Oh man, Instagram. That old thing. That photo app we love to hate. I wonder how sorry I would feel for myself if I knew the exact amount of times I opened Instagram and hit refresh per day. Shivers.
If I had to hanker a guess, I’d say around 20,000. You know, just to err on the side of caution.
Like most things in life, I go through phases on Instagram, of being so in love with it I have to be on for 24/7 and then other times where I consider deleting it. “Man, my latest sunset mountain photo only got 2,500 likes, what’s wrong with me? This is shit. I’m shit. Everyone hates me. I give up.”
Somehow, often my self-worth is tied to how successful I am on Instagram, or even worse, how successful OTHER people are. What. The. Fuck. How did it come to this?
My goodness, what is the world coming to when you feel like you are no longer validated because only 2,500 people you’ve never met before liked a picture you took. Then you upload a shot that gets 4,000 likes, and hot damn you’re back in business.
It’s a vicious cycle guys.
I’m the first to admit, I’ve been a dedicated slave to the Instagram for years. I mean, we go way back. Like iPhone 3 way back. Almost 5 years we’ve been together.
You see me and Instagram, we’ve had a tough relationship. You know, love hate. Hot and then cold, yes and then no. Or something like that. It’s the same with McDonald’s. You don’t want people to know you actually like it, but then you end up drunkenly taking a taxi through the drive-through at 4 am. Nobody wants to admit that actually, on the inside, they really want those chicken nuggets. Badly.
Wow, I’ve come a loooooong way since my first Instagram post!
But I digress. Over the years I have really loved Instagram – I still do, deep down. I learned to become a better photographer through the app, to try and become more of a visual storyteller. At the end of the day I’ve met so many incredible people through Instagram, shared so many unique moments and built my own community of followers of thousands of people, and that makes me smile. That’s what it’s for right?
Through Instagram I’ve become a keen photographer, and through it I’ve learned to challenge myself creatively.
But I’m also part of that small percentage of people who also use Instagram for business. I was New Zealand’s first professional Instagrammer, and I’ve built Instagram into my overall business strategy. In addition to my blog, it’s a large part of my work.
And when I see other people directly affecting my work, I get pissed. Guys, I’M SO PISSED
So here we go, the rant you all have been waiting for. It’s been a while, I’ve been letting you down, let me make it up to you. Are you ready?
There are two ways to be successful on Instagram; one is doing it the honest way – building up your brand, sharing high quality shots, being really active and engaged in the community, being creative and original in what you’re doing, and above all, actually be passionate about the photos and stories you’re sharing. You know, actually adhering to Instagram’s T’s and C’s, being ethical and honest, and authentic and genuine. What’s that word everyone forgets? Ah yes, having integrity.
Hell, I even co-launched my own conference called the Travel Bootcamp teaching people how to build a career in this industry.
And then there is option B. Cheating and manipulating your way to the top, which has somehow become the popular choice these days amongst the youths and Instagram newbies. Why work hard when you can pay to get it done instead?
Cheating is rampant on Instagram these days. Rampant I say! It’s everywhere. I ignored it for the longest time, wanting to believe the best in people, many of whom are colleagues and friends of mine. But it’s getting so ridiculous now I can’t keep quiet.
So many people are exceptionally lazy. They want the success that comes with having a huge Instagram following but don’t want to put in the hours of hard work yourself. Don’t worry, I’ll make it easy . So check it out, how to fake being authentic 101. A step by step guide. Here are my best tips for cheating and manipulating your way to the top on Instagram. Good luck!
1. Go out and buy some followers
For less than $70, you can get 10,000 Instagram followers! That’s enough to start elbowing your way into this industry. But seriously, buying followers for your Instagram is so 2014. I mean come on, at least try to be more creative than that. There are far sneakier and better ways to get more followers fast than just straight up buying them. Jeez.
2. Get automatic likes on your photos
SO over the years most of us have really felt the drop on Instagram engagement, right? The number of likes and comments you get on your photos often matter more than the follower number. I’ve never worked harder on Instagram than I have been, and I follow all of their rules and suggestions to a tee for five years, and I’ve been suffering from it while watching other people cheat their way to the top without a second thought.
My engagement for my follower count actually isn’t that great, and no matter how hard I try, I can barely keep it steady let alone grow it with the way the algorithms are working. And as soon as I experiment with my shots, it plummets. And my numbers are so skewed because my followers keep growing, mostly from my blog I reckon. I’ve never been more proud of my feed and my photos than I am now, and I’m so bummed that so few of my followers or new people even see it. And I’m not alone.
But don’t worry, there are ways around it. Did you know that you can pay for a monthly service that dumps fake likes on your photos when you upload them? How great is that? You don’t have to do anything and if you get enough of them quickly, you might even show up on the Explore Page! And would you believe me if I told you dozens if not hundreds of people who might even be one of your favorite Instagrammers are doing that too! What’s a little casual fraud in between Instagram posts, right? It’s not like it inflates the entire platform and makes people who aren’t cheating look bad or anything. It’s also faking your own influence.
3. Originality is dead, guys
As much as Instagram touts the idea of being creative photographers and storytellers, does it actually back it up on the platform? Is creativity really rewarded these days on Instagram? Instagram’s own Instagram feed is all about creative projects, unusual themes and cool people doing cool stuff. But is that the content that is actually rewarded on the platform?
What is rewarded is people copying each other over and over and over again. The same pose, the same locations, the same outfits, even the same filters. How many people have become huge landscape travel Instagrammers because they’ve traveled to Iceland and the Faroe Islands, posed in front of cabins and woodpiles and laid on the VSCO moody PNW filters a little too hard. Cough cough, I can think of tons. I mean, Socality Barbie was popular for a reason.
I mean fads are fads, and trends are trends for a reason; and they are highly effective. Beautiful places are popular for a reason, but what about those spots that people have strategically shot over and over and shared repeatedly just to build an image. You know, wearing a fedora hat and a blanket.
But I’ve worked with people over the years, some of whom are huge btw, who blatantly admit that they look out for trendy places, then go there knowing that their photos will be the best. People who don’t consider going to places that might be under the radar, but actually look for locations to shoot in those spots from people who’ve been there before just so they can take a version that will be more popular. Or peruse Pinterest and rip off other people’s ideas as their own. Jesus Christ, does it get any lazier than that?
So come visit me in Wanaka! You might not have heard, but we have this Insta-famous tree in the lake AND a ridge view called Mt. Roy, both of which have been ruined by trendy Instagrammers! You post photos from here and you’re guaranteed double engagement!
4. Be hot and show your butt off
I’m mostly talking about girls here, just so we are clear. Statistically speaking, you have a 75% chance of growing your Instagram account by 50% if you post photos of yourself in underwear or bikinis with an emphasis on your bum. It jumps up another 10% if you have a thigh gap.* Too bad my thigh gap is limited by my nugget consumption.
Um, good one!
*Disclosure, I just made that up.
5. Date someone bigger than you
Need to grow a following really quick? Start dating someone who’s Insta-famous, and be prepared to hang on for the ride! Even better if they are a good photographer. Instagram husbands anyone? And nothing grows a following quite like being a hot power couple on Instagram. Actually, if I’m being totally fair here, I am not quite sure there is anything wrong with this, I’m probably just being petty.
After all nothing is more annoying that oversharing oversexualized happy couples on Instagram, right? God I’m so bitter.
6. Steal other people’s ideas
I learned my lesson a few years ago. I have always been a candid person, and I talk about what I’m working on or goals I have openly. Til I got burned again and again by Instagrammers ripping off my work.
I learned the hard way not to talk about projects I’m in the middle of working on (at the risk of having them outpitched from under me – happened to me more than a few times), to shots I was planning to take, to my favorite locations to local spots to trips I was working on. I hate it, but it’s happened too many times that I’ve mentioned it to someone only to have that person try and pull the rug out from under me.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m the kind of person that if you tell me something you’re working on, I’ll either try to help you get there or be supportive of it. It wouldn’t even occur to me to steal someone’s idea. As a creative, I find that behavior HORRENDOUS.
There is a big difference between being inspired by someone and ripping off other people’s work, and it’s something that happens all the time on Instagram, shamelessly.
7. Don’t hate the player, hate the game
There are so many games you can play on Instagram that are far from the Candy Crush variety. One of the biggest ways people game Instagram is following and unfollowing people. Back in the day, people used to do this manually. Follow a bunch of people per day, then unfollow the ones who didn’t follow you back or just unfollow again anyways. What trickery!
Then it got sophisticated and there are apps that you can use that will automatically follow and unfollow for you. Bear in mind it violates Instagram’s terms to authorize apps like that, and it’s pretty fun to go stalk people on SocialBlade to see who’s cheating this way. You just enter in the name of any Instagrammer on a desktop, then click on their IG page and then click detailed stats and have fun!
This is a highly effective way to grow your account because it brings real people in the meantime over to your page. The downside of course, besides being highly unethical, means you aren’t in control of your account anymore and god knows who you’re following. “Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to follow that nazi account, oops!”
8. Not who you seem to be
There are a few people, who shall remain nameless, who were the ultimate Instagram sneaks.
Like, having a feature account, which is to say a big account on Instagram that just reshares other people’s photos. Sometimes crediting the owners, most of the time just straight up ripping it off. Building a huge following only posting the best of the best, which isn’t even yours, then one day deleting all the photos and reposting your own as a personal account on Instagram.
Yes, people have done it, and some very, very successfully, though of course never admitting it.
I have two words for those people – dodgy motherf*ckers!
9. You don’t even have to be on the app
Did you know that you don’t even need to be on Instagram yourself? You can authorize apps that go and like and comment on stuff for you. I mean, I’m sure you’ve all seen it. Random comments on your photos that don’t make sense. I’ve called out bloggers who comment on all my photos but don’t actually follow me. Or better yet, friends of mine of leave comments on porn or other dirty pages. I’m sure you didn’t mean “wow what a great shot” of a teenager in a thong.
No one likes a spammer!
There are so many Instagrammers who are now super famous who got their start doing this one or two years ago. Because it brings real people over to your page, you get real growth and engagement, never mind that you didn’t even do it yourself and it’s super dodgy and straight up violates several of Instagram’s terms. Why you would do this is beyond me, let alone take the risk of losing your account.
10. Don’t be a dick!
It’s up to you whether or not you want to be a douche. I have to believe that at the end of the day, this kind of behavior will fail. It’s not a long-term solution to this kind of work, and I think that if you build a career on deceit and lies, it will blow up in your face.
Who said that breaking into this industry and being famous on Instagram would be easy? You have to work your ass off at it, often for years before seeing any kind of real success. I have been in this industry for seven years, that’s right seven years of work! It never stops!
Real influence and real success takes real work.
I’m mad because this terrible behavior is straight fucking up the industry on a big scale. It’s not a little problem, it’s rampant, and nothing is being done about it. It skews the numbers and screws over people who have worked and been ethical.
And here’s a shameless little self-promo: sick of seeing this kind of behavior combined with seeing a real lack of hard, credible advice to help break into the travel industry, my business partners Lauren Bath, Georgia Rickard and I co-launched our own conference, the Travel Bootcamp last year. An intensive one day, no BS workshop, we give you all the tools and facts no one talks about that will help you get paid to travel like us. Between us we’ve traveled to over 100 countries, worked for over a decade in the industry and make six figure salaries from it.
Our next Bootcamp is in a couple of weeks in Melbourne on April 29th if you want to come – we have a few tickets left.
Have you heard of this stuff before? Can you believe it? What kind of terrible behavior have you seen on Instagram? Spill!
174 Comments on “How to win friends and influence people on Instagram”
This is actually amazing, so so true. It was only yesterday that I was thinking ‘damn it if i was 10kg lighter i might actually have more followers’ and then i thought wtf?!?! How has society made me think that?! So often ive wondered how people have so much of a following etc, now i know! Thankyou for sharing!!
hahaha I’ve thought similar things too!
I am very new to Instagram compared to you. I only registered on the platform around 6 months ago. I know that people buy likes and followers but some other tactics that you mentioned were totally new to me! When I just registered, I followed many travel Instagram accounts for inspiration but it quickly became boring. Same poses, same locations, why do I need to see it again and again in my feed. I feel like I have already visited those places, so many times I’ve seen it on Instagram.
haha I know the feeling!
50 new followers today, Woo! -55 followers tomorrow, WTF! A few of these kinds of posts have been popping up in my feeds in the past week and it is SO great to read! I always knew there was some level of scamming/games being played but it wasn’t until I was added to an IG engagement group a few months ago that I realised how far down the rabbit hole some people have gone. These guys spent hours around the clock chatting about how awesome their engagement was going to get instead of, I don’t know, actually being out on the platform engaging with other people. I got the hell out of there pretty fast. I now see them posting stories on IG like, OMG I got xxx thousand likes, couldn’t do this without y’all, hugs all around! I guess these groups aren’t as bad as some of the other tactics but they hardly lead to authentic engagement either. Where do you stand on them Liz?
hate them, it’s everything that’s bad about Instagram. Use the platform right instead of pretending you use it right
Very well put, Liz. A while back, I had this account play the follow/unfollow game at least 10 times on me, bloody moron, clearly wanted me to follow him back and in one case, someone photoshopped himself into my picture by removing Gandalf and then made it his Instagram profile picture (still got the screenshot).
Let’s hope that Instagram comes up with a long-term solution to combat this issue!