There is A TON of information on Instagram marketing out there, and some of it isn’t complete dog poop.
But most of it is about as practical as a Masters in Fine Arts.
I’m talking about articles like:
- 100 Free Ways to Increase Your Instagram Followers
- 11 Ways to get more (real!) Instagram Followers
- How to Get More Followers on Instagram: A Guide to Earning Your First 1,000 Followers
- How to Get 300, Real, Targeted Instagram Followers Per Month
At best these guides will give you last years’ knowledge on Instagram marketing, and the “tips” they give? They’re all the same!
You probably know what I’m talking about…stuff like:
- Post Consistently.
- Use the right hashtags.
- Post photos at 2 am or 5 pm.
- Write descriptive captions.
Instagram has changed a lot over the past year—getting followers is harder, engagement rates have tanked—but all the advice out there is stuck in the past.
Except for this epic, in-depth guide…
In this guide, we’re not farting around. We’ll equip you with 2018 knowledge—the insider strategies, tactics, and growth hacks that all the top influencers use to grow accounts to 10,000, 50,000, even 1,000,000 followers, faster than ever.
Read it quickly, bookmark it, and come back to it often.
For best results, you’ll want to start using these growth hacks immediately. This is the stuff that’s working right now on Instagram, but in another year it could be a totally different story.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CLOUDS: 5 HIGH-LEVEL CONCEPTS YOU NEED TO MASTER TO SUCCEED ON INSTAGRAM IN 2018
- [CONCEPT #1] The IG Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Incentives, Known Factors, and Explore Page 101
- [CONCEPT #2] The 10/10/10 Hashtags Strategy and How You Should Think About Hashtags in 2018
- [CONCEPT #3] Be Consistent, but Not Too Consistent
- [CONCEPT #4] Forget about the Best Time to Post on Instagram. In 2018 it Doesn’t Matter…Much
- [CONCEPT #5] Why You Must Become a Professor of the Jungle to Create Great, Viral IG Content
DIRT: 5 STRATEGIES, TACTICS, AND HACKS TO GET MORE INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS IN 2018
- [GROWTH HACK #1] Tag Hashtags/Locations in Stories and Get Twice the Views
- [GROWTH HACK #2]Targeted Follow/Unfollow: How to Grow Your Followers Consistently in an Hour per Day
- [GROWTH HACK #3] Powerlikes; or, the Secret Trick to Hacking the Explore Page
- [GROWTH HACK #4] For Engagement Pods, Telegram is the Place to Be
- [GROWTH HACK #5] Why Giveaway Loops Are the Only Instagram Contests that Matter in 2018
CLOUDS: 5 HIGH-LEVEL CONCEPTS YOU NEED TO MASTER TO SUCCEED ON INSTAGRAM IN 2018
[CONCEPT #1] The IG Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Incentives, Known Factors, and Explore Page 101
In April 2016 Instagram debuted the now famous algorithmic feed. Previously posts were shown in reverse chronological order. Now, like Facebook’s feed, Instagram has a really complex algorithm to determine what it shows you.
If you’re starting to roll your eyes, I get it.
I’m sick of all this algorithm talk too. But listen up kiddo.
If you try to growth hack Instagram and you don’t understand the algorithm, you’re going to have a bad time.
We’ll go into a little detail on the algorithm right here — focusing on the high-level concepts you should know so you can game it. If you want a more in-depth briefing, check out Our Stupid Simple Guide to the Instagram Algorithm.
Incentives. Incentives. Incentives. Understand them and you’ll understand the algorithm.
Instagram (and their parent company Facebook) makes money selling ads. Businesses advertise on Instagram (and Facebook) because people spend time there. The more time people spend, the more ads Instagram/Facebook can sell. More time = more advertising inventory.
The algorithm is designed to maximize IG users spend in the app.
Write that down.
Instagram also releases new product features (think Stories or Gallery Posts) to keep users engaged. Often it prioritizes new features via the algorithm to encourage adoption. We’ll get to that in a bit…
These are the known factors that influence the IG algorithm.
- Engagement: # likes, comments, video views, saves, shares via DM, etc.
- Relevancy: the genres of content you like and interact with most.
- Relationships: your BFFs, and anyone else you interact with most.
- Timeliness: How recent the post is.
- Content-Type: Pics, Gallery Posts, Videos (which always do better)
When you think of the algorithm you probably just think of the order of posts and stories on your feed.
Stop that right now.
It’s 2018, and you should also think about the Instagram Explore Page – which is the golden ticket to growth hacking Instagram in 2018.
If you can game the algorithm & reverse engineer the explore page. Your content will go viral and you will become Instafamous fast.
[CONCEPT #2] The 10/10/10 Hashtags Strategy and How You Should Think About Hashtags in 2018
Stop your eye rolling right now! You should know by now that I”m not gonna give you the same generic advice you keep reading.
Yes, hashtags still help expand your reach.
Yes, you can hide hashtags in the first comment.
No, that’s not the best advice I have for you today.
Instead, I’m gonna tell you about the 10/10/10 hashtag strategy that’s working really, really well right now. But first, context.
Your goal with hashtags used to be to reach the top posts section when people search that hashtag. Thing is, no one searches for #armeniancoffeebeans, which is probably the only hashtag you’ve got a decent chance of hitting the top posts on 😉
Ok, some people do — I still see a handful of random likes come in when I’m able to get on the top posts, but a really insignificant amount. Like 10 max on pretty decent sized hashtags like #pacificbeach.
So your new goal with hashtags is to reach the explore page. That’s how you bring in hundreds, if not thousands of new likes and followers from a single post.
To maximize your chance of hitting the explore page using hashtags, listen up…
Introducing the 10/10/10 Hashtag Strategy…
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, so use all 30. Choose:
- 10 Smaller Hashtags (10,000 to 50,000 total posts)
- 10 Mid-size Hashtags (50,000 to 200,000 total posts)
- 10 Large Hashtags (200,000 – 2,000,000 total posts)
Going “viral” is still statistically difficult. But if you use this method with the right content, and get a little lucky, you will be able to “scale up.” You’ll get a handful of likes from being on the top posts of the smaller hashtags, a few more from the mid-size ones, etc. etc. until you have so much engagement that the algorithm decides to try you out on the Explore Page.
When using this strategy, you’ll still need to do good hashtag research. The right hashtags can make or break your virality.
These are the three best ways to research hashtags in 2018:
- Hashtag research tools – we like Display Purposes*
- Find influencers in your niche that have hit the explore page and take inspiration from their hashtags.
- Find one hashtag you like, search for it on Insta, then check out the “related hashtags” underneath.
One of the reasons we recommend Display Purposes is because it excludes banned hashtags from its search results.
Banned hashtags are a relatively new thing on Instagram that you should understand if you’ve made it this far.
Instagram is always fighting “spam” and some of those big hashtags get really “spammy” (filled with porn and violence, mostly). Instagram occasionally “bans” certain hashtags to avoid this.
How did I not know about this? – some guy.
It’s not your fault dude! Instagram doesn’t really talk about this publicly, and it’s really not that big of a deal if you use a banned hashtag.
All it means when a hashtag is banned is that Instagram hides recent posts under that hashtag. It looks like this:
When possible you want to avoid using banned hashtags. Not only will you not get the added reach (since you don’t show up on the hashtag), you also may get penalized by Instagram for using these.*
**this is pretty much impossible to prove, so for now, it’s just speculation. If you think about it though, it’s probably true. Especially if you use the same hashtags over and over again (which signals to Instagram that your account might be totally automated by some developer in Sri Lanka.)
That’s why you should always rotate your hashtags. After you’ve done your research, save a few different lists of 30 hashtags as notes on your phone so you can keep them fresh (and avoid any penalties IG may or may not be dishing out.
One More Thing About Hashtags in 2018…
Instagram just released the ability to follow hashtags so they show up in your feed, and everything you thought you knew about hashtag strategy is about to….well it probably is…maybe…almost definitely…going to change a little bit.
That’s anyone’s guess 🙂
One thing to keep a close eye on is the hashtag recommendations that IG shows you in your own feed. For example, Instagram knows I like wine so they recently recommended that I follow the hashtag #winegasm.
Notice that #winegasm is a relatively small hashtag, with only 25k posts. If Instagram surfaces that recommendation to me, it might surface it to others. I am going to make a note of that and next post of mine that involves wine I’m going to use that hashtag.
Also, keep an eye on the photos that appear in your feed after you’ve followed a hashtag. These photos are highly curated. This is the 1% of the 1%. How do you get your post there?
One thing that I’ve noticed is that the posts from hashtags in my feed all are very geometric. Lots of angled lines, like this:
Have ya’ll noticed anything similar?
Let me know about it in the comments at the end of this article : )
[CONCEPT #3] Consistency is more important than ever, just don’t be too consistent.
I read Instagram news articles like your grandma watches Jeopardy.
EVERY DAMN DAY.
And I’ve heard A LOT about consistency over the past few years. So much that my eyes glaze over every time I hear the word.
On the Jumper blog, I’ve said over and over again how “posting consistently” isn’t enough these days. It’s practically our company’s slogan at this point.
But I think it’s time to revisit the issue of consistency.
Because while it might be obvious that if you want to grow your Instagram you need to “post consistently,” just because it is obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true. BUT WHY?
Again it comes back to the algorithm. We already know that Instagram’s algorithm is designed to get people to use the app, stay a long time, and return to it often.
So if you were Instagram, would you reward users who posted consistently with increased engagement (aka more fun for individual users, and more impressions/brand awareness for business users)?
At Jumper Media, we’ve helped 1500+ SMBs build badass Instagrams that they can be proud of. Along the way, we’ve seen first hand how Instagram rewards consistency like no tomorrow. clients, Instagram rewards consistently like no tomorrow. Accounts that grow the fastest almost always post once a day. If you don’t post for a few days, you’re compromising your account’s potential for organic growth. Sometimes not posting for a few days can even stop growth for weeks, so if there’s one thing to ensure you do to guarantee success with Instagram, it’s to be as consistent as possible.
[CONCEPT #4] Forget about the Best Time to Post on Instagram. In 2018 it Doesn’t Matter…Much
If “post consistently” is the #1 most overused piece of Instagram advice, then “post at the right time” is a close second.
(I’m about to blow off some steam here, so just skip to the next section if your New Year’s’ resolution was “Be Positive”, or if you describe yourself as “spiritual” on Bumble.)
First off, there is no universal best time to post. So anyone that tells you to “post at 6 pm” or any other specific time should be shot.
Second off, Instagram hasn’t had a chronological feed since 2016, so ya’ll should know better!
And timing is less important than ever! A recent IG algorithm change you may or may not have noticed has IG posts a few days old frequently appearing on people’s feeds. It doesn’t matter what hour those were posted; IG shows them to you because they know you’ll engage with them.
Viral content is viral content. And if your shit is the bomb, then it’s gonna get seen no matter what.
Timing still matters a little. It’s just like the 19th most important thing you should be thinking about.
Instagram’s algorithm that determines how engaging a post is, takes time into account. A post that gets 100 likes in the first 10 minutes will have a better shot at trending, the explore page, etc. than a post that gets 100 likes in 2 hours.
So you should still try to post when the maximum number of followers are on the platform. To figure this out, check your analytics (if you have a business page).
More often than not though you’ll find that your followers are on Instagram pretty much all the time, and there’s not that much of a difference between 7 am and 10 pm.
[CONCEPT #5] Why You Must Become a Professor of the Jungle to Create Great, Viral IG Content
The whole IG system is rigged. But you know the game, so play it.
You play by stepping up to the plate again and again and again and taking a huge fucking swing at creating content that gets people to react, to engage, to tag their friend, or save it to a collection.
Write this down and circle it:
Great content makes you feel something.
Ok…so how do you create that kind of content?
When I was writing this article, I got stuck on this section. I spent probably 30 minutes thorough research on what content types get shared and what don’t, which emotions tend to go viral, etc., etc.
And I wrote almost 500 words of awesome, well-written, research-backed WORTHLESS GARBAGE.
And then I erased it all.
Because if you want to create great, viral content, you can’t get academic about it.
You don’t become a great baseball player by reading about it. You become great, by playing the game.
Oh yeah, and you should play to WIN.
So instead of giving you a long list of types of viral content—that would inevitably be fundamentally incomprehensive—I’m going to tell you a story that I love from Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight’s autobiography Shoe Dog:
In 1997 Nike had 4 large factories in Vietnam, and the government honored Knight by hosting him as their special guest.
During the trip, Knight met General Võ Nguyen Giáp, former commander of the Vietnam People’s Army who beat back the Japanese, French, Chinese, and Americans in the Vietnam War and is now considered one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century.
“How did you do it?” Knight asked.
The corners of Giáp’s mouth flicker. A smile? Maybe?
General Giáp thought. And thought. “I was,” he said, “a professor of the jungle.”
In other words, Giáp won because he understood his environment better than anyone else.
Your jungle is Instagram.
If you want to win, if you want to go viral and beat out all the other competition, you need to understand Instagram better than anyone else.
Study the accounts in your niche that are doing well. Spend time on the explore page. Work. Study. Learn. Test. Analyze. Repeat.
Become a professor of the jungle.
DIRT: 5 STRATEGIES, TACTICS, AND HACKS TO GET MORE INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS IN 2018
First clouds, then dirt. Here are the exact strategies and tactics (read, growth hacks) that work for getting more followers and growing your Instagram in 2018.
[GROWTH HACK #1] Tag Hashtags/Locations in Stories and Get Twice the Views
It is still really easy to make it on any given location’s Story in 2018.
Stories let you tag locations and hashtags. Use them!
When you’re tagging locations, you can tag a specific location, like “Mimi’s Tacos” and you will still have a chance at being included in the story of any larger encompassing area location — like “Pacific Beach” or “San Diego”.
Getting featured in a location story will get your Story more views. When I’ve made it on the Pacific Beach story, my Story gets about 100-400 more views. But this rarely translates to followers. Why?
Content. Content. Content.
If you want this growth hack to work well, you’re going to really need to up your story game. Your Story has to be exceptional, surprising, and stand out. Turn that camera around and talk directly into it. Or use your story to tease your latest post, or even giveaway to drive people to your main profile.
[GROWTH HACK #2] Targeted Follow/Unfollow: How to Grow Your Followers Consistently in an Hour per Day
Follow/unfollow is a controversial growth strategy, but you can’t deny it’s effectiveness.
Find large influencers who already in your niche, go into their followers list and follow around 100 of their followers.
Following them sends a notification to their phone. They see it and ask themselves:
Who the f*ck is @gianantoniopepe?
They go to your page. Then they might say:
Oooooh, he’s cute.
Wowwww. I really like his food pictures!
And if you’re lucky, they might follow you back.
The idea is that if they’ve already followed large influencer A (who has similar content to you) they’ll be interested in yours too, and follow you back.
Wait 1 day, then unfollow the 100 people that you followed yesterday, and follow another 100.
If you do this you will consistently get 10-25 new Instagram followers per day!
[GROWTH HACK #3] Powerlikes; or, the Secret Trick to Hacking the Explore Page
While “fake likes” have been around forever in the Instagram growth hacking world, powerlikes are relatively new.
Powerlikes are likes from large, influential accounts (usually with at least 20k followers) in the first few minutes after a post goes live. The idea is to game the algorithm and maximize the posts chance at getting on the explore page, where it will hopefully get more organic engagement.
In CONCEPT #1 we discussed how the Instagram algorithm is partly based on the number of likes, and timeliness (how quickly the post receives the likes). While powerlikes help in this regard, they are no different from fake-likes, which we’ll define as likes that come in automatically from spam accounts that are just designed to look like regular people (and are often foreign).
The difference with powerlikes is that they also affect the relevancy part of IG’s algorithm equation. And this is HUGE for hitting the explore page.
Go to the explore page right now and click on a few photos. These photos are most likely not from accounts you follow, but they are probably about topics that you find interesting.
I get a lot of food & wine pics, and Instagram is almost definitely using advanced AI photo recognition technology that Facebook has developed to categorize these photos and videos.
Now, look at the likes on each photo. When I scrolled my explore page I clicked on 10 photos and 3 of them were liked by someone I was following. Aha!
If you follow someone and they like a photo, the chances of it showing up on your explore page skyrocket.
So by getting likes from accounts with tons of followers, you maximize your chance of hitting the explore page, especially for their most engaged followers.
If you’re using powerlikes or thinking about it one takeaway from this is to make sure you are rotating the accounts you’re getting the powerlikes from every few months. It is likely that your photos show up on Explore for the same people over and over again if the same accounts like your photos every time.
[GROWTH HACK #4] For Engagement Pods, Telegram is the Place to Be
Instagram pods started (for realz) after the dreaded switch to the algorithmic feed in 2016.
Instagram influencers found a sneaky way to hack the algorithm by banding together in “pods” and solemnly swearing to like every single darn photo anyone in the pod posted.
Back then we wrote an article called How to Join Instagram Pods that said that the best way to organize a pod was in an Instagram group direct message.
Boy how things have changed…
Now no one dares to run a pod via DMs. Instagram caught onto that one pretty quick. Facebook groups have also shut down for the same reason.
Now the place to be for IG pods is Telegram, a messenger app that is basically the wild west.
It is popular for a few reasons. Not only are messages encrypted, but also Telegram’s code is open source and the whole thing is very programmable. What that means is that people have found a way to automate certain parts of the actual management of IG pods.
For example, you can join an engagement group on telegram such as InstaGainz Dx10 (the name is fictional). The rules of engagement (you like that pun?!?) are posted as a pinned message at the top:
- Comment + Like on the links in the 10 messages above you.
- All comments must be high quality, related to a caption, and 3+ words.
- Drop a link to your latest IG post as a message
- Wait for the likes/comments to roll in!
Sounds great, right?
Until someone tries to game the system and just posts a link without engaging with the 10 above them.
But on Telegram, these engagement groups have built-in bots that actually check to make sure that every person follows the rules.
And if you don’t follow the rules?
[GROWTH HACK #5] Why Giveaway Loops Are the Only Instagram Contests that Matter in 2018
Loop giveaways? Giveaway loops? However you phrase it, if you’ve spent any time on IG this year stalking your favorite travel/fashion/beauty blogger, chances are you’ve seen these (and maybe even participated in one).
More than just a regular giveaway, giveaway loops are a really great, viral way to partner with other accounts in your niche and get a lot of followers quickly for cheap.
How do they work? Let’s use a real-life example. Take a close look at the caption of this photo announcing @ms.freni’s loop giveaway:
You’ll see that to enter, participants have to do a bunch of stuff, then go to the next influencer and repeat the steps. When they get to the next influencers page they will be asked to go to another influencers page, etc. etc. This could happen 20 or more times!
The beauty of this for influencers is that they can partner with other folks in their niche and attract their followers. Moreover, they can split the actual cost of the prize between all of the giveaway participants.
If you have a small budget to play with and are in a niche that is popular for influencers (think beauty, fashion, puppies, etc.) then you should consider trying a giveaway.
If you do this right you can get thousands (i’m not kidding…thousands!) of followers for pennies on the dollar.