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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 feeling a bit deflated at the end of that post… 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? It’s distracting.’ 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 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 from figuring us out and taking advantage of us.
- The rules had to be laid back. It stressed me if I joined a loop that would block you if a post wasn’t up or down at a certain time or if it had a ton of rules. I didn’t want to break any rules or upset any admins.
So…that’s about all I had. 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 works:
I created a private Telegram group. I pinned the rules and a short blurb about what I was trying to create.
- 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. These almost robotic interactions can easily be targeted as ‘spam’.
Also, I recently found out that there are certain hashtags that are banned! They 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? I think about how long I take to choose all of my hashtags- all of that time is WASTED if you chose the wrong ones!
With our hashtag method, traffic around the hashtag is slower, more organic and continual. Because they post throughout the day and interact sporadically, Instagram should consider the traffic to this hashtag as organic. 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.
The purpose for the date in the hashtag is two-fold. First, this will make it harder for spammers to figure out. It may hinder our group’s growth for a bit because we’re not having enough posts to make the hashtag go viral or anything… but we all agreed we’d rather grow slowly than have junk accounts.
The other purpose for the date in the hashtag is so we can re-visit old photos. I made the rules laid back because we’re only human. Sometimes you get busy one day and can’t post or engage. So, if you miss the pictures that were posted on the 7th, you can revisit them on the 7th of next month! I’ve read a lot about how keeping old content active is important to grow an account. The date just seemed like a nice, clean way to keep things active but still be simple.
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 good for growing your follower numbers! However, I suggest this concept if you are trying to get a following based on your content. Your loop friends will visit your page and look for the loop posts. 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 followers 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!
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 10000% 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. I even found myself commenting ‘Nice’ or ‘Pretty’ on some posts just to make the requirement to post my photo! But let’s be honest… what did that meaningless comment do for either of our pages? JACK!
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?
As the person posting the comment, you are actually gaining more than the person who is being commented on. This is totally counter-intuitive…so let me explain. By 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!
This is why the people who are most active will also be rewarded the most. Rather than being upset ‘she didn’t comment on my stuff’, just participate! Remember that the comment you left is a seed- not a favor to be repaid. Your commitment to engaging and being genuine will be paid back- not in a comment back… but maybe 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 going to sit like a rock in some people’s stomachs. It’s different, so it’s spooky. It isn’t the instant gratification that we humans tend to crave. 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! 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 trying to bash loops in any way. They didn’t work for me as a long-term growth plan. They got me to where I am today and I am beyond grateful for that. I’m just doing this to see if maybe there’s more out there. Again, we can all benefit from it!
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!
p.s- Check out our page if you’re interested in joining the experiment!