How to Grow on Instagram

In Wednesday’s post I mentioned I’d do the next part of my “how to blog” series today and asked what topic you wanted to read next.

Well, the feedback came back pretty much unanimously—ya’ll want to read more about how to grow your following on Instagram.

As a blogger, Instagram has been a fantastic way to gain exposure and has even become a destination in itself.  It’s also been a wonderful tool for connecting with other bloggers (several of whom I later met and have become good friends with). The challenge though? Instagram is so saturated. There are thousands of new accounts opening each day and everyone wants to stand out and get their page noticed. Adding to this,  Instagram changed the alogorithm for its news feeds so instead of being chronological ir now prioritizes accounts you’ve previously engaged with. As a result the % of followers that actually see your page (particularly those that haven’t “liked” your photos) is down dramatically.

It’s a challenging environment to say the least, but there is good news: it’s still totally possible to grow! I’ve found there are two basic components to growing on Instagram and I’m going to split this post to talk about each. While both are important, the first matters more than the second and is where you should spend the majority of your time.

How to Grow Your Following on Instagram

  1. Create Good Content.

The biggest key to growth is consistently creating really good content the people you aim to attract genuinely enjoy and can relate to. Now I know that’s very high level so here are a few more specifics. 🙂

  • Make sure every photo you post is high quality and pleasant to look at. Back in the Spring I spent time learning the principles of photograpy/composition and made an effort to apply them in each photo I took (full post on how to take and edit photos here). It took time to learn and practice, but as I got better it made a huge difference. In fact, I noticed a direct correlation between my improvement and the growth I experienced. (Interestingly, my followers noticed too and I got several positive comments during that time.)
  • Think about how your photos convey your overall “brand”. I have a romantic/girlie style so I like to reflect that aesthetic on my Instagram page. For me this translates to flowers, shades of pink, pretty architecture, and overall lighter tones.
  • Consider what “story” you want your photos to tell. Do you want to share strictly outfits? If so, a wall background is fine (just take the photo at an angle and not straight on…trust me on this one!) Or do you want to integrate your life and your activities? This is the route I’ve chosen because I want my followers to feel like they know me and can connect with me. When I’m in a beautiful moment-whether it’s a pretty hike or peering outside a plane with Juliana- I try to capture it and share with my followers, too. The trick though is keeping the majority of your photos still focused on your “niche” (e.g. fashion, beauty, etc.).
  • Take and edit your photos so they look cohesive together. When someone clicks your Instagram handle the first thing they’ll see are your top six photos. It’s important these images flow together in a way that’s pleasing to the eye since they’re the basis for whether that person will “explore” your page or click away. It’s easy to say a cohesive feed is important but I’ve personally found it can be a real challenge to do it! But here are some things that helped me create a cohesive feed:
    • Choose a color palette. I recommend choosing a few colors appeal to you then finding ways to integrate them into your shots. They can be in your outtfit, or even in something as simple as a building, flowers, or car in the background. Conversely, if you’re wearing something that clashes with your color palette you can always de-emphasize that color with a distance shot. After a while you might get board of your colors and you want to incorporate different tones. It’s totally fine to switch things up-in fact I think it keeps things fresh! Just try to create at least six images (preferably nine to twelve) in the same theme before changing.
    • Along the lines of changing, I like to transition my feed when I’m traveling and know I’ll be posting several photos. I try to capture the “feel” of the place through certain elements and make sure they are repeated in each photo. That way, when someone scrolls down my feed visual “stories” are told through the change in colors. For example, when we were in VT/NH the other week I wanted to capture the Fall foliage and made an effort to include that in the images I shared.How to Grow Your Following on Instagram
    • Think about your backgrounds. Walls will give your feed a very “clean” look, but a photo with depth of field can draw your viewer in to see more. I’ve gone both ways but right now I’m all about pretty and interesting backgrounds.

      “Cleaner” backgrounds/clean lines:

      How to Grow Your Following on Instagram

      Interesting/more detailed backgrounds:

      How to grow your following on Instagram

    • Make sure the white balance is the same in all your photos. Every photo editing app has a tool to adjust the temperature and the key is to ensure your photos have the same amount of “warmth” (yellow undertones) or “cool” white undertones”. Most outdoor shots have the white balance I want but indoor shots often appear “yellow” so I decrease the temperature.
      • If you use a filter, apply the same one every time. I use the S2 filter from VSCO on a very low level.
      • Think about the transition from photo to photo. This is extremely geeky, but I’ve noticed Instagrammers with really beautiful feeds have the same color touching somewhere from one photo to the next. I don’t always do this (it takes a lot of thinking!) but I’ve noticed when I do it makes a big difference with how my photos “flow” together.
      • Last, do a “test run” to see how your photo will look on your grid before posting. I love the app Mosaico for this because it’s so easy to use!
  • Think about your captions. While your photo matters most, your caption can also engage your viewer. Sharing a glimpse of your day or your life can be a great way to connect; asking a specific question can help you get to know your followers while driving engagement.
  1. Promote your content strategically.

Promoting your content is important but should always come second to creating great content. Here are some things you can do to help people find your account- and if they enjoy it- follow along.

  • Be social. This is the biggest one for me! When someone likes my photos and follows me, I try my best to like their photos too. Also, when somone comments on my photos I try to leave a thoughtful comment or like in return. In addition to helping with growth, engaging with the Instagram community in my niche has been a lot of fun and lead to some wonderful (and very helpful!) connections.
  • Leverage your blog and your other social media to grow your Instagram and vice versa. I pin all my Instagram posts to Pinterest titled with search-friendly keywords (Pinterest is, after all, a giant search engine). This helps fashion and beauty enthusiasts on Pinterest find my pins, click on them, and discover my Instagram account. I also noticed the most clicked link on my blog is to my Instagram, so I made sure that little camera icon is now placed in a highly visible spot on my sidebar. 🙂
  • Use Stories! Stories are a great way to get your account in front of your existing followers- especially with the algorithm making it harder for many of them to see your posts. Having an engaging Story can also convert those checking out your page into followers. When I come to someone’s page for the first time, I look at their Story and if I enjoy it will follow along. Another great way Stories can help you grow is when you’re in a popular location and use a geotag sticker. I did that in NYC this year; in addition to my Story views skyrocketing I noticed an increase in followers too. When it comes to content, it’s good to have an objective for your Stories. I use mine to connect with my followers and help them get to know me. To help with that, I often flip the camera to face me so it feels more personal and conversational.
  • Giveaways. These can really kick start your following (and just as important, offer something to your existing followers), but there are some important things to keep in mind. First, I don’t recommend doing giveaways more than once or twice a month (right now I’m doing one that’s less spaced out than I would like due to rescheduling caused by the Florida hurricanes). If you do them too often, you risk your feed looking more like an ad board than something genuine reflective of you. My perspective on giveaways actually comes from my job at Turkey Hill where I’m an account manager for ice cream/iced tea (lol!). We promote our products 20-25% of the year; this helps to grow our brand and encourage trial but we are careful not to over-promote. In addition to the expense, too many promotions would cheapen our brand and give customers the message our product isn’t worth buying when not on sale. In the same way, it’s important your account has enough “value” (i.e. great content) for people to “buy” (i.e. follow along) even when you aren’t enticing them with a giveaway. The last caveat is to be selective on the giveaways you choose. When I did my first ones, I went with big giveaways that got me a lot of followers fast. The problem: most of my new “followers” had no interest in fashion and beauty and quickly unfollowed me as soon as the giveaway closed. And those that didn’t? They didn’t engage with anyway. Now when I do I stick with other fashion bloggers whose content is similar to mine. These followers usually stick around once the giveaway is over and just as important, we continue to engage after too.
  • Reposts. Getting your photos reposted by the brands you’re featuring is a great way to gain exposure. I have the best success with getting reposts when I take a brand and feature their product in a compelling way where it’s the focus of the shot. I then tag the brand and use that its specific hashtag(s). This doesn’t guarantee a repost, but I’ve found it dramatically increases your chances.How to Grow Your Following on Instagram   How to Grow Your Following on Instagram   How to Grow Your Following on Instagram
  • Optimize your hashtags. Instagram allows you to use thirty hashtags on any photo- but how do you make sure you’re using the 30 best hashtags? I recently found the Smarthash app for tracking hashtag performance and found it’s really helped. Smarthash lets you create sets of hashtags, then creates a “heat map” over time of what hashtags are “working” (bringing you engagement) and what aren’t. Based on this, you can change your hashtags to maximize exposure for each photo you post.

Whew, that was a LOT of information and might feel really overwhelming! All this takes time and practice, so don’t be down on yourself if you’re not yet where you ultimately want to be. Take time to recognize your hard work and progress, then keep on going. 🙂 I’m still very much figuring things out and trying to improve.

Also, these are just my thoughts and experience growing on Instagram and others may have different strategies that have worked for them. The bottom line: it takes consistently posting really good photos in your specific niche over time and genuinely engaging with the Instagram community to grow an authentic following.

Finally, keep in mind that while your blog URL is yours, your Instagram account is hosted by Instagram. Instagram could decide tomorrow they want to minimize exposure for bloggers so don’t put all your eggs in the Insta-basket. Your blog will always be the only platform that’s truly yours to share and connect with your audience in an even deeper and more meaningful way.

Insta-questions? Send me a DM and let me know! <3





1 Comment

  1. October 10, 2017 / 5:49 pm

    I am so happy I found your blog. There is so much sage advice here!