I started writing this post a little while ago and I almost stopped myself, because I have only just over 5000 followers on Instagram which is small compared to many influencer accounts. Do I really have any valid tips? Should you listen to me? Well I will let you decide that for yourself. What I tend to find with every article like this that I read is that I will take away at least one bit of advice which helps even if the majority of the tips are old news to me. I hope that is the case for you reading this and that at least one tip will help you with your channel.
My Instagram account is here if you don’t already follow. I’ve been on Instagram for quite a long time now, over 5 years I think but I have only really started using it as a blog account over the past two years.
I have as of this moment 5100 ish followers, that number fluctuates quite a lot during any one day and sometimes the same people follow then unfollow then follow again.. I am sure this happens to lots of you and it is frustrating. After this happens a number of times I do tend to block these accounts as it gets a little annoying. Anyway as I said my follower count isn’t huge but I have more than doubled it since this time last year. To me this is a massive leap and aside from a 2 day period using a follower app which was supposed to help automate my Instagram life it has all been done organically. The app was a bit of a trial and error thing, other Instagrammers were using similar services with great results but I quickly realised it was not for me. I like to know what I am liking and who I am following which is why I have decided that for me Instagram will always be a personal thing even for my blog account. I want to always have all of the control over my channel.
Instagram is a very different place now than it was even just 12 months ago, the algorithm has changed a few times and there are a lot more users posting similar content. Everyone seems to have improved the quality of their images ( probably due to better cameras on phones ) and it is harder and harder to get your posts seen. Most of my images have between 200-400 likes and a decent amount of engagement in terms of comments also, this is what is considered ( or so I’ve been told ) as a good percentage of likes to followers. After all having 100k followers is fantastic ( we can all dream ) but even if you are getting 1000 likes that is only a 1% engagement rate, this is one of the reasons why many brands and PR agencies are now choosing to work with micro influencers who may have a smaller following but a greater reach and therefore influence.
I do believe Instagram is going to continue to grow especially with the new updates to stories and the various features on there so as an influencer or as a brand you really need to be paying attention to it as a channel. A lot of the brands I now work with are especially interested in IG channel and some only want IG coverage rather than full blog posts as was previously the norm so for me it has to continue to be a focus.
I have put together a few tips that I have found have really helped me to grow not just my following but also improve my engagement and reach. Feel free to leave comments passing on your tips or questions if you have any. I am no Instagram pro but it is a channel that I love and work hard on.
Quality is key – now I am not going tell you to choose a niche, a theme or a special filter for all of your photos because I don’t do any of those things. My feed is a real mixture of life, food, travel and body positivity. A set theme can work for lots of people and I do like to look at the accounts that are oh so pretty but it is not really me. However if you just improve the quality of your photos then you will get more likes and follows and engagement. That means not posting that blurry shot even if it was of something cool, it doesn’t mean the actual content shouldn’t be real, post life as it is if that is what you want but try to make sure the image is bright and sharp. Not all of my photos are excellent quality ( I am working on it ) and I am not a natural photographer but for the most part they are a whole lot better than the images I posted a year ago. Can I tell you a secret? ALL of my Instagram photos from the last six months are phone shots, no DSLR, no fancy editing tools apart from the ones on my phone.
Let people see YOU. Sometime last year a friend commented that I didn’t post many selfies, which was true. 99% of my feed up until last Autumn was food content which is great as that is what I primarily blog about BUT you didn’t get to know much about me or see who I am. I now post occasional selfies, even though it still makes me feel kind of weird and the engagement is always dramatically increased. People like to see the person behind the account. It means they are generally less likely to unfollow you as they feel a more personal connection and also they will interact more often. Also get personal at times with your posts. My two highest posts for engagement and reach are photos of me relating to body confidence. I was amazed on both occasions at the reaction the photos they got and I realise it is because it is relatable.
Ask a question. Want people to engage? Ask them something, for advice or their favourite product or film etc. One of my most engaged posts was a post asking about whether I should cut my hair..yes it’s trivial but people like to get involved and it is a good way to start conversation with your followers. If you don’t have a question to ask perhaps you could write a longer, more interesting caption. Instead of saying look at my chocolate cake you could explain why you decided to make the cake that day or tell your followers a little about your day. Longer captions get more likes.. not pages long though, sometimes I have to stop myself as I like to ramble, can you tell?
Reply. Reply. Reply. I need to listen to my own advice on this as I don’t always do it but I try to. If someone has taken the time to comment on your post especially if it is something more than a standard great photo comment try and take the time to reply. It can mean a lot to people and it shows you actually appreciate the interaction so therefore they are more likely to do it again. At the very least like the comment so they get a notification to show you have acknowledged it. You could set aside a time each week where you answer your comments in bulk.
Be prepared to like lots of photos. If you want people to visit your feed then they need to know it is there. Use hashtags to find people with similar interests and then go and take the time to scroll through their feed, like a few of the photos and perhaps comment on one or two – this is the quickest way to get return visits to your feed. Make your comments meaningful. Yes I am all for using emojis at times but make sure you don’t look like a bot. Engage with fellow influencers as much as you can, you may find they will be your biggest supporters. Find your tribe as they say.
Start using stories. I didn’t get on the snapchat bandwagon when everyone else did and although I now have an account, I don’t actually use it very much if at all. I do however love IG stories and try to use them 5 out of 7 days out of the week if I can. I have made short cooking videos, shared my average day and also used it to highlight brands and destinations whilst on press trips. It is a great way for your following to get to know you and I get great results from it. I am not entirely sure how they get shown to people who don’t follow you but on the days I post a few stories I get more followers. I also get a lot of messages replying to my stories and I have also had work on the back of it via messages from brands.
Go Live. Kind of like IG stories but live so it is a little scarier but also kind of awesome. I have done 3 or 4 live chats now and I am hoping to start scheduling some regular ones in weekly. It is fun as your viewers can leave comments and then you can reply using your voice rather than having to type and my followers seem to love my accent, I am a little bit Welsh. My last live was whilst watching this rather spectacular sunset and I decided to go live spur of the moment to share it with my followers.
Don’t be afraid to follow people. I know a lot of influencers don’t like to follow lots of other accounts as they prefer the following/follower ratio to be more distinctive and I understand that but if you love IG as I do, follow people. I follow around 2000 people currently and if someone follows me and I like the look of their account or they engage regularly I always follow back.
Research. There are lots of articles on how to make IG work for you. Read them. I have found a lot of helpful tips and also follow the big influencers, watch what they do and learn. There are a lot of FB groups you can join for help with IG also, send me a message if you want any recommendations.
Timing is everything. If you have a business account you will get analytics which tell you when your followers are most active, try sticking to those times and see how it works for you. If you post at 3am and most of your followers are in the same time zone you are unlikely to get a decent response. If you don’t have a business account then you can figure it out yourself by keeping track of your times and when your posts do well and manually gauging it.
Enjoy it. As with most things when it is forced people can see it. Share content you like, don’t always accept brand collaborations if they won’t sit well with your following or go against your own values. I wouldn’t promote a diet pill or tea too for example and I have been asked to on a few occasions.
You can find more posts I’ve written about Instagram and the Instagrammers I love here.
Great tips, I don’t like to show myself too often and am struggling to get the hang of stories and live! You’ve inspired me to have another go.
Thanks Janice. Stories are definitely worth another whirl, get used to those then try live x
Really useful post Rebecca, I spend waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on Instagram!
With all the drama around bots at the moment, posts like this are really encouraging in showing that people don’t need need to resort to such tactics to grow their Instagram! Great post. 🙂
Musings & More
Great tips 🙂 I really need to pay attention to instagram more, it sometimes feels like a chore 🙁
Kavey at Kavey Eats says
I loved connecting with you on that Live story on the beach, was rather lovely. I’m still too scared to do one myself. But like you, I’ve worked hard on growing my instagram organically (no follow unfollow or automated programmes) and it’s gone up by around 2000 in about a year. Not doubled, but I’m still really pleased. It does take time – I do all the things you do plus I do take advantage of instagrammer mutual support threads and have actually got to know many of the people I now interact with from that activity. I have worked on my quality, posting only photos I’m proud of rather than also using it as a bit of a personal diary, and I post less often than I used to.
Jacqueline Meldrum says
I really needed this. I have neglected my instagram and the interaction on posts has plummeted. I know, my own fault!
Juan Sandiego says
Thank you for sharing these tips! It feels daunting starting from scratch, but I’m ready to dive into the pool of hashtags 🙂
Thanks for these tips Becky, it’s good to know I’m on the right track, and I’m going to look for some more people to follow in my niche. 🙂