Instagram tips

Instagram: Why the numbers matter (and what you can do to improve yours)

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When we choose to share pictures on social platforms, we’re asking for an opinion. We care what other people think. We want validation.

Sure, we can give ourselves a pat on the back. It’s important to do that when we’ve done something well. But when other people show appreciation, that’s when we know we’re really doing it right.

If we didn’t want the opinion of others, we’d have a private account, or we wouldn’t have an account at all. Whether we’re using Instagram to grow our brand, to improve our photography, or just because we like it, the numbers do matter.

When people we respect say we’ve done something well, we feel good, more confident, and better motivated. It encourages us to make more cool stuff.

Having said that, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and let the numbers become our only focus. That’s when we can have our heads turned by shortcuts or secret tricks, anything that promises to boost our likes.

There’s no longevity in that trick-the-system stuff. Forcing the numbers gives us a false sense of achievement.

So how can we improve our numbers the right way?


  • Make better pictures: Taking a nice picture, pressing the button, that’s the easy part. The art is in the idea, the story, the detail, and the execution. There’s over 700 million active users on Instagram. For our content to stand out, it needs to be bloody good. I write about how to make better pictures here.
  • Location & hashtags: Hashtags help us find interesting content from accounts we don’t already follow. Instagram allow us to use 30 hashtags per post. Use them. Use them all. As long as we’re using relevant hashtags, the right people will see our content, and like it.
  • Turn up more (or less): Although it’s important to stand out and grow our audience, we shouldn’t forget about the people who already follow us. People are more likely to trust us if we’re consistent. If they trust us, they’re likely to stick around and support us.

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  • Post the right content: If our accounts are public, we’re clearly not just posting for ourselves. While it’s important to post the stuff we love, it’s worth keeping our audience in mind, what they don’t like, and,  more importantly, what they do like.
  • Be a real person: We allow people to get to know us better by making our captions more personal. People are more likely to respond to stuff they can relate to. People are naturally curious, so sharing what we’re doing is more likely to strike up a conversation than, say, sharing a famous “motivational” quote we’ve all seen a hundred times.
  • A conversation works both ways: We can’t expect to see results if we hit and run. If people are making time to respond to our content, it’s important that we do the same.


The size of our audience isn’t the only thing that matters. Engagement is the most important part of doing well on Instagram.

If we’re posting great content, and we’re committed to being an part of an active community, the numbers will naturally follow. But some follows are more valuable than others.

It’s active followers we’re after. We want followers who leave interesting, intelligent comments, both critical and complimentary.  We want followers who get our daft jokes. We want followers who feel like mates.

The onus is on us. We have to attract those people. We have to get them liking and commenting. And we can only do that once we understand why the numbers matter and how we can improve them.

I’d love get your thoughts. Do you agree? Have I missed something you feel is important? Stick your thoughts in the comments below 🙂



13 thoughts on “Instagram: Why the numbers matter (and what you can do to improve yours)”

  1. It’s fascinating stuff, and all your suggestions here are great and right, but there is always an element beyond our control and our engagement may well fluctuate – if you are looking at the whole number of followers at the top of an account. To be truly accurate, the question you need to ask is how many people see your photos. Because that is the variable and engagement that looks terrible on a following of 50k may be incredible if only 10k see the photo. The number at the top is only part of the picture.
    That’s my thought anyway xx

  2. My hardest part is caption… i handmake items and so what suggestions do you have about captions regarding products? What i post is both lifestyle and flatlays oriented, “behind the scenes” shots as wells.

  3. Hello, Carolyn! Thank you for your greats posts, even if my English is NOT very good (really), I’m always enjoying to follow you on Instagram and I try to read your blog also. My question is do you know something about Shadowban? I recently had one photo I can’t see with hashtags, only my followers can see this photo. It’s a problem cause I can’t really know if my photo not appreciate or if it’s a ban problem, so I can’t really progressing. Did you hear about this ? Thank you very much and sorry for my English, keep doing your great work like you do. Irina.

  4. Oh wow. This is so insightful … I’m reading it in bed but tomorrow im re-reading with a note pad and pen!! Thank you so much fir sharing xx I’m new to IG but love the community spirit of gorgeous feeds like yours x

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