There is no denying it, Instagram is one of the top social media platforms you can use to grow your business. Who doesn't love scrolling through fab images and connecting with others?! You know we're obsessed! Of course when there's a platform with potential here come the do.. do.. do.. do.. spam bots and icky tactics!
In today's world, it seems like everyone is looking for a shortcut to success.. We're continually plagued with ads for building a 6-figure business in 3 months, get 10k followers in a month... Follow my step by step guide and you too can work 3 hours a day... do this... do that. It's a lot and it can be totally overwhelming sometimes! What's real? What's fluff? And how the heck can you tell the difference? Well, if there's one thing we've learned throughout all of the social media strategies we've built and executed over the years, it's that there isn't one path to success. What works for one person or account, doesn't always work for another and the truth is growing your social communities is hard freaking work -- just like growing a business! It requires customizing strategies, gauging results and being adaptable! That being said we know that shortcuts like spam tactics almost never pay off in the long-haul. And we get it.. people try these tactics because they're easy and they can see some results from them. I'm here to tell you they aren't the type of results that will have a lasting impact on your biz though and those are the ones you should be after! Yes, it can be a time-consuming process, but when it's done right.. the results will speak for themselves and we happen to know a thing or two about that!
At the end of the day, most people want to grow their social media accounts to increase brand visibility, build valuable connections, and ultimately convert some of those relationships to clients or customers. So how do you get there? Well, part of the answer to that question is what not to do. So today we're going to look at 3 tactics you should kiss goodbye from your strategy and offering some alternatives and best practices along the way.
"Geat Pic", "Nice Pic", "Love this"... you can spot them a mile away. Automated comments. The automated spam that we just can't get away from! You may have caught our post about saying no to automated social media, but we want to reiterate why this is a terrible social media tactic. Working in a crowded industry, your first impression matters. You totally already know this from following all of our branding and website design projects though! 😉 That being said, you've invested time and money into developing your branding to make a powerful first impression on potential clients or customers. So why would you throw your first impression away on social media?! Social media offers so many opportunities to connect with new people and businesses so make your first impression count! You wouldn't want to do business with someone who was constantly sending you spam emails or junk mail so why would you do it on social? Many people will encounter your business for the first time on Instagram so make sure it's for something awesome like great content or having a genuine convo and skip all of the fake comments.
So why do they do it?
In a sea of likes, comments can give your account a little more visibility to the user who posted. For example, our Instagram posts generally receive around 150-200 likes per photo but on the comments end, we usually range between 5-15 genuine comments. That being said, we may miss some of the notifications for likes but will probably see all of the comments if we look at the post. So leaving comments is good right?! Well, when done right! The problem with automated comments is that the attention you will get is not what you're after. It's so easy to spot fake comments.. they're either super simple, have absolutely nothing to do with your post, or even worse are just promoting their accounts. None of which make me excited that you checked out our account. Instead I just already have a bad taste in my mouth and have no interest in connecting with you.
Not only is it a terrible spammy tactic, that won't get you far in the long run, but you're actually putting your account at risk too. By enabling a third party app to write auto comments you're violating Instagram's terms of service which can put your account at risk for being shut down. Not only could you get shut down for violating terms but people can also flag your comments as spam, which also alerts Instagram about your account. While I certainly don't want anyone to have their accounts shut down, I am an avid reporter of spam comments because honestly I just don't want those types of comments on our account. Mallory and I have worked in the social media industry for nearly 8 years and focusing on organic growth and engagement is SO important to us. That being said... just say no to automated comments and if you ignore that advice you may want to steer clear of our account because we will report those comments. #IceColdSocialMediaPros
What you should do instead
We talked about this before, but social media is a process and one that takes time! While some of these tactics may seem to offer that shortcut they won't yield the results you're looking for in the long-run. So here is what you should do instead:
Set aside time each day for thoughtful engagement with accounts that you want to build or maintain relationships with. Think of how you've built friendships or your professional network, those relationships have probably grown by shared interests and continued conversation. Doing so on social media may be less formal but it's the same sort of process. To make a lasting impression treat your social media connections like you would meeting someone new.
Spend time creating genuine comments. It's Instagram after all so you don't have to get too deep, but when we comment we try and write something thoughtful or comment on something specific to the post. It will only take you 2 seconds longer to write something with a little more care and it will definitely show the user you're not a spam bot!
Sigh, we could talk about this one all day. It's one of the most common tactics, but that doesn't mean you should do it. You know those accounts.. you repeatedly see them follow you every week (or day or hour) only to unfollow and re-follow you the next week. We seeeee you and after the 3rd or 4th time the truth is, not only do I not want to follow your account but I start to have an icky vibe every time I see your biz name pop up. Not exactly what you want to happen when people think of you right??
Or, there's the accounts who reallyy like to play what I call "Insta games" and follow you, comment on a few pics and then unfollow you in a week to decrease the number of people they're following. These people make you feel like they might actually be interested in your account, giving you all of those happy feels and then they're banking you won't notice that they unfollow you later. Even worse, we see this one from A LOT of people who are social strategists and even from people we've seen publicly denounce follow/unfollow tactics 😳 Say whattt!! All sorts of yucky vibes.
Now I'm not saying you shouldn't ever unfollow people. Sometimes someone's content won't line-up with what you want to see, maybe someone is clogging your feed, or maybe you've changed the direction of your biz and are looking to connect with another industry. There's a lot of reasons why you may want to unfollow someone and that's totallyyyy fine. When we're talking about follow/unfollow though that's not who we're talking about. We're talking about people who mass follow people to try and boost their numbers only to unfollow them if they don't follow back or even right after you follow them.
So why do they do it?
Well frankly, because people can grow their numbers rapidly with this approach. We've been trained as a society that more followers is better, so people will try whatever tactics that will get them to that next level. The truth is though, while you may increase your vanity numbers this tactic will not produce valuable ROI metrics that will actually help your business. Yeah, maybe you'll have 10k Instagram followers, but how many of those actually care about your business? I'll let you in on a little secret... not many with this tactic. If this is the only way you think you can grow your Instagram account then you either need to rethink your strategy, or find a new social media strategist.
What you should do instead
While growing your followers is definitely one of the top goals on social media, take the time to do it right. And yes, that may take more time but social media should always be focused on quality over quantity. Is it okay to have goals to reach a certain number of followers? Absolutely, there's a big difference between growing you 10k followers organically vs icky tactics like this. Here are some things we suggest:
Take some time to evaluate the content that best resonates with your audience and further develop your content strategy. Great content both on your social media platforms and elsewhere will help you grow your following with people actually interested in your account.
Find hashtags that align best with those you want to connect with and spend time each day engaging with posts and users in those categories. This can be a great way to network with others with similar interests or find new people to follow.
Last but not least, we're talking about re-posting content on Instagram. You may have caught our full post on this before, but it's definitely another tactic we wanted to highlight here. There are many ways that re-posting content can be a valuable strategy -- our favorites being sharing user-generated content and sharing posts from a dedicated hashtag you have created. We consider these both do's of re-posting and both can be very valuable to your brand.
The side of re-posting that we aren't as fond of are the accounts that screenshot your photos and share without either tagging you or asking for permission. We know you've been there too! The tactic is pretty common across the platform. Something about this just feels like people are trying to capitalize off of your hard work and personally, that doesn't really vibe with us. The silly thing is, we (and I'm sure a lot of you) would probably be super flattered if someone told us they liked our image and wanted to share while crediting, but there's something about just taking without asking that makes things a little wishy washy. It's also totally weird when someone actually credits your photo but you find out they don't even follow you.. Sooo you used our photo to promo your product or business... but you don't actually even care about what we're doing. Kind of rando right?? There's a lot of funky things that happen with this tactic, that's for sure.
So why do they do it?
There's a lot of reasons people use this tactic. One, it's easy! Maybe they don't feel like they have the skills or the time to take their own photos. Why take your own when there's already so many fab ones floating around on the platform right? Wrong.. While done properly you can definitely find success with this strategy, we wholeheartedly believe your images should reflect YOU and YOUR business. Remember that branding talk from above? Two, it's free! Not only is this strategy easy, but it's also free. No pesky royalty fees or social media management fees to pay right? Well, there's some issues with that, that we talk about over here, but we can see some people's logic. Three, it looks more professional. This goes back to the first one about lacking some skills, but #realtalk you don't have to have fancy equipment to take authentic photos for Instagram! Your phone's camera can do wonders once you have some ideas of what to capture.
What you should do instead
As with all of our tips from above, this one takes some work. We really believe in that work to hit success thing.. Really though, it doesn't have to be an all-day affair, but you want to develop a social media strategy for your brand that is personal to your biz, authentic, and focused on building organic growth. To do so on the imagery side here are some of our thoughts:
Do a little planning and practice taking Instagram photos of your own. If you check out our blog archive we have a TON of helpful posts on improving your account as well as tips for props, layouts, just to name a few. If you want a little more, we even have a full Instagram guide available through our content upgrades that can help (Stay tuned to the end to get access).
Still having trouble with your Instagram images? Maybe you want to consider in investing in some stock photos that you can customize for your brand. This is a little less personal, but investing in stock photos that you can then mock-up your product on them, or screenshots, can help tie them back to your brand.
You might also want to consider working with a social media professional to help get you on the right foot. There's plenty of people who can help with different components of Instagram. For example, while we also offer full strategy and management, some clients just come to us to take styled images for their social media accounts that they can then post! Sometimes it's best to focus on what you're awesome at and find help for the things that suck up your time and you don't enjoy. If after practicing you can't nail the look you're going for, don't be afraid to look for help.
I hope you've found this post helpful and understand why it's time to shut the door on some of these tactics. Whether you are managing your own social media accounts, or working with a team of professionals, we want you to crush it on Instagram and hope our insight will help lead you in the right direction! If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or shoot us a message!