay - grow your follower account really quickly. You can join instagram pods (which is a whole other topic I'll explore another day) and pay bots to leave lots of comments underneath your instagram image, which at first glance makes your account look rather impressive.
However, as noted previously accounts that buy followers are relatively easy to spot and actually make it really difficult to obtain brand deals. Furthermore, the instagram mentoring clients I work with who previously relied on instagram pods to plush up their comment section weren't growing rapidly AT ALL (for reasons I'll explore another time)! And lastly, you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to detect a bot comment from a mile away. It's SUPER easy!
I know it sucks that others are growing their following using dodgy tactics and churning out mediocre content. But you know what? If you spend too much energy looking at what others are doing AND getting my knickers in a twist about it, you're not keeping your eyes on your own game or channeling your energy into your creativity. Not sure it's worth it. What do you think?
INSTAGRAM MYTH #5: YOU CANNOT GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWING ORGANICALLY ANYMORE.
FALSE, THOUGH LET'S GET A BIT MORE SPECIFIC! Before instagram introduced the algorithm in 2016 it was easier to grow your instagram following relatively fast if you produced regular, decent quality content. Fast growth became MUCH harder once the algorithm kicked in, add to that the fact that instagram has become a really crowded space and you get a situation where, for the fast majority of instagram users, exponential growth just isn't possible anymore.
However, it's inaccurate to suggest that organic growth isn't possible at all! That's plain and simply not true! You CAN grow organically and the accounts I know that are doing just that tend to have a few things in common, including churning out content that's of consistent, high quality in a signature style all their own!
Rather than looking to grow your instagram following quickly, how about taking it slow focusing on making your account the BEST it can be rather than the BIGGEST. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't aim for the stars and dream big, please do! I am saying though that it may be worth shifting your focus towards the audience you actually have, who love what you do and are cheering you on, offering them outstanding value and showing them how much you appreciate them. Once you do that, everything else will take care of itself.
NEED MORE INSTAGRAM HELP?
Then listen up! You can get my 30+ page e-guide entitled '10 reasons you are losing followers on instagram (and what to do about it)?'.
Alternatively you can attend my first 1-day small business and blogger London mastermind where we'll spend the afternoon devising a business and social media strategy that works. It will be held on Sunday, September 23rd and you can read all about the day here. I'd love to see you there.
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Thanks for reading everyone. See you next week.