Millennials, Here’s How To Use Your Instagram Account To Travel The World For Free

I’m what you call “late” to the Instagram bandwagon.

I just created my first account a few weeks ago and I’m beginning to see why so many millennials are obsessed. Not only have I been getting more engagement with Instagram than Facebook, Twitter, or other social platforms, but it’s also helping my business.

In today’s digital world, having a big Instagram following is akin to having a prestigious resume—it’s an instant credibility boost.

Just the other day my friend Virginia Salas Kastilio, the CEO of a media firm, posted to Facebook a job offering for a speaker at an all-expenses-paid event on a private island. The only criteria? A minimum social following of 100k+.

As my friend Zach Benson put it, “When you’re at a networking event and the person you exchange business cards with sees you have a following, of everyone else they meet, they’re gonna remember you.”

Benson is himself an Instagram connoisseur, the CEO and founder of the Instagram management agency Assistagram, which has served high-end clients like The Ritz Carlton and The Four Seasons. Benson has engineered viral Instagram campaigns and boasts the ability to reliably build massive accounts from scratch in a short period of time. In the past year alone, he’s stayed at over one hundred exotic hotels for free in exchange for exposure to his Instagram travel network of 12M+. Not to mention, he’s also a professional dancer and a TEDx speaker.

For the average person, building a following on Instagram might seem like a daunting task. But to Benson, it’s all a matter of simple algorithms.

This week on the Unconventional Life Podcast, Benson shares his method for building Instagram followings fast, and leveraging your following to travel the world for free. Below, learn from Benson how easy Instagram can be and how you can enjoy its travel benefits.

1. Join An Alliance. One of Instagram’s algorithms for ranking content is based on how many comments a photo or video gets soon after being posted. Benson says you can boost your photo’s visibility exponentially by combining forces with a team. Every time you or one of the members of your “alliance” posts a new photo, ensure that each person comments on the photo immediately, because a post’s first ten minutes are the most crucial for gaining traction and determining how extensively it’ll reach beyond your current following. Aim to form teams of 15+ people and it’ll help your photos perform optimally.

2. Follow The Golden Rule. According to Benson, “content is (and will always be) king.” Quality content should always be your first priority, so dedicate yourself to taking high quality, vibrant photos and pairing them with engaging captions or a call to action. For best results, coordinate your content to adhere to a complementary color scheme so that when your followers scroll through your feed, your body of photos reflects your “signature” style and is visually beautiful.

For inspiration, consider modeling your profile after top Instagrammers’ feeds. Take note of the kinds of color palettes they’re using and their content ratios between photo, text, and video

3. Hashtag Smart. Instagram allows you to see how many users have used a particular hashtag before adding it to your post. While it’s tempting to use hashtags that have been used millions of times, it’s not very effective. These hashtags are highly competitive, meaning you’re unlikely to rank among the top. Instead, use hashtags that have been used between 100k-900k times. If you’re unsure of which hashtags to use, Benson suggests digging through the posts of the top influencers in your niche and using the hashtags they’re using. Make sure to max out your hashtags—you can use up to 30.

4. Monitor The Health Of Your Account. Benson says there’s several common behaviors can damage the health of your account that you should avoid at all costs. When you do these behaviors, they trigger Instagram’s algorithms for lowering your engagement and your potential to gain new followers. These behaviors include posting inconsistently, changing your display picture or username, using an automated posting tool, and doing too many actions (like mass-liking photos or following new accounts).

5. Partner With Brands. Once you have built a sizeable Instagram following (at least 50k+ followers), you can approach hotels with offers to expose them to your audience in exchange for a free stay; Benson regularly scores VIP reservations at luxury hotels. “If you have a big Instagram account you can use that account to pretty much get anything for free, because big brands want to pay you for exposure” Benson says.