Because you clicked on this post, I’m guessing you’re trying to grow your following on Instagram. You want to have a platform and share your passions, right? But this app can be seriously challenging to navigate successfully. None of us want to stand and talk to an empty room, but Instagram growth is difficult with the new algorithm.
I can’t/won’t stand on my (tiny) blog pedestal and say that I have Instagram all figured out. There are still days that really bite; but through good ole trial and error, I’m starting to find where I fit in within my Instagram niche.
Let’s talk about 5 Instagram growth strategies that have been successful in my first four months, and ones you should try for yourself!
1. First and foremost: Quality Content
It takes as little as 3 seconds for a potential follower to decide if they like your feed or not. Man, we’re just a bunch of judgmental jerks, huh?
But it’s true! Use these 3 seconds to your advantage by creating top notch content. I’m speaking on the assumption that you’ve already asked yourself why you wanted to start an Instagram account (to share home decor, recipes, travel, etc.), and that your account already has a “theme” established.
Next, ask yourself: “what kind of photos am I drawn to?” If you like photos that are flooded with bright light, edit in that way. If you’re drawn to a darker, moodier vibe, stick with that style! The key is to edit all your photos in a similar way (this makes your feed look cohesive to someone who is clicking on your name for the first time).
Here are 3 examples of editing styles you can choose to make your feed cohesive:
With that, let’s get to editing! Instagram has a built-in editor for your photos, but there are handfuls of apps you can download for more extensive, professional editing. Some I recommend:
- Lightroom (you can buy presets from a ton of bloggers to use within this app. Presets are a one-click editing system that will make all your photos look similar)
2. Engage with others through hashtags– and make it meaningful!
When you’re trying to grow, it’s best to start within your niche– home decor, travel, food, whatever– and hashtags are going to be your best friend.
Spend some time each day perusing hashtags that pertain to you. Example: I’ll search “fixer upper style” or “farmhouse charm” and comment on the photos that grab my attention. Doing this consistently is key!
Go ahead and click “follow” on the hashtag feeds you like the most so that photos from it will pop up in your newsfeed without you having to search.
Most importantly: MAKE YOUR ENGAGEMENT MEANINGFUL!
Instead of commenting “love that couch,” try this:
“That couch is so beautiful and comfy! Looks like the perfect place to sit and have a cup of coffee (or ten)”
People really take notice when you put in extra effort, and a lot of times, they’ll return the favor on your photos. Likes and comments are the best way for any photo to get exposure, so this benefits both of you!
Follow accounts from these hashtags that inspire you. Scroll through their feed and like each photo that jumps out to you. Comment on the ones that are really stunning. People look more closely at their notifications than you would think– they’ll notice when you put genuine effort in! (And remember what I said about creating quality content that leaves a good first impression? They might just click on your name and follow you back 😉
Other posts you may be interested in:
3. Stories stories stories
Believe me, I get it. It’s uncomfortable. Weird. Awkward. Downright cringey.
But Instagram stories, when they’re done well, are a HUGE asset. After all, this whole gig is called SOCIAL media. Your followers want to interact with YOU, a real person.
If you feel awkward talking in front of the camera, start small! You can absolutely keep it short and sweet while you’re getting your footing. For example, “Hope y’all have a great day! I posted a photo on my feed this morning of the YUMMIEST recipe. Check it out and tell me what ya think!”
It’s okay, I cringe super hard when I think of the first stories I made. But now, just four short months later, I actually look forward to talking on my stories! Here are some tips to make it easier:
- PRACTICE! When you’re commuting to work or curling your hair in the mirror, just practice talking out loud without your phone. Say what your most recent post was about, what your favorite room in your house is & why, or what you consider to be the #1 travel destination. Muscle memory makes everything easier.
- Pretend you’re talking to your mom or your best friend (this is the adult equivalent of saying “imagine everyone in their underwear”)
Show your personality in other ways that don’t involve talking!
You can spice up your Instagram stories by using templates to help your followers get to know you. If you’re feelin’ fancy, there are plenty of graphic design apps to make your own (I recommend Over). If that’s not your style, use some that are already out there!
You can find more templates at @thesundaychapter and @instastorytemp on Instagram.
Interactive stories tend to perform the best. They make followers feel involved, and typically will keep your viewers engaged longer. Try using polls, questions stickers, and quizzes to keep someone from exiting out of your story!
4. Talk to your buddies about sharing
Once you’ve followed the tips above, specifically meaningful engagement and interacting on your stories, you’ll more than likely have some virtual best friends! They can always count on you to like their photos, and you can say the same about them. So what’s next?
Ask them if they’d like to do a share swap! This can be done on your feed, your stories, or both. A share swap just means you mention them, their account name, why you love following them, and why your followers would too! It also doesn’t hurt to include a few screenshots from their feed.
Think about it, people won’t be able to follow you if they don’t know your account exists. Sharing (and being shared) is a great way for both accounts to gain exposure!
5. Tag people, and strategically use hashtags on EVERY post
Some of the days I’ve gained the most followers are when accounts with a large following repost my content. I’ve been reposted by Cottages and Bungalows, Farmhouse Fanatics, American Farmhouse Style, and several other big names. Some of these accounts have their own magazines, as well as hundreds of thousands of followers!
So how do you get the coveted repost?
Tag, tag, tag! Do a quick Google search of large, popular accounts within your niche, and start tagging them in your posts. Check out their accounts– a lot of times they will include in their bio, for example, “Use the hashtag #farmhousefanatics to be featured.” Guess what? I started tagging their account in my photos, as well as using their hashtag in my caption. And I got reposted! You can also tag accounts like Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Kirkland’s, and other stores if your photo features a product they sell!
Hashtags and I have a love/hate relationship. They help my photos reach accounts that aren’t following me, but they’re so hard to figure out.
Did you know there are banned hashtags? I learned this from my friend Blair (@patina_pine).
When you’re typing in your hashtags, there should be a small photo next to it with whatever photo is performing best at the time. If it has a gray circle next to it (instead of a photo), that means the hashtag is banned, or at least temporarily banned. If you use it on your photo, Instagram will hide your content.
To counteract this, I recommend manually typing in your hashtags with each and every post. It’s time-consuming, yes. But you’ve spent time and effort getting your photo ready to post– you want it to reach as many people as possible!
Remember, you can use up to 30 hashtags on each post. In my experience, 18-25 per post has been my sweet spot. Use a combination of big and small hashtags (some with 10k + posts, 100k +, and some with 300-500k).
You should also be aware that hashtags perform best at certain times. I wish that I could tell you that time is 8am on Friday, but I can’t. The best time to post FOR YOU can only be found through trial and error. My best posting times are between 7 and 9am every Monday through Friday. I’ve tried posting in the evenings, and it never works out the way I want it to. Keep a note on your phone of which photos perform the best and what time they were posted!
Well friends, I think that’s some pretty good groundwork to get started. Thank you for reading today, and I wish you all the success on your Instagram journey!
But I want you to hear me when I say this– the number of followers you have doesn’t define you. We all want to be popular and liked, but being those things online isn’t the end-all and be-all. Be YOU, the rest will follow.
Gossip Girl (just kidding, it’s Morgan)