The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Marketing in 2018


So you’ve just finished watching Narcos Season 3 and you’re sat there thinking to yourself how good of a drug dealer you’d make…

The drug you are going to deal? Dopamine. That’s right, you’re going the be the biggest, baddest dealer out there, giving those youths their hourly fix of attention.

Social media is the ideal place to get traffic for free and, if you do it right, you can automate almost all parts of the process. I’m going to be walking you through Instagram marketing, focusing mainly on gaining those initial followers and providing Social Media Management services.

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Marketing in 2018:

With over 800,000,000 monthly active users, Instagram is one of the biggest social platforms out there and it’s where we’ll be starting today. It’s also the social platform that I have the most experience with, so it’ll probably be the most in-depth guide out of all the ones I have planned.

This guide is aimed at people just getting started with Instagram marketing. If you’re already experienced, you may want to skip to the “Social Media Management (Growth) Service” section (using Ctrl+F)

Picking a Niche:

Before you can even think about growing your Instagram account(s) you need to decide on a niche to target. Maybe you have an interest in a specific topic or have no idea at all. I’ve grown and managed accounts in literally hundreds of niches and, while there are certainly some niches that are easier to grow accounts in, I honestly believe that you can make almost anything work if you approach it in the right way.

Some of you may remember my post about Building an Authority Network, which contained a bunch of different niches that I have found to work well in the past. That post is almost a year old now and, while those niches are definitely still options, I’ve created a much larger diagram for this thread:



Travel/ Lux


I created the above niche plans using If you would like to edit them or create your own, you can download my master .xml file here and edit it to your heart’s contempt.

Creating Your Account:

Now that you have (hopefully) decided on a niche we can create the account and profile it.

The process of actually creating your account(s) varies massively depending on what you are trying to achieve. If you are just creating one account then you can go ahead and sign up via the normal Instagram app. However, if you plan on creating multiple (5+) accounts (Say, to create a network of accounts or maybe to manage your clients’ accounts) you have more options. Firstly, you need to understand that creating (& using) multiple accounts from a single internet connection is going to be very suspicious in Instagram’s eyes and they are more likely to limit or ban your account.

We can get around that by using a service that has aged, pre-made accounts ready for you to buy (For example, Aged Instagram Accounts) or we can create them ourselves. Buying the pre-made and aged accounts is the route I usually take, as I value my time and have the money to invest, however, creating your own accounts is cheaper if you are on a budget.

Coming back to the point about creating multiple accounts from a single IP address, we need to make sure that we have as few accounts per IP as possible. Personally I always have a unique account for every proxy, however, if you are on a budget then you can experiment with multiple accounts to a proxy.

The above images are just a visual representation of how Instagram sees your account if you don’t use a proxy, and why that is a bad idea. Proxies are essentially external internet connections that make it seem like your actions are coming from a number of external sources, instead of all from the same one.

There are a variety of different proxy services, catering for all budgets but I would always recommend picking a dedicated proxy as going cheap is normally (not always) an easy way to get banned.

Each account is going to need an email and phone number for verification purposes. If you are working on a budget then creating a, etc. email address will work just fine, however, if you are going to be managing hundreds of accounts, you may want to think about purchasing a few domains and setting up catch-all email systems on them, so you can receive all email verification codes at a single address.

For phone numbers, I would recommend buying physical SIMs in the country you live in. They are usually cheap in bulk (50+) and some companies even give them away for free. Alternatively, you can use SMS services like “SMS PVA” to get a virtual number. Some automation tools (that I’ll come to later) even support API so you can automatically PV accounts.

Tip: If you are using emails, this incredibly handy tool can automatically fetch the verification code that Instagram emails for you.


So far you should have decided on a niche and created the actual Instagram account. Now it’s time to start filling out the profile and making it more attractive for potential followers.

Let’s start with the account username. This is arguably one of the most important aspects of an account and getting this right can really increase your follow-back ratio later on. Think about it, would you be more likely to follow an account called @LuxuryTravel or @2018__travel.king__?

Most of the best usernames were snatched-up years ago but there are still some good choices out there. I like to use tools like LeanDomainSearch to get name suggestions and then see what’s available on Instagram. While I would recommend staying away from underscores and full-stops, they are ok to use as a last resort.

You also need a killer profile picture. Depending on your niche you can have a simple picture (Like scenery or a relevant product) or you can go with a logo. Really, I wouldn’t worry about creating a logo until your account is much bigger. Remember that your audience is going to be primarily mobile, so your profile picture should be easy and simple to read & understand.

Growing Your Account – The Principles:

Now that you have a fully profiled account it’s time to start thinking about actually growing the account. But there are hundreds of millions of accounts out there, so what’s going to get you noticed and, more importantly, followed?

Dopamine: Social Media’s Catalyst. Every time a (typical) social media user receives an interaction (Whether that be a follow, like, or comment) the chemical dopamine is released into their brain. It controls the brain’s reward & pleasure centres and is why we feel good when we receive interactions online.

This predictable reaction has been exploited by Instagram marketers to grow their accounts for years. The method is largely referred to as “follow and unfollow” because you essentially follow users who are related to your niche (I’ll talk about how you find them later) they see your account and decide to follow you and then, after a few days, you unfollow them. This can be an incredibly powerful and when mixed with likes and comments you can see some really good growth.

It’s worth noting that there are other ways to grow your account, such as participating in engagement groups and purchasing shoutouts but, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll be focusing solely on the aforementioned method.

Growing Your Account:

Now that you understand the theory behind what we are doing, we can begin growing your account(s)

Who to Follow:

It’s pretty simple; you want to like & follow accounts that are interested in your niche. But how do you know who they are? It’s safe to assume that if they are following one of your competitors they are interested in your niche…

You need to create a list of accounts in your niche, whose followers you will interact (Like/ Follow) with. This is a list of “feeder accounts”. Our goal is to get as many quality followers as we can, so it’s important to target people who are more likely to follow you back. This can be done by picking feeder accounts that have a high engagement rate themselves and aren’t too big.

Instead of interacting with accounts who just follow your feeder accounts, you can interact with accounts who have recently liked a picture posted by your feeder account. Not only does this tell you that they are interested in your niche, but it also tells you that they were recently active.

Something else you can look out for is accounts in your niche that are also using the follow/ unfollow method. Chances are if someone has followed an account using this method, in your niche, already then they will likely do it again.

So far we have three things to look for in accounts that we want to interact with: They follow an account in your niche with high engagement, that is also using the follow/ unfollow method, and they have recently liked a picture of theirs.

Once you have found a suitable list of accounts to use as feeders you can begin interacting. But do you want to interact with everyone who meets the three above criteria? Obviously not.

I’ve pretty much perfected my formula after months of testing, but it’s always worth playing with the specific numbers yourself. Here’s a short, unpolished list of things that I look for:

They must be an English user, have a profile picture, have posted within the last three months, have no more than 1500 followers and no less than 50. Similarly, they should not be following more than 1000 people, or less than 100. Depending on the niche, they must not be private.

As well as targeting people who we think will follow us back and engage with our content, it’s also important to actively avoid certain types of accounts. You can only follow a certain number of accounts every day so you don’t want to be wasting any opportunities to gain new followers.

Obviously, you don’t want to follow brands, large accounts, and spam accounts as these are most likely not going to do the same back. Not following accounts with more than 1500 followers, as mentioned above, is a good step to prevent this but also not following accounts with websites in their bio & certain words like “free” “download” “followers” etc. can help cut out a massive chunk of spam & brand accounts.

There are a lot of other things you can look for, however, for now, the above criteria should work just fine. Over time you can begin to test different factors and see if they have a drastic impact on your growth but, for time’s sake, I’ll leave it at the above for now.


No matter how strict your criteria is, there are always going to be some accounts that slip through and end up just being a wasted follow. Obviously, if you are doing this by hand you can make a much better decision for every follow & like you do, however, this takes more effort than it is worth and it can’t be realistically scaled to multiple accounts.

The solution? Automation. Think about it… everything I mentioned above could be carried out by a computer program following “if x then y” logic. That’s obviously a massive over-simplification of how it works but the fact remains that there are numerous tools out there that offer this functionality.

There are literally hundreds of Instagram automation tools out there that offer a range of features and most of them can do all, if not some, of the selection process I talked about above.

I’m not going to mention the platform that I am currently using to automate my accounts, as it’s under the radar, however, there are many, many quality solutions currently on the market. I’ve had good experiences with/ heard good things about Follow LikerGram DominatorGram Multitool, and Jarvee. Of course do your own research and testing before picking a tool.

Unfortunately MassPlanner – The favoured tool by many IG marketers – was shut down a few months back, however, I had some screenshots kicking around from when they were functioning and feel that they would be ideal to show you the sort of features & options you can be looking for in the software/ tool that you are choosing to use.

Obviously the above image is showing how to implement my advice for MP, which cannot be used anymore, however, many of the tools that still exist today will have similar interfaces, I am sure, and it shouldn’t be too hard to translate the information over to the tool of your choice.


Content is king… kinda. You have probably seen many other guides (some maybe even by me) that reiterate the importance of having high-quality (unique where possible) content and, while I approach my projects with this in mind, I don’t spend hours scouring the internet for the very best content possible.

I guess I am approaching this topic from the point of view of someone who owns literally hundreds of accounts and realises that there have to be some drops in quality when automating a network that large and I do understand that for small businesses and people promoting their own products there is a requirement for custom posting but, for the majority of Instagram use, reposting popular content from competing accounts is perfectly fine.

[B]Let me get set one thing straight:[/B] Duplicate content is fine on Instagram. Yes, you heard me. There’s no need to go to great lengths to create unique content, or edit existing images drastically. Yes, it is still a good idea to edit pictures where you can (photo meta-data etc.) but as a user of Instagram personally I can tell you that their duplicate content-finding system is probably the worst out of all platforms that big and I regularly see the same photo/video posted by different accounts right next to each other on my explore feed.

So, back to the topic of posting, where can we find this content and how often should we be posting?

Similar to the way that we found users to follow & interact with, the easiest way to find content is to see what the biggest accounts in our niche are doing. Create a list with ~5 of the best accounts in your niche.

Some automation tools offer automatic reposting & filtering, however, we can also use tools like 4kStogram to download all of the content posted by a specific account, to a certain #, or location, as well as saving the meta-data like caption and #.

So now that we have the images, how and when should we actually post? Traditionally, Instagram’s prime-time has always been around 6pm, as that’s when people are home from work/ school and on their phones, however, the ideal time for posting changes a lot depending on the niche you are targetting. For example, some niches may respond well to content that is posted while they are commuting to work, or on their lunch break, and other niches may respond well to content posted later etc.

You also need to take into account the timezone you are on. If you’re targetting UK shoppers, there’s no point posting at 6pm EST because they’ll all be asleep. I’ve found that it’s much better to thoroughly test post times/ frequencies than give a definitive answer because of how much it changes niche-niche.

Similar to the best time to post, your picture captions also vary massively depending on your niche and how much work you want to put in. If you’re posting unique content or only managing a small number of accounts it may be way more effective to take the time to write custom captions, however, when you’re controlling xxx’s of accounts that is not so easy to do. You could opt to simply repost the caption as well as the picture (Using the meta-data I talked about above or using a tool that supports that) or have a rotating list of generic captions that fit your niche.

I always use when it comes to finding popular #’s in my niche and it saves sooooo much time! There are other tools out there that do similar things but, for free, IQtags definitely remains the best.

I would recommend reading this guide for a much more in-depth look at #’s.

Warming up:

So now you know how to grow your account, but how fast do you go? Do you follow 1000 accounts in the first day, or 10?

The saying “slow and steady wins the race” has never been more true with Instagram. Yes, you can start off following 100s/day but you’re either going to end up banned or with constant phone and email verification. [B]We don’t want that[/B]. Our aim is to grow our accounts as safely as possible with as little work as possible. We don’t want to be sat around verifying accounts and, while it’s inevitable that we will have to at some point, we want to reduce the chance of it happening.

To do this, we are going to warm up our accounts. We’re going to start off slow, liking and following a few users/day and work our way up to ~550/day. I know plenty of people who like & follow way more than this, but I prefer to play it safe. As a very rough guide, this is the warm-up schedule I follow:


That’s the easy part out of the way, but now we have an account with thousands of followers how do we make money from it? Well, that’s the beauty of Instagram… no one can definitively answer that question. Effectively you have built up a targetted audience who are all interested in your niche so there should be plenty of money making opportunities that come along with that.

The possibilities really are endless, but I’ll run you through some of the ways that I currently make money on Instagram.

Social Media Management (Growth) Service:

It’s surprising, I know, but even in 2018 many traditional businesses still don’t have much of a presence on social media, and those that do are often doing a terrible job. If you are looking for a way to start making money right away, then providing businesses with growth services is the number one thing that I would reccomend.

That all sounds good in principle, but how do I get paying clients? Here’s the twist: You gather a list of small businesses with little-no social media presence. Prioritise businesses that could see more of a benefit from social traffic (Clothes stores, not funeral directors) and begin to sort them into as many niches as you can. The more you have in a single niche the better, as you will learn what (doesn’t) work faster.

Now before I go on, please note that this is a highly unorthodox method, but I have seen good results with it personally and haven’t seen ANYONE else doing this.

You’re going to set up three accounts in the same niche as each of your potential clients and grow them exactly as I’ve discussed above. If the companies are small and only in a few locations, you can target people who post photos tagged in the location, or use relevant #’s like #london or #madrid.

“Harry, what on earth are you banging on about?”

Essentially, we’re going to be growing three highly-targetted accounts in the same niche as the company you want to sign as a client. One of these accounts is going to be the main one – just like I talked about in the building an authority network section, with the other two acting as boosters for the main once.

Once the main account has enough followers (Either more than the company has already, or 5-10k if they have no presence at all) we’re going to contact them and say something along the lines of:

“Hey [name],

In just under two months, I have grown the Instagram account @[name] from nothing to over 7,000 followers.

I have been actively helping brands just like yours dominate social media for years. I’ve assisted hundreds of clients in reaching hundreds of millions of potential customers.

Here’s the deal. I have checked out your social presence and noticed that you are missing out on thousands of monthly visitors. As I mentioned, I took @[name] from zero to over 7,000 in two months and it is still growing astronomically. It’s not a coincidence.

I did this to show you that I’m not just another wave in a sea of spam. I have results. I also provide complete access to you to these followers and more as part of my affordable, results-driven social media management service.

If I can do that in two months, imagine what I can do for your business in six, 12, or 24. Your competitors will be left in the dust!

If you are serious about staying ahead of the times and dominating your social presence, let me know and I will shoot some more details over.

Kindest regards,

This is a quick script I drafted up to demonstrate the sort of thing you should be saying. Don’t use this script exactly. This is something that should change massively depending on your client and how successful you have been.

At some point, after a few back-n-forth messages they’re going to want to see a website of some sort. Don’t panic, it’s pretty easy to set up. You can read my unnecessarily long guide on Creating a Site from Start to Finish if you get stuck at any point.

If you don’t have enough money for a theme, check out GeneratePress (Thanks @hacko for the suggestion)

You can keep the site pretty basic. Just a simple landing page with some “the sky is blue” type marketing fluff and a contact-us form. If you seriously plan to give this a go then I would highly recommend building the site out a bit with a blog and past examples of your work but, for now, a one-page site should be fine.

Pricing is something that I’ll leave you to figure out as it varies massively case-by-case.

So why did we grow three accounts instead of one? Not only does having two extra accounts help grow the main one, as I mentioned earlier on, but it also gives you two back-ups in case, god-forbid, your client’s new account gets banned. If you do everything safely, this really shouldn’t be a massive concern, but it’s better safe than sorry.

Selling Accounts:

This is very similar to my take on offering growth services. Set a high number of accounts to grow on auto-pilot and when they’re a decent size, sell them. There are many ways you can sell your Instagram accounts.

As a rough guide, high-quality Instagram accounts can sell for around $1/100 followers. Once again, that’s a very rough guide. I would recommend selling accounts between 3,000 and 10,000 followers, as I usually see slight engagement drops shortly after that.

Promoting CPA Offers:

This is probably the method that I struggle with the most, as I’m all about setting accounts up and leaving them running on auto-pilot for months. However, through a number of JVs I have actually learnt a fair bit about CPA.
If you are using @Valar Instagramis’s accounts that come with a pre-lander, you can easily redirect the link in your accounts’ bios to a landing page. You can read a similar method by @crivey here if you’re using your own accounts.
Another way to safely (Well, safer and cheaper than putting your own domains in, anyway) link to your CPA offers is to link to a tweet.
There are obviously many, many more ways to monetize your Instagram accounts, such as selling shoutouts and driving traffic to your websites, however, I felt it was best to stick to what I know best (I’ll probably have a dedicated post talking about driving traffic to eCommerce websites)
One last thing. Instagram marketing is ALL about trial and error. It may be that you try something I’ve talked about in this post and it doesn’t work. Don’t just give up and write Instagram off as a failure. Tweak, adapt, tweak, adapt. Seriously. Even if you are successful right away, testing little things here and there can massively improve your growth & account quality.

Add Comment

Recent Posts