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Q&A- Paid Shoutouts, Buying Followers, How I ACTUALLY got to 258K and more!

What is up, guys? Happy Tuesday, and welcome back to The Instagram Guru Blog. So, I recently had a poll on my Instagram, and I asked if you guys wanted to do a Q&A on my channel. Not a personal Q&A, like a business Q&A, like an Instagram, business, how I got started, all that stuff Q&A. I had you guys send me a bunch of questions, and I picked 10 of the best questions, or the ones that I know a lot of you ask repeatedly. Some of these were actually asked like 50 different times, so I figured I would just do a Q&A since you guys really wanted it, and I hope you guys learn a little bit more about me and my journey and Instagram, and some advice for your business and for your Instagram journey, of course.

Okay, so first off, tell me about yourself and how’d you get into Instagram?

All right, so, this is actually a really funny story. Me myself, it’s not that important. If you guys really want to learn more about me, go check out my other YouTube video Q&A with the unicorn. It’s way, way back.

But, how did I actually get into Instagram? So, as many of you know, my Instagram is fitness oriented because that is how I started. When I first started my Instagram, I was so, so embarrassed. I didn’t want anybody to know about it. I started it back when I was a senior in college, I think, so about four to five years ago. And when I started it off, I was just getting into my fitness journey, and I used it as a means of motivation. So I would take pictures and I would post it online, for every workout that I had, or you know, typical, to kind of motivate myself to work out more or look better.

Now, here’s the funny part. I wouldn’t show my face, and so I don’t know if I still have any of these up there, but in the past, I didn’t want to show my face ’cause I didn’t want anybody to know about my Instagram account. So I would put like emojis or a picture of a raccoon face or a cat face over my face so that you could only see my body, but not my face. And yeah, I very quickly got over that, ’cause I was like Ortal, you work out at a college gym. Everybody knows what this gym is like. I didn’t use location tags, but still, and I was like, this is just dumb. If you’re going to do something, don’t be embarrassed about it.

So, I quickly took off … like I stopped doing that, and my account was initially fitness oriented, and as it started growing of course … I don’t know if you guys know this, but I am a neuroscience major, so I have a very analytical mind. I really like researching things. And so of course, I had my Instagram account. I was like, okay, I have to figure out how to make this grow. I want to see how I can basically maximize this platform’s potential. Did a ton of research, literally, I’m not kidding, guys. There were three months where I just … anything that had the word Instagram in it, I was reading through it. So, that’s where I gained a lot of my beginning knowledge, and then the rest is kind of like trial and error over the years. I made all the trials and all the errors on my account so you don’t have to. I learned from my own mistakes so you don’t make those mistakes. So yeah, that’s basically how I got into Instagram and how my account got started.

How long did it take you to grow your Instagram to where it is today?

Okay, so basically my Instagram timeline is broken down into two parts. The first part is between zero to 10,000 followers, and then the second part is 10,000 and above. So, the first 10,000 were honestly the most difficult for me. And I know this sounds like such a cliché thing to say, but it really was.

During the first 10,000 was the trial and error period when I was learning a lot about Instagram, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, what to do, what not to do, how to use hashtags, what the hell hashtags even were. So that took a long, long time. The first zero to 10,000 took me about four to five months of intensive work. Not just like posting once a day and kind of you know, forgetting about it. No, no. I was posting three times a day, once a day, deleting the caption, editing the caption. There was no insta stories back then, but I was using hashtags, different hashtags, different number of hashtags, tagging brands, not tagging brands. It was just like a long, long journey.

So, until I hit the first 10k … and back then, the swipe up feature didn’t exist. But, it took me about five months to hit the first 10k, and then after that, from the 10k, once I hit 10k, I basically figured out kind of what worked for the 2016 algorithm, and from then to the 100k, it was really, really not that hard. It was like, I’d say another five to six months of exponential growth. So, that was really, really great.

The second period came between the 100k to the 258k. That took me a little bit longer, because during that time, the algorithm had gone through repeated changes, and so it was essentially me relearning the whole process over and over again. And so that took a lot more time. That took about two and a half years. Yeah, it took me about two and a half years to get from 100k to 200k or 220k. And then from then to 258k, which is where I’m at now was just kind of like a steady growth.

So, I would say for my account to get to where it is right now with the success that it has right now and the number of followers, it took me about like a good three years overall. But I would say that that would not be the case for people starting off now. So, if you start off a new account now, it’s not going to take you very long to grow to 10k, 20k, 50k. It’s not going to take you like a year like it took me. It should take you a lot longer if you have the right strategy in place and if you know how to utilize all the functions that Instagram offers. There’s a ton of functions, there’s a tons of kind of behind the scenes things that you really wouldn’t figure out unless you obviously learned about them or if you’ve done your research. And so if you have the right strategy in place, if you’re implementing and using everything correctly, it’s really not that difficult.

And if you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about, you should definitely check out my Instagram guru course. I break it down for you there. That course is the culmination of five years of research, and it’s updated for the new algorithm with the new hashtag strategy. Literally, that course is life changing. Just ask the people that have taken it.

Okay, next question.

What are some of your best growth tips for beginners starting out?

Oh, this is a great one, guys. The person that asked me this obviously has not checked out my free guide. So, I linked it down here. I actually put together, ’cause I got this question a lot, again, so I put together a free PDF that you guys can download. The link is below in the description. All you have to do is just fill out your information, it’s like a first name and your email, and I will send you a PDF. It is eight steps that a ton of new accounts aren’t even thinking about doing, and you really, really should be doing, because this is how it’s going to help you grow very rapidly.

And they’re actionable steps. It’s none of that fluffy, like, you know, think about pretty things. No, no. These are actionable steps that you can take. It’s my eight steps that I take, that I took, and I still implement them daily. So go ahead, check out the free guide. Those would be my best tips for you guys just starting off in how you can grow your account.

Do you recommend people pay for promotions, shout outs, ads to grow their page?

No. No. Short answer is heck no. To this day, I honestly haven’t even touched an ad until my business actually hit its second or third year. Didn’t do ads, didn’t do funnels, didn’t do anything, ’cause I don’t think it’s necessary. And especially if you’re just a page starting off, unless you have a paid collaboration with a brand, or you’re trying to boost a specific post for whatever reason, then you should pay for boost or promotions or stuff like that. But overall, you know how Instagram will give you that option to boost this post or promote this post or promote your page? No. This is just a money grubbing, like … I’m sorry Instagram. This is literally just their way to make money.

You would be much better off investing that money into my course or a different course that will teach you the strategy, as opposed to just throwing money blindly and hoping that this one post that you upload or that your page somehow speaks to one of these random people that your page is going to be shown to as part of a boost or a promotion or an ad. So, the short answer is no, I would not invest in these. And again, unless you’re doing a paid collaboration with a brand, in which case you should have the brand pay for that. You should not be paying for it. So yeah, definitely don’t pay for any of those. Overall, just so you guys know, I don’t believe in paying for anything that you don’t have to, and anything on Instagram, unless you obviously have a business that’s been running for a while, don’t pay for anything. You shouldn’t be paying for anything. Not followers, not engagement, not boosts, not features, none of that. Okay? Just a rule of thumb.

If you were to start over from scratch today, what steps would you take to grow to 10,000 followers?

Oh gosh, that’s actually a really good question. I forgot that was on there. Honestly guys, I would follow the steps in my course. I’m not kidding. Like I said, that course is a culmination of five years of research, and those would be my main steps that I would follow. And so, basically if I’m breaking it down kind of into like the big categories, the first thing would be to figure out my niche, my ideal audience. That’s the most important thing because that’s who you create content for.

If you’re creating content just for the sake of creating content, and you’re not really sure who you’re speaking to, your content’s not going to do very well, because if you try to speak to everybody, you’re going to be speaking to nobody. So, that would be my first thing. The second thing would be to focus on hashtags. Implementing the hashtag strategy that I developed has been life changing for me, honestly, for my account too, and for the people that have taken the course. Hashtags are a huge way to get visibility from people that would normally not even see your account or don’t even know who you are. If you’re not using them correctly, and yes, there is a method to the madness, if you’re not using them correctly, you’re honestly just like messing yourself up, because it’s a recipe for disaster.

If you guys want to check out the basics of my hashtag strategy, I did put up a YouTube video about it and here is the link. Just this YouTube video has helped people go from 15 impressions on hashtags to over 6000. One post, just by implementing the methods in my video. Let’s not even talk about the success that they have when they take my course. Check it out, let me know what you think about it.

Okay, so those would probably be the two things. Though the third thing would be obviously utilizing all the other functions that Instagram offers, like stories, TV, lives, correctly. Again, there is a strategy that needs to be in place. You can’t just go on live and start babbling and talking, because nobody cares.

What are some of the perks of having a large following on Instagram?

I think they’re pretty self explanatory, so I’m going to talk about the perks, but I’m also going to talk about the downsides.

So, the perks are obviously you get brand collaborations, you get sponsorships. You can make money online, you can monetize your following, which is great. Obviously, if you’re going to be investing hours upon hours every day and every week in creating content, taking pictures, putting together captions, creating information and value for your audience, you do want to be able to make some money off of it, not directly from your audience, but from brand collaborations, from sponsorships. I have a supplement sponsor and a clothing sponsor, both which I am obsessed with, and that would be probably the main thing is that it makes your life a little bit easier ’cause you can make a full-time living off of it, and you can honestly make a great chunk of change, which is just fun.

And it’s also honestly … better than having money, it’s having the community. And I know this sounds super cliché, guys, but it’s really, really very heartwarming to see that whenever you post something, people like it, people care about it, and more importantly, it helps people. There is nothing that I love more than writing a post or creating content and people DMing me, like oh my god, this has changed my life, or oh my god, this has helped me so much, and it helped take my page from point A to point B. Your information is so knowledgeable, or I can relate to your story. That is really the best part of it, because you feel like your work is getting valued, and it’s actually helping people out there. That would probably be the best part for me. The money comes secondary. I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty nice, but the community and the love that you get online is really great. That would be my number one thing.

Now the downsides. Obviously, as you guys know, there are some haters out there. I personally don’t have very many, and I’m not saying that in like a bragging way, it’s just pretty nice that I don’t have too many people hating on me. The worst is that I’ve gotten people calling my butt fake. A lot of people think my butt’s fake. It’s not fake. And there were some people that didn’t implement my YouTube hashtag strategy, they didn’t implement it correctly, and then they say it doesn’t work. And then I go back and show them how to do it, and they’re like, oh it does work. So that would probably be the worst thing.

But for larger followings, as you guys know, there’s a lot of haters out there. Everybody wants to share their opinion, everybody’s got something to say about something. So, that’s a downside.

Top mistakes people should avoid when growing their Instagram.

Oh, okay. This is a loaded question. Okay, top mistakes. The number one mistakes would be to pay, pay for anything. Paying for ads, paying for boosts, paying for followers, paying for engagement, paying for bots. Don’t pay. You guys, Instagram’s an app that is technically free. Yes, they want to make money off of you, but this app is free, and if you have the right strategy in place, you don’t need to be paying for all these things.

Now, and I also talked about this in another one of my YouTube videos, but paying for followers, for likes, for engagement goes against the point. You are trying to make money on Instagram, or you’re trying to grow community. You don’t want this to turn into like a money pit where you have to constantly keep paying, because guess what? If people follow you and they’re fake, they’re going to unfollow you. Bots unfollow all the time, that’s what the service does. You buy 500 bots, you’re going to lose 300. You’re gonna keep like 200, but you’re gonna lose 300 because they want you to keep coming back. You’re not gonna let your page go from 10,000 to 9500. No, you’re going to keep buying the followers so you have to maintain appearances.

Now, along with followers, you have to buy likes. You can’t have 100,000 followers with 15 likes on a photo. That makes no sense. So you have to start buying likes. But then you have to start buying comments, because who the heck has 9000 likes on a photo and has 100,000 followers, but gets two comments on a photo? Do you see where I’m going with this? And so that will probably be the biggest mistake that you guys could do, is buy stuff. Don’t buy anything fake. I know it’s frustrating and I know that you really are like, look, it’s frustrating, I don’t know what to do. Just work on your strategy. Figure out which pieces of your Instagram strategy you’re missing, why you’re not getting followers, why you’re not retaining followers, why your count is not growing. That would be time better spent and money better spent than trying to buy fake followers or active followers, whatever the heck that means, or likes of engagement. So, don’t buy anything.

That would probably be the top mistake. The second mistake would be that people think this is just a very easy thing to do. If you want to become successful on Instagram, it’s really not … it’s not just like you post a picture and you forget about it. Like I said, again, you have to have a strategy in place, and guess what? Developing the strategy takes time, implementing it takes time, and actually creating content that is valuable and that people care about takes time. Even those big influencers that have like a million followers and they post pictures of themselves traveling in France and the UK or whatever, those people spend hours a day taking photos, getting the right shot, editing it in LightRoom, editing their videos, whatever platform they use, being on multiple platforms. It’s not as easy as it looks. It’s not just snap a picture, upload, make a million bucks. So that would be the second mistake that people think is that it’s just like super easy, no effort. So, those would be my top two.

How many hours a day do you put into Instagram?

I love this question. Okay, the reason I love it so much is because me, this is my business. I spend hours a day on Instagram. Like I’m not kidding, my phone, glued to my hand, permanently. With that being said, you don’t have to. People that have taken my course and the one on one clients that I work with for the mentorship, I tell them, you don’t need to spend more than 20 minutes a day to be successful on Instagram. And I’m not kidding. If you have the right strategy in place, you don’t need more than 20 minutes. Obviously, the more time you spend on the app, the better. The more you invest in something, the better it’s gonna come out.

But, if you’re really crunched on time and you’re looking for the bare minimum, 15, 20 minutes a day, half an hour if you can swing it, is literally all you need. You need to make sure that you’re posting, you need to make sure you’re creating the right content obviously, both of those things takes time, and you need to make sure that your engagement strategy is on point. Those are the main things that would take your time. Other than that, you don’t need more time.

How do I know who I should collaborate with for paid collaborations?

Do I just work with anybody that offers me money? I love this one. Okay, obviously I love all these questions. That’s why I chose them. So guys, my rule of thumb for sponsorships, collaborations, whatever, if you wouldn’t buy it with your own money, don’t promote it to your audience. And that’s very simple, and I’ll tell you why.

The biggest thing that you are working on building with your audience is trust and loyalty. If you turn your page into a promotional feed where you will literally feature anything that people pay you for, that has nothing to do with your niche, you’re going to lose your audience’s trust very quickly, and brands are going to stop wanting to collaborate with you, because the only reason they’re collaborating with you is because they want to get all your followers to buy their product. The way they do that is because your followers trust you.

So, there are a lot of fitness influencers that will … I’m not naming any names, but they will promote anything. They will promote protein chocolate, which makes sense with their brand. They will promote weight loss teas, which don’t make sense because if you’re a fitness, why would you promote weight loss tea? You’re talking about health, these teas are not healthy. They will promote laptops, they will promote phone cases, they will … Like, there is no cohesiveness to what they’re promoting. They’re essentially like assassin for hire. They will promote anybody that pays them anything. And that’s really bad because your audience loses your trust.

If you say, “Oh my god, I love this,” about every single thing that you promote on your page, your audience is just gonna be like, okay, she loves everything, forget this. I don’t trust her. That is why when you decide to work with a brand with a sponsorship or if you want to do a paid collaboration, look at the product and genuinely think, would you buy this with your own money?

One thing that I do, especially if brands want to collaborate with me, I will ask them to send the product to me first. I will try it, and I will let them know in the email, if I don’t like this product, I am not moving forward by promoting you whether it’s free or paid. I let them know in advance. If the brand’s like, “Sorry, that doesn’t work,” then I’m like, “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work.” Because I don’t want to lose the loyalty that I have worked so hard to build with my audience. That’s why you will see very few paid collaborations on my page. That’s why you’ll see actually very few collaborations at all.

The only two things that you will see consistently on my page are my supplement sponsor, Women’s Best, which I absolutely love, ’cause their products are super, super high quality, and the second one is Til You Collapse, my clothing sponsor. I love their apparel regardless. I actually spent a ton of money buying their apparel before I became sponsored with them, from my own money. So, that would be my rule of thumb for who you should work with and who you shouldn’t work with.

Are you managing everything yourself or do you outsource account management work, etc.?

Okay, so like I said, I’ve been doing this for a while, and so as part of my business, since a lot of my business is on Instagram, I do have a team that helps me. But when I started off, I did it all by myself. I would answer emails and DMs, I would actively engage, I would do the hashtag research. All of that was all me. I didn’t hire anybody, I didn’t pay anybody, nobody was helping me. It was all me and my hustle.

For the majority of people, I really recommend don’t outsource anything unless you absolutely have to. Don’t pay for external services.

So like I said, any service that tells you to buy likes or buy comments … or there’s those bots that will like and comment on your behalf or whatever, none of that. Please, please, please don’t do that to yourself or your account. But if you’re a huge business and you’re really just like, I can’t handle all these DMs by myself, I can’t respond to all the comments by myself, absolutely outsource. Hire a Instagram manager, hire a social media manager to respond to comments, to respond to emails and DMs on all your platforms. That would literally be the only type of outsourcing I would recommend, simply because you really do need it for your own sanity and for you as a business owner to focus on the other more important parts of your business instead of spending hours a day responding to comments and answering questions.

But that would literally be the only thing I outsource. If you are just starting off, if you’re a blogger, if you’re an influencer, aspiring or not, please, please don’t outsource anything. You can do it yourself. You don’t need more than half an hour a day, I promise. I promise, I promise.

So, I hope this video and blog were helpful. I hope I answered your guys’ question. And if you have any more follow-up questions, as always, make sure to drop a comment below. I would be more than happy to answer them. Or you can shoot me a DM, @workout_unicorn on Instagram. I am on top of my DMs. I answer my DMs, by the way, in case you were wondering.

Thank you guys again for tuning in and I’ll see you next week 🙂