How to Dramatically Increase Your Instagram Following
Instagram. . . love it or hate it, it's here, it's relevant, and it's necessary if you're a blogger or business owner. Personally, I have a complicated relationship with Instagram. I go through periods where I love it so much and am constantly posting and flipping through it. Then I flip and don't want to look at it for months.
It's a tricky beast.
While Instagram can be wonderful to grow your reach as a SBO, there are lots of obstacles to contend with. Bots get real annoying, especially when leaving generic comments like, "Nice!" or better yet, just emojis. People who follow you only to unfollow you a day or so later and hope that you won't do the same to them (really, guys, there are apps that track that. Cut that sh*t out). Even hacking can happen, where all of a sudden you find yourself following hundreds of Middle Eastern businessmen who you know you didn't follow (yes, this happened to me. On 2 separate accounts.)
And then there's the complaint I hear most of all: "How do I grow my Instagram with real followers?"
That's the hardest question of all to answer.
see hundreds of accounts every day that should have bazillions of followers, but only have a few hundred. With over 800 million users on Instagram, the site is saturated, to say the least.
But that's good news. That means there are 800 million people out there you can reach with your account. 800 million potential people who are just waiting for you to show them what you can do. I mean, probably not all of them, but let's be positive 😉
So how do you get these people to notice you, follow you, engage with you, et cetera? I've put together my top tips for Instagram success!
Find a theme
I know, you've probably heard this a million times already, but hear me out. A consistent visual theme is very, very important. I have two Instagram accounts, one for Beauty Chaos and another one that's personal. The personal account is a mish mosh mess. . . and it also has only 1/3 of the followers. Beauty Chaos, however, is plotted carefully with a theme in mind.
From a purely scientific point of view, our minds want visual harmony. So plot your posts carefully and make sure you're achieving that visual harmony. I use an app called Unum to plot my posts, and I know Planoly is another one that's popular.
And make sure you're taking high quality photos. With the advent of super high quality cameras embedded directly into our smartphones, there is zero excuse for not taking great photos. If you're interested getting some really high quality photographs, invest in a DSLR camera. I got a Canon Rebel t6 with a whole kit for under $500 on Amazon, and I use it all the time. But I also take photos with my iPhone.
Make sure you're using a good photo editing app or software to edit your photos before you put them up. You can't just slap photos onto Instagram, no, no, no, no, noooooo. Otherwise your images won't look cohesive. My favorite photo editors are VSCO and Snapseed. I did some research on presets for each of those apps, but ultimately came up with my own. For every photo I take, I look at the edited version next to the ones I already have and make sure it matches.
Change up hashtags
One of the most common mistakes I see with Instagram is underusing hashtags. Instagram allows you 30; research shows that between 11 and 30 is the real sweet spot. Hashtags are one of the best ways to be organically discovered on Instagram. Say you share a post of a new beauty product you've tried. Research beauty hashtags (or use the list I've provided of more than 1,100 hashtags at the end of this post!) and use the most relevant ones to your post. Then, the next time you post, use different hashtags in order to reach new audiences. Studies show that posts with hashtags have approximately 12.6 percent more engagement than those without.
Make sure you're avoiding banned hashtags and overused hashtags, as well. Try to avoid generic hashtags like #follow or #awesome or anything non-specific. Make sure you're targeting the people who you want to reach with your hashtags. Tailwind has a great tool for hashtags; as you're writing your post it color codes them, letting you know which ones are overused (red), somewhat popular (light green), and in your sweet spot (dark green).
People follow you on Instagram because they want to see what you're posting! Think about it – if you follow an Instagram account that is completely inactive, what do you do? I usually unfollow it, because I know that person isn't providing anything for me to look at on a regular basis. Now, the word "consistent" is relative; I know some people that post three times a day, I know others that post three times a week. Set a schedule for yourself that you think is realistic and stick to it. And I would advise against over posting as well. While three times a day is one thing, 20 is quite another, and you don't want to overload your followers.
That said, don't post just to post. Make sure your images are high quality and relevant. For example, I had a lot of family stuff to deal with this, so I haven't had anything ready. I wouldn't want to put up something just for the sake of putting it up, you know what I mean? So I've been on a little hiatus. Don't just throw up a photo for the sake of getting anything up there. You'll lose followers and ruin your theme.
And when should you post? That's an excellent question. Fortunately, there are seemingly endless tools to help figure that out. Tailwind has a scheduler that optimizes posts. I use Unum to see when my posts get the most engagement and try to schedule at those times. Really any social media scheduling tool can help you out with this (Hootsuite, Coschedule, etc.), but make sure you're paying attention.
Engage for real
Look, nobody likes generic comments on their posts. Those comments are annoying and insincere and not doing anyone any favors. I'll take silence over a "great photo!" comment any day of the week. And make sure you're paying attention to what you're commenting on. A story went around recently of a blogger who posted about her dog's death, and some a**hole who wrote, "Nice!" on the photo. Whether it was a bot or a person just not paying attention, it's obnoxious and no one likes it. So find accounts that you like and genuinely engage with them! Leave thoughtful comments, questions, compliments, whatever comes to mind. But don't leave a comment just for the sake of leaving it.
Stop trying so hard
I know Instagram is important. It's a great way to grow your business, everyone seems to want to be an Influencer these days, and yes, it's an awesome platform. But don't kill yourself over it. It's just social media. The more you engage authentically and don't sweat your numbers, the better off you'll be. And yeah, there's always someone (like me ;)) claiming to have the key to unlock the mystery of Instagram, but the truth is you will find out what works for you. Just be consistent and be yourself. And please, please do not hire bots to "boost your engagement." They ruin it for everyone.
Now I have a present for you! Yaaaay present time! This is the most comprehensive Instagram list I've seen out there; it has thousands of hashtags in tons of niches for you to choose from: blogging, DIY, beauty, floral, crafting, small business, entrepreneur, creative, food, coffee, travel, mom, and more! So please, download and enjoy!
Instagram Hashtag Library
Thousands of Instagram hashtags organized by category! Using hashtags is super important. This list will help you increase engagement and gain followers fast!