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So, if you hop back over to my other post about Instagram here, you’ll get more of a backstory as to why I even started this hot mess to begin with! I got sucked into ‘loop hell’ and wasted so much time. I was deflated at the end of that post and ready to give up on Instagram all together. So I decided to start something a little different. I introduce you to: My Instagram Experiment.

Where To Start?

It really all goes back to something Hunter said. He uses Instagram for workout tips and keeping in touch with old friends. He doesn’t post much, but he spends a lot of time on his feed and the explore page.

One day, he asked ‘Is there a way for you to find these friends without posting the loop pictures? They’re annoying.’ That was enough to get my wheels turning.

So I made a list of what my ideal group would do

  • I wanted whatever I started to be genuine. Most of the people I looped with only cared if you followed them back. Very fake, shallow ‘friendship’.
  • It had to be a way for us all to connect ‘behind the scenes’. A type of invisible loop that followers wouldn’t be able to see. No more spamming their feed with loop graphics.
  • I somehow wanted to find a way to trick spammers and junk account from figuring us out and taking advantage of us.
  • The rules had to be laid back for this to work. Looping was stressful. Some loop admins would block you if a post wasn’t up or down at a certain time and they made you comment emojis on every loop picture. I didn’t want to break any rules or upset any admins, but some of them were just too much!

So, I basically had my rules set, but how do I gather people in a new way?

Hashtag Tribes

Full disclosure: I beat myself up about the name. I wanted it to explain what we did without using the words loop, engagement, followers…. So… it became the Hashtag Growth Group…. and evolved into the Hashtag Tribes.

Here’s our rules

  1. In the caption of any of your photos, use the hashtag that we use to group our photos together. Sorry, but you gotta join the group to see the current hashtag. The hashtag changes with the date, so it’s different daily, but easy to remember!
  2. After posting, click the hashtag to see all other photos with the same hashtag.
  3. Follow any accounts that inspire you, comment meaningful things on any photos that peak your interest, like any photos you enjoy but might not have a comment for.
  4. Don’t be a jerk.

That’s it! See? I said simple. But let’s take a quick look at why this idea should work…

Why The Hashtag?

I decided on the idea of creating a group that utilizes hashtags to find each other. While we are using the hashtags to find each other like you would in a loop, it appears as a totally different interaction to the algorithm.

With looping, you have a hundred+ people going to the same hashtag, quickly following, liking, commenting. Also, that’s probably the only time you ever engage with those accounts.

With our hashtag method, traffic around the hashtag is slower. We use it like most accounts casually use hashtags. Because we post at random times throughout the day and interact sporadically, it’s just different.

Think about how you interacted with hashtags before your focus was using them for networking. I’m guessing you used hashtags to find people similar to you with common interests.

Did You Know….?

I recently found out that there are certain hashtags that are banned. Instagram banned the hashtag #Kansas once because so many people had been reported as spam that were using that hashtag! If you use a hashtag that they consider ‘junk’, your post won’t show up under any of the hashtags you used on that post! How crazy is that? All of the time spent choosing hashtags is WASTED if you chose the wrong ones

Original Content

Anything you’ll read online about growing a blog, Instagram page or Pinterest will say the same thing: content is king. 

I wanted this experiment to revolve around content. This is ultimately what decides if someone will organically decide to follow you.

It’s so important to have super engaging, relevant content that makes people want to interact with your page!

I tried to break it down from a regular Instagram user’s point of view: if I was on the explore page looking for new content, would I click on this post if I couldn’t see the caption? For most of my older posts, the answer is ‘NO!.

The same rule about content also goes for the caption. Does it have a call to action? Does the caption further explain the photo? Do you direct them to your site or tease them about an upcoming post? Captions are difficult because ‘My love’ seems like a cute caption, but it means nothing….. but your caption can’t be a novel with 30 hashtags.

Your loop friends probably wont ever actually visit your page. They look for the loop posts to like and comment on, then they’re ghosts.

The followers that look for your content will be the ones clicking your links and buying your products. You need so much meaningful content on your page and in their feed to make an impression.

My other reason for using unique content is actually sorta selfish. I wanted to see the actual content that my friends are posting! Before, I was vaguely familiar with certain usernames that I had seen a few times… but I couldn’t tell you what their page was all about.

Honestly, I didn’t know much more about them than their username and sometimes their profile picture.

Support

To join our group, you click a join link that adds you to a Telegram group chat.I made the Telegram group just as a place to post the rules, but the Telegram really wasn’t a necessity. I didn’t need to share post times or updated rules. Basically, once you read the rules and start to use it… you’re kinda on autopilot. Let me say it again…. simple.

So, why the Telegram group?

Social media is confusing and overwhelming. Honestly, somewhat terrifying when you’re new and feel alone. I wanted a place to share what I knew and to learn from others. It’s all one massive life lesson. Why not share failures and successes? You can save someone from a mistake you made and you can learn from their mistakes as well! There’s more than enough room at the top- you aren’t hurting yourself by helping others.

The chat took off like a rocket! Because of the people I chose to add, they all graciously reached out and shared tips and love.

Unfortunately, I had a few people tell me that they would have to leave the group. They like the idea of the hashtag and engagement but the chat on Telegram was just too much. Keeping up and read everything in the chat is a lot. They felt like if they couldn’t participate with the chat, they couldn’t join the hashtag.

That broke my heart. They were genuinely interested in sharing the love but the chat wasn’t for them. I decided to reach for my favorite word again: simple. Once they know the rules, they don’t even have to keep the Telegram- just keep following the group page and turn on post notifications for changes!

Side note, squirrel moment, mushy moment….. thank you to all the people participating right now! I have learned so much and felt so supported since starting this group. Stellar group of people- I wouldn’t be able to do this without ya’ll! I’ve truly come to love and appreciate every single one of you!

Engagement

There are so many ‘engagement pods’ out there right now, so I hate using that word. I joined a few of them but really struggled to keep up. To post your own photo to get likes and comments, you had to like and comment on ALL the photos for a certain time period before your post.

The engagement from loops and engagement groups is just so fake and plastic. I will admit I even found myself commenting ‘Nice’ or ‘Pretty’ on some posts because I had no clue what to say, but I had to comment. But let’s be honest… what did that meaningless comment do for either of our pages? JACK!

I wanted people to actually comment on each other’s photos if they could relate or appreciated the photo or caption. I wanted things to be simple enough that if you couldn’t find anything to say, you didn’t have to comment ‘nice’. You could like it or just move along. It was only fair to just drop the bullshit.

Also, did you know that Instagram puts a governor on your account for the first 3 months your account is open? Basically, they see it as: ‘this account is brand new, they shouldn’t like more than x pictures a day or follow more than x amount of people in x amount of time’.

All of the articles I’ve read were a bit different as far as actual numbers you’re allowed, but they all agree that Instagram has it’s eyes on you when you’re following 60 people in 5 minutes, liking all 60 loop photos AND commenting a kissy face. They know that’s not a real interaction.

Social Media Karma

The person commenting gains more than the person being commented on- by far!

By commenting on a photo, you are humanizing your page. People are seeing you as funny, caring, smart or one of the many other things you are in real life!

I think we can all agree that pages that post ‘nice’ on a wedding picture just seem like robots!

Again, going back to being a casual Instagram user, will you feel compelled to go to someone’s page if they comment that? I’m gonna guess NO!

I truly believe in only engaging on posts that speak to you. If you’re all about crocheting and you see a photo of a baby blanket that someone crocheted, you will naturally have more meaningful, relevant things to comment on that photo.

People will see your comment and maybe hop over to your page…. because they feel like they get to know you a little bit!

The accounts who are most active will also be rewarded the most. Rather than being upset if everyone isn’t reciprocating, remember that the comment you left is a seed and not a favor to be repaid.

Your commitment to engaging and being genuine will be paid back. You may be paid back with a new follower or customer from their page that saw your comment!

If you’re not really sure what to comment on a picture…. just like it! That’s still engaging with their content… but not leaving some meaningless, junky comment that doesn’t mean anything!

How many times have you found yourself commenting on a photo because of the other comments? I do! Sometimes people get a whole chat going in their photos and it’s fun!

Different Is Scary

I definitely understand that this concept is scary at first. It’s different, so it’s spooky.

It isn’t the instant gratification like the 200 followers a day from looping. We humans tend to crave that immediate ‘success’. Because your brain just wants tons of followers, likes and comments. It’s only natural! We all feel that way!

If you’re not convinced that this will work, I understand your doubt! Try it along side with your current growth plan. Don’t add the hashtag to the actual loop post, but keep looping and use the hashtag on your own content. Get a feel for the interaction and concept. Not for you? Just don’t use the hashtag!

You can read here why I think looping is a bad idea. I looped for 4 months and I ended up deleting my account all together. You can read about that hot mess here.

So… do yourself a favor. Take a step back and look at your page from an outsider’s point of view… would you organically choose to follow you?

FYI

Since posting this, I have been attacked multiple times for speaking out about loops. I have been threatened by some sketchy loop admins to shut my page down or they’ll ‘shut it down for me’. Obviously, I’m striking some nerves. Some of them said ‘there’s no such thing as a ban‘…..’hashtags aren’t regulated’….’Instagram doesn’t mark loop activity as spam‘. They said my theory behind starting this is based on lies I’m spouting to scare people.

Okay… then fine- please don’t believe me. Go research this theory for yourself. The last thing I want is someone to follow my ideas blindly- because that’s what I did with loops. So… be responsible and research what you read. Don’t believe me or them. It’s your account- I don’t want you to put it in my hands out of blind faith. But when you do your research, we’ll be here for ya! There is no good argument for looping.

PLEASE comment with your feedback and ideas. I’d really love to hear your thoughts!

Love ya’ll!

-MJ

UPDATE

Since creating this, I have merged all of my groups, courses and Tribes into one great big community: The Secret Tribe. It’s hosted on a site called Mighty Networks that allows me to create one place that has it all! I’m hoping to write an update soon to share how I host my Hashtag Tribes on this network rather than Telegram. It’s free to preview the community and if you’re interested, you can read more about it here!

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I'm an INFJ- so I'm a walking contradiction with ADD and a heart the size of Texas. I live my life by the Law of Attraction and I love helping other people find inner peace.

5 Comments

  • Vee Newton

    O.M.G that was soooo amazing and inspiring. I definitely love this group. It has made Instagram fun again. I feel like this group is exactly what my new page needs. I started my business IG in hopes of only getting organic Followers. I actually tried looping as well. It was GREAT….a tad bit addictive but I still wasn’t getting the kind of growth that I was looking for. I was gaining followers by the minute but I was hearing crickets when it came to engagement. Well that was until you introduced me to this amazing group. You have changed my entire outlook on Instagram and actually made it fun. Once I start my website I know I will have REAL people eager to hear what I have to say. THANK YOU FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY!

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