Instagram is a social media platform that has exploded in popularity in the last year or so but with algorithm changes and spam accounts, growing your Instagram account today is more challenging than ever. When I started this blog, I had just over 700 followers on Instagram. Now, my Instagram is (finally) holding steady at 1,020. In June, just before launching this blog, I set a goal for myself to hit 1,000 followers on Instagram by the end of the summer. Now, 1,000 followers may not seem like a lot and, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not, but I’ve been focused on growing organically and creating an engaged audience rather than just blowing up all of a sudden. You guys voted in my Twitter poll and chose growing your Instagram as today’s topic of choice so I’m going to be sharing with you exactly what I did to grow my Instagram!
Before we get into the steps I actually used to grow my Instagram, let me be completely upfront with you: it did not happen overnight. To make a long story short, I posted every single day for almost three months straight before I hit my goal. If you’re willing to hustle hard to grow your Instagram then you’ve come to the right place, my friends! Here’s what I actually did to grow my Instagram and make it work for me!
#1 Optimize your Profile
The very first thing I did when I decided to start focusing on growing my Instagram was take a look at my Instagram profile. You want to make sure that your Instagram profile is not only aesthetically pleasing, but holds all the necessary information people need to know about you. Be upfront about who you are, where you are, and what you do. I use emojis to break up text by starting a new line with each emoji. Life hack: You can create breaks in your text for Instagram by typing everything into your Notes app on your phone ahead of time. If you’re having a hard time getting started on your Instagram profile, take a look at some of your favorite blog or business Instagrams to get inspiration.
Another important note about your Instagram profile is to always, always, always include your email as well as a Call to Action in your profile. As you can see, my Instagram profile not only includes my email address and website, but also encourages people to click on the link provided in my bio. I recently started using Link Tree so that I can direct others to a variety of different content. Use a CTA to generate traffic to your blog, encourage people to sign up for your email, or to a free resource! (PS: Let me know if you want a full post dedicated to optimizing your Instagram profile)!
Do you need a business account?
Recently, there has been a debate in the blogging + biz community about whether or not having a business account on Instagram helps or hurts your engagement. When I first started actively trying to grow my Instagram, I did not have a business account. While I believe not having a business account allowed for more people to see my content, I do not think it has necessarily hurt my engagement levels. As I aim for my next Instagram goal, I may try a case study to see whether or not there is a difference between having a business profile or not. The major benefit for having a business profile, as I learned after attending HerConference 2017, is that it makes it easier for others to email you. Just food for thought!
#2 Decide On a Theme
I’m going to be honest: I hate Instagram themes. Personally, I find them annoying and a ridiculous expectation to put on anyone. Because I wanted this blog to be focused on a real and attainable lifestyle, I decided that my theme was going to be simple: there isn’t one. I stopped using filters in July and I started posting what I wanted to post. My images pretty much create their own theme, you’ll see pictures of myself featuring an outfit, a picture of Justin and I (these get my highest amount of engagement) and recently, bullet journal pictures. I also don’t typically take pictures ahead of time. Occasionally, if Justin is free or I’m feeling particularly productive, I’ll shoot some outfit pictures for Instagram but this is a very rare occurrence. Is this actually a real strategy? Who knows but so far, it’s working for me. I think people often get too caught up in trying to stick with a certain theme that it stops being fun and I want Instagram to always be a place where I share bits and pieces of my life… for fun.
#3 The Longer the Caption, the Better
If someone is scrolling through their feed and stops on your picture, it’s because they want to know more about it. I’m guilty of not always putting the most thought into my captions and later kicking myself for it (like I am currently) but writing longer, thoughtful captions is going to allow readers to connect with your content and ultimately, you. If you’re posting a picture of you in a bikini, maybe talk about body positivity. Tell people how you got the shot you’re posting, what your day has been like, etc. Long captions tend to be thought provoking to readers and will give them a little better glimpse into who you are. I feel that this is particularly important for lifestyle content creators because at the end of the day, you want people to buy into said lifestyle (if only figuratively).
#4 Hashtags, Hashtags, Hashtags
Now, I’m still trying to master the Instagram hashtag but here’s some dirt on what’s worked well for me. First, find hashtags that are relevant to the image you’re posting. Don’t use a pet related hashtag if you’re posting a picture of your morning coffee. Next, find hashtags that are relevant to your overall brand and/or content. Stick to hashtags that don’t already have a million posts using them because the smaller the hashtag, the more likely it is someone will find your content. Typically, I use the same set of hashtags on each of my posts that are aligned with what my overall content is: fashion, lifestyle, blogging, wedding related etc. Then, I’ll add in a few hashtags that are specific to that post. For example, if my post includes one of my R. Riveter handbags, I’ll use the #BagsOnAMission hashtag. Again, finding the right hashtags that work for you can be a trial and error process so don’t give up if you don’t get it right the first time!
#5 Location, Location, Location
IMO, hashtags and geotags are the bread and butter of your Instagram sandwich. Before I started actively trying to grow my Instagram, I hardly ever tagged locations in them. However, I quickly found out that it’s far easier for people to find your content if you have the location tagged, especially if the picture is from an event or specific location such as a restaurant or tourist spot. I can’t tell you how many new followers and engagements I’ve gotten on my account just from tagging various West Point locations. If you’re concerned about safety, wait until you’ve left said location before posting.
#6 Engage with Content
If you’re going to grow your instagram, you need to use Instagram. That’s the bottom line. Before June, I didn’t even know Instagram had a suggestions page. Now I sped 15-20 minutes every night scrolling through and engaging with content I like. If it’s a profile I really like, I’ll even leave a comment. Not only is this a great way to get new people to check out your Instagram profile but 9/10 they’re going to also check out your link(s). Instagram is definitely one of those platforms where engaging more with other people’s content usually means good things for your own.
#7 Use Instagram Stories
On the days I’m too lazy to do anything with my Instagram stories, I gain less followers. I’m not sure if this is because stories are a fairly new feature and so Instagram is trying to promote profiles that use them more or if it’s just algorithim friendly but I love using Instagram stories. Even if you don’t have an actual photo ready to go that day, Instagram stories are a great way to keep people engaged with your content and profile.
#8 Tag Brands
Tagging brands is a great way to gain exposure to a large number of new people at one time. Tagging brands not only can get you featured and tagged on that brand’s profile, but can also help expand your reach simply if they like your photo. It’s a fairly painless process so make sure you’re including any relevant brand tags in your post. Tagging brands can also keep people from asking you 100 questions about your outfit on one post.
#9 Post Consistently
In June, I started posting on Instagram every day at 6pm EST. It was August before I quickly got fed up with having to stick to a schedule but as with all things, being consistent is key to growth. The more content you have the more Instagram is going to have to push to other users and the more likely it is that you’re going to get someone new to look at your profile. Do you need to post at the same time everyday? Probably not, but posting at least once a day can do wonders for growing your Instagram. However, make sure you’re posting high quality images. Posting everyday isn’t going to do you any good if you’re taking a poor picture just for the sake of posting. Your readers want to know and be able to see that you put time into your feed so make every post count!