Kicksta is a service that claims to help brands and individuals “get real followers for Instagram and turn new connections into more gigs, paid partnerships, and sales.” I decided to test it for one month on my personal account to find out if it’s something I could recommend brands use. Does it work? Read on to find out!
More Instagram followers. Every brand wants them. But Instagram doesn’t have audience growth ads like other channels do to make acquiring new followers easy. So what’s a brand to do?
There are a lot of smart ways to organically increase your follower count. But those methods take time so many brands and aspiring influencers often resort to buying fake followers as a quick fix. This in not a good move—more on that later.
Why do Instagram follower counts matter?
Some brands want social proof before they begin promoting or advertising their products. They know people are going to check out their channels and they want to appear “legit.”
For other brands, the CEO or marketing director simply has an arbitrary number they want to see. Some social media marketers get frustrated in these situations and say “but it’s just a vanity metric!” I’m no social media purist and I’ve always thought if it matters to them, it matters to me. It’s never been a hill to die on.
If a brand is interested in acquiring more relevant followers at a faster pace and there’s a tool available that can help me help them achieve their goal, I’m open to testing it out.
I saw a tweet about it being an automated tool for growing your followers without violating Instagram’s terms of service so I thought I’d give it a try.
And before I continue, let me just get this out of the way:
1. Kicksta did not contact me and ask me to conduct this review.
2. I am not affiliated with Kicksta or any of its competitors.
3. Kicksta has not compensated me in any way for this review.
4. My experience with Kicksta is my experience. Yours may be different.
What Kicksta is NOT
First, let’s start with what Kicksta is not. Kicksta is not one of those “buy 10,000 followers for $100” services that I wouldn’t even entertain testing.
I’ve seen the havoc those kinds of tools can wreak on a brand’s Instagram account: irrelevant ghost followers who never engage and then disappear after Instagram deletes fake/bot accounts during one of its increasingly regular purges.
What is Kicksta and how does it work?
After you sign up, you add what Kicksta calls “targets.” These can be Instagram usernames, hashtags and/or locations.
For a username target, Kicksta will then like 1-2 photos of each of that username’s followers on your account’s behalf—essentially acting as a “tap on the shoulder.” These people see your account liked their photo(s) and then the hope is they’ll check out your account and follow it.
If you’re a visual learner, here’s a brief video that explains the process:
So while the liking of other photos on the behalf of your account is automated, people following you is an organic act—it’s their choice whether or not to do so after they’ve seen you liked their pics.
There are several Smart Filters available to ensure you don’t engage with fake, bot or inappropriate accounts. You can also blacklist accounts or hashtags you don’t wish to engage with.
Kicksta does not comment on photos, send direct messages, or follow/unfollow people. Nor does it guarantee you’ll receive a certain number of followers.
How much does Kicksta cost?
Kicksta currently has two plans available.
The Creative plan includes:
• Moderate growth (they’ll do up to 1000 photo likes on your behalf daily)
• Smart Filters (to eliminate fake, bot, and inappropriate accounts)
• Video onboarding
• 10 targets
The Professional plan includes Smart Filters and video onboarding, plus:
• Maximum growth (they’ll do up to 1500 photo likes on your behalf daily)
• 40 targets
• Email and Live Chat support
• Gender targeting
• Hashtag targeting
• Location targeting
• Blacklisting (to prevent them from interacting with certain accounts and hashtags)
They do offer a 14-day money back guarantee. They say if you’re not happy with your first two weeks of service, they’ll offer you a full refund with no questions asked. I can’t speak to the “no questions asked” claim because, for the sake of this experiment, I did not cancel my plan in that timeframe.
Signup was easy. I entered my email address, created a password, then provided access to my Instagram account. For this experiment I used my own personal Instagram account so I wouldn’t put a client’s account at any kind of risk that could’ve come from using a tool like this. I also signed up for the pricier Professional plan to have more targeting options.
After signing up and connecting my Instagram account, I was taken to my Kicksta dashboard. Here is where you enter your targets and track progress.
For my targets, I used a combination of social media marketing-related usernames (e.g. @wearefirebelly, @sproutsocial, etc) and hashtags (e.g. #SMM, #socialmediamarketing, etc.) to attempt to attract followers who’d be as relevant as possible.
I found that targeting usernames performed much better than hashtags. Kicksta lets you know how they’re performing (either Excellent, Great, Good, Poor, or Very Poor) with little icons next to your targets. They also let you know when a target has been depleted—meaning they’ve liked photos from all of a target’s followers—so you can turn off that target and add a new one.
I didn’t use any location targets because I couldn’t think of any relevant to the people I’d want to follow me. But if you’re a brick and mortar business, you could target people who have tagged your location in a photo (or even a competitor’s location).
I also received weekly performance report emails from my Customer Success Manager with suggestions on how to optimize growth and improve my targeting.
My biggest concern during this entire experiment was that Instagram was going to flag my account or shut it down, but I’m happy to report I did not receive any messages or warnings about suspicious logins or activity.
Does Kicksta violate Instagram’s Community Guidelines?
This is where things get murky in my opinion and why I was concerned about my account getting a message about suspicious activity. Facebook and Instagram have been cracking down on third party services that automate activity and sell fake followers.
Kicksta kind of blurs the line and takes advantage of a loophole.
Yes, the liking of other photos is automated but Kicksta says they do so in a way that “resembles human activity” and in a frequency that is within Instagram guidelines. You really just have to take their word for it on that claim as there’s no further explanation about this on their website.
And while you’re technically using the tool to obtain new followers, you’re not buying a batch of fake followers. People may (or may not) choose to follow you after they see you’ve engaged with one of their photos, but there are no follower guarantees.
When I started this little experiment a month ago, I had 488 followers. At the time of this writing, I have 570. That’s 82 new followers—17% growth. However, the Kicksta dashboard shows 147 new followers gained. So of those 147, only 56% have stuck around.
I would’ve liked to have seen stronger retention, but 82 new followers is much more than I typically gain in a month.
The followers who’ve stuck around appear to be relevant. I see a lot of them have social media or marketing job titles in their descriptions. None of them have only a single (or no) photo posted on their accounts. None of them are following 10,000 people, but have only a handful of followers themselves.
They seem like the real deal and I’ve chosen to follow many of them back.
In addition to new followers, I also received a lot of comments and likes on my photos. I got way more of these than I did followers. So that was a nice bonus.
Remember, Kicksta only “taps people on the shoulder” so a lot of people who saw that I’d liked their photos came to my channel and liked a few of mine—without choosing to follow me. And that’s okay. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
Pros & Cons
1. You will obtain new, real followers. People have to organically choose to follow your brand so you’re not just buying fake followers.
2. You’ll also receive more engagement on your photos. After you like others’ photos, they’ll come to your account to reciprocate.
3. Targeting and filtering options make it easier to engage with the people/content you want to engage with and avoid the kinds of people/content you don’t want to engage with.
4. An online dashboard makes it easy to track your progress and the customer support team is responsive when you want to talk to a human about improving your performance.
1. The business model walks a fine line of what is and isn’t allowed on Instagram. No, you’re not buying fake followers, but you do have to take their word for it that their approach to liking photos is at a safe frequency.
2. There is a 14-day free trial, but you’re required to first enter your credit card details. This may be a turnoff for some as you’ll have to remember to cancel your account at the end of 14 days if you decide to not continue using the tool so they don’t start charging your card.
3. Even with targeting and filtering options, you still don’t have total control over the photos that Kicksta likes on your behalf. There is still the chance they could like a photo that you wouldn’t want people to see your brand liking or from an account you find questionable. If you or your brand is risk averse, this is not a tool for you.
4. The dashboard shows the number of people that followed you, but it doesn’t provide their usernames. This would be a nice addition to the tool.
I feel comfortable saying Kicksta would be a helpful tool for risk-averse brands to have running in the background as a supplement to their organic audience growth endeavors—especially if it keeps them from using one of those “10,000 (fake) followers guaranteed!” tools that will only hurt their long-term efforts.
I also think Kicksta would work best for brands with national or international audiences. A local restaurant or retailer, for example, who wants to attract followers from their city may find that their local targets deplete too quickly.
Wanting to get more from your brand’s Instagram efforts? Firebelly is here for you. Give us a call at (317) 557-4460, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet, or fill out our contact form.
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