So you want to grow your instagram following but aren’t quite sure how? Well, grab a snack and have a seat because i’m teaching Instagram 101 today and you’re in the front row!
Instagram is tricky. The algorithm is changing almost weekly and confuses all of us. Ever wonder why you can post one day and get hundreds of likes and the next minute you’re struggling to hit 50? Same. Girl same. The algorithm works against us, unless you’re spending a ton of money on ads (which I DO NOT suggest) then you are going to have to really work your audience and your strategies have to line up. That means doing a good bit of behind the scenes work before you’ll start to notice an increase in both following and your engagement. But we’ll get through all of that!
Also, full disclosure- I’m not an instagram professional. I do not work for Instagram, I do not have a huge following, and I can only say what works for me. So if this doesn’t work for you, please accept my apology but I cannot guarantee you success, you have to work for it. For some sort of “I kind of know what i’m talking about”, i’m putting little screenshots of my personal instagram insights for you to see the reasons the steps i’m giving you below are so important to your instagram success!
A little bit of education on insights before we get started- Instagram insights are extremely important when you are in the game of growing your page and getting brand sponsorships. These will become crucial to you and you’ll find yourself checking them often now that you know what they mean. To get access to your page insights, you must have your instagram connected to a business facebook page or have a creator account. This just means instagram recognizes you as someone monetizing your feed.
There are 2 parts to the insights, Interactions and Discovery. Interactions breaks down to Profile visits– which tells you the amount of people who visited your profile after seeing your post, Website clicks– The number of people who clicked the link you have in your bio (use this for your blog URL or anything else you want to send traffic to), Emails is the number of times someone saw your post and used the Email feature to connect with you. Discovery category is where things get interesting and confusing. Follows is the amount of people who followed you after seeing your post on their feed. Reach is the number of unique accounts that have seen your post and Impressions is the number of times your post has been seen on instagram. Those can be a bit confusing but those numbers being in the thousands is what you want! When you look at From Hashtags, that tells you the number of people that found your post on the hashtag search feature. This is CLUTCH, remember that. From Home– this just means the amount of times your post was seen in someones main feed. From Profile– this is the number of people who found your post by going to your profile directly. From Other can come from lots of sources like being sent via DM, people seeing you tagged and clicking your profile and lots of other reasons.
Now that you understand insights, let’s get started!
Step One- Know your Followers- If your following is mostly men and you’re wondering why the pictures of you in a swimsuit in the Bahamas did great but the picture of your Christmas tree tanked, well men don’t want to see Christmas trees Linda, they want to see you half naked on the beach. Check your audience. You can do so by clicking those 3 little bars on the top right corner of your home page and clicking insights. Then scroll over to the tab that says audience and not only will you know your Male to Female ratio, but also age range and their location. This helps so so much. If you want to grow a home decor page but your following is mostly men, go through your followers and remove them. Remove anyone who might not be interested in your content. This sounds crazy because you’re giving up followers but little do you know that having followers who aren’t engaged in what you share actually hurts you badly! So remove them and try to focus on understanding what your audience likes to see from you.
Step Two- Understand what your followers want to see- This can be tricky but its necessary. You can’t have a description as an Interior Designer and then randomly pop off with a post about your fashion haul from the goodwill and expect your audience to know whats going on or how to respond. Go back through your most recent post and see what performed well. Check the insights and the impressions, not just likes/comments. If you have been sharing posts that can be categorized into one niche, maybe that’s your thing. But before you dive in, make sure you’re passionate about it and you won’t run out of ideas. I don’t consider myself any one niche because I like to share lots of things, but when I go through my page, my home decor post crush it and others not so much. So that tells me that my audience really enjoys seeing home decor content. So once you have your niche, focus on that.
Step Three- Know when you should and should not post- This is ever changing for me and a battle but when I get it right, it’s really right. Try to target when your followers are the most active on social media. Maybe they scroll first thing in the morning or during their lunch break. You can actually look at this through the instagram app by clicking those 3 bars on the right corner of your home page and click insights. Scroll over to audience and go down to followers. This shows you when your followers are most active down to the hour for each day! You just have to click through the days. So once you have that information, make a mental note or maybe schedule a reminder about an hour before that time to post each day to remind you. Then post during that time frame to make sure your audience see your content. But don’t assume this is the same for every single day each week. Check this often because it can change so quick!
Step Four- Plan content- This one can be crucial if you have a busy schedule during the day and you can’t just spend hours each day shooting imagery or planning things out. So maybe pick one day a week to sit down and plan content and then plan a day to take care of it all. Have exactly what you want to accomplish in mind before doing it and it makes the process go by much faster. After you have your content, you can preschedule your post using different apps. I personally do not do this because of something I will explain later, but it can be very beneficial for traveling, or on days when you take time away from social (Which PS, you should always take a step away). So make sure you have content planned and you don’t run out. And don’t be afraid to reuse imagery. Maybe you did a campaign with a brand from a few months ago and you really liked the image and you want to reuse it, just change the caption!
Step Five– Plan captions- Ever scroll across a bloggers page and see the most clever captions and they catch your attention? Those are the best. But you don’t always have to have that kind of caption. But don’t catch yourself in a moment where you have an image but don’t have a caption that makes the image come to life. So sit down and look at your content and make sure what you are captioning it with makes sense to your followers. Ask them questions, poll them with something, give them a reason to comment. Engaging your followers in captions can be a huge help in getting comments from accounts and comments boost your post to the top of the feed! Boom!
Step Six– Hashtags- Yes, the devil himself invented hashtags and those pesky things either make or break you real fast. I may not have a huge following and I might be a very small fish in a giant pond, but I honestly feel like I have pinpointed the hashtag game. Here’s the trick, don’t over do it. Don’t use the same hashtags on every post. If you share all fashion content, make your hashtags very specific to your post and then switch in and out the bigger hashtags, you know the ones that get used like 5M times. The reason is, is that instagram tracks these suckers and if you’re abusing them, your images will suddenly stop showing up on the hashtag feature. And that HURTS big time. I use an app called Plann to sort my hashtags by category. So for Home Decor post, I will have 10 different hashtag sets. Each set is very different with maybe one or 2 hashtags repeating but not always repeating. I will number them 1-10 and go through each one. So I start with 1 and I know the next time I post a home decor post, I will move on to hashtag set number 2. Using the Plann app makes a HUGE difference in being able to simply copy and paste your hashtags into the comments immediately after posting to help them show up on the recents page. Categorize your hashtags and have them ready to go way before you actually post so you are not panicking and coming up with random not relative hashtags. To check your insights on how well your hashtags are performing, click your post and click the little blue phrase that says “insights” and look down at hashtags. Make a mental note of how well each category of hashtags is performing. Maybe even put that in the description so you know. If they are doing well, leave them be. If not, play around. Remove some, add some new ones and just keep playing the game. Once you get these down, you’ll be thanking me!
Step Seven– Engage! – I cannot stress this enough. Don’t just post and sit back and expect engagement to fall in your lap, because unless you’re Kim K it’s not happening. My rule of thumb is spend 15-20 minutes engaging with both your followers randomly and also hashtags you plan to use. So say you are about to post something and use the hashtag #HomeDecor, go to that hashtag and go to the recents (Not the top) and engage. Like photos and leave thoughtful comments. Don’t comment just an emoji or “Cute”, be engaging. Answer their caption, comment about something in the photo, leave a relative hashtag on something clever for them. ENGAGE! Do this for at least 15-20 minutes before you post on about 3-5 hashtags and then post. Then immediately after posting, go back and engage again on 3-5 different hashtags. Same exact method, go to the recents and just leave thoughtful comments. It’s so easy. This helps your post bump to the top of those followers feed. They see your comment, they like it and maybe comment back to it and then on your post! It’s like one big circle of life and it works perfectly if you just do it the right way. Also just a little PSA, the life of an instagram post is an average of about 3-5 hours. So it is CRUCIAL for you to get the most engagement you possibly can as soon as you post. Don’t wait around until bedtime or whatever. Plan your post for when you have time, block it off and engage and get it boosted!
Step Eight- Respond to every single comment- Yes, this is exhausting. But the algorithm picks up on all comments 5 or more words, not just comments left by others on your post. Yes, your very own comments help you. So if you are sitting down and have the time, answer comments. Leave a “thank you so very much” not just a “thanks”, be expressive and responsive. Make the people who commented want to follow you or comment on your photos again because they know you appreciate it, not just ignore them. Also, if you notice someone who is continuously commenting on your photos, return the favor. Share the love you guys, if their profile isn’t private, go comment. I try to return almost 75% of the comment I get. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t but I try and I can always tell I get much better engagement when I am doing this.
Step Nine– Follow similar accounts like yours- go follow bloggers that are in the same niche and sharing similar content. Spam their page with likes and comments and follow along with them. Be authentic about this. Don’t play the stupid follow/unfollow game (I LITERALLY cannot with this crap), genuinely follow them because you like their content. Watch their stories, comment on their posts, share their posts. Chances are they will follow you right back and do the same. We’re all out here trying to make it and the ones who love to support other babes doing the same things you are, are the ones you want in your circle. Don’t waste your time leaving comments on big name accounts thinking they will follow you. Still comment to show them love, but show the micro bloggers love, they will follow, bigger accounts will not. Turn on your post notifications for your favorite bloggers, as soon as they post go show them love. It helps them just like it helps you!
Step Ten– Be authentic and true- If you think you can sit back and share all the random one off products you get sent to you for free from brands and get good engagement, good luck sis. Your followers can see right through that crap. Stop sharing all the random crap just because you got it for free in exchange for a post on your feed. First of all, no one should be accepting free product in exchange for an instagram post because your work shouldn’t be free girl. Free makeup doesn’t pay the bills, cold hard cash does. So the next time a brand drops in your inbox offering free stuff, politely tell them that you value your work and spend time getting imagery and do not work for free. Don’t cheapen yourself for some free stuff. I’ll probably share another post on how to go about getting brand partnerships soon but i’m still perfecting that one for myself so i’m not the best at advice there! But I do know that you will lose the trust of your followers if you are putting your brand behind products you really have not tried and do not truly love. If you wouldn’t buy it, why are you telling them they should? DON’T BE FAKE!!!!
Step Eleven– Have FUN!!! Don’t be so dang caught up in the instagram gang that you forget that you started this because you enjoy it. If you are having fun and sharing content you love and you put thought into, it will show. Don’t just slap something up there just to have your post up for the day. But, if you are second guessing a picture that maybe doesn’t fit your feed but you really love it, POST IT! It shows your followers that you are just a normal everyday person and not some fake instagram account. Just be authentic and original and have fun! If your followers can relate to you, they will continue to follow you because they feel that you are more of a friend and not some stranger on the computer. I cannot tell you how many of my instagram followers feel more like friends than followers. Some i’ve never met and might not ever meet but they are my hardest cheerleaders and biggest supporters and I treasure them. So when you gain those relationships, don’t abuse them. Don’t lose sight of what really matters and who you are. Don’t become someone you are not and don’t pretend to be better than you are. It’s just social media after all, it’s meant to be fun. If it’s your job, take it serious, but you can still have fun!
Notice how not once did I mention how to gain followers? That’s because the only way to organically grow your followers is by doing exactly what i’ve said above. Don’t stress about gaining followers, worry more so about your content and what you are sharing. Is your content eye catching? Would you follow someone who was sharing the same content as you? If those answers are yes, then sit back and watch your follower count rise. It takes time. The ark wasn’t built in a day and neither will your instagram page.. unless your Jennifer Aniston (if you don’t know, you won’t understand).
I hope if you made it this far, that you are so full of instagram knowledge that you are ready to take on the freaking algorithm head on. I hope my tips and tricks help you in your goals to create a more successful ‘gram life and grow your business. We are all just trying to make it and theres always room for friendly, supportive and honest blogger friends at my round table!
XO- Jordan Lee