I Did What Every Instagram Expert Says Is Stupid and It’s Working Great

I’m not an Instagram expert.

But I do know how to grow an audience, create value on social media, and a few things about what’s interesting.

I’ve done some experimenting with my For The Interested Instagram accountin the past few weeks and it’s led me to suggest you try out a strategy the Insta-experts will consider to be blasphemy.

It’s complicated, so get ready to concentrate. Ready? Here goes…

“Stop. Using. Hashtags.”

Ok, maybe it’s not THAT complicated.

But it’s the opposite of what every Instaguru out there tells you to do to grow or improve your account.

And they’re right. If you paste 20 hashtags into each of your posts, you will get more likes and followers.

You’ll feel good about yourself and your progress.

You’ll declare your social media strategy a success!

And then you’ll get nothing out of it.

Because there’s a catch.

The majority of the likes and follows you get from those magic hashtags fall into one of two categories:

  1. They’re real likes from fake people. (See: people who don’t actually exist, aka bots.)
  2. They’re fake likes from real people. (See: people who only like and follow in the hope you’ll return the favor.)

“Your hashtag-driven engagement is hollow —it’s not based on a true appreciation of your Clarendon-filtered work of art.”

But it’s not just that your hashtags lead to meaningless likes — they also may be trick you into thinking your content is actually good!

When you stop using hashtags, you’re left with only one way to improve your Instagram traction — you have to actually produce great content.

Because without the “magic” of hashtags, your content has to actually earn its engagement.

This can be a rough reality check at first, but ultimately gives you a true sense of whether your content is good, whether it’s improving, and whether you’re building an audience that cares about what you do.

Weaning yourself off the hashtag teat may be scary, but it will push you to improve your content.

I stopped using hashtags a couple months ago and while my account hasn’t taken off overnight, it has experienced steady growth, adding a couple hundred followers during that time.

That couple hundred followers may not seem like much — and it’s certainly not an overnight success story — but it’s real.

And that gives me a significant advantage compared to the misleading data I received back in the hashtag days.

I know these new followers are (for the most part) real.

I know they pay attention.

And I know my content is good enough to drive continued growth of my account.

All of that is more valuable than anything I ever got from a hashtag.

I’ve got one more thing for you (unless you’re a bot)…

If you dug this idea and would like me to send you more ideas about how to get the most out of social media and life in general, check out my For The Interested newsletter.