Part of growing your Instagram, either as an influencer or as a brand, is developing a tight-knit network of blogs that you follow and with which you interact regularly. Even though Instagram’s “Suggested” tool has been around since 2016, few people realize how easy it is to find lookalike accounts with similar demographics, follower counts, and interests with just the click of a button. Not only can you use the feature for networking and following purposes, but if you’re a brand looking to scale your influencer campaigns organically, this is a quick way to do it.

Here are three easy steps to mastering the Suggested tool:

  1. Find a “baseline” blog. This blog is key to the “Suggested” tool working as well as it can. If you’re looking to increase your network of followers, start with accounts that already read your blog or with which you’ve engaged in the past. For example, I’m a food blogger, so I’d look for a blog that has a similar follower count to mine (10k-15k), that posts photos similar to mine, and with which I already engage often. If you are a brand doing this for an influencer campaign, then look for accounts that appeal to your target demographic or choose a the account of an influencer with whom you have already done a successful campaign.
  2. Click the “Following” number on their page and scroll to the “Suggested” tab. You will then get a “suggested” list of 30 accounts that the Instagram algorithm considers to be “lookalikes.” From there, you can check these accounts to make sure they’re the type of account you want to follow or recruit for an influencer campaign. Results aren’t always perfect and you may run into some accounts that aren’t quite what you were looking for, so make sure to double check the quality of each account before mass-following all 30 accounts. It also helps to like and constructively comment on a few of their posts to begin engagement, regardless of what you’re trying to do with the Suggested tool.
  3. Want to go even further? Go to the “Suggested” tabs of the “Suggested” accounts! This is a bit of a crapshoot because the more degrees of separation you get away from your baseline blog, the more quickly you will find yourself in different niches that may or may not be relevant to your brand or goals. That said, if you’re a brand looking to recruit a large number of people over a period of time, or if you are interested in branching out over multiple niches, it can be a super quick method to discover more types of accounts that might be interested in your content.

Have you used the suggested feature to grow your Instagram before? I want to hear your thoughts!

Being an NYC millennial has many benefits and drawbacks. If you are one, you probably live in one of the outer boroughs, work grueling hours at a highly demanding job, and barely make enough to pay your exorbitant rent. But one of the biggest – and least talked-about – expenses is how quickly one can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a month on restaurants.

Speaking as someone who has lived here for less than a year, one thing I’ve noticed is that restaurant eating is the crux of just about everything – a bodega breakfast sandwich and coffee on the way to the train, a Sweetgreen bowl for lunch at my desk, and by the time I get home, delivery pizza or Chinese because I’m too exhausted to cook. Like it or not, this lifestyle will devour your budget. I was spending over $1k a month on just restaurants – and not always good ones. Sometimes, it was a random midnight McDonald’s run or a mediocre deli chosen out of convenience, not for how tasty or affordable it was.

If you’re like me, though, COVID-19 has thrown a giant wrench into the gears of your life. I’m on Week 6 of staying home from work, and with almost all grocery delivery services woefully unavailable, the question becomes, “What do we do?”

The social vs moral obligation to eat out

Before COVID-19, New York life included a serious collective social obligation to eat out – what restaurants you ate at were a sign of status. You may live in a crappy apartment with five roommates, but publicly, you’re eating at Momofuku like it’s no big deal. Now, with bans on socializing, there isn’t the same expectation to maintain a facade of status and success based on where you’re eating.

Instead, there is now a moral obligation to support the restaurants in need. Many restaurants across the country are being forced to shutter because of sizable payrolls (with many entry-level positions), steep delivery app fees (as much as 30%!), and expensive locations sitting empty. Restaurants are having to quickly think on their feet and adapt to this drastically changing climate, and frankly, many are not going to make it out alive. As a food blogger, I feel it’s important to recognize that eating out is critical to the livelihoods of many small businesses and their employees.

What I’m Noticing

Especially with job security being precarious for so many people, finding ways to save money is incredibly important, but keeping what money you do spend in the community is just as important. I’m grateful because I’m saving money by not eating out for convenience, so now I’m making the choice to eat out to help out small businesses. What works for me is setting Friday night as our delivery night, and we choose a local restaurant that could use our support.

How about you? Before coronavirus, did you feel a social obligation to dine out? How are you handling your food budget during this time? Are you supporting local restaurants? Comment your thoughts. I want to hear them!

An image of a phone with the instagram app open over a notepad with a pen.

In the past 3.5 years that I’ve been on Instagram, and the 2.5 that I’ve spent aggressively growing it, Instagram has drastically changed. Many of the strategies used in the past, like follow/unfollow, have become increasingly difficult to do, with the platform cracking down on bots, as well as the number of actions you can do every hour. Nobody has completely cracked the Instagram algorithm, and it seems to be changing all the time.

So how do people grow their account and get more likes and follows right now? It seems pretty elusive, but here are some quick and easy tricks to get your account seen by more people!

  1. Want more people to engage on your post? Engage on theirs! This seems like a really simple idea in theory, but many people look at Instagram as something that you can just set and forget. Accounts, especially larger ones, remember people who consistently like and comment on their posts, especially when it’s more than just a “Nice pic!” I’ve noticed that when I write 4+ words on their post, especially a question, people are more likely to check out my recent posts as well.
  2. In that same vein, don’t forget to reply to comments on your posts! An easy way to double your comment count? Respond to every single comment that you have on your posts. Even better? Respond to all the comments after you have a new post up. The people who commented will then see that you have a new post up, and they’ll be more likely to engage!
  3. Check out relevant hashtags to your blog and click “recent.” Then, from the recents page, give a like and a thoughtful comment to the most recent photos. This is the most effective with hashtags that have at least 1 million hits (which means you have a large variety of accounts to choose from). For example, my go-to hashtag for this is #foodblogger.
  4. Check out blogs with similar follower counts to you, and see who follows them. Easiest way to figure out the types of people who would be interested in following you? Find lookalike blogs (hint: check out blogs that are famous in the hashtags you use) and then click their “followers” list. From there, engage on those accounts – a like, a comment, or a follow could result in the same (or even more) for you. A trick for this also is to go to repost pages like @bestfoodfeed and find followers with similar locations to you and engage on those pages.

And one thing to NOT to do: Don’t make following and engaging feel like a transaction. I cannot tell you the amount of times I get messages in my inbox saying “follow for follow?” or comments that say “You should check out my account!” Writing these types of things automatically sends the message of “I am desperate and I am only in this to build my following.” The only way to really build an authentic following is to engage authentically. That means no caveats, no favor asking (unless you know the account well), and no shameless self-promotion on other people’s accounts.