Instagram | Is it all a game?

Instagram has over 600 million active users! WOW! I remember when the platform first launched, it was oh so simple. You posted a photo, maybe added a filter and that was it. I am not even sure if hashtags existed? But times have changed and now that influencers can make serious money from Instagram, it seems like a lot of bloggers are very focused on Instagram growth at the moment. This isn't a bad thing of course but I just wanted to share a few of my experiences.

As a blogger, it is SO easy to get sucked into the Instagram vortex. You see other bloggers increasing their followers at a higher rate than you are, you watch others with a similar following to yourself gain thousands of likes on every single photo where as you struggle to get past 40 likes. You see perfectly styled images that look like they belong in a glossy magazine and wonder how your iPhone photos will compare. You do worry that you'll get left behind and force yourself to try harder.  I have been there myself.

6 points to remember about other Instagram accounts:

1 - Instagram is just a tiny part of blogging. It doesn't have to be your niche. You may enjoy Facebook or Twitter more. If so, focus on that instead. Blogging is supposed to be fun remember.

2 - Some bloggers earn money through Instagram and it is therefore in their interests to spend a lot of time and some money investing in their feed. If you don't wish to monetise, there really is no point in comparing yourself to those who do. You have different goals.

3 - Using tools such as FollowCheck you can check for fake/spam/bought followers on any Instagram account and realise that actually, some of the 'big' Instagrammers, don't actually have many real followers after all.

4 - Social Blade is also a fantastic tool and spots patterns in any Instagram user's habits. So for example if a user normally loses 20 Instagram followers per day but then every 3rd day increases their following by exactly 150 followers and it is the same number every single time, you can be confident that they are buying their followers. Again, this is their choice but it's important to remember NOT to compare yourself to users who do this.

5 - Social Blade will also show you who is using Follow/Unfollow as it's easy to spot this behaviour in their stats. There's nothing wrong with using Follow/Unfollow but it's not for everyone (it's definitely not for me) but once you spot someone doing this, it is easier to get your head around it and not compare yourself and instead focus on your own goals.

6 - A quick google will show you that it's easy to buy likes for photographs too. If a blogger/influencer looks like they have an unnatural amount of likes, just click on their likes and scroll through. Once you get past the first 100 or so likes, if most of the likes are from eggs, accounts with random made up names or inactive accounts, you can bet that they are fake.

It's not against the law to use any of the techniques above, and those who do are probably very driven and really see Instagram as a platform to earn money. What I'm trying to say though, it that it's important not to compare yourself to people who use these techniques if it's a road you don't want to go down. It's better to let it go and focus on your own growth and account instead.

North East Family Fun's Instagram Feed

Techniques for Instagram growth that have not worked for me: 

1 - Follow for Follow

I have joined Instagram follow for follow threads in the past. They are good as you get an influx of followers, however my accounts mostly feature photographs based around the North East and I found that most bloggers who use follow for follow don't interact and engagement is what you should be looking for. Therefore this technique does not work for me.

2 - Instagram Instants

There are various groups where 'instant' threads take place at the same time every day. The idea is, everyone posts a photograph at say 8pm and then posts their link on the thread. Everyone in the thread then has to like your photo. This technique definitely does work (with 40 people taking part, a photograph would almost always receive over 100 likes) and it's slightly addictive. I ended up stopping though as I realised I didn't want to post a photograph unless it was part of an instants thread as it would receive a lot less likes than other photos. I had become reliant on these threads and I didn't like it so stopped.

3 - Instagram Comment Pods

Comment Pods are set up in the messenger part of the Instagram app. 12 like-minded people who share similar photos join forces and every time they post a photograph they share it to the group. Everyone in the group must then like and comment on the photograph. Again this works (although not as well as an instant) but for me it sucked all of the life out of Instagram and Instagram ended up feeling like a chore. I dreaded being forced to like and comment on photographs and it was something that was added to my daily to-do list that I ended up resenting. These pods are nice for creating a small community and will definitely work for some people, just not me.

4 - Automation

Programmes like Archie (sign up here for a free trial) can automate likes, comments and followers. I tried this for a while and loved it. During the trial I received over 100 new genuine followers through setting up automated liking when users posted various North East hashtags. However it is expensive (29 USD) and for me, I can't justify the cost. Instaplus is another tool that can automate likes, comments and follows but again, it costs money and as I don't wish to monetise my Instagram, I think my cash is better off spent elsewhere. I would never recommend automating comments - you can spot them a mile off!

North East Family Fun's Instagram Feed

What Has Worked for Me? 

It sounds boring but if you'd like your Instagram to grow, you need to put time and effort into engaging. Regularly like & comment on accounts and photographs that you're interested in and that you feel would be interested in your account and the rest will come. It takes time but it does work.

It's All About the Hashtag

Another way to get discovered on Instagram is to aim to get into their 'top 9' photographs for certain hashtags. My account has 4500 followers and I look to use niche hashtags with around 70,000 or less users (if you type a hashtag into Instagram, it will tell you how many users the hashtag has). Using hashtags that have millions of followers are pointless in my opinion as they are never going to make it into the top 9 or even most recent photographs when other users search the hashtag as so many users are using it at the same time - so what's the point in adding a hashtag like this if it's not going to lead to users finding your photograph? The only thing it results in is spam bots or followers using automated comments leaving a fake comment.

You can use up to 30 Instagram hashtags and it's important to use all 30. Imagine you made it into the top 9 photographs for every single hashtag you use - that's a lot of ways people can discover you. If you are serious about growing Instagram, look at every single hashtag as a way for another user to find your photograph and don't waste the opportunity!

I will be honest and say I am often lazy and don't follow this advice myself, but when I do put the effort in and research and use all 30 niche hashtags with around 70,000 users or less, I always achieve over 100 organic likes on my photograph. It is worth the effort.

Select a Niche and Stick to it

If you post a wide range of photographs from what you had for dinner to 3 photographs of your cat followed by a selfie on a night out and then a close-up of a flower, other users aren't going to know what your account is all about and don't have a reason to follow. If you have a clear theme and explain in your bio what your accounts about, other users are far more likely to understand and stick around.

Rafflecopter giveaways

My accounts mainly post photographs from around the North East - I actively look for followers who are in the North East. If I'm running a blog giveaway with a local prize (eg local theatre tickets or a meal at a local restaurant), I want these people to follow me on Instagram too as they are my ideal follower. I therefore always include an option to 'follow me on Instagram' as part of my rafflecopter giveaway (see here for how to create a clickable link).

Phew! This was a bit of a ramble. Let me know what has worked for you and remember, if you aren't interested in monetising your Instagram, it's time to stop worrying about what others are up to and just concentrate on posting photographs you love and would like to share. It's time to bring the fun back to Instagram! 

If you are interested, you can follow North East Family Fun | Travel 

Pin Me For Later


  1. I agree with all of this! There is so much pressure to do the instants, follow/unfollow, etc and the money you can make is big. But it does feel like cheating to me and I'm not sure it's a sustainable plan for growth. My Instagram is like you see a mix of a lot of things but I my blog is me so I'm not sure how to approach that issue! I would also add good quality photographs - another area I need to improve in!

    1. I think your Instagram has a really clear theme. It's almost all motherhood I would say. Yes - agree with good quality photographs but they really don't need to be over-styled. There is far too much pressure on people isn't there.

  2. excellent post, I had no idea you could buy likes on photos and hadn't heard of most of the tools. Thanks Sam

  3. Brilliant post! The danger with buying followers and likes when you are trying to monetise it is of course the legality of it. It is pretty much the same as putting some fake qualifications on your CV so I am astounded "serious" bloggers do it... have noticed several people doing it recently :(

  4. Great post Samantha and agree with the points you have made. I've recently lost faith in instagram after they placed a'shadow ban' on me whereby my hashtags wouldn't work. I joined the dots and googled about this and it is likely someone reported my account for no reason. It lasted a week but now happens on the odd post. My reach for my blog is much better through facebook although I do like instagram for browsing other acccounts.

  5. Yes yes yes!
    Things I have stressed about...
    It can be so fake, how do people not see that!
    Things that annoy me
    An obviously paid for campaign with no declaration to the thousands following
    Bought likes
    Bought followers
    Follow unfollow

    I'm back to my roots instagram is for me not business so I'm going to keep just enjoying it and try not to get annoyed ha ha

  6. Great post, I really struggle with Instagram but I admit I don't steer it in any particular direction or put all that much effort in. I definitely have been guilty of comparing myself to others which can be really demoralising!

  7. Our instagram is very random, but I've started to enjoy it more and think about the photo/captions/hashtags. I haven't got time for follow/unfollow. It seems to be quite dark though and I've read that people like blue we need to get outdoors more!!

  8. Thanks for the tips on the hashtag! Will have to give that one a go.

    Rachael xox

  9. I mainly would like Insta to be a source of traffic to my blog, but I also use it for photo ideas too. Some really good tips in here that I didn't know about, so I enjoyed the read! :)

  10. It may not be against the law to use any of the techniques above that you have described. And as you say those who do are probably very driven and really see Instagram as a platform to earn money. However should also be very concerned about their reputation. As a PR professional I know this is so important to the future success of any business and buying likes etc. will not get it back once its gone :)

  11. Wow Samantha, love this post! so much useful information espaecially about niche hashtags and what worked/didn't work for you and why :)

  12. Really interesting post Sam, I've been concentrating a lot more on my @katiejaneonline account and you can get slightly wrapped up in the whole 'Game' thing.

  13. This has helped. I feel my instagram is just a load of images. Nothing stands out. But I’ve had this for a number of years now. I jave only recently changed name to go with my blog rather than starting a new. My goal this year is to grow my social media so thank you for the help


Post a Comment