Blackhat Tactics of Using Instagram

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You would have heard by now that Instagram is open for advertising. Mom and Pop stores are all ready to take the plunge but the folks at Instagram isn’t opening a rate card for advertisers when they said they were taking promotions. Why?

How User Experience is important to the User

Facebook is a good example of something that is spinning out of control when it comes to advertising and promotions. Every nook and corner is being used to show you some advertising and they now appear on your mobile feed as well. That is probably one reason why the app got so bloated that they had to take out the Messenger functions and put it into a separate app.

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Instagram will stand to lose users if there is an advert appearing in your feed all the way. This is why they are only negotiating with big brands with between US$500,000 to US$1 million to spend monthly on Instagram advertising.

This sort of advertising will appear in your Instagram photo feed as a ‘sponsored post’. So if you suddenly are seeing Ben & Jerry’s adverts in your photo stream, hey, you probably used the hashtag #icecream a little too often.

Besides, Instagram sponsored post are location targeted. So if your Ukrainian hryvnia can’t buy enough dollars for an Instagram campaign, what are you gonna do?

Black Hat Techniques

There are only a few which you can take advantage of. The reason is simple, you can’t post active URL links unless it is part of your profile. So that limits the amount of spamming, but spamming can still happen.

First, you need to have an active account where you post a regular feed. Don’t be lazy on this as people who eventually follow you want to know if you are one of those fly by night entities where they post a whole load of stuff for one day and then silence is all they hear. The rest of the work is detailed down here.

#1 Use the Follow4follow Method to grow your followers

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Getting followers without paying for them is very hard. What’s more it makes no sense paying for fake followers as they don’t convert to anything meaningful.

So get down to the basics, search for hashtags of things which are related to your business. If you are an online shop, so much the better as the world is your oyster. You can start adding people from all over the world. Add the #follow4follow or #followback tag. This will help you get even more people. Once you have those #f4f fans, you can grow it even more by going through their own followers to add them to your account.

This is a lot of leg work but that’s what you have to do when you don’t have a million dollars to spend on Instagram advertising.

#2 Use location tags to find followers to add follow

This is a little more tricky but it can be done. Look out for tags of locations within your sphere of business. If you live in a city like NYC then look out for #nyc or #newyork. Problem with this method is that there are a lot of cities in the US which have similar names to cities in Europe. So do your homework, add those by checking their feed using Iconosquare. This site lets you see stuff on their feed and know the relevance. If that person is just visiting a place of your business sphere, chances are you have to add them to find out if they would be interested in coming back.

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Restaurants, cafes and even retail shops should use this method to best optimize their reach without having to pay a cent.

#3 Use that one link available to you in your Profile

Think of this as your one phone call while in jail. Nothing else matters. So think very hard on where you want this to lead.

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If you had to put a link that says something about your business or service? Will that be an impressive site that you spent time on? Or just another template website to bore the hell out of people? Think very carefully about this as people do not want to click on a link to a sales pitch.

#4 Use hashtags to find followers of similar Interest

If you sell waffles, of course you would follow people who post waffle pictures. Engage them if you like, and hopefully they will return a favor.

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For example, I post pictures of drones used in aerial photography and Instagram users who use that hashtag often will follow you base on that. This is also where the ball gets rolling and as long as you add more, then people will follow you back in kind as you have the same interest.

This can also be a branding exercise, if say you are pushing out your own special brand of toys or for that matter drone related accessories. Just with those drone pictures alone, I have people asking me questions on where to buy them or if I can sell them one. Now that’s what I call a sales lead without even trying very hard.

#5 Bait your comments to an Instagram Feed

This is the last trick in the book. People know that user accounts are clickable. What you do is to insert a secondary Instagram account that is nothing more than your product catalog. Link baiting is something Instagram cannot avoid as these are they are users. Some companies create entire catalogs on Instagram, This was how Ikea for Russia created the catalog.

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By citing the @useraccount in the comment section of a post to any of your followers, you are actually baiting them to come take a look. This eyeball method is what you basically need to optimize traffic. Sometimes you can follow a celebrity and do the same thing….it’s called link baiting by Facebook, and by posting something like that on a celebrity who has a million followers, you could slide your product catalog in on the sly.

The Last Frontier of Social Media

Social media campaigns and marketing is a lot of work. Do not think for one moment that you can spare the dime and do the time. Many will eventually give up because it is a full time affair posting, creating and crafting content for Instagram.

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However Instagram is relatively free of interference from its owners, Facebook. There are certain blocked hashtags you can’t use on Instagram but you can always get around this to find similar minded users by browsing their feed. This manual method of identifying of customers is what builds your followers. And once you do that, you can engage with them directly.

The outright sales pitch is probably not very useful. You can of course use Instagram for branding as well. Contest wise, it’s less visible as the web site Iconosquare is the only place that let’s users engage with brands provided they bother to user the site to log in.

Right now, there are no real third party apps which can access Instagram APIs fully on a mobile app. Some allow you to browse your feed but not manage your post. It is probably this stage of Instagram which is not yet regulated makes it a real challenge for mass market spammers.

The idea behind the instagram black hat strategies is not about spamming but chosing your content to market to like minded folks. This, takes time and the rewarding part is seeing your content post do its magic without having to part with a million dollars for Instagram advertising.

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Making the move to Instagram

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Now that we have all written off Facebook for content and marketing engagement, we have to find another content outlet to try spice things up. Instagram at the moment is trying to rev its engine up a bit by going more exploratory and in the process suggest new ways for people to follow like minded post from Instagram users. This is an interesting move as it is generally regarded as the next step towards advertising and promotional ad space. Instagram’s growth has been phenomenal. Look at the stats published so far and you know what I mean.

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So before Instagram gets into the same Facebook act, by forcing you to advertise to get seen, there is no better way to ride the wave than now.

How to Ride the Wave for Free

I peered into my crystal ball and have seen the future. Instagram will soon have its algorithm and that means you are going to have to fight to get noticed but until then, here are some rules to follow.

Encourage User Generated Content

In any B2C business, UGC is the best way forward. They are your ambassadors, and you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. Now as a business owner, when was the last time you thought of your customer’s satisfaction and UGC? How many times have you come across a boutique that supports or encourages UGC? Or for that matter a retailer that was UGC friendly? Forget the luxury goods store that protects the design of it products. It won’t work there coz they charge so much for something which can be copied for a fraction of the cost, hence the ‘no photography’ rule but what about general retailers who want to make a difference? Allowing your customers to browse, try things out and even take a selfie when trying an outfit is going to generate eyeballs and in the process generate awareness and branding. Restaurants and cafes already offer free WIFI for customers, and this makes for an easy check-in and free advertising to their friends who will come by.

Make use of the 15 Seconds of Fame on Video

If you want to create interesting content on your own, then try posting a video. 15 seconds is pretty easy and if you have an app like MeiPai, which is mentioned in another of my blogs on video apps. There are plenty to choose from and some like MeiPai even offers auto editing to make your job easier.

Instagram allows for Editing in Post

Another new feature from Instagram this time, you can edit all your earlier post without having to worry about what you left out the last time. Previously, you had to delete the post and repost them. Well not anymore.

IGeditThis means you can link your post to your G+ site, webpage or FB Pages (if you haven’t already dumped it) on a later date, or for that matter add in your twitter links. We all know that sometimes when you generate a shortlink, the process becomes cumbersome on mobile.

Location data can also be edited. So if you moved shop for some reason and need to re-edit all your older post, you can do so now. Having a check-in location gives your business credibility. So remember to make use of the new editing feature to stay current.

Achieving Business Succes in Instagram

There are plenty of competing platforms when it comes to video and image post. For example, in Latin America, the de facto choice is Mobli. While for China, Instagram is still blocked so you only have access to Storycam, which is an app from the same folks who brought you WeChat.

All of these apps have cross posting capabilities so you can of course post to more than one social account or for that matter duplicate the post in different social account.

Instagram will in the future change its algorithm to match that of Facebook. Until that time happens, you better start building your audience on Instagram now.