One of the industries that has been most radically changed by Instagram is also the least talked about one: the modeling industry.
Three years ago, models had almost no power. They were largely at the mercy of modeling agencies — Instagram changed that.
With some careful social strategy, models can now grow significant followings overnight, giving them huge leverage and turning the power dynamics of the industry upside down.
Take @AlexisRen, for example: A 60-second video posted by her accrued over 6.3 million views. Models like Ren are growing huge followings with millions of views and followers every day. These audiences have allowed models to independently make money, eliminating the previous dependency on modelling agencies.
How do models grow these viral followings?
At Runway Media, we turn models into Instagram influencers — equipping them with strategies and techniques to achieve viral growth. These growth methods range from technical tips to thwart Instagram’s algorithm, to psychological tricks to develop follower engagement.
There are several unique strategies we employ to make this happen. Here are three of them that anyone can use to become an influencer:
1. Fake questions
Having your posts shown first in your followers’ feeds is very important. Instagram’s algorithm decides what posts to show you based on your relationships with the accounts you follow (among other factors, too). Check out Buffer’s blog for an in-depth breakdown of how the algorithm works. If you recently engaged with an account, you’re more likely to see a post from that account vs. an account that you haven’t engaged with.
Relationships are ranked in the algorithm according to a hierarchy. For instance, only liking the posts of an account shows a low-level relationship. However, if you frequently comment on the account, it indicates a deeper, richer relationship — meaning you’ll be shown that account’s posts more frequently and higher up in your feed. The strongest relationship indicators come from saving posts and sending direct messages (DMs).
In light of this, we train our models to frequently ask easy, quick to answer questions in their Instagram Stories. An example of this might be: “What shall I have for lunch?,” “what’s your favorite emoji?” or “what song do you recommend?” These simple questions, often requiring only one word replies, have generated thousands of DM threads for our models and their followers, significantly increasing their long-term organic reach and engagement.
This strategy can be applied to any niche to improve your long-term organic reach. Focus on developing the relationships you have with existing followers. Create easy, low effort openings for your following to engage with you in more and more meaningful ways. Create polls in your Instagram Stories and ask questions to create a dialogue. For instance, if you’re an ecommerce company and you just launched a new product, don’t just insert swipe up links in to your Instagram Story with prices. Instead, ask your audience what they think of the new outfit, toy or whatever your product may be. Spot opportunities to create a conversation whenever and wherever possible.
2. Engagement pods
For a post to go viral it must be deemed “high quality” by the algorithm. The algorithm judges the quality of posts by looking at things such as engagement ratios.
Engagement ratios are stats that count, for example, how many people saw the post and then engaged with it, i.e. comparing total reach to total engagement. The higher this number is the better quality the post is, as judged by the algorithm. The “high-quality” posts will then be featured on the Explore page. This is the secret to posts going viral on Instagram.
Using our network of Instagram models, we create engagement pods. Within this, each model likes and comment on each others’ newest posts within three hours of it being uploaded. The result of this algorithmic manipulation is viral posts! Our models’ posts hit the Explore page, often receiving millions of views and likes as a result.
Engagement pods are most effective when the accounts involved are within the same niche, e.g. models with models. If, for example, you’re a comedy influencer, you should partner up with meme pages and other relevant influencers for the best results. The objective is to have accounts in your engagement group that have followers that would be a relevant audience for you.
It’s not all about growing as fast as possible, though. To go viral consistently, it is important to maintain a heavily engaged following.
Once our models gain a follower, we don’t just focus on getting more. We incentivize long-term engagement from each follower, rewarding follower engagement on behalf of our models. To do this, our team looks diligently through comments left by followers, and then likes and replies to these comments for them. This creates a deeper relationship and rewards follower engagement. We then create “super fans” for models by further liking the personal posts of their most engaged followers.