Instagram Loops, or follow loops as they’re also known, are nothing new but if you’re new to Instagram or you’ve not encountered ‘loops’ before then you may well be unsure about what one is and whether it’s a good idea to take part.
So, let’s start with what an Instagram Loop is…
What is an Instagram Loop?
An Instagram Loop is a giveaway where a small group of people come together to offer a pool of prizes or one big prize between them.
Usually, they will create one image which each of them will share on Instagram at the exact same time. With that image, they each post the same or a similar caption tagging in the next account in the loop.
Those involved in the giveaway decide in advance what order the loop will go in; whoever is account 1 will tag account 2, account 2 will tag account 3 and so on.
To enter the giveaway, other users are usually asked to like the post and follower the poster. They then have to make their way across to the next account in the loop, follow that person and like the giveaway post, and on it goes. There can be variations on what people are asked to do in order to enter, for example, they may be asked to comment on each post in the loop, as well as follow each account.
By completing the loop, you are entered into the giveaway and at the end, a winner is chosen.
To get an idea of how this works in practice, you can pop over to Instagram and have a look at #loopgiveaway
What are the benefits of taking part in an Instagram Loop Giveaway?
The upshot of a Loop Giveaway is that the people behind the giveaway are able to attract an influx of new followers since following everyone in the loop is usually a requirement to enter the giveaway.
If those involved in the giveaway share the same or a similar target audience then, in theory, they will each gain relevant new followers, as opposed to random followers that boost their numbers and nothing more.
Are Instagram Loops good for business?
If you’re thinking about being part of a Loop Giveaway, then keep in mind the following:
- Gaining more followers is only of benefit to your business if they are the right people! Quality over quantity always. If your new followers aren’t your ideal clients then they are highly unlikely to buy from you. In fact, having too many random followers can actually make it harder for you to reach the right people!
- There’s often a steep drop off afterwards – you will often find that a lot of people go through and unfollow everyone in the loop once the giveaway has ended. If they were only ever interested in winning the prize, they probably won’t stick around.
- It’s almost impossible to measure your return on investment; sometimes there is a cost to be part of the loop or you may be contributing to the prize. At the very least, there is a time investment. The only metric you can really track here is your follower count, which, as a business, is nothing more than a vanity metric. With any kind of marketing investment, you should, ideally, know how you will measure your return on investment in a meaningful way. For example, how will you know if it has helped you to increase enquiries or secure more sales? A loop giveaway could help you achieve these things, but be aware that it may not be easy to track.
There’s also a risk factor that you need to consider if you’re thinking of taking part in a Loop Giveaway. I’ll come on to that further on in this post but first, we need to look at the variations of Loops that you might come across.
What is a Follow Train, and how does it differ from a Loop Giveaway?
This is where it can all get a bit confusing!
But bear with me as I’m going to help you get to the bottom of it all so that you can make the best possible decisions for your business.
What we’ve talked about so far is a Loop Giveaway – in this case, there is a prize on offer and those entering only have to follow and engage with a small number of accounts (those who are running the Loop).
There is an entirely different tactic for growing followers which is also called a Loop and in some cases, the #LoopGiveaway hashtag (or variations of it) are used. No wonder there’s so much confusion!
You might also see this tactic being called a Follow Train, a Gain Trick, a Gain Train, a Gain Party – the list could go on and on but hopefully, you’re starting to get a feel for the types of labels and hashtags to keep an eye out for.
There are infinite variations on how these “follow trains” are run but it is similar to a Loop Giveaway in that people are being asked to follow and/or engage with other accounts, only this time there’s no prize. Instead of a prize, in this case the incentive is for everyone involved (rather than just those running the giveaway) to increase their following. The time investment for people to get involved is much higher as they are usually asked to take bulk action, such as following hundreds of other accounts.
For example, people might be asked to comment on the original post and then go through and follow everyone else who has also commented on the post.
A quick look at the #followtrain hashtag will give you a good idea of what’s involved.
Sometimes Follow Trains are for a specific niche, with the aim of attracting relevant followers, and sometimes it’s generally with the aim of attracting anyone in order to boost follower numbers.
FAIR WARNING – THE RISK FACTOR
That risk factor I mentioned earlier?
This is it.
Instagram is fighting a war against “inauthentic behaviour”.
People often take that to mean that only bots are the target (if you’re not sure what a bot is then read this) but it includes “manual” activity too.
For example, if you follow a large number of accounts within a relatively short space of time then you will hit a point where your account is temporarily suspended from doing anything on Instagram. Likewise, if you comment too much or unfollow too many people the same will happen. It’s not a case of “getting caught” – the thresholds are built into Instagram and your account will be suspended if you hit the limits.
Some people are more than happy to take a temporary suspension on the chin; they will simply wait for it to be lifted and then crack on and do the same thing again.
Ultimately, however, doing this places your account at risk of being disabled forever. You could argue that that may never happen but, really, would you be willing to take that risk? I certainly wouldn’t!
What’s more, Instagram has been bringing out update after update designed to stamp out inauthentic behaviour once and for all. This shows no sign of stopping and we do not know what further action they have planned, which only makes this kind of activity even riskier.
I must make a point of saying that Loop Giveaways – the kind that I described at the very beginning of this article – aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s say you brought together 5 Instagram users who you know, trust and respect and who could add real value to your followers. Collaborating with them on a Loop Giveaway could be a good move for both your business and your followers.
Always put the interests of your followers first, focus on quality over quantity and be clued up on Instagram’s terms and conditions.
You can find more advice on how to run an Instagram giveaway or competition in this post.
What’s the alternative?
As I’ve dug deeper and deeper into these kinds of Instagram practices it’s been like opening a Pandora’s box! As I’ve peeled back the layers I find myself staring at the dark underbelly of Instagram and, let me tell you, it’s not pretty!
It’s no surprise to me that this kind of stuff leaves soulful entrepreneurs feeling stuck, confused and incredibly uncomfortable.
I truly hope that this post has helped to clarify a lot of things for you but I also want you to know that it’s OK to say no to these kinds of tactics. If it doesn’t sit right with you, then you absolutely do not have to get involved with this kind of thing in order to build a successful Instagram account. In fact, in the case of follow trains, in particular, I would argue that they do more harm than good in the long run.
They are not a shortcut or a “success hack.”
Trust your gut and know that you can build a presence on Instagram with heart, soul and integrity.