9 Ways for Authors to Grow their Facebook and Instagram Followers Without Paying For Ads

Social Media Hacks From Over 10 Years of Experience as a Digital Marketer 

Story and interview by Author and Podcaster David Bobis. Reprinted here with permission.

As well as being the author of the newly released book (under a pen name), Everyday A**holes, I am an ex-Head of Digital Marketing for Studio Culture – a leading digital marketing agency in Australia. We helped both small businesses and international enterprises grow by tweaking, analysing, and observing their social media pages and advertising on a day-to-day basis. 

Here’s some of what I’ve learnt over the years. I’d like to also give a shout out to Brendan Kane and his book, One Million Followers, for some great tips I’ve learnt recently.

How do you get more Facebook and Instagram followers without paying for advertising?

With immense amounts of work. Just like how some people once believed that merely having a website or app will immediately make them rich, one may naively think that setting up a Facebook or Instagram page may immediately turn them Kardashian famous.

Once again, it takes a lot of work. If you’re not prepared to put in the hours (I recommend at least two hours a day), get ready for failure. Some people try to avoid paying for advertising with dollars; but realistically, you still have to invest something — if not money, then time. And here’s a shower thought: What’s the dollar value of time?

1. Amazing Content

Sample of shareable content from Prince Ea

You hear this piece of advice everywhere, because it’s true. There’s no point using all these ‘hacks’ on your social media pages if the bottom line is your content sucks. People don’t want to share sucky content.

3 ways test to see if your content is good:

  • Does your content spark emotion? (Laughter, anger, joy, empathy, fear, lust, sadness, etc.)
  • Does your content educate?
  • Would you share it, if you were seeing it as a stranger?

But the best way to see if your content is amazing is to continually test different forms of content. For example, the big-letter-style posts such as what Prince Ea is fond of seems to be in fashion today. Some may find this design-style ‘tacky’, but it works because it pops out in people’s newsfeeds. As you can see in the picture, the giant text occupies more space than his actual video.

Also, note that he’s implemented subtitles into his videos. This is helpful for people who are looking from their phones at work (or are sitting in their work toilet cubicles) and the hearing impaired. 

2. Tell everyone you know about your page

How to invite friends on Facebook

The subheading says it all. Both Facebook and Instagram have options to invite friends and family to follow your pages. Give out those friend invites like Oprah likes to give away cars, and don’t forget to bring up your page while in your fancy schmancy author cocktail parties (“Oh wow, that is one profound insight about Dostoyevsky, Sally. By the way, have you followed my Insta yet?”).

Cross-promote your social profiles across platforms. For example:

  • Include social media links (and frequently refer to your social media pages) on your website
  • Encourage your email database to follow you on social media
  • Encourage your Facebook followers to follow you on Instagram and vice versa
  • Include your social media links in your books. For my book, Everyday A**holes, I have a liner at the start that asks people where they are reading my book from, and to share it and tag me on social media. 
  • Include your social media links in all promotional tools such as business cards, author banners, etc.

3. Competitions

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Photo by Don Agnello on Unsplash

One of the fastest ways I’ve seen over time to grow followers is to host competitions and giveaways. Make your competitions extremely simple, such as, “Win a signed copy of my book. Simply write, ‘I want this book!”’ to enter. That’s it! By the way, I’d love to grow my following. Please show your support by sharing my page with anyone who else who’d be interested in my book.”

I recommend you host competitions only when you have over 1,000 followers. If you find you’re not getting any traction, boost your post with a little advertising or test different messaging.

Make sure you stick with Facebook’s competition guidelines.

4. Use Facebook’s “Invite” Hack

Whenever one of your posts on Facebook does well, you may find that your post gets viewed by those who don’t follow your page. They may engage with that post by liking, commenting or sharing it.

How to invite page engagers to like your Facebook page

Here’s my Facebook Page, Generation End, as an example. When I look at the bottom left, there are sometimes responses by people who aren’t following my page. 

Click on the number next to the emojis to see the following. Then, you will see the option to invite those people. Not all of them may respond, but in my experience, a percentage of these people usually become a ‘like’. 

5. Form an engagement group or ‘pod’

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How to find engagement pods on Facebook

For those of you who complain that your social media posts don’t get seen or commented on, remember this: most people follow dozens, to hundreds, to thousands of pages on social media. Facebook and Instagram have the job of sorting through so much content in order to present to users the most relevant content for them to see within a limited timeframe.

So how does Facebook and Instagram choose what you see on your newsfeed? I believe ‘engagement’ is one factor. An engagement is a form of reaction to your post, such as a like, share or comment. What you should aim for is more comments and shares. If your post is causing people to comment and share, then your post will more likely to appear in people’s newsfeeds.

One way to give your engagement a bit of a head start is to form what is called an engagement group, or engagement pod. These are groups of page owners who are willing to engage (comment, share, etc) with your page, in return for you engaging with theirs. 

If you do a quick search on Facebook for ‘engagement pod Instagram’, you’ll find plenty. One challenge I’ve found with these groups is that there are so many members you may find yourself committing hours to engage with each member’s posts — which isn’t always a bad thing, if you don’t mind the grind.

One less strenuous (and personally, more enjoyable) way of forming an engagement pod is forming it with people you know, even fellow authors. That way, you’re supporting each other’s careers and keeping your comments relevant to your industry. 

On that note…

6. Share for share

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Cross-sharing an Instagram Stories post with author Surabhi Pandey.

Social media is pretty much like a popularity contest. The more people talk about you, the higher chances you’ll get of becoming Prom King or Queen. 

The ‘share for share’ strategy is when you work with another page to share each other’s content, either through shout outs or stories. For example, when you meet with a fellow author, you could perhaps take a selfie and tag each other in each other’s posts. Or, when you you release a book, you could ask them to review your book on their page in return for a free copy of it.

At first, you may feel that the only pages worthy of sharing your content are pages with a million followers or more—your ambition is admirable, but not always practical. Try starting off with reaching out to other pages with similar follower numbers, and work your way up.

7. Work with influencers

This may cross over with the paid approach, but as I hinted above—if you’re not investing money, you’re investing a shitload of time. And what is time worth to you? Companies, brands, businesses and artists of all shapes and sizes are cross-promoting their work with influencers on a day-to-day basis.

How to find influencers

For Instagram, one common approach is to search a hashtag related to your brand (#bookreviewer, for example). Then, you can search through the pages that appear in your search and contact the pages most suitable for you. Some may be happy to review you in order for a free copy of your book, others may require a fee, and others won’t respond to you at all—you just have to keep at it.

My advice would be to ‘warm up’ by working with a handful of influencers. Once you gain a stronger understanding of how it all works, ask numerous influencers to share your post/book/work around the same time. This way, you will have a higher chance of being seen, and being seen often.

8. Engage with strangers – Instagram

Gary Vaynerchuk once said that Twitter is like a cocktail party, in that it gives you the ability to approach strangers and start conversations with them. The same can be said about Instagram.

Here’s a tip:

  • Find the page of someone in the similar industry as you with a larger following
  • Click to see their comments, and then click to see the profiles of the commenters 
  • If they have a public profile, engage and comment on their posts

This strategy enables you to find people who are prone to engage with posts in a similar industry such as yours.

Another thing I like to do is to genuinely befriend people who follow my page. I thank everyone who follows my Instagram page (@deanblakeauthor) by sending them a private message. I even send them a little custom drawing. Go ahead and try it! (And if I don’t message you within 24 hours, feel free to message me with an angry face).

9. Post frequently

It takes me about two-to-three hours to create just one of the illustrations I use on my social media pages, but I strive to post almost every day. But even that is not enough. 

Besides being a proven way to gain direct followers, there are several indirect benefits to posting regularly, such as:

  • You get to see which types of posts work (get more engagement), and which don’t
  • You get to see what time your posts are ideal (day time? After work?)
  • You get to spend more time interacting with your followers

There’s also proof out there that accounts can gain large followers with a small number of posts. If you look at the @world_record_egg, for example, it received the world record for the most ‘liked’ post on Instagram, and all it had was one post. This post, however, was backed by the company Hulu and some talented advertising execs.

The @world_record_egg that achieved world record ‘likes’ with a single post.

To become ‘Insta famous’ with a small amount of posts can be possible, but more commonly, they require one or a number of these conditions:

  • They are from someone who’s already famous
  • They are timely and have a compelling cause/truth
  • They have been picked up by the media to snowball their popularity
  • They have been shared or talked about by others with much larger followings
  • Behind the scenes, various influencers have been paid, or encouraged, to share the post

There’s also definitely an element of luck in there. If you have the famous ‘author’s luck,’ which I certainly do, I’d put more effort into the consistent grind.

David Bobis is an author who has written under both his real name and pen name, Dean Blake. He has just released his book of illustrations, Everyday A**holes. He is the co-host of the podcast, Business Over Drinks.

David was the Head of Digital Marketing and Partner of Studio Culture, before exiting to work on his books and private consultancy. 

David is a finalist of multiple awards, such as the Telstra Business Award, the Lord Mayor’s Multicultural Business Award, The Optus Business Award, the Brisbane Business News Young Entrepreneur’s Award, a Melbourne Age Short Story Award, a John Marsden Short Story Award and a Brisbane State Library Short Story Award. He recently wrote a post for Travel Wanderlust.

You’ll find more great writing, publishing and promotional tips, here.

Silvana Nagl

Has one comment to “9 Ways for Authors to Grow their Facebook and Instagram Followers Without Paying For Ads”

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  1. David - June 8, 2020 Reply

    Thanks for sharing my article!

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