On Perception, Shady Instagram Growth Tactics & The Dreaded Numbers Game

thoughts on shady Instagram growth tactics


Perception, shady Instagram growth tactics & number obsessing…enough already!

So much has been said about the downside of Instagram of late that I hesitated to add my thoughts into the already seething pot if I’m totally honest.

It feels sad to think that many people have fallen out of love with it. The stark mechanics and niggles of it all seem to be sapping the creativity out of the whole process for lots of people I know.

Specifically I’m seeing chatter about the perils of portraying a seemingly perfect life, the curse of the almighty algorithm, the icky uncomfortable subject of shady Instagram growth tactics and more recently, the “Is it a real thing or isn’t it?” practice of shadowbanning.

Shadowban. Hhmm… sounds like something menacing, dark and mysterious from a Sci Fi movie. I’m wondering if it involves Keanu Reeves in a black leather trench coat kicking some serious Instagram butt?

If you’re after a sensible view and explanation on what a shadowban is (or might be), read this from Me & Orla.  And there’s this post on the algorithm too. In my opinion, this woman is the Instagram oracle and has a very healthy and informed attitude to all of it.

In order to get over my own Instagram love affair blip, I think I just need to get a couple of things off my chest and move forwards.

Forwards in the hope I can rekindle all those good feelings again. So here’s my views on a couple of the points mentioned above…


photographing a monochrome Instagram flat lay

Instagram Makes Me Feel Bad About My Life…

In the beginning, before I really began to understand how Instagram was being utilised by life and style bloggers, I too could have easily fallen into the trap of thinking that everyday, a perfectly tanned women of perfect proportions was enjoying the perfect coffee.

On the perfect marble table. In the perfect city. With of course, the perfect handbag, artfully placed just in shot.

And then as a blogger, I started paying attention. I read stuff. I consumed hints and tips post on editing.

I attended an Instagram workshop. I found blog posts on how to get a good shot of your coffee and shoes by sticking your bum out in a totally unflattering and very weird way (thanks Aimee Song!).


I was simply being
attracted my tribe…


I worked out why I was following so many beautifully curated minimal accounts. Or accounts that exuded positivity, happiness, coffee and marble. I was simply being attracted to my tribe.

I found different tribes I liked. In amongst all the “perfect” I found warm, funny people who I felt a connection with. All through the power of 3×3 imagery.

I also understood that anyone who writes a life or style blog and particularly as a business, will use Instagram as a curated gallery. If that’s you then good for you! I think this is a REALLY good idea.

A) it makes me feel positive (not envious), when I see aesthetically pleasing imagery and B) I understand that it might help the purveyor of said imagery to make some money from their blog business.

a fresh espresso and a new notepad

blogger essentials flat lay

Good. Good and Good. This is women (and lots of men too), being creative and entrepreneurial. And we salute that don’t we??

But if this kind of Instagram feed bothers you because you don’t like perfection and prefer the normal everyday, the random, the gritty and the unedited there’s a gazillion accounts out there for you too.

That’s what the Follow and Unfollow button is for.

There should also be a Don’t Presume button because (and I don’t know how many times I will say this before I’m done), anyone only ever shares as much as they want you to see on social media. Even the true nitty gritty sharers may be holding something back. They may not. I don’t presume to know.

Thats all fine with me. I don’t lose any sleep over it.


The Shady Instagram Growth Tactics game…

Oh my god the numbers! Stop with the numbers! I thought I’d escaped the numbers when I left finance.

With Instagram AND blogging, we need to STOP focusing on them and heres why.

My blog traffic volumes are nothing like what the big hitters might attract. But there’s a place for us both to make a living out of blogging.

Admittedly I won’t earn the big bucks that said big hitter may earn per sponsored post. But there are other ways to supplement your income as a blogger. Some of these only show themselves as possibilities after a few years in the game (if you’re me), or if you’re a smart cookie, you can go and seek them out for yourself much earlier.

Here’s a great post with nine ideas for alternate income streams from Lauren of Elle & Co fame.

My advice would be to to work hard on your blog, your mailing list too and invest some time in your other social media platforms as well.

Not all. Just the ones you like or that seem to work for you. It all counts towards the whole package that you can offer a brand when either pitching or responding to a sponsored content proposition.

When it comes to Instagram (definitely a platform I LOVE!), my follower numbers may not (and never be) huge but with that comes other benefits.


You can focus on and
enjoy, the engagement…


For starters, if you don’t have a gazillion followers who mostly leave one word or solely emoji based comments then you can have actual (and meaningful) conversations.

(Insert thumbs up emoji here for that).

You can focus on and enjoy the engagement. Thankfully brands are looking at engagement as well as numbers now. Us Micro Influencers are increasingly well thought of and brands are cottoning on to our positives.

They like that we can produce aspirational imagery, write engaging captions. And have conversations with our followers.

But (and here’s where I could let off a whole stream of swear words), for goodness sake don’t buy followers and likes. Because it comes down to something as simple as this. It’s a lie. And liars ALWAYS get found out in the end.


The tide is
slowly turning…


By upping your numbers in this way, you may be getting the brand buy in right now and making some money. But the tide is slowly turning.

What will you do when brands see those bots for who they are? Or when Instagram eventually cracks down and weeds out all your fake followers and comments?

You’ll have to do what the rest of us have done. Do it properly.

I don’t write posts to provoke an argument or antagonise. I’m the least argumentative person you’re ever likely to meet in all honesty. But I do feel strongly about this.

How to photograph and edit a great flay lay

coffee and desk situation

And it was an email I received last week that incensed me and became the deciding factor in adding my thoughts into the already seething pot.

The “helpful” email sender was selling me the big three:

Help with hashtags.
Thanks, I’m a hashtag demon. Already figured that one out for myself.

Automated Likes and Follows from my account.
Apparently if I let them fake like auto like a gazillion pics on my behalf then I might get a like back too. No thanks.

And my favourite…automatic likes whenever I post.
Read fake likes. Lots of them. The word fake not ringing any alarm bells yet?

But the fake icing on the fake cake (and now I’m starting to sound like Trump for gods sake!), was that they tried to suck me in by saying that whilst I upload great pictures, I don’t get much attention from other users. Apparently I’m having problems with my account and am missing out on HUGE potential.

I’m not totally vain or stupid. I know this was a circular email and not personally intended to cause offence but boy did I take some! Not with the person writing it but the fact that this is what it’s all come down to.


Wouldn’t it be great to focus on Instagram
as a creative outlet?


Wouldn’t it be great to go back to focusing on Instagram as the creative outlet that supports our blogs and sometimes, might be one of the things that helps us to secure a really good, well fitting brand collaboration.

With a view to that, I totally support and encourage anyone to grow their audience. Properly. It feels a lot more rewarding, despite the slower progress.


There you go. I have purged my soul of its Insta woes and to quote Rachel Green in the early days – “…and that my friend is what they call closure!”

Just so we’re clear, I’m not actually breaking up with Instagram. Just like Rachel never really broke up with Ross. I’m just giving myself a pep talk, gaining a little perspective and carrying on regardless.

Later on I’ll be sharing with you a few simple things I’ve learnt that helped grow my own following from 7K+ in October 2015 to the 17K+ that you see now. Rocket science or shady tactics not required.

Persistence, passion and perseverance a must.

What do you think about all the negative chatter and shady Instagram growth tactics? Are you on a break or will you just carry on regardless and let it wash over you?

And are you impressed with how many Friends references I squeezed in there?


As a thank you for making it to the end of my somewhat ranty post (if indeed you did make it this far!), I have an exclusive Online Stylist discount for Daniel Wellington who kindly sent me the watch featured in these shots.

Just enter the code ONLINESTYLIST15 at the checkout to obtain 15% off anything at Daniel Wellington. The code is valid until 31 May 2017 and they offer free worldwide shipping.

Time to shop!


STYLE CREDITS: Kate Spade Laptop Case | Sunglasses – Topshop | Paper Porcelain Espresso Cup – Hay | Limited Edition Lip Palette – CHANEL | Grey Agate Siren Stacking Ring – Monica Vinader c/o | Personalised Notepad – Love Give Ink c/o | Pen – Kate Spade | Classic Black Cornwall 40mm watch – Daniel Wellington c/o | Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Camera


13 Responses to On Perception, Shady Instagram Growth Tactics & The Dreaded Numbers Game

  1. Great post, I totally agree with everything you say. Brilliantly written (I love all the Friends references!) and fab watch too! x

  2. Nancy says:

    Interesting post Amanda and thanks for the links. I’ve found Instagram to be a really friendly community. It’s not all about selling a perfect lifestyle, lots of people are frank and funny about the less lovely sides of life too! The fakers can’t spoil that and hopefully brands will get wise to what’s going on.

    • You’re welcome Nancy and glad you found the links useful. It is a lovely friendly community which is why I love it so much.
      I hope the fakers and algorithms don’t eventually spoil it completely. Lets hope good prevails!
      Amanda xx

  3. Lou says:

    Amanda! You are at the sharp end of what Instagram can do and it is incredible that it’s become this engine of art, business, commercialism, algorithms and the concept of a ‘curated feed’. That wasn’t even a thing a few years back! Curated feed? wtf?! I am with you – as ever – in many ways. I love this medium and it allows self expression and beauty to shine through. I think there is a slight danger though, with all of the analysis, of growing followers and making sure the mosaic of the images correspond. It feels to me a touch contrived and whilst I love a good minimalist feed with the best of them, I do come away feeling slightly grubby when I draw my eyes away from the screen and look at my own dirty floors or cluttered surfaces! I agree you can unfollow but it’s a compulsion of our everyday and what I end up with is a stark contrast between real and screen life. That contrast can breed a feeling of – I don’t even know what – discontentment? Plus I fear there is a danger of loosing spontaneity when everything has been staged (the infamous flat-lay!). I notice that some feeds are using only professional photographers in all their imagery which again can make the layman feel a little…excluded? It’s a bit like arriving at a party in what you thought was a great outfit and finding that the rest of the guests have raided the stock cupboards at Vogue magazine and you look positively dowdy! Do you know what I mean? I am still an advocate of rocking your outfit, but also of owning your ‘curated feed’ and not bowing down to the new Instagram conformity!

    • Good Morning Lovely Lou!
      As always I love your comments – so well thought out and beautifully written. But this is why you’re writing a book!! (So excited)!!
      I know – its a funny thing to make it a curated feed. I too was WTF before I got that its effectively a marketing tool used by bloggers as brands might use it. I guess it just depends on the individual scrolling through and how they might be feeling at the time.
      We all suffer from comparison to a degree, even when we try not to. If I’m having a bad day and feel like I’m failing at life in general, seeing the imagery sometimes lifts me out of it. Or if I’m in can’t be arsed mode, I just stay off Instagram altogether.
      I really don’t object to the contrived feel of a tonal feed as I think of it as a gallery. Plus when I look down at my dirty floors (we’re both dog owners – we know what this can involve!) I welcome the opposite of a marble table and a really good coffee.
      Overall I don’t overthink it and just wish people would relax about the whole numbers game and not obsess. Its great to build an engaged following (and useful for business too) but it shouldn’t be the only thing we put all our efforts into.
      And completely agree about owning your feed – I follow so many who do this and do it so well. I don’t think you have to conform to any accepted stand to have a successful feed.
      One great thing is the engaging captions and comments that seem to be coming to the forefront. I would rather see a pretty pic with a great caption than one with #blessed ! (Inserts fingers into back of throat).
      I LOVE that we can debate the great 3 x 3 – I could go on for hours about it! Just tell me to shut up!! 😉
      xxx

  4. An absolutely great post, agree with everything you say. I’m right at the beginning with this and my blog but like anything in life I realise you have to work hard at it. I really can’t understand why people get so upset and make themselves so bad because instagram lives look so perfect-they are exactly the same in magazines but somehow we don’t seem to feel the same about them. It’s all about perspective and maintaining a sense of reality. Thank you for a really good lunchtime read.

    • Thank you Caroline! So excited to hear you’re on the beginning of your blogging journey – prepare for an amazing ride! And you’re exactly right about not feeling the same about magazines. In the same vein, we can choose the more glossy versions, the ones that are more down to earth or a good mix of both. Either way its about personal choice.
      Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
      Amanda xx

  5. jules says:

    Hi Amanda, I’m ‘just’ an Instagram follower and new-ish to your blog and definitely not a professional myself, but just wanted to say that I love your pics and your writing ..maybe I’m the consumer that all the brands are after and its working! I wish my own instagram feed was more curated but actually its just me and my life! My (just) teenage daughter (yes, I know you have one of thse ..isn’t it fun ?!) tells me it should look more ‘together’ but I dont mind, it’s not meant to earn me money or show a perfect life). I find yours, and the other few instagram/blogs I follow, insirational, intelligent and endearing. Keep it up 🙂
    ps I didn’t read your M&S post properly and left a message asking about provenance of tealights – sorry!!!

    • Hi Jules,
      Lovely to hear from you! And yes – I recall the M&S tea lights – no worries at all. Hope you found them!
      You are indeed the dream consumer – brands are cottoning on to the true value of micro influencers! I myself am influenced
      by so many other Instagrammers. Its like online shopping with friends!
      I think you should let your feed be exactly what you want it to be…and sometimes you don’t even know what that is until sufficient
      time passes. Meanwhile, enjoy it and have fun with experimenting.
      Thanks so much for your lovely words – you made my Friday!
      Have a great weekend!
      Amanda xxx

  6. Monica says:

    Amanda you write so beautifully about subjects so close to every blogger’s heart!

    Bravo for a totally enlightened piece – you are entirely correct and you have shown through your own hard work, dedication and persistence exactly how possible it is to grow an engaged and loyal community. AND to propel a successful business.

    So proud of you and everything you stand for!

    Sending love your way!

    Monica x

  7. Sam says:

    Such a great post! I wrote a blog post recently based on a talk given by someone from Instagram. It’s about how the algorithm actually works and breaks users into clusters. To get “ahead” it’s all about the cluster and engagement! Instagram talked about feedback and how it’s a “gift”. You can’t get ahead with fake likes and fake followers. You need to give genuine engagement (feedback) to your cluster/community! A bot can’t do that for you!

  8. Jennie says:

    Oh Amanda, you are spot on as always. I love all the comments and opinions here … I’m not sure that I can add much.

    I think that ultimately instagram is whatever you want it to be. If you want to see only diamonds and yachts then you can choose to exclusively follow accounts of that style. Likewise, if want more realism and something less curated, you can find that too. Unlike glossy magazines – the beauty of instagram is that you actually have the power to create the instagram that you see. As you say, use those buttons that say ‘follow’ and ‘unfollow’.

    I would just like to add that as a small business owner I am so grateful for instagram. I have a very limited marketing budget, and the costs of a traditional PR and marketing strategy are not an option. My feed is clearly curated, and I have worked with some talented photographers to create a lot of beautiful images. Instagram is my shop – I’m actually really proud of the way it looks! I obviously need to be careful not to become too dependent on the platform, but I really believe that we wouldn’t exist right now without instagram.

    Despite the negative press surrounding instagram, I think that there is a lot of joy, positivity, and inspiration to be found in the platform if you look for it.

    J xx

    PS Love the Friends reference here!

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