Without followers, you are nothing – at least on social media. The main idea of social networks is connecting people and sharing experiences with your friends and followers. So naturally, users of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the like strive for networking with people, sharing content with others and building follower bases. Because honestly: There is no satisfaction in posting content and not getting any reaction!
For influencers, followers, comments, and likes are the air they breathe. In the end, they are paid by these numbers, so a substantial following is more than nice to have for them: It is their daily bread. For businesses, social media provides a valuable way to express a brand’s identity, recruit future employees and also create awareness of a brand and its products.
But here is the catch: Followers hardly come easy. When you already are a big deal on Instagram, followers will pile up, but until then it takes hard work and dedication and can be frustrating to create high-quality content for only a handful of followers. No wonder fake it till you make it seems to be the mantra of the social media universe nowadays. You could buy followers, of course, but these are mainly fake accounts and you will not want to assemble a followership consisting of bots only.
Do not despair, though: There are other options for creating the illusion of a desirable account. Likes, for instance, can be bought within seconds and robots take the work of liking and following whenever you want it.
With all these features, it must be dead easy to become famous on Instagram, right? To answer this question first-hand, we started Operation Instafamous: From 0 to 10k followers in 4 weeks. Is it possible to reach 10,000 followers within four weeks without purchasing followers?
Old accounts work best for this experiment. Instagram fights scam on the platform more tenaciously these days, so using older accounts helped keeping us under the radar. If you already have an account for a year or longer, go ahead and use it. Otherwise, we suggest investing in an account: We bought three old accounts from Russia with zero followers each for just a few dollars. A quick Google search will list various websites for the purpose of purchasing accounts.
Buying three accounts enabled us to go for three different content strategies: German cities, artistic make-up and avocados. With these, we covered three different niches on Instagram in the hope of attracting interested followers without simply being “just another beauty channel”. And avocados are trending on Instagram right now so we thought we could not go wrong with that topic. Spoiler alert: We were right!
A few days into Operation Instafamous, each account had assembled around 70 followers. So far away from our goal of 10,000 followers, it was about time to get us some help and accelerate the growth!
Instagress is one of the biggest players regarding automated following, so this was our go-to. As an Instagram automation tool, it mimics users’ natural behaviour. After adjusting the kind of accounts you want the tool to focus on (location, hashtags), it follows just these accounts – and as expected, the channels returned the favour ever so often.
After a predetermined time, the bot unfollows anyone that did not follow back. For only 10$, Instagress does the work for you that would take forever to do manually – a pretty good deal!
Instagress was recently forced to shut down its service by request of Instagram. After the Insta Purge last year, this action seems to be another attempt of the social network to proceed against fraud, fake accounts and scam on the platform.
To schedule our posts and repost other users’ pictures, we used the tool Later. All we had to do is like pictures and they appeared in our media library.
The Downside: What Did Not Work
Two things that did not work well: Instagress and Later. Wait, what? If so many people rely on these tools, they have to be useful, right?
Later is clearly valuable for managing and keeping track of numerous accounts at the same time. For our three accounts and a total of eight pictures each day, it was completely unnecessary. Reposts can be just as easily done by taking a screenshot of a post, cropping the picture and reposting it to your own channel. Save yourself the 30 bucks and spent it elsewhere (on likes and comments, if needs must).
Instagress only works well under certain conditions and only for certain accounts. The tool would only like, follow and comment on pictures that use our previously selected hashtags. The tricky part was: Not only city pictures are tagged with, for example, #Berlin, but also pictures of people in gyms, wannabe models and store advertisements who clearly had no interest in our city pictures and did not follow back. The tool did what we told it to, but in the end, it is just a bot and is not able to focus exactly on those accounts that would potentially be interested in our content.
Do not get us wrong, we still gained a good 15 to 20 followers a day, but this bore no relation to our goal of 10,000 followers!
One other thing: Engagement groups. These are online communication groups in which users like and comment on other users’ posts while these return the favour. With so many people talking about it, it had to be useful, right? It is not. You eventually have a bunch of comments and likes for your pictures, but none of these resulted in more followers or got us on Instagram’s explore page.
So for all the work you put in by commenting on other users’ posts and liking pictures, the outcome was mediocre at best.
The Upside: What Worked Well
So if those tools did not work, what did? Surprisingly, a strategy that required only very little effort and that we applied to the avocado-themed channel only worked wonders!
During our research, we came across a quote by Neil Patel. He claims that per 100 likes you give, you will receive six followers in return. No sooner said than done! We liked 100 pictures tagged with #avocado and gained four to seven followers for each like. Considered that it just takes around two minutes of your time to like 100 images manually, that is a fantastic result!
In this regard, we noticed that it is necessary to know your target group.
Target Group Demographics of avocadose_
It is pretty useless to like users’ content at night time since they will not see the likes before morning time and your likes might get lost in the shuffle. Thus, knowing where your potential followers are located and in which time zone they live is key. Having that in mind, we found out that early afternoon offered the best time for our “like rounds”. During other times of the day and at night it can be useful to use Instagress as support. You will not gain as many followers as you did during the afternoon with the manual like-strategy, but even 10 or 15 new followers are a nice addition. By combining our manual likes during the day and Instagress at night time, we managed to add 60 to 100 people to our follower base on a daily basis.
In the end, we did not reach our goal of 10,000 followers. The avocado-themed channel was able to assemble more than 1,200 followers, though, which is a good start.
Our main takeaways:
- Go for a trending topic like avocados. The hashtag #avocados shows you actual pictures of the fruit and is very unambiguous. Choose topics and hashtags that are unique in their meaning, like nails, cars or fruitbowl. They are foolproof and using these makes it easy for you to attract followers even without spending a single dollar on tools.
- Tools do not replace manual work. Sure, you can tell Instagress to like pictures with certain hashtags, but there is no guarantee that you reach exactly those users you want when using a bot. Our manual likes worked way better since we were able to like exactly those posts created by our actual target group.
- Followers attract other followers. We saw that with a growing followership, new followers started to come more quickly. So in fact, putting in some work at the beginning can be beneficial regarding growth.
Why did we not achieve a higher value than the 1,211 followers of our avocados-themed channel? Well, because we tried out every technique possible to not only amass a lot of people but also to document the mistakes we did. Do we think that we could reach 10,000 if we started all over again, using only the working methods this time? Definitely!
Instagram explicitly forbids the participation in like, share and follower exchange programs and requests users to only post comments tailored for the person. We are aware of Instagram’s legal terms and do not encourage any Instagram user to infringe these terms as this might result in getting banned from the platform. We will use our accounts solely for the purpose of the ‘Operation Instafamous’ blogposts and do not intend to use the assembled followers for commercial reasons.