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.
I do have to warn you; when you go directly to the automation part, you are missing some crucial steps.
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.
After you investigated your competitors (or similar accounts), it is good to determine your own goals. What do you want to achieve?
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.
Facebook tip: Growth Hacking Facebook strategies to grow your website
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.
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'.
To make it easy for yourself, you could even write out a schedule if you want.
Friday: Fun picture
(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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can automate anything on Instagram, you can think of:
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.
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 InstaCaptain as it looked easy to use, and it did the automation we wanted it to do (it will cost you $29 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.
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. Make sure you check your setting before starting it as it may get you banned by Instagram.
Growth Hacking: See the Sales Loves Marketing Growth Hacking Suite