I started taking Instagram seriously in March 2016. I had fewer than 1,000 followers then. I didn’t know anything about engagement. I enjoyed being part of something, making friends and getting to know people. I just wanted to join in with this really creative community.
I had no idea that Instagram could become a business.
I think you need that passion to do well on Instagram. If you’re not passionate about your account, nobody else will be. Once you start trying to make a business of your Instagram account, it’s easy to forget that and get caught up in the numbers game. You assume likes and followers equal success.
So maybe you try following and unfollowing people for hours on end, or liking thousands and thousands of posts, or even paying for followers.
None of that works.
You’ll piss off the community you’re trying to be a part of.
So what does work?
You need a high level of engagment. Once you’ve got that, likes and followers will naturally come. Here are a few Instagram tips that worked for me back in March and that continue to work for me now:
Hashtags are fundamental to engagement on Instagram. Using hashtags is the only way people will see your content if you don’t already have a large following.
Instagram allows 30 tags: use 30 tags. (We all know people who trick the system and use far more. I’ll explain whether or not that’s a good idea in a separate post.)
Find somebody who does similar stuff to you and make a note of their tags. Use those tags.
Use notes on your phone to store your tags. Categorise your tags. For instance, I have one set of tags for my facades, one for landscapes and one for lifestyle stuff.
When you post your image, paste your hashtags immediately into a comment. That way they’re kind of hidden and your caption looks nicer.
Also, something that’s worked for me is having 5 larger tags in my caption and 25 smaller, less generic tags in a comment. Doing this will help you see an influx of engagement when you first post your image.
Obviously awesome pictures will help you get more likes and comments, but there’s more to it than that.
Use your captions to allow people to get to know you and your personality. Think of your captions like a kind of journal. It’s easy to copy a cute or meaningful quote. We don’t want to know what Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill said a hundred years ago. We want to know what you’ve got to say today.
Only share your best pictures. Leave the rest for Facebook. I’m prone to the odd panic post (as my long-term followers will know). But if you’re not completely happy with the picture, you’ll only go back and delete it later.
Always have the square in mind. If it’s not a square, only your followers see the full image. So make sure the important details fit into that square.
Think about how people look at images. You’re not posting pictures for yourself, at the end of the day. It’s about posting stuff you like, but presenting it in a away other people like.
If you post an awesome picture, people are more likely to click on your profile. So those people want to know pretty quickly who you are and what you do
Keep your bio concise. Don’t be tempted to use tacky business and marketing jargon. It’s confusing. You’re not a Visual Content Creator and Curator. You post photographs, so you’re a photographer. So say you’re photographer. Being a photographer is cool.
Try to come up with a catchy and original handle name. If your own name has a nice ring to it, then use that. Mine, unfortunately, doesn’t! Use something simple and memorable.
Most importantly your images need to stand out when somebody clicks on your profile. My best advice for this is to use VSCO. Choose a couple of filters that work for you and stick to them. The best Instagram accounts have a very distinct, coherent editing style and colour palette.
Commenting & liking
There’s certainly ways we can draw more people to our accounts with some of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, but we have to do some of the leg work too.
Click on the hashtags you use and spend a bit of time each day looking through the images posted into that tag. Like pictures you really like. Leave meaningful comments (not just emojis). Click on people’s profiles and like a few more of their images.
If you do this regularly you’ll start to notice circles of people who sort of virtually hang out with each other. If one person from that circle follows you, it’s likely others will too, if you engage with them.
Reply to comments on your own posts. I don’t always reply to every comment I receive, simply because I don’t always have the time. But I always try to post when I know I have a bit of free time to engage with people.
This is the stuff I wished I’d known when I first started out. Have I missed anything? Have you tried any of the above and it hasn’t worked out for you? Let’s get a discussion going guys. I’m still learning too!