Social media marketing Why You Shouldn’t Cheat to Get Likes on Instagram By Kat Boogaard Posted January 30, 2018 Share on Pinterest Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Getting More Likes on Instagram: To Cheat or Not to Cheat You created the perfect image. You perused through all of the filters until you found just the right one. You agonized over how to write the catchiest caption. You did your research to use the most relevant hashtags. You invested all of that blood, sweat, and tears, and now you’re finally ready to post to your Instagram account—so, you hit that blue “share” button and wait for the likes and comments to start rolling in. In an hour or so, you refresh your notifications. There’s nothing but crickets. You check again a little while later, and—aside from a few random spam bots commenting on your post to demand that you follow them back—there’s still nothing. You’re frustrated, disheartened, and wondering what you’re doing wrong. And, it’s at this very low, discouraged point when a thought like this one might cross your mind: Should you cheat to get Instagram followers? Isn’t that an easy, quick-fix solution to begin gaining some traction for your brand’s Instagram account? Instagram for Business 101 Grab our ebook Instagram for Business to take your Instagram game up a notch! The Temptation of Cheating for Likes We get it—when you put so much time into mapping out an Instagram strategy and doing all of the necessary research to get your profile out there, it’s infuriating to feel like you’re sending posts out into the void. This is when it becomes especially tempting to explore some alternative solutions for getting more likes and engagements on your posts. You find yourself considering that workaround for a variety of reasons, including: 1. To Beat Instagram’s Algorithm Unless you’ve already built up a solid following (like those accounts that already have thousands of eager followers), it’s tough to really build a presence and get your content in front of more eyeballs. This is because many social media algorithms look at engagement in order to determine what posts should show up in people’s feeds. When a post is published, if a sample set of people react well to it, then it will show up for even more followers. So, you could take this to mean that if you have a post that garners a fair amount of likes, Instagram would put it toward the top of the feed for your other followers—increasing the chance that they’ll both see it (believe it or not, only between 25-35% of a brand’s followers actually see that brand’s posts) and like it. This further increases the engagement, and well, you get where this is going. Here’s the thing, though: Instagram’s algorithm has a big cloud of mystery around it. But, the platform has flat-out said that they aren’t on a mission to transform into a giant popularity contest. An Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider that they’re placing a lot of weight on relevancy. That means that if a post doesn’t have a super high engagement score—but is still highly relevant to a follower—it still stands a chance of appearing at the top of the feed. Don’t be fooled—likes and comments are still a factor. But, they aren’t the be-all and end-all of getting your post out in front of more people. 2. To Make Your Way to the “Explore” Page If you’ve been using Instagram for a while, you’re likely familiar with something called the “Explore” page—which shows you a bunch of different posts that are relevant (here’s that relevancy term again!) to a user’s interests. This means that the content that’s displayed here varies from user to user—depending on the posts that they’ve engaged with in the past. But, what you might not remember is that Instagram’s “Explore” page actually used to be the “Popular” page, which displayed all of the most-liked posts at the time that you were scrolling through. In an effort to move away from that “popularity contest” vibe, Instagram made the switch to “Explore.” However, this is a place that many brands and businesses still want to end up—mainly because somebody doesn’t need to be an existing follower of your account to see your post displayed there. This means the “Explore” page is a great way to gain new followers who might have never seen your content otherwise. So, how do you get your photo to appear that? Unsurprisingly, Instagram stays pretty tight-lipped about the secrets to success. But, we can only speculate that engagement is another factor at play here. One quick look at my own “Explore” page revealed that the posts I was seeing there had at the very least 300 likes—and some of them were approaching 100,000. Needless to say, while there’s no solid proof that tons of likes will get you a coveted spot, it certainly can’t hurt. 3. To Feel Like Your Efforts Are Worth it One more reason that many brands are tempted to cheat for Instagram likes? It’s a pretty straightforward and human need: They want to feel as if the time and energy they’re investing is actually paying off. There aren’t many things that will require you to continue to do them even when you know it isn’t working. You wouldn’t write a book, for example, notice that zero people purchased it, and then say, “Hey, I think I’ll write another one!” But, with something like Instagram, you can’t just give up when that post of yours receives nothing but silence. No, you need to push your feelings aside and then go ahead and post another one. With over 800 million monthly active users, it’s an audience you can’t afford to miss out on and it’s a marketing tool you can’t neglect to leverage—even when you become frustrated. So, many brands fall victim to the siren song of cheating for likes, just so they can meet any quotas, show something in their engagement reports, and just generally feel like their time spent marketing on Instagram wasn’t a total waste. What Does it Mean to “Cheat” to Get Likes on Instagram? Understanding the temptation to take the easy way out to get more Instagram likes is one thing. But, there’s another question that crops up: What exactly does it mean to cheat to get likes? What does that process look like? Do you approach a man in a dark alley, who then opens his trench coat and offers you a variety of the highest-quality Instagram followers who will like every single post you publish? Not exactly—although, it’s not a bad analogy. Here are three common ways that brands (and individuals) cheat to get more likes on their photos. 1. Utilizing different apps. Without a doubt, this is one of the most popular ways that people get their like counts to skyrocket on Instagram. Visit your app store, search for something like “Instalike” or “Instagram likes” and you’ll be met with a variety of different app options you can use to get more likes. Many of the “Instalike” apps that have been released actually violate the terms of service of the app stores and platforms, so you’ll see these come and go fairly frequently—and some, like the one Gadget Hacks tested, aren’t actually available through standard channels anymore. The first red flag you should be aware of? The majority (if not all) of these apps will require you to provide both your Instagram username and password—meaning that app will have full access to your account. Without a doubt, that’s a pretty big risk to take. Exactly how these different apps function to get you more likes can vary. But, generally, it works like this: You need to earn coins or tokens, which you can then spend to purchase likes for your own Instagram posts. How do you earn those tokens? By liking other people’s Instagram posts within the app. Yes, this means that the bulk of the likes that you get on that Instagram post of yours will be from other people who are also using the same app to cheat for likes. Obviously, that continuing circle of fake likes from people who are just fulfilling a duty isn’t ideal. Do these apps work? Well, yes, Gadget Hacks’ own experiment garnered over 200 likes in just a half an hour. But, is it worth it? Definitely not—unless you’re interested in having a bunch of meaningless likes (spoiler alert: You shouldn’t be). 2. Buying Instagram followers. Purchasing Instagram followers is another way that many brands try to find a quick fix for getting more Instagram likes. Theoretically, the more followers you have, the more likes you’ll have, right? Here’s the problem with this approach (aside from it just being a dishonest workaround): The followers you purchase are probably going to be either bots or inactive accounts. This means they’re probably not going to engage with the content you post—meaning you’re not going to see a huge increase in the amount of likes you’re getting. Just take a look at the experiment that Hootsuite conducted with a dummy Instagram account that they setup. They spent $9.95 to purchase 1,000 followers. They got the audience size that they were expecting. But, even months after watching their following hover around 1,000? They still haven’t gotten so much as a single like on their Instagram post. In short, purchasing Instagram followers will give you a somewhat impressive stat to showcase at the top of your profile. But, you’re really dealing with an empty and disengaged audience, and you likely won’t see your amount of likes increase. 3. Using Instagram Automation When you’re a brand on Instagram, you know that engagement is huge. And, you can’t just expect people to engage with you if you aren’t willing to meet them halfway—you need to be actively liking, following, and commenting on other posts. Unfortunately, we all know that this can be time-consuming, which means that people often turn to Instagram automation (read: bots) to take care of those actions for them. The idea is if you’re out there actively engaging with other accounts, you’ll see your own following and engagement increase. Automation can be great in a variety of ways. But, on a platform like Instagram, authenticity is always better. Hootsuite conducted a separate test where they used Instagram automation for this very purpose. And, while they did witness an increase in their likes (within 12 hours, they had 40 new likes on their photos!) and a modest hike in the size of their following, the cons far outweighed the pros. From accidentally posting totally out-of-place comments on random photos to having their own Instagram feed filled with junk from the spam accounts that they had automatically followed, Hootsuite concluded that while Instagram automation was somewhat effective, it wasn’t worth the risk. Should You Cheat to Get Likes on Instagram? Do you want the short answer? No, absolutely not. You shouldn’t use any of the above methods (however tempting they might be) to get more likes for your brand’s Instagram account. Hopefully the above experiments and explanations already provided plenty of proof as to why cheating is a bad idea. But, in case you need even more validation, let’s do a brief refresher. Here are a few of the many, many reasons you shouldn’t cheat to get likes on Instagram: 1. It’s Totally Inauthentic Engagement Yes, you want engagement on Instagram. But, for that engagement to mean anything, it needs to be authentic—meaning it needs to come from people who are actually interested and invested in your brand, rather than from bots or from people who are only looking for more followers themselves. 2. It’s Risky From cluttering your own feed with junk posts from bots to handing over control of your own account to running the risk of posting totally inappropriate comments, there are plenty of potential pitfalls associated with taking these Instagram shortcuts. And, in most cases, the risk far outweighs the reward. 3. It Doesn’t Help You As much as you’d like to see your different Instagram stats on the up and up, it’s important to step back and remind yourself that Instagram is a tool that plays a role in your larger marketing strategy. Fake engagement and dishonest numbers ultimately accomplish nothing for you. Those people won’t be interested in purchasing your products, and—for all you know—you might end up promoting your fine leather goods to an audience full of vegans. How to Get More Likes on Instagram (The Right Way) So, if cheating isn’t the way to go, how can you get more well-deserved likes on your Instagram posts? Rest assured, it’s totally possible to do this in an honest and ethical way. Here are four key tips to help you grow your following and increase your engagement. 1. Like and Comment on Other People’s Posts Even if it’s not smart to use automation to accomplish this for you, you definitely should still make some time to put yourself out there and engage with other relevant accounts and influencers. Schedule some time each and every week (even if it’s just an hour or so!) when you can sit down and like and comment on other Instagram posts. Those comments don’t need to be salesy or pushy themselves (you don’t need to say something like, “Come follow our account!”). People in the social media sphere are typically willing to return favors without having to be asked. So, the simple act of just actively engaging will likely lead to an increase in your own account’s engagement levels. You can also try tagging people, products, and locations that have a genuine connection with your brand. This will encourage them to engage with your posts and like and comment on them. If you’re looking for an Instagram scheduling app that fully supports tagging, then Sked (formerly Schedugram) could be right for you. You can use it to tag people, products, and locations in your posts and reach a larger audience than just your own followers. And it’s super easy to do. Just open your account, go into your Billing/Profile settings, and enable location and product tagging (see green arrows below). Then, when you’re creating a post, add your user, product and location tags where the orange box is in the image below. Once you’re done, queue or schedule your post to publish automatically or save it as a draft. RELATED: How to Get Started with Instagram Ads 2. Run a Contest People love to win, and running a contest can be a great way to draw more engagement out from your existing followers. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Even a simple “like to win” contest (where all people need to do is “like” a specific post of yours) can generate a lot of excitement and increase engagement around your content. 3. Create a Branded Hashtag Campaign Another great way to generate some buzz around what your brand is doing? Create a branded hashtag that people can use on their own posts. Plenty of brands implement this strategy with a lot of success. Your followers can use that hashtag on their own relevant posts—giving you the opportunity to easily find their posts (just by clicking your branded hashtag!) and engage with them. Plus, when other people include your hashtag on their own photos, you organically spread the word about your brand—increasing your chances that more people will give your account a follow and engage with your content. Having trouble keeping your hashtags organized? Our hashtag manager lets you store, group, and add hashtags to posts in the caption or first comment with just a couple of clicks. Try it today and see how much easier it is to manage your hashtags. 4. Schedule Content for Optimal Times If you want more likes on your posts, you obviously need people to see them. Instagram’s algorithm makes that difficult at times. But, posting your content at the optimal times (i.e. the times your followers are most active and engaged) can help to get your content seen. If you have a business account on Instagram, you can check your analytics to see at what times your followers are most engaged. If not, there’s plenty of research into some of the best times of day to post. By the way, if you’re concerned about being ready and available to post at those times, using an Instagram scheduler can take a lot of weight off your shoulders. We may be biased, but we recommend giving Sked a try! It makes scheduling and posting your content–not just for Instagram, but for Facebook, Twitter (coming soon) and Pinterest too– a breeze. You can set the date and time you want your posts to publish manually or use the drag-and-drop calendar to set up your entire monthly publishing schedule in minutes. You can also use it to visually plan your feed and preview what it will look like as an Instagram grid before your posts go live. This makes it easy to create an attractive aesthetic that will help your brand stand out online the right way. Instagram for Business 101 Grab our ebook Instagram for Business to take your Instagram game up a notch! Get Out There and Get More (Honest) Likes We understand that it can be tempting to find an easy way out when it comes to increasing your likes and engagement on Instagram. But, here’s the one thing you need to remember: That’s not a good or effective idea for your brand. Instead, it’s far better to invest the time and work to grow your engagement organically. In the end, that will produce far better results. So, do your best to resist the urge to purchase followers or use those bots, and instead implement some of the tips we touched on above. With a little bit of time and trial and error, we’re confident you’ll land on something that works! If you’re looking to carve out hours in your social media workflow, sign up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week.