The words manual and process are two dreaded words in the world of marketing. With the entire audience of the Internet at our fingertips, automated processes save marketers, particularly social media marketers, hours of time and give them tons of reach.

But what if some of the richest connections we can foster for our brands actually come from organic and manual processes? Sure, it’s more time and less reach, but the return on manually managing your Instagram is absolutely incredible.

Now I know what you’re thinking, Instagram’s algorithm is so messed up, how can anyone be seen? True, but this has nothing to do with algorithm. It’s all about following.

I utilized this manual process to build a fashion Instagram to over 1,400 followers in a month averaging 20-30% (300-400 likes) engagement and to grow an account I managed for a ministry launch to over 450 followers in two weeks averaging 20% (70-80 likes) engagement. All unpaid followers and all genuine engagement. No like for like or comment for comment – it’s genuine. I also used this method to grow my personal account which has been sponsored by Chipotle, Truwhip, and California Pizza Kitchen just to name a few. I don’t even have a ton of followers, but I have consistent engagement.

Here’s my step by step Instagram hacking process for marketers.

Define Your Niche

What’s your category? Are you into fashion, food, ministry, writing, design? Figure out what your category is and stick to it. This will be important later on.

Follow, Follow, Follow

Now that you know your category, find successful Instagrammers who are also in your category. Go to their profiles and follow accounts that have liked their posts. This is the most important part. Only follow accounts that have liked recent posts. Don’t follow their followers because those could be bought or they could be ghost accounts. Make sure you’re following active users by only following those who have liked recent posts.

Know Your Limits

Instagram is really good at getting rid of spammers. It’s awesome, but it also means you have some limits to your following sprees. Typically I don’t follow more than 700 people per day, and that’s even high. Moreover, I don’t follow more than 100 in an hour. This keeps me under the radar and spam free. I typically follow 100 people every two hours or so to build my base.

Also, note that accounts can’t follow more than 7,500 accounts at a time. This means you’ll have to just as consistently be unfollowing people who have not followed you back. As a rule of thumb, if someone is following me, I will follow them. If someone hasn’t followed me in three days, I unfollow. You can guesstimate this tracking or use an app like Tracker to keep tabs on who follows you and who doesn’t and unfollow large amounts of people easily. Beware, only unfollow 60 people an hour so your account isn’t suspended.

Produce Engaging Content

You’ve got the followers, now what? Post content that’s within the category you initially categorized yourself in. Don’t stray from your niche or your engagement will go down. The whole point of following people who like content within your category was to ensure they’d engage with the content you post. Keep it consistent and watch your engagement stay consistent as well.

Katie Clinebell

Katie Clinebell is a born and raised New Jersey girl living in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as a Platform Coordinator for LifeWay. Specializing in creative communications, she is fueled by the Beach Boys, Broadway, and coconut coffee.