#015 – How NOT To Grow On Instagram

If you’re at some point reading this (by the way I’m writing this on 15 October 2020), over the last couple of days I’ve been looking at strategies for Instagram growth.

For now I’m going simply with:

  • Posting twice a day – a mix of helpful content and a bit of promotion and a bit of engagement
  • Capping hashtags at 15 per post – after my epic weekend of hashtag research
  • Engaging with other people and my target audience – yes I still suck at this and need to do better

But anyway I was listening into a webinar a few days ago about growing your Instagram following.

And for vanity metrics of actually getting followers it all looked good.

But in terms of building an actual brand or an engaging audience, I’m not so sure.

Here’s some of the key recommendations and my own thoughts on them:

Competitions and giveaways

Basically you put up a post saying you’re giving away X prize. To enter all you need to do is like this post and follow this page.

It works because people love freebies.

But that’s part of the problem. Are people interested in you or just getting the freebie?

For an ecommerce business it might work better because someone *might* see something else on your page in your shop that interests them so it’s good for brand awareness.

But I am still sceptical about it building your brand.

“Loop” competitions

Similar to above but with a slight twist. Your prize is part of a prize bundle and for someone to win, they have to follow all the pages that are included in the bundle.

It’s probably a better way to get even more followers but with an even lower chance of those followers being interested in your business or brand itself.

Engagement pods

Basically you join a group of people who all like and comment on each other’s posts and engage with them to boost visibility.

I’m not really against engagement pods, but there’s a few considerations you should bear in mind:

  • You need to find a quality one in the first place.
  • The messaging should be off of Instagram or Facebook. I don’t have any backing to this but I read that the messaging on the platform can get picked up by the algorithm. It might not be the case but still, it’d be wise to keep it somewhere else just in case.
  • It needs to be big enough – 5-10 is probably too small and Instagram will pick up on it being a pod. You want to go bigger if you can.
  • You all need to engage. The reason most engagement pods flop is because some people just take the engagement without participating so all the benefit without the work. Make sure everyone in your pod is engaging if you’re going to do it.

I’m not keen on engagement pods because if I am spending time engaging I would rather it specifically be with my followers, following and target audience on hashtags but for some people the pods are where it’s at.

Pay or partner with influencers

I cringe at this one but I guess there’s a couple of ways to do it.

You can pay an influencer for shoutouts. If they’re in your niche and have your target audience you might get followers off of that.

But you’ve got no real way to track it or quantify it.

Also it’s a short term boost and you haven’t figured out how to properly grow your following… so are you just going to end up paying people on repeat to grow your following FOR you?

The other option is if you have a service, it’s more of a partnership where you work with an influencer for free and can use them as a case study to show what you do and in turn that will help grow your following.

It’s better than just paying for shoutouts but still, I’m never keen on freebies like this because they tend not to be valued and that means it can easily go pear shaped.

Also if you’re an ecommerce business or have a product, please don’t give into requests for free stuff from “influencers”.


  • Get them to buy it and refund when they promote you or
  • Offer them a discount code to give to their followers to track purchases so you can see who is actually buying

If they’re running a business they should be able to show their value too.


Facebook and Instagram have both become pay to play – organic reach is low because they want you to pay for visibility.

If you’re starting from scratch and have a bit of money to put to it (it can be as little as £2-3/day) then boosting posts or your profile might help get a bit of traction – and I’ll cover ads in a separate several posts.

But if I am giving them money I want to be moving people off their platform into my own – which is where email marketing comes in, and again I’ll write about that in future.

So I’m 50-50 on paying for followers and like especially when Facebook won’t let you reach most of them with what you post.

So in summary

Honestly if you want to build a brand or business on a platform you either need to learn the platform or pay someone who knows the platform.

Because the goalposts keep changing.

So if you’re looking at short term hit, some of these might work.

But for a longer term sustainable brand or business, these all (except for ads probably) might get completely wrecked overnight with no notice.

About Abhi

Hi, I'm Abhi. I'm a blogger, copywriter, marketer and coach. Super Simple Mode is my space where I document everything I try in marketing and conversion so you can learn from my screw ups. Thanks for being here.