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So, if you hop back over to my other post about Instagram here, you’ll get more of a backstory as to why I even started this hot mess to begin with! I was deflated at the end of that post and ready to give up on Instagram all together. So I decided to start something a little different: My Instagram Experiment.
Where To Start?
It really all goes back to something Hunter said. He uses Instagram for workout tips and keeping in touch with old friends. He doesn’t post much, but he spends a lot of time on his feed and the explore page. One day, he asked ‘Is there a way for you to find these friends without posting the loop pictures? They’re annoying.’ That was enough to get my wheels turning. So I made a list of what my ideal group would do
- I wanted whatever I started to be genuine. Some pages I found through looping were so welcoming, kind and inviting…. others only cared if you followed them back.
- There had to be a way for us all to connect ‘behind the scenes’. A type of invisible loop that followers wouldn’t be able to see.
- I somehow wanted to find a way to trick spammers and junk account from figuring us out and taking advantage of us.
- The rules had to be laid back for this to work. Looping was stressful. Some loop admins would block you if a post wasn’t up or down at a certain time and they made you comment emojis on every loop picture. I didn’t want to break any rules or upset any admins, but some of them were just too much!
So, I basically had my rules set, but how do I gather people in a new way?
Hashtag Growth Group
Full disclosure: I beat myself up about the name. I wanted it to explain what we did without using the words loop, engagement, followers…. So… it became the Hashtag Growth Group.
Here’s how it basically works…..
- In the caption of any of your photos, use the hashtag that we use to group our photos together. (Join the group to see the current hashtag). The hashtag actually changes with the date, so it’s different daily, but easy to remember!
- After posting, click the hashtag to see all other photos with the same hashtag.
- Follow any accounts that inspire you, comment meaningful things on any photos that peak your interest, like any photos you enjoy but might not have a comment for.
- Don’t be a jerk.
That’s it! See? I said simple. But let’s take a quick look at why this idea should work…
Why The Hashtag?
I decided on the idea of creating a group that utilizes hashtags to find each other. While we are using the hashtags to find each other like you would in a loop, it appears as a totally different interaction to the algorithm. With looping, you have a hundred+ people going to the same hashtag, quickly following, liking, commenting. And with most, typical loops, you never hear from those accounts again and they don’t like any of your other posts.
I recently found out that there are certain hashtags that are banned. Instagram banned the hashtag #Kansas once because so many people had been reported as spam that were using that hashtag! If you use a hashtag that they consider ‘junk’, your post won’t show up under any of the hashtags you used on that post! How crazy is that? All of the time spent choosing hashtags is WASTED if you chose the wrong ones!
With our hashtag method, traffic around the hashtag is slower. We use it like most accounts casually use hashtags so it’s more organic and continual. Because they post throughout the day and interact sporadically, it’s just different. Think about how you interacted with hashtags before your focus was using them for networking- you used hashtags to find people similar to you with common interests.
Anything you’ll read online about growing a blog, Instagram page or Pinterest will say the same thing: content is king. I wanted this experiment to revolve around content. This is ultimately what decides if someone will organically decide to follow you. We might as well be the way we interact with each other!
It’s so important to have super engaging, relevant content that makes people want to interact with your page! I tried to break it down from a regular Instagram user’s point of view: if I was on the explore page looking for new content, would I click on this post if I couldn’t see the caption? For most of my older posts, the answer is ‘NO!‘.
The same rule about content also goes for the caption. Do you ask them to engage with you? Does the caption further explain the photo? Do you direct them to your site or tease them about an upcoming post? Captions are difficult because it has to be more than ‘My love’…. but can’t be a novel with 30 hashtags.
Looping is a great way to get grow your followers number fast! But, it doesn’t necessarily mean any of those followers will actually be interested in your content. Your loop friends probably wont ever actually visit your page. They look for the loop posts to like and comment on, then they’re ghosts. The followers that look for your content will be the ones clicking your links and buying your products. You need so much meaningful content on your page and in their feed to make an impression.
My other reason for using unique content is actually sorta selfish. I wanted to see the actual content that my friends are posting! Before, I was vaguely familiar with certain usernames that I had seen a few times… but I couldn’t tell you what their page was all about. Honestly, I didn’t know much more about them than their username and sometimes their profile picture. It may be selfish, but so far it seems to work- we’ve gotten to know each other on such a deeper level!
I made the Telegram group just as a place to post the rules, but the Telegram really wasn’t a necessity. I didn’t need to share post times or updated rules. Basically, once you read the rules and start to use it… you’re kinda on autopilot. Let me say it again…. simple.
So, why the Telegram group?
Social media is confusing and overwhelming. Honestly, somewhat terrifying when you’re new and feel alone. I wanted a place to share what I knew and to learn from others. It’s all one massive life lesson. Why not share failures and successes? You can save someone from a mistake you made and you can learn from their mistakes as well! There’s more than enough room at the top- you aren’t hurting yourself by helping others.
The chat took off like a rocket! Because of the people I chose to add, they all graciously reached out and shared tips and love. Unfortunately, I had a few people tell me that they would have to leave the group. They like the idea of the hashtag and engagement but the chat on Telegram was just too much. Keeping up and read everything in the chat is a lot. They felt like if they couldn’t participate with the chat, they couldn’t join the hashtag.
That broke my heart. They were genuinely interested in sharing the love but the chat wasn’t for them. I decided to reach for my favorite word again: simple. Instead of communicating with my new hashtag family through Telegram, I have decided to let them know of any updates on the Hashtag Growth Group page. Once they know the rules, they don’t even have to keep the Telegram- just keep following the Hashtag Growth Group page!
Side note, squirrel moment, mushy moment….. thank you to all the people participating right now! I have learned so much and felt so supported since starting this group. Stellar group of people- I wouldn’t be able to do this without ya’ll! I’ve truly come to love and appreciate every single one of you!
Also, a big shout out to the girls over at Find Your Tribe! They are the inspiration behind this entire experiment. They have a Queens chat that was 100% support, love, laughs, tips… it’s a true family. That love is what inspired me to create this whole concept. Also, their loops are different from the other loops I joined. They actually engage with each other after finding new pages through a loop. Amazing group! Love you, Queens!
There are lots of ‘engagement groups’ out there right now, so I hate using that word. I joined a few of them but really struggled to keep up. To post your own photo to get likes and comments, you had to like and comment on ALL the photos for a certain time period before your post.
The engagement from loops and engagement groups is just so fake and plastic. I will admit I even found myself commenting ‘Nice’ or ‘Pretty’ on some posts because I had no clue what to say, but I had to comment. But let’s be honest… what did that meaningless comment do for either of our pages? JACK!
I wanted people to actually comment on each other’s photos if they could relate or appreciated the photo or caption. I wanted things to be simple enough that if you couldn’t find anything to say, you didn’t have to comment ‘nice’. You could like it or just move along. It was only fair to both people in the interaction to just drop the bullshit.
Also, did you know that Instagram puts a limit on your activity for the first 3 months your account is open? Basically, they see it as: ‘this account is brand new, they shouldn’t like more than x pictures a day or follow more than x amount of people in x amount of time’. All of the articles I’ve read were a bit different as far as actual numbers you’re allowed, but they all agree that Instagram has it’s eyes on you when you’re following 60 people in 5 minutes, liking all 60 loop photos AND commenting a kissy face. They know that’s not a real interaction.
Super Committed or Not?
The person commenting gains more than the person being commented on- by far! TBy commenting on a photo, you are humanizing your page. People are seeing you as funny, caring, smart or one of the many other things you are in real life!
Pages that post ‘nice’ on a wedding picture just seem like robots! Again, going back to being a casual Instagram user, will you feel compelled to go to someone’s page if they comment that? I’m gonna guess NO!
I truly believe in only engaging on posts that speak to you. If you’re all about crocheting and you see a photo of a baby blanket that someone crocheted, you will naturally have more meaningful, relevant things to comment on that photo. People who see the photo will see your comment and maybe hop over to your page…. because they feel like they get to know you a little bit!
The accounts who are most active will also be rewarded the most. Rather than being upset if everyone isn’t reciprocating Remember that the comment you left is a seed and not a favor to be repaid. Your commitment to engaging and being genuine will be paid back. You may be paid back with a new follower or customer from their page that saw your comment!
If you’re not really sure what to comment on a picture…. just like it! That’s still engaging with their content… but not leaving some meaningless, junky comment that doesn’t mean anything! How many times have you found yourself commenting on a photo because of the other comments? I do! Sometimes people get a whole chat going in their photos and it’s fun!
Different Is Scary
I definitely understand that this concept is making some of ya’ll scream ‘oh hell no!’. It’s different, so it’s spooky. It isn’t the instant gratification like the 200 followers a day from looping. We humans tend to crave that immediate ‘success’. Because your brain just wants tons of followers, likes and comments. It’s only natural! We all feel that way!
If you’re not convinced that this will work, I understand your doubt! Try it along side with your current growth plan. Don’t add the hashtag to the actual loop post, but keep looping and use the hashtag on your own content. Get a feel for the interaction and concept. Not for you? Just don’t use the hashtag!
Also, just a reminder that I’m not saying loops wont work for you. They didn’t work for me as a long-term growth plan. I ended up deleting my account all together, but on my old account, loops got me 3,000 followers and I made a lot of friends.
So… do yourself a favor. Take a step back and look at your page from an outsider’s point of view… would you organically choose to follow you?
PLEASE comment with your feedback and ideas. I’d really love to hear your thoughts!
Since posting this, I have been attacked multiple times for speaking out about loops. I have been threatened by some sketchy loop admins to shut my page down or they’ll ‘shut it down for me’. Obviously, I’m striking some nerves. Some of them said ‘there’s no such thing as a ban‘…..’hashtags aren’t regulated’….’Instagram doesn’t mark loop activity as spam‘. They said my theory behind starting this is based on lies I’m spouting to scare people.
Okay… then fine- please don’t believe me. Go research this theory for yourself. The last thing I want is someone to follow my ideas blindly- because that’s what I did with loops. So… be responsible and research what you read. Don’t believe me or them. It’s your account- I don’t want you to put it in my hands out of blind faith. But when you do your research, we’ll be here for ya!