“How do I grow my Instagram followers?” This question is probably one of the most commonly asked questions in pretty much every blogger or social media Facebook group that I’m in, and after writing out a response numerous times, I felt it was just worth expanding thoroughly right here. While I think people know what they truly need to do to grow their accounts, it seems they want followers to flow easily without any work. Who doesn’t though? Let me be clear–that’s not going to happen unless you’re out here looking like Alexis Ren circa 2016.
With the algorithm working the way it is, and how saturated the internet has become with thousands of people striving for the same e-jobs, you need to put in the work. I’m not saying go crazy, but there are things you can be doing to ensure growth, and I’ve shared them below!!
TO ACHIEVE INSTAGRAM GROWTH:
1. content is king
The most important thing with Instagram, before attempting to follow/unfollow, before joining engagement pods, before looking up hashtags, is to work on your content. To be blunt, it really doesn’t matter how “good” your message is if you have ugly photos.
People are visual, and one of the biggest parts of blogging/being an influencer is visually influencing your audience. You want your readers to see your photos and FEEL something. You want them to want to try your recipe, be inspired to recreate your cute outfit, go to the beautiful location you’re at, or even just better understand the story you’re sharing.
It’s also no longer an excuse to say “But I’m not a photographer!” Creating good content is part of the job, especially if your goal is to become a high paying blogger–so become one. You can do ANYTHING if you truly want to put your mind to it, and with a plethora of knowledge available at your fingertips, you can easily teach yourself. Using things like YouTube, Pinterest, Skillshare, and blog posts like mine (but seriously), it’s not hard to get down photography basics.
You can’t share the equivalent of bland oatmeal in a grey bowl then be surprised your audience isn’t engaging, and brands aren’t knocking at your e-door. Come on. You don’t need to be the next Annie Leibovitz, but there’s no reason to allow pictures that look like they’re taken with a potato to grace your feed either. Save those for stories.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘But I’m not a photographer!’ is no longer an excuse. Creating great content is part of the job, especially if your goal is to become a high paying #blogger, so become one.” quote=”‘But I’m not a photographer!’ is no longer an excuse. Creating great content is part of the job, especially if your goal is to become a high paying blogger, so become one.”]
(RELATED READ:How to Take Better Photos)
2. find your flow
Okay, I get that it may be an extra step in the swing of things to work on building a theme for your Instagram, but having a solid flow to your photos will make a HUGE difference. It’s a pain–but if this is the job you want, at least until you’ve built a large, engaged audience, it’s necessary to put in the effort.
You don’t have to go above and beyond, either! If you make a point to take all your pictures in the same light, you’ll seriously save yourself half the trouble. I find that brightly lit photos are the easiest to edit, and the best received, but do what works for you (just… do it all the time).
Once you’ve got your pictures together, it’s best to use the same filter or preset on each one. Everyone has their own preference, but if you’ve got zero idea on where to even start, I’ve shared editing tips in my Instagram story highlights. For the super beginner, my biggest suggestion is to try out the A4 or C7 filters in VSCO Cam.
I’ve seen complaints that people don’t like editing their pictures because it can make feeds look “overly curated”, but I think that’s an excuse used by people who don’t want to make the effort to learn how to properly take and crop photos. When you’ve gotten rule of thirds basics down and know how to take pictures in decent light, even the most candid shot should fit right into your grid if you use the same filter.[click_to_tweet tweet=”If this is the job you want, then it’s necessary to put in the effort.” quote=”If this is the job you want, then it’s necessary to put in the effort.”]
3. use those #hashtags
Y’all, you’re allowed 30 hashtags per Instagram post you share, so USE THEM ALL. There seems to be this notion with some people that hashtags look cluttered and will detract from the post, but the only person you’re hurting by not utilizing all of them is yourself. It really takes all of 5 periods or dashes to make your hashtags “collapse” and nest into a mostly hidden comment when formatted correctly, so there’s no need to worry about clutter. There’s also no need to worry about whether to use the hashtags in a comment or the main post.
Imagine, those 30 hashtags can potentially put your post in front of a huge audience in different niches–an audience of people that aren’t already following you. I don’t really see a downside.
Don’t know what hashtags to be looking for? In my opinion, you don’t want to use anything that’s got 1 million + posts under it, because that means things are being uploaded so fast that your picture will immediately get buried under others. Aim for something that’s in the sweet spot of 100k to 500k in posts, so that you know the hashtag is popular enough that people are checking, but not so popular that your post will get swallowed up. A plus to using hashtags with that amount is there’s a bigger chance you’ll hit the Explore page, which means you’ll likely go viral (as I think happened with my picture below).
Whichever hashtags you decide to use, it’s super important to make sure you switch them up on each picture, otherwise Instagram’s algorithm will view your posts as spammy. To save yourself from your pictures not even showing up in tags, make a point to switch up at least 15 on every post. This helps you figure out which hashtags produce better results anyway, so it’s not that much of a hassle.
You can snag my free hashtag list at the bottom of THIS post, if you want a place to start!
[click_to_tweet tweet=”You get 30 #hashtags to use on each post to get your photo in front of people that *aren’t already following you*. So why aren’t you using them all?” quote=”You get 30 hashtags to use on each post to get your photo in front of people that *aren’t already following you*. So why aren’t you using them all?”]
After having a visually appealing feed, I’d say that making a point to engage with others is the best way to grow your Instagram account. And when I say engage, I mean make it genuine, otherwise, don’t bother. Commit time to make friends within your niche, talk to your followers on your stories, or even hold mini-giveaways. I say “mini-giveaways” because people have gotten savvy about loop giveaways, and y’all, no one wants to follow 45 accounts at the highly unlikely chance of winning a trip to Barbados/a Gucci bag/a bunch of Lightroom presets.
A technique I’ve been using lately to grow my account personally is to spend 15 minutes twice a day going through the comments on photos of small to mid-level bloggers within my own niche (say 8-15k in followers) and cherry-picking through commenters to interact with. By interact, I mean leaving genuine comments (and not just dropping 3 heart emojis) on 2-3 photos, and then liking 5-6. This way, it shows I’m supportive and like their photos, and I’ve also left enough notifications that they can’t ignore me.
The whole idea with that technique is that if I leave enough breadcrumbs for an Instagram account to notice me, they’ll come check out my profile, and hopefully like it enough to throw me a follow. If not, they’ll at least leave a few comments which will boost my engagement! Either way, win.
It’s also really beneficial to have your group of blogger friends turn on notifications for each other’s accounts, this way you can interact immediately with posts, which will also help boost you in the algorithm![click_to_tweet tweet=”Instead of dropping 3 heart emojis, leave enough genuine comments that people can’t ignore you (or your feed).” quote=”Instead of dropping 3 heart emojis, leave enough genuine comments that people can’t ignore you (or your feed).”]
(RELATED READ: 5 Tips for Taking Your Own Photos)
5. photograph everything
I’ve found that a huge struggle people face in not being able to be consistent and cohesive with their feed–is because they don’t have enough content. While I don’t agree that you have to be posting every single day if you’re posting quality pictures, you do need to still be posting (I aim for 3 times a week). To help myself combat this, I’ve started to make a point to take at least one picture a day, no matter what.
By stockpiling my photos, I’ve started to constantly have some sort of content that I can push out if necessary. While what I’ve photographed today may fit into my feed later when I need a filler photo (like THIS POST), sometimes I find that with cropping and editing, I end up with surprise hits (like THIS POST).
Getting yourself into the habit of taking photos of everything at every chance you get (ok y’all, don’t be that obnoxious blogger tho) will also help you build your eye. You only grow with practice, and I bet eventually, you’ll start seeing what angles, shapes, and light truly work best for pictures.[click_to_tweet tweet=”By consistently stockpiling photos, you’ll never have to struggle with finding something to share on your feed.” quote=”By consistently stockpiling photos, you’ll never have to struggle with finding something to share on your feed.”]
MY MUST-HAVE APPS:
I’ve gotten into a pretty solid flow with my routine as I know what work for my feed’s look and what my audience is expecting to see from me, but I’ve shared below what apps on my phone get the absolute most use in keeping my Instagram tip-top.
• for planning:
These can all be used somewhat interchangeably, it’s really a matter of personal preference. I personally tend
to switch off between UNUM and Planoly. In trying to link them, I discovered that Planoly has a huge desktop version and seems to be able to automate posts, so it may be worth looking into further if you want to let go of some control.
• for editing:
I use LR for my photos with a modified preset that I snagged off Reddit (get resourceful y’all)–but I shared in my Instagram highlights how to recreate that preset utilizing VSCO. I find that Facetune is great for really brightening those hard to brighten whites, and I swap between Afterlight and Mextures
• for stories:
I don’t use these super often, but I find that Unfold makes stories look polished and professional. Cutstory basically lets you record a video, then chops the whole thing down to 15 second chunks, so you can share them on your stories. It was super helpful when I screen-recorded my tutorial on editing in VSCO.
• for other stuff:
These are things I also use sparingly, but the Nikon WMU app is what I sometimes use (it can be glitchy) as a remote while taking my own photos. The HUJI app is the iPhone version of a disposable camera (I think the Android version is called “Kudak”), and I just discovered HishHash, but it seems to let you input all your hashtags into categories, and will mash-up whatever categories you click to spit out 30 tags tailored to your picture. Pretty helpful for switching things up on the algorithm!
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Tips to grow your Instagram following.” quote=”Tips to grow your Instagram following.”]
Now, I don’t have an insane amount of followers by some standards, but I do have the engagement to back up what I’ve written–and I’ve managed to gain at least 700 followers in probably 3 months. When you’re a small blogger, that matters.