I’ve had a lot of people asking me about Instagram recently and how to grow your following. Let me just say that in no way do I consider myself to be any sort of expert on this – but I would say that there are probably some things that you can take away from my utter ineptitude to make any headway with it for a very long time. I’ve also found some incredibly useful tips and resources along the way, which I wanted to share as they may make life just a little easier for anyone trying to “crack the code.”
But before we even get that far, I think that it’s important to ask yourself this question:
Do you really need to grow an Instagram following, or are you just doing it (and driving yourself nuts in the process) because it seems to be the thing “to do”? If so, step away! One thing that I can say for sure that is if you’re going to do it well, you will have to commit a reasonable amount of time to doing so. Those people with a healthy Instagram following didn’t just make it overnight.
If you have a business and Instagram may bring you new clients or customers, then for sure it could be for you. Or if you’re an influencer trying to attract brands’ attention, then again it may well be for you. But if it’s more a case of chatting to friends or family, being creative, or expressing a view about something – don’t rule out Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter as being the place where your attention should be focussed.
Then again if you’ve decided that Instagram is where you want to be but you feel as though you want to throw your phone out of the window each time you gain ten followers and very quickly lose 8, read on!
At some point last year, I read the book Read this if you want to be instagram famous. The penny very quickly dropped that all of the people featured in the book were photographers. Now as someone who has the majority of her photos taken by a 10 year old who’s using an iPhone, I knew that this posed a bit of a problem for me. But one thing that I learned was this: Your photos really do matter.
So what do I do differently now – or rather what does the 10 year old do differently now?
Quick tips – Photographs
- I only ever take photos in the day light. False light is just too yellow and too much faffing is required in editing to make a photo taken under false light half way decent;
- Make the tone of your photographs consistent. There are absolutely loads of photo editing apps (which I really should have investigated by now) but I still edit in Instagram. I always brighten by about 20 and saturate by about 14. There’s then a consistency to your feed;
- Keep the photographs simple, especially for outfit shots – a plain backdrop works best. Find a wall in your house that has lots of light and paint it!
- Use the grid on your phone to make sure that everything is straight;
- Think about composition – which is a fancy way (I think, but I’m not sure) of just seeing what’s in the shot. Do the “gaps” between things, especially in a flat lay, look how you want them to? Think about negative space (ie having parts of the photo empty).
- What’s your style? Try and identify it and keep it consistent. Do you like bright, colourful photos? Do you want to stick to a particular colour scheme (ie blush pinks and gold)? Do you want your photos to be muted but with a bright colour pop in each one, or are you a monochrome girl?
- Some of my favourite Instagram feeds are Chloe Loves to Shop, Wellies & Champagne and Belle & Bunty. See what I mean about upping your photo game?!
It wasn’t until Christmas of 2017 that I decided to get a little more strategic with my Instagram. I was given the book Capture your Style as a present and I read it over the Christmas holiday. It’s quite out of date now as it’s pre-stories but it is really useful, particularly again from a photographic point of view. It also covers things such as how to tell a story and how to find and grow your audience.
As soon as I started to read around the subject, I noticed a difference in the amount of followers that I had. Well actually that’s not true. I think in the whole week that we were away, I gained five followers – but I wasn’t fussed. You can’t always control these things and I knew that I was making progress in understanding how Instagram worked.
I’ve concluded that being successful at Instagram is a bit like the difference between being a cook and a chef. We can all cook – but we’re not all chefs. The only way to become a chef is to put in the time and effort to learn how to do it. That’s all.
So these are my quick fire quick tips of the things that I’ve learned and which have seen a 50% increase in my lovely Instagram followers in 4 months:
Quick Fire Tips:
- This isn’t really something I’ve learned but it’s definitely something I’ve never done. I’ve never installed one of the apps that shows you who’s unfollowed you. I mean, why would you? Could there possibly be anything more destructive than keeping a tab on the number of people who have unfollowed you?
- Learn who your followers are, where they live, what they like and what your points of reference are. My insights tell me that my followers are 89% female, 11% male (all new male followers are blocked). The majority of female followers are aged 35 to 45 and are based in London. If you switch to a business account you can find this information. Once you get to 10,000 followers you can find out when they’re active so you know the best times to post. There’s no point posting if everyone is asleep. But even without the insights that you get at 10,000 followers, there are apps to let you know the best time to post. (Best time is one of them);
- Engage, engage, engage. I was sooooo pants at this. I would watch everyone having conversations and rarely join in, feeling like the biggest nerd in the playground. But it is a social platform and you have to push yourself way outside of your comfort zone. Which is crazy because we’re all people. Having a following of 10 or 10 million doesn’t actually mean anything. You would still say “hello” to the people with 10 million following in the street or in the pub if you didn’t know that, so why should numbers create such a hierarchy?
- Moving on from that, have confidence! This really is a case of fake it until you make it. Pretend that you’ve got 25,000 followers and see how you feel. Now go out there and start chatting as if you have!
- What to talk about? Anything that is relevant to you or the people who follow you. The weather is always a good place to start in the UK (such a great ice breaker. Such a terrible pun). What you’re up to, where you’re going, tell a story, what’s made you laugh, what’s appealed to your quirky sense of humour, ask people how they are, wish them a happy day, talk about looking forward to something, or share something that you’re finding hard to deal with.
- If you want to grow your account, make it known to the universe. I’ve never asked anyone for a shout out or a mention but I was so happy when Nicky from 40 Not Frumpy did that I could have hugged her. So tell me instead!
- As an influencer, I’ve noticed that being seen out at events has made a huge difference. Being visible makes you more visible. (Ooh, I think that sounds quite good!);
- Use the words in your bio with care. The only thing unique about you, is you, so convey that in your bio rather than wasting the words with “I love kittens”. Link to your blog or include your email address so that people can find you;
- With the way that the algorithm works now (I think it shows your post to a few people, gauges their reaction and if it’s positive, shows it to a few more and so it goes on) you can tell fairly quickly if a post is going to be well received. The way to encourage the algorithm to work in your favour is to engage for about half an hour before your post and half an hour afterwards. See what I mean about needing to commit some time to it?
- Think about how your grid looks. What do those first 9 to 12 squares tell people about you? the idea is to have 4 or 5 different things that you rotate through. Mine are fashion, flowers, gin, cakes and anything pink;
- Some people will have 9 squares where one colour ties the squares together, before they move on to another colour – so there’s always consistency. But that’s a bit TOO strategic for me;
- I am definitely not the hashtag queen but they are worth researching. What’s your genre? Hunt around and see what hashtags are being used. There are also lots of hashtags that you can join, like #fridayfeet #whatmamaworewednesday and so on – but I often forget.
- And geo tags are another one. They just let people know where you are.
There are some amazing free downloads out there with a wealth of information on them. I love listening to podcasts too. My favourite podcasts are Jenna Kutcher and The Influencer Podcast – both women are hugely successful and they interview some fabulous business owners and influencers. I’ve felt so much more confident since listening to their wise words. Me & Orla also has some fabulous downloads and podcasts, as does Jen Carrington – who is just lovely.
My advice would be to look at your feed and see what you think it says about you, grab some of the above books, start listening to podcasts, print off the free downloads, pretend you’ve got 25,00 followers and start “reaching out”.
If you have an Instagram page which you think is worthy of a shout out but which isn’t getting the traction that you think it should, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to help. I’m not quite sure how so if anyone wants to think about that too, that would be great. Like I say, I’m really not very good at this!