Updated: Jun 17
This is the first of our Instagram growth posts looking at adding followers / fans and growing your Instagram account by directly interacting with other Instagram followers.
ADDING FOLLOWERS ACTIVELY
ADDRESSING HANG UPS
For whatever reason, it’s easy to feel as though being direct with strangers on social media is rude or intrusive, that’s something we need to get over if we want a shot at controllable growth on these platforms.
I recommend looking at direct interaction over the social media platforms as leafleting or canvassing updated for new technology. If people don’t want to interact with you they can throw away a flyer or shut the door in your face. This is just the same with social media. If people aren’t interested, they can ignore that notification, they can leave that message in their message requests, they can even block you. You’re not forcing anything on anyone.
Consider any kind of notification you can give someone to be a ‘nudge’.
We’re hacking human curiosity here. Picture yourself as a non-public figure on instagram. The only people who follow you are people you know in real life, long lost relatives, your weird uncle, whatever. Most of the people you follow are either people you know IRL, or celebrities. Instagram looks like that for a lot of people. Now imagine you get a follow or comment from a total stranger. Your two reactions are going to be a nice little dopamine kick, from that follower count going up, and curiosity! You’re going to tap through onto their account to see who they are! This is why giving people notifications in a ‘nudge’ - it’s a little tap in your direction. There’s absolutely nothing forcing them to check you out, but you can totally count on most of them checking.
The final part of the theory is that once you have someone on your account, you have as good an opportunity to turn them into a follower or fan as you will ever have. That’s where indirect / passive growth comes in, but we’ll get onto that a little later.
Identify artists / influencers who’s audience you’d like to tap into Keep an eye out for bigger instagram accounts who’s audience you feel, for whatever reason, could be converted into your audience. I say, ‘for whatever reason’, because trial and error seems to show that you don’t necessarily have to look like, sound like, or even belong to the same category or field as the people who’s audiences you are poaching. Inside music, an example might be the tendency of Billie Eilish fans to also like The 1975, and vice versa, despite having little stylistically in common. Outside music, I can imagine fans of UFC’s Conor McGregor being easily converted into followers of a rapper. These connections aren’t easily explicable, but you can develop a feel for them. When in doubt, though, look-alike / sound-alike artists are probably a good place to start.
Sift through the audience for individuals who are useful to you Why do you want followers in the first place? Are you playing a gig in Manchester that you’d like to sell out? Do you have new merchandise available that you’d like to find buyers for? Whatever it is, there’s probably a way to subdivide the audience to find specifically the people you’re looking for. In the first instance, scroll down your chosen influencers page until you find a ‘UK Tour’ post, or a ‘last night’s show in Manchester!’ post. Open up those comments and scroll through, My bet is there’s people in there chatting about how they can’t wait to go to the Manchester show, how the Manchester show was great, how they “wish the tour was coming to Manchester!”. In the second instance, scroll through their page until you find a post about merchandise and scroll through the comments until you find someone asking where they can get that hoodie / when there’ll be more of the wristbands available etc. Look at that! We’ve found ourselves a market! You’ll need to use your brain a little here, since there’s too many reasons you might want followers for me to list every example, but whatever you’re looking to gain - those people are there for the taking in instagram comment sections.
Give them a ‘nudge’ There’s definitely a hierarchy of nudges. People are more likely to notice you if you reply to their comment than if you like it, better to like one of their posts than reply to a comment, better to comment on a post than like it, better if you send them a DM than a comment, but the kill-shot here is a follow. You’ll get more ROI from following people than anything else. My experimentation suggests that somewhere in the region of 20% to 60% of people you follow will follow you back eventually, with the variation - it seems - accounted for by how well you chose your artists / influencers in Step 1, and by how good your content is - more of that later. Regardless of how you choose to do it, the next step is dead simple, take the people you separated out in Step 2 and give them a nudge. Send a notification of some kind their way and then go on with your day and wait for them to pick up their phone, be overwhelmed with curiosity, and end up on your page. Here, as I mentioned, whether they're following you, or not, will depend on whether you picked your audience well and whether your content is any good. An important note on this step is that instagram doesn’t like it at all, and as such there are limits in place on how many and how often you can have interactions of this kind with accounts you’re not already associated with. Crossing these limits can get you temporarily blocked from performing that action, permanently banned from performing that action, or just banned, full stop. These limits are very wavy around the edges and depend on all sorts of things like the age of your account, how many followers you have, and whether the instagram algorithm is in a good mood today. A rule of thumb seems to be that you can follow about 20 people an hour without consequences. As a bonus, if you’re not narrowing down your search already, it’s better to nudge people who like/comment on posts rather than just following from an artist’s “followers” list, because these people are more likely to like/comment on your own posts, should they follow you, which will give your content more weight in the instagram algorithm.
Make room for more If you have (wisely!) chosen following as your choice of ‘nudge’, you run up into two more limits - one definite and one psychological. You can only follow 7500 people at a time on instagram, and the ratio of followers:following on an account seems to have an effect on how willing new people are to follow you, i.e people are more willing to follow an account with 1000 followers that is following nobody vs an account with 5000 followers that is following 5000 people. The good news is that the effect seems to be pretty minimal and most people won’t blink at following you anyway, from experience. In any case, the solution is that you should unfollow people in exactly the same manner as you follow them, something like 20 an hour to avoid consequences. I recommend leaving a week or so head start, after starting to routinely follow people, before you begin unfollowing them, as some people use social media less frequently than others and you want to give them a chance to follow you back if they are interested. Bearing this in mind, the best way to unfollow people is to go to your own ‘following’ list, found on your profile, select “sort by Date Followed: Earliest” from the drop down menu, and then scroll down through the list. As you scroll, tap every name to reach their profile, tap their own ‘following’ list to check if you are there (your name will always be at the top if they are following you), then tap the back button twice to get back to your own list and unfollow them if they are not following you, move on if not. Eventually, you will reach a point where you are following 7500 people, all of whom are following you back, which obviously causes this practice to break down. My proposed solution is to keep track, over a week or so, of the accounts that tend to like/comment on your posts, DM you, or react to your stories. These are the MVPs, because they are the people likely to attend shows, buy merch, stream your music, and continue engaging with you - thereby increasing your gravity in the algorithm. You should write a whitelist of these accounts, and then continue to repeat step 4, with the updated rule that it is people you can’t see on your whitelist, and not people who haven’t followed you, who you will be unfollowing.
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