How to be suggested by Instagram

Jul 10, 2020
Growth Hacking
How to become suggested for you by Instagram

Last night I put down my phone at 9:30pm. I had a call earlier that day with David Taylor, my productivity coach, and he helped me discover that being on my phone until late at night was one of the factors causing me anxiety and sleeping problems.

So no screens one hour before bed!

Before switching my phone off, I took a screenshot of my followers and growth metrics:

Then, next morning, I woke up at 8AM, feeling fully rested, and after my morning routine, I checked my phone. I was astonished to see this:

I thought this to be unreal! This meant that I grew 1,000 followers overnight, from 66,000 to 67,000, almost 100 followers per hour.

I've seen many people in my industry achieve that same spike of growth in the same period. Which means that this phenomena is not unique to me. We must be connected by the algorithm, and that boosts some of us to get more followers.

The only way this kind of linking can be possible is due to the "Suggested for you" feature.

You may have noticed that when you follow someone, a window drops down, suggesting you similar accounts.

To find out if you are suggested on other people's accounts, you need to look from a completely unbiased account. I have an account with 0 posts, 0 followers and 0 followings to check such things.

Turns out that I am being suggested on many big pages now:
@thechrisdo (297k) followers: I'm number 3.
@thefuturishere (218k) followers: I'm number 3.
@dainwalker (71.5k) followers: I'm number 1.
@tomrossmedia (31.1k) followers: I'm number 1.
@creators (351k) followers: I'm number 8.
@instagramforbusiness (1.7M followers): I'm number 52.

And I'm being shown on many many other accounts as well.

Funny thing is that you only see suggestions you don't follow yet. So if someone decides to follow @thechrisdo, but they already follow his #1 and #2 recommendation, then I will be shown on the #1 slot (instead of the original #3).

If you imagine this over a longer time period, what happens is when someone from outside of this "bubble" follows any one of us, sooner or later they will end up following all of us.

There are some dangers to this though. I see many people just following me without engaging with my content (no likes, comments, etc.).

They don't even find me through my content. If they don't regularly consume content like mine, I will have a hard time showing up on their feed, thus my engagement (likes, etc.) will not increase with this huge influx of followers.

This changes a few things about my Instagram strategy, and I will update you once I figure out the best way to increase engagement and story views coming from these followers. Because if they don't engage with anything and don't even see my content, this whole thing is pretty much worthless...

But let's talk about the first step for now. How to become a suggested account.

If you search for this on the internet, you will find all kinds of answers, and as Instagram is constantly changing the machine learning algorithm, it's hard to tell what the current situation is.

I'm going to keep this very simple, and only share things I have observed or things confirmed by Instagram.

What accounts get suggested?

  1. Accounts with similar audiences.
  2. Related accounts (friends on Facebook – if the account is linked).
  3. Accounts that engage with each other.
  4. Accounts in a similar niche (due to #1 – having similar audiences).

So, now the actionable part. How can you be a suggested account?

First, make sure this feature is turned on for you. It's turned on by default, but here's how you can check it:

  1. Log into your account ON DESKTOP.
  2. Click on Edit Profile.
  3. See if you have Similar Account Suggestions enabled (checkbox).

Be careful, if you turn this off, no account will show up on your end, but you won't show up on other accounts either.

It's like a button for scarcity vs. abundance mindset.

Once you have that, do these:

  1. Link your Facebook Profile with your Instagram account.
  2. Add the people you want to show up on as friends (hopefully they accept your request).
  3. Start engaging with the accounts you want to be suggested on.
  4. This will help IG understand the connection, and
  5. Maybe get a few new followers for you, thus build your audience of similar people. (See #1 on the first list.)
  6. Start promoting the accounts you want to show up on. Help them grow, send them your followers. Again, this helps Instagram understand the similarity between the two audiences.
  7. Use similar hashtags to what they're using.

This is a long process, but if you are consistent, you will see results like this one day:

Yup, that's 1,700 followers yesterday. What's more exciting is that I wrote this article first as an email to my newsletter subsribers on May 1st. And since then I grew 50k followers in 2 months, and the more consistent I am with posting, the more followers I get.

Whenever I stop posting for a few days, the follower influx starts to decrease a little bit, and I think it's because Instagram starts to slowly reduce how high I rank on other accounts (among other factors like not getting shared by others and not showing up on the Explore feed).

So one thing is to get there, the other is to stay there. Good for creators is you have to do the same thing to achieve both. Keep posting content for your audience on a regular basis. The more often and more relevant content you can share, the higher you will rank on other accounts.

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