I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a secret guide to Instagram that was only available to those under the age of 20. Whether it’s knowing how to get the most likes, sharing beautiful images, or interacting with other users, teenagers seem to know something about Instagram that most users don’t.

We took a look at some popular teen-run Instagram accounts and spoke to some trusty teens to discover exactly what it is that makes them so successful. Continue reading to find out:

  • The secret technique of using LB, CB, and FB (we explain what these mean below) to get more likes
  • Why teens use the Pod method to accelerate Instagram’s algorithm
  • The art of self-editing and being extra

Keep reading to hear what they’re doing—and how you can apply these tactics to your own brand’s Instagram strategy. Hang loose, fellow youth.

In this episode of the Hootsuite Podcast, three high school students share surprising insights about how they use Instagram and other social networks. Listen now.

4 reasons why teens are better at Instagram than businesses

1. They know how to hack the system

I discovered this trick one day when Kylie Jenner’s latest Instagram post appeared on my Explore page. I clicked on her latest post and saw 99 percent of the comments said either “LB,” “CB,” “FB ” or “First” which all appeared to be from teens.

I did some research and discovered:

  • LB stands for “like back”
  • CB stands for “comment back”
  • FB stands for “follow back”
  • “First,” means the user wants a like on their most recent post

Instagram users post these comments on celebrity posts (most notoriously those of Kylie and Kendall Jenner) to get likes, comments, and follows from other users. If you see someone comment LB and you like their latest picture, you can expect them to return the favor.

I wanted to see if this works, so used my cat’s Instagram account to comment “LB.” Within seconds, her latest photo had gained over ten new likes and two new followers. The secret? Instagram’s algorithm.

The Instagram algorithm shows users posts based on what content will likely be most interesting to the user, rather than in chronological order. Instagram determines this based on factors such as timing and engagement.

With organic reach steadily declining, teenagers have figured out that the more likes and comments their posts can get, the less likely it is to be missed by their target audience (their friends).

If you’re seeing a decline in organic reach, try this trick out. But keep in mind that others can see what posts your brand likes and comments on. You definitely want to make sure your brand is liking and commenting on appropriate content.

For more ways to boost your organic reach on Instagram, check out our post Instagram Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach.

2. They are “extra

If someone calls you extra, you’re either trying too hard or being over the top,” Popsugar explains. Extra behavior is defined by excess—whether it’s an excessive reaction to something or an excessive emotional response. If there’s anything I miss about being a teenager, it’s this extra, unrestrained emotion. Teenagers don’t hold back when it comes to sharing how they feel, and their approach to Instagram reflects this enviable over-the-top quality.

Unlike some brands, teenagers aren’t afraid to take risks—whether online or IRL. If they’re celebrating something, or if they’re upset about something, they usually won’t try to hide it. And it’s this unabashed emotion-filled content that earns them high engagement.

“Evoking certain emotions can help increase the chance of a message being shared,” my post 4 Lessons About Social Media and Psychology Marketers Need to Know explains, “When people are physiologically aroused, whether due to emotional stimuli or otherwise, the autonomic nervous is activated, which then boosts social transmission.”

Emotions play a crucial part in social media engagement, and teenagers aren’t afraid to put this to the test.

Not only that, but real emotion helps show authenticity to an audience. Being cool all of the time is unrealistic (and overrated) and social media users know this. Add a dash of honest content and personality to your Instagram feed once in awhile see how your audience reacts.

3. They are ruthless self-editors

While teenagers love sharing authentic content, they also ensure it fits their Instagram style. Aesthetic is everything and if the style of a photo or video isn’t consistent with their account’s overall look, it’s either not getting posted or getting deleted as soon as they see how it looks in their grid.

I spoke with Georgia, a 15-year-old Vancouverite, and learned how important Instagram style is to her and those in her social circle. “I will always make sure any picture I post fits in with all my other stuff,” she explains, “I like keeping it very clean and using those white borders, so make sure my photos are minimal and all have the same look. Sometimes I’ll post a photo just to see how it will look with my other posts, and if it stands out I’ll delete it right away.”

If you’re looking to streamline your Instagram account like an in-the-know teen, curation is the key. Use a tool such as the Preview App which lets you plan out your Instagram content to ensure maximum consistency and style.

4. They work in pods

If you need a lesson in loyalty, look no further than teenagers. If their friend shares a post, they will like and/or comment on it immediately to show their support.

“My friends and I are in a group text where we notify each other when we’ve posted something on Instagram,” my teenaged source reveals, “This lets the group know so everyone else can go and like the post or write a supportive comment. If it’s a selfie we will usually do the heart-eyes emoji or the flame, but even just that simple comment will help the post get more likes in the long run.”

In addition to these loyal friend groups, many teenagers are a part of Instagram pods.

An Insta pod is a secret group of users who join forces in group messages in order to like and comment on each others posts and gain more engagement on Instagram,” Mashable explains, “It’s been compared to “a family of dolphins who live together in harmony and support one another… like a group of cheerleaders who help one another on Instagram.”

Instagram pods work through private messages between groups of users with relevant brands. For example, a group of home decor brands might be in an  Instagram pod with one another. When one posts to Instagram, the other group members are expected to like and/or comment on the post.

The key to joining an Instagram pod of your own is finding influencers in your industry. If you’re a Buzzsumo user, you can use their newly launched Influencer search feature. Simply type in a keyword such as ‘eco-living’ or ‘restaurants’ and you’ll get a list of related Instagram influencers. For a complete guide to finding relevant Instagram influencers, check out our post Influencer Marketing on Social Media: Everything You Need to Know.

Once you’ve gathered a list of potential pod members, simply reach out to them to get the ball rolling. My teenaged source shared a set of guidelines one of her pods lists for all members. For example:

  • When you post on Instagram, make sure you notify the group using the emoji
  • When someone else shares the emoji, immediately like their latest picture and leave a relevant comment with a minimum of five words
  • Before you share your own post, make sure you are caught up and have added likes and comments to the other member’s posts
  • If you only post your own photos and don’t like or comment on other members’ content, you’ll be asked to leave the pod

As with all areas of your social media strategy, remaining respectful and courteous will never fail.

Teenagers often pave the way for trends to unfold and Instagram is no exception.  With the guide above you can apply teenaged intuition to your own strategy and see your results soar.

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