How to Growth Hack your Instagram account

April 15, 2020

As a personal experiment, I tried to 'growth hack' the Instagram of our German Shepherd Dog and reached 50k followers within six months (https://www.instagram.com/jack.the.german.shepherd/). 

As a Marketer / Entrepreneur, I always try to find ways to achieve more in less time, to do this (in my opinion) you will have to start using tools to do so. 

In this document, I will tell you how I have been able to grow the Instagram account that fast and how you can start doing the same plus more. 

Before running any tools or posting lots of content you will need to do some work before, once you have done this, it should be easy to maintain plus keep growing your account. 

Summary of this blog: 

  • Research & Basics 
  • Posting content
  • Hashtags   
  • Instagram automation

I do have to warn you; when you go directly to the automation part, you are missing some crucial steps. 

Research & Basics 

When you want to grow your Instagram account, it is good to know what the potential will be. Who are large accounts/competitors in your 'field' and what are they doing? Questions you want to get answered. 

  1. What type of content are they posting?
  2. What kind of hashtags are they using (note them)?
  3. How many followers do they have?
  4. Any other things they do which seem to work? 

After you investigated your competitors (or similar accounts), it is good to determine your own goals. What do you want to achieve? 

  1. What will be your end goal? 
  2. What is the potential of the number of followers? 
  3. Are you looking for engagement, amount of followers, sales, or just doing this for fun? 

If you want to become unique and don't focus on any competitors, that is fine. However, the research part is still interesting as you will need it in the next steps. Having a goal to work towards always works stimulating. 

Content

Type of content 

Needless to say, you will need content that people like. The more people who are likely to crave your content, the more followers/likes etc. you can get. With today's technology, you don't need a DSLR anymore; content can be made & edited quickly with only your phone. 

In our case where we put pictures from our dog, we tried to shuffle with the type of photos we posted; Headshots, beautiful nature background, solo action, with other dogs, puppy pictures (throwbacks), close-ups etc. Personally, we also shuffled with DSLR & iPhone images. 

Tip: you can shoot all the content at once, but make sure you shuffle it when you start posting it (see next steps).

Try to create engagement via the picture or text you put at a post. Either ask a question, feedback or spark discussion, for example. To get some insight into the algorithms of social media; the more people who engage with your content in the first hours it goes live, the more people get to see your content in their timeline. 

Consistency in Posting 

Being consistent in posting content is the hardest part; it is where a lot of people fail. To gain more followers, you want to start posting regular content 'out there'. 

Our biggest advice; start scheduling your content via a tool like Hootsuite, if you only have one account it is free. 

To make it easy for yourself, you could even write out a schedule if you want. 

Monday: Headshot
Wednesday: Action
Thursday: Throwback
Friday: Fun picture 
Sunday: Nature

(this is an example; you can post on more or fewer days. It depends on the amount of content you have and the time you want to put it into it). 

Post different content on your social media to more engagement.

The more you define a weekly agenda, the easier it gets to start scheduling your content. If your material isn't time-sensitive, it doesn't matter if it goes live two weeks after it happened. It will take away the urgency for yourself to post things right away, plus it will always make sure you have content to share. 

A Christmas picture in January doesn't make sense. However, you could have the shoot already in early December and plan the images to go live during the holidays. Going this way will save you time during the actual event to enjoy it and don't have to worry about posting anything. 

Hashtags

There are different theories out there on how many # you should use, but they will at least say the same; you need to use them. We used around 5-15 hashtags per post to not spam it with them. When searching for hashtags, you can see exactly how many followers it has. Ideally, you want to add hashtags with a lot of followers and niche ones. Diversity is critical; if you only use the big hashtags, your content could get lost. 

Find similar hashtags to target on Instagram.
  1. Create a list will all the hashtags you would like to use (big/small following) 
  2. Create 5-7 groups of hashtags where you have around 5-10 hashtags per group 
  3. You can have your 'main ones' in every group

Creating some 'groups of hashtags' will save you a lot of time. Once you start scheduling your content, you don't have to search for hashtags as you can just copy/paste a group. You can even connect the groups to a day; this way, it also gets more manageable. Now when you start planning your content, you will have groups of hashtags that you can copy/paste without using the same ones every time. 

Add hashtags at the bottom of your instagram post
Add some seperation lines between your text and hashtags

Instagram Automation

If you didn't know yet, you could automate a lot on your social profiles. Remember that this does not follow the terms & conditions so always use it with caution as it can lead to a block of your account. You should get a warning first though so you can make sure you turn down the volume if needed. 

Before doing any automation on Instagram: 

Make sure your account has 100+ followers and has been active for at least 3-4 weeks. It is easy for Instagram to pick up a new account with a lot of activity. So make sure you have the basics in order before running any automation. 

There are a lot of automation tools online. You will have to keep in mind that once you start doing any automation, you can't use the app that much (or not at all) as you usually did. If you start scheduling your content, run automation & use the app it means you are logging in from three devices and probably three different countries. 

Again; as the automation tool runs all day, you will have to limit or even completely don't access the app on your phone. 

What can you automate on Instagram?

You can automate anything on Instagram, you can think of: 

  • Auto like pictures
  • Auto comment on pictures 
  • Automate direct messaging 
  • Auto-follow/unfollow new accounts 

Choose what you want to automate, we choose only to like & auto follow/unfollow as all the others can look very automated as you will have to write up too generic messages/comments. 

If you google "automate Instagram" you will find a lot of tools which can help you. Before choosing, make sure you know what you want to automate and if you're going to spend any money on it. Liking can be free; all the others will probably cost you around  $10+ per month. 

Keep in mind: The server of the tool. If you can get a service including VPN, that would be best. This way you can have the traffic coming from your own country which can prevent to getting your account flagged. 

How did we run our automation? 

For the automation, we started as an experiment with "Everliker" which is a Chrome plugin where you can automatically like pictures with a specific hashtag. You will have to keep your browser open to run it, it will help you to get the first followers more quickly, plus you can see which pictures it is liking (so you can undo it if needed). 

When we got the first couple of hundred followers, it was time to test how far we could 'Growth Hack' the account. We switched tools; we decided to go for Instazood as it looked easy to use, and it did the automation we wanted it to do (it will cost you $15 monthly). 

No matter for which automation tool you choose, your research will come in handy now as you will start following people which follow a similar account or start liking pictures with a specific hashtag. 

How to run Instagram automation.


Try out different accounts/hashtags to target and keep track of the conversion per account/hashtag. It will give you insights into the highest potential. Run every hashtag/account at least for a week as not everyone will convert (follow you back) within a day. Remember, this will be a long term game, so make data-driven decisions. 

Track conversion on you instagram automation.
See exactly which hashtag or account has the best conversion

Advice on Growth Hacking your Instagram Account

  • Check out how many accounts the automation is skipping. If it gets too high start thinking of changing the settings or stop targeting that account/hashtag. 
  • Use a tool which offers a VPN. This way it looks like the 'activity' is coming from your country. 
  • Don't use the Instagram app while using the automation software. Avoid having your account blocked. 
  • Set up a max amount of people you want to follow. People won't follow an account which is following a lot more people than it has on followers. At the beginning, there is no other way, but after 1month you can probably put a threshold which is lower than your followers. 
  • Never buy followers. 
  • Post at different times of the day to find your sweetspot.
  • Try out various posts; video, photo (and multiple images /video's) 
  • Create Engagement! The more people who respond, the more it can go viral 
  • Ask for "shoutouts" on popular pages and also make sure they name / credit you 
  • If you want to get free stuff, message the account yourself, and it can happen 

Summary of getting more followers on Instagram: 

  • Research competitors & hashtags
  • Create quality content 
  • Schedule your content 
  • Write up hashtags  
  • Automate Instagram actions 

See all growth Hacking tools for B2B purposes here.