If you are new to Instagram, or haven’t really been using it much for your business, you first idea about Instagram is usually following what is called an influencer, someone with a massive following, looking awesome, taking awesome pictures and being incredible. .
However this is not how you should approach Instagram, more and more brands are moving away from Follower count and more towards content creation, and engagement statistics.
What prompted this post however, was I was recently on Facebook – shock – and a sponsored post came up about an Instagram course, from a well known Instagram Marketing group. I was astounded that there – in the description of the course – it says – in black and white – “Aggressive growth strategy, that many people dont agree with, it works so we use it” – read – we’re using black hat techniques to “Pretend” grow-your-audience-with-yuck-engagement-and-no-one will-want-to-work-with-you-because-your engagement-sucks-but-because-you-dont-know-any-better-were-going-to-keep-selling-this-course.
Off I went and had a look at their accounts, and there in plain sight were those black hatted strategies.
So we not only researched some of the worst things, but we spoke to some experts about what they thought the worst things might be….
And if you are struggling with instagram at all – try our annual content planner! Its free!
What is an Instagram black hat strategy?
When people refer to Black Hat, Or Black Hat Social Media or Black Hat marketing, its covert, disruptive and all round shitty marketing strategies. So essentially think of it like the good witch and bad witch on Wizard of Oz. One wants to do things right for every one, and one just wants to gain advancement for themselves. Ethically – we all want to be white hat – and some of us slide into the grey area of using engagement pods for Instagram, which is technically still black hat, but far less so than buying engagement.
What are Instagram Black Hat Techniques
Right let’s discuss this first – follow unfollow is a blatantly obvious tactic that just leaves you looking like a spammer. First you will see on their profile they have 1500 followers but they are following 7500.
The idea behind this tactic is that people follow you back and after a while you unfollow them. How is that creating an engaged audience?
Buying Instagram Followers
So easy to do – and when I tested this in my post about how I grew my Instagram – I bought 500 followers for @myinner.creative to test how the engagement on my posts would go. Needless to say it was terrible. The engagement plumited, and there was no audience interaction. Great the numbers looked good but – flipping heck – drop in engagement like never before. I’ve since deleted them and the engagement is STILL appalling. You can grow by thousands in a couple of hours.
Using engagement Bots
Fake engagement through engagement bots is easy – you pay a group of people to “engage” with your posts. Instagram has since worked out these accounts and are busy deleting them, but it ties into the follow/unfollow tactic.
Joining Instagram Engagement Pods
A “pod” refers to a group of Instagram users who agree to regularly like, share and comment on each other’s posts. Some of these are paid pods, some have large followings and some are just used to game the system. Quite often they will use telegram to create these pods.
This is still relatively new and some accounts use this – where a 3rd party app goes in and sends a DM to anyone who follows an account similar to yours (that you are trying to grow) with a prerecorded message about who you are and you see that they are following person xx and you love them too, and bla bla bla. This is one of those annoying tactics that is sure to make you lose followers.
This can also be used when someone follows your page and it sends an automated thank you response. Again – quick way to annoy people.
What is Instagram doing to curb this bad behavior?
As Instagram’s efforts to control black hat strategies become more aggressive and its algorithms grow more sophisticated, it is only a matter of time before these techniques actually hurt the users who deploy them, but will this also hurt the users that dont use black tactics, will you, as Joe Poster, get stung? Well isn’t that what the Shadowban is? Normal people being stung with hidden content because of poor Instagram practices?
Another thing Instagram has recently done – As recently as August 28th – the have added an “About this account” section
In the coming weeks, you will be able to see more information about accounts on Instagram that reach large audiences so you can evaluate the authenticity of the account.
Our community has told us that it’s important to them to have a deeper understanding of accounts that reach many people on Instagram, particularly when those accounts are sharing information related to current events, political or social causes, for example.
Be a good Instagram Neighbor. Don’t Black Hat!
The Business Pro’s list of WORST things to do on Instagram
Shannon Menard, PR & Outreach Coordinator from Power Digital Marketing talks to us about her worst tactics;
One of the worst things you can do on social media is focus only on promoting yourself or your brand. As a brand or influencer, it is easy to go into panic mode and feel like you need to promote yourself or your product in every post…however, as an Instagram user, this is an immediate turn-off.
Users want to receive value from the accounts they follow and while this sometimes comes in the form of a discount, normally users find value in the non-promotional content. In fact, you should treat your account the same you would a bank account.
You need to make more deposits than withdraws to have a healthy bank account…this is true for Instagram too! Deposits will be your engagement-based or value-adding content while withdraws are your promotions posts. Try to keep a 70/30 balance for a healthy Instagram profile!
Mariel Loveland, musician and Influencer for Best Ex says;
The worst thing someone can do is mass follow and unfollow people – especially if you make them take notice by liking a dozen or so of your photos. People can see through that, and it’s not a good look. To be honest, when I see another band or brand follow and unfollow me, it makes me lose a little bit of respect for them.
In my opinion, it makes it seem like you don’t care about your followers and purely want attention. That’s not what I’m about. People want to make genuine connections online, so always be genuine. Don’t try to trick people into following you.
Heather Taylor, Communications Coordinator at MyCorporation.com talks about her worst black hat strategies;
One thing I see practiced often on Instagram, on personal and professional accounts alike, is the act of using hashtags that have nothing to do with the image or its content. If you’re posting an image from a trade show you’re at and including the event’s hashtag among other similar hashtags, go for it!
But, if you’re posting that same image and using random hashtags such as #likeforlike or #followforfollow take a step back and really think about what you’re doing. Are you looking for bots to follow you? Because these hashtags will attract bots.
Also from MyCorporation, Brittany Gamble, the My Corporation Social Media Expert weighs in on this topic too;
Not including your business’ website link in your bio is a huge mistake. It doesn’t matter if your following and engagement is high or low, if you don’t include your link in your Instagram bio your business is losing an opportunity to drive more traffic to your website.
Jakub Kliszczak, owner of CrazyCall, talks about his 2 pet peeves;
In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is to just spam the whole limit of available #tags.
First of all, it feels and looks spammy and that’s what people like the least. No business needs 30 #tags to describe the image. Limit the number of #tags you insert and make them unique so everyone knows it’s you and your business.
Secondly, you lose accountability. If you just spam #tags with no real purpose of doing so, you will look like another cheap, e-commerce store. Focus on a good description and a few, valuable #tags that can bring the traffic.
Nate Masterson, the CMO of Maple Holistics,weighs in on the worst instagram behavior he’s seen;
Spam comments: Instagram over the last little while has been tightening their rules regarding what they consider spam. One such activity to avoid is lazily leaving comments on peoples feeds. The Instagram police (not a real thing… I think) will shadowban you at which point you may as well stop fishing for new followers because only your current followers will see your posts.
Hashtags galore: Another thing that will get you noticed by the (hopefully fake) Instagram police is a bunch of hashtags. In a statement last year Instagram announced that they essentially equated over-hashtagging with cheating. So they did the mature thing and decided to start shadow banning offenders.
Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT , Texas Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist says her worst are….
1. The people who follow your page, and then immediately unfollow you as soon as you follow back.
2. People in the same field not following each other to support your businesses and the field itself.
3. Local businesses not following back to support each other’s businesses.
4. People hijacking a funny post and making it too serious, to the point where the post itself has to be taken down.
Nichole Brandt, VP of Influencer Marketing and Insights at XOMAD has 4 areas she things are the worst things to do on the gram;
- Buy followers
- Buy engagement
- Brands and agencies are getting better and better at detecting this and don’t want to work with influencers who buy engagement and followers
Chain or Looped giveaways
- You may gain 10K+ followers, but after the giveaway they won’t continue to engage with you, and then your engagement rate will get worse.
Unrealistic follower numbers
- Follow too many people
- If you have 10K followers but follow 10K people it will not look good.
- Include notes in bio such as will follow back it ends up showing a brand you don’t have quality followers
Never lie on your post. Don’t say you are driving in a nice car that you see on the side of the road and take a photo with it. Someone will call you out and it will ruin your trust value, making you someone a brand won’t want to work with.
Over filter and over photoshop
Brands want to work with influencers who are real. That is the full point of influencer marketing