*Or, The Lazy Blogger’s Guide to Growing Your Instagram – ya know, whichever works.
One of the areas I’ve been trying to put a little bit of work into over the past year has been my Instagram feed. My numbers there are never going to blow anyone’s socks off and there are certainly a lot of people out there with far, far bigger followings than I have but I have learned a few things to make my Instagram game a little stronger so if you are looking to gain a few extra followers on the platform, I figured I’d share what I learned today.
And of course, you can pin this right here if you want to come back to it later….
*Obviously, if you use Instagram just as a little hobby or purely for entertainment, this won’t apply to you so please do carry on enjoying it however you wish! Interior design posts will be resuming shortly, I promise! ;)
The thing is, I was able to grow my followers without resorting to any bizarre strategies nor did I use a programme that tried to boost my engagement by acting on my behalf. Yes, you can probably grow quicker if you use these. I’m not going to tell you not to use them (and if you are wondering what I’m on about, go ahead and do a bit of a search around on growing your Instagram followers – they are all there). I just don’t feel entirely comfortable myself with some of these tactics and some I just don’t have the time for. So if you want a lazy way of increasing followers and you want to grow as organically as you can, then you’ve come to the right place.
If we go back one year, I had about 2200 followers. As of writing this post, I have 5850 followers so that’s an increase of 256% in the last year – not too shabby, right? And that number seems to be growing exponentially all the time. My engagement averages around 4.5%. I use Squarelovin’ to track my stats* and having a look at some of my most popular posts, I’ve been able to glean a few things about which images will do the best in terms of engagement.
*By the way, you can also sign up as a business account on IG but I have resisted that for a few reasons, most of which are covered here by this excellent article.
While everyone’s feeds will perform a little differently and obviously, will vary depending upon your content, here are a few things I’ve learned about growing my feed over the last year, using some of the images that have had the highest engagement.
I never post straight from my phone
If you’ve got a great mobile phone camera and don’t have a DSLR, it’s perfectly fine to use either the filters within the app or another app like A Colour Story or VSCO etc but whatever you do, try to edit your shots before you push them out to Instagram. According to Hootsuite, editing or adding a filter to your Instagram photos will increase the number of views by 21% and comments and engagement by 45%. That’s a heck of a difference. I normally shoot with my DSLR camera (I use a Canon 70D which I love) and then edit the photo in Photoshop just to brighten the image and add a bit of contrast. It’s really just about making your pictures look the best they can and despite what Wayne likes to say, it’s not cheating! Every professional photographer out there will tweak their images so there’s absolutely no reason you can’t do it too. Once it’s edited, I then move it into my Dropbox and upload the photo from my Dropbox into my Instagram.
Contrast is important
I’ve also noticed that the pictures that catch my eye when I’m scrolling through my feed are those which have a good balance of light and dark. The posts that do well on my own feed generally have some kind of contrast within them. This means my whites are nice and white and my blacks are fully black – not grainy or washed out. Again, if your own style is softer, then this may not be something you need to worry about but including some contrasts is always a good idea whether that’s through colour or if not colour, then ensuring you have some varying textures and light and dark shades. It’s not actually so different to decorating, is it?
Get your lighting right
Speaking of lights and darks, make sure you have good natural light when you take your photos. I tend to take advantage of brighter days and I never shoot anything at night. Artificial light has a tendency to go a bit too yellow which doesn’t make for good contrasts (see above). If it’s a bit too dark, it may be worth shooting with a tripod and setting your camera with a longer shutter speed to allow as much light as possible into the camera lens without any shakiness. Nice bright shots in natural light just always perform better for me and usually result in better photographs.
Create consistency with lighting/filters
If you look through my feed, you’ll also notice that I never vary the filters that I use and most of the shots have a similar amount of brightness and saturation. My style is quite bold and so I try to take advantage of that, ensuring every post shows off my style and each image is consistent in terms of how it’s presented. If you use different filters for every shot, your feed is going to look inconsistent and if you are trying to gain followers, they are going to be confused what your actual style is. Try to find a filter or a method of editing that results in a similar look. For me, I tend to bump up the brightness slightly and bump up the contrast. Every once in a while, I might bump up the saturation as well depending upon the shot. After a while, you will start to develop a system for editing your photos and you’ll find this results in a nicely consistent feed and doesn’t actually take too much time to do.
Full room shots do better than close-ups
I’m not entirely sure why this is but if I show a full room, it always ALWAYS performs better than just a closeup of a vignette. Clearly, people like to see whole rooms and if I had a huge house with 30 different rooms, I’d be doing it all the time. Alas, I only have a few in my relatively small home. So, if I can, I will try to shoot from one side of the room and then the other or I shoot from a slightly different angle so that each shot looks a little different even if it is the same space!
Let your pet photobomb
I don’t know what it is but if I see a picture with a fuzzy dog curled up on a sofa in a beautiful room, my love for the photo goes up 150%. Same with a kitty snuggled down on a bed (or a bunny or a hamster or a piglet – I’m not biased, I love seeing them all). So when I shoot, if there happens to be an animal photobombing the shot, then all the better to compliment the image. If you have pets, it also means you can take advantage of hashtags for pet lovers (I’ll get to hashtags in a second) for even more eyeballs on your shot. I tend to use #pet #pets #dspets #petsofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #catsofinstagram and then I cater as well to their breed. So things like #sheltiesofinstagram #bengalsofinstagram etc.
Use all your hashtags
Speaking of hashtags, Instagram allows you to use up to 30 within an image. USE THEM. There are so many popular hashtags and new ones are being created all the time. How do you find hashtags? I found this list by Latergram really helpful to start me off earlier this year and then I started having a look at some of my favourite Instagrammers to see what they use. You’ll also find that people use their own group hashtags as well which could mean if you use it and your photo is featured, more eyeballs on your feed and more eyeballs = more followers.
Create your own hashtags with other Instagram users
Speaking of creating hashtags, why not go in with some other Instagram users that have a similar style and create your own? I share a hashtag #fearlesshome with 4 other interior design bloggers and it’s been a fantastic way to collaborate and support others as well as gain new followers. Make sure it’s not already in use by others first, that it’s easy to remember and then be sure to announce the hashtag so others know about it! You can plan features and giveaways on your own blog or on your feed to get others to start using it too. Our #fearlesshome hashtag has been used over 5000 times now which is just mind-blowing but consistency and wide appeal will be your best bet!
Share the Love
One of the best ways to boost a post’s engagement is to comment and like other Instagram users’ images as soon as you post a new image on your own feed. There’s something about Instagram’s algorithm that picks up your activity and so if you post and then start sharing the love around Instagram almost immediately, you’ll find your post is more likely to be seen in your followers’ feeds as well. This is probably the only genuine ‘strategy’ that I use and I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember to do it all the time! But if I’m already in the app, then I figure I might as well take a few minutes to check out my feed at the same time. Plus, liking/commenting and following other Instagram users will always make you more visible regardless – plus it’s just nice to support others who are doing the same thing you are.
Finally, if you are looking to grow your following, be sure to post regularly. I find if I post any less than about 3 times a week, my engagement can drop. So find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. If you are only posting once every few weeks, it will take you a lot longer to grow your feed than if you are posting daily. There are also a number of Instagram apps that will allow you to track your follower engagement and see when people are most likely to see your post so you can schedule your posts ahead of time to appear at the times when more of your followers are actually on their phones! Do I do this? Nope. Because as I said, I’m lazy and I just can’t be arsed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.
So those are just a few of the things I’ve been doing to grow my Instagram following. I know I could probably go into even more detail about every single one of these points and I haven’t even gotten into comment pods, the follow/unfollow controversy nor buying followers and likes (the latter one I find pretty repulsive personally but ya know, to each their own) but I thought a bit of an overview might be helpful if you are like me and just trying to grow as organically as possible.
Are you struggling to grow your feed? Or perhaps you are a bit of an expert and can share your own tips? Hit me up in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!