If you’re just starting out on Instagram, or have seen stale growth in organic followers since the dreaded new algorithm has been introduced – do not despair! We’ve spent hours upon hours reading Insta-related articles and blog posts, and collated them here, meaning that you don’t have to. Aren’t we good to you? So, read on to find out how to grow your Instagram account.
1. Instagram Stories & Instagram Live
Did you know that Instagram actually rewards its users for utilising all the functions available on the app? And did you also know that Stories and Live are not being used by even half of all IG users? This means two things.
One is that if you use Stories and/or Live, including polls, hashtags, and location tags with those functions, the algorithm will boost your account and you will get more views. Secondly, less users means less competition, meaning you have a higher chance of getting more views in relation to just a standard image post. More views = more potential followers.
In terms of actual content to post, this is the place for behind the scenes footage, building a personal connection with your followers, delivering top curated content, and engaging directly with people. When an account features a post of yours, thank them by sharing their account in your Story! When you share a new blog post or image, shout about it! If you are sharing some behind the scenes footage, or a glimpse into your day to day life, go live! If you want to get feedback or opinions from your followers, do a poll! You get the idea…
2. Show some Personality!
In a nutshell, even if you have the most aesthetically pleasing grid known to man, failing to engage with your followers and behave like a normal human being you won’t get very far. This is simply because people like to engage with other people. The algorithm also penalises you if you do not respond organically to comments, likes, or other forms of interaction.
Instagram has worked hard to try to remove the irritating bot accounts, meaning that those pesky ‘nice pic!’ comments will soon be a thing of the past. It also means that you will need to work a little bit harder to naturally grow your Instagram account.
We have found that images we post with people in them do far better than images of landscapes or other features. This doesn’t mean that the same will be true for you however, so keep an eye on what you post to see what performs best with your followers.
3. Quality over Quantity
Think like an artist! You don’t need to post three times a day to grow your following successfully, but you do need to focus on producing and sharing top notch images and content. How many times have you come across someone’s profile, only to scroll down their grid and click away because you weren’t instantly attracted to their pictures?
By its very nature, Instagram is an incredibly aesthetically-focussed social media platform. That doesn’t mean you need to fork out thousands for a professional camera and all of the equipment, but pay attention to the editing, presentation, and layout of your images. We use a combination of Lightroom CC, Snapseed, Photoshop, and VSCO to edit our images but try out a few to see what you like best.
At the end of the day though, remember that art is subjective! You will never appeal to everyone’s tastes, so find what works for you and what you like, and keep at it!
4. Research & Replicate
Instagram doesn’t need to be complicated, and you don’t need to be qualified up to the eyeballs to make it work. Spend time looking at accounts you like that have a strong community of followers. What do they do that makes them so successful? How do they engage with their followers, and how do they present their content?
There is nothing wrong with being inspired by others. There is also nothing wrong with replicating (in your own way!) the steps they have taken to get them where they are today. Don’t waste time trying to come up with a genius, unique social media strategy when there are a million and one accounts out there who have done it all before. ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ didn’t become such a well-known saying for nothing!
These have become a bit more tricky since the algorithm update was released. In days of old, you were encouraged to use all 30 hashtags allowed on each post, but recent industry chat has suggested that anywhere between 3 and 15 perform better. Experiment to see what works better for you.
General advice though is to ALWAYS check hashtags before using them. Instagram may block you temporarily for using broken tags, which you obviously don’t want to happen as this will severely impact your reach. Make a list of hashtags, and review them regularly. We use the Tag O’Matic app to collate our tags and find related hashtags.
Vary the one you use. Instagram picks up on accounts that use the same tags over and over, and blocks them for possible bot activity.
Use a variety of tags with small, medium, and large hits. You can check this by searching a hashtag on Instagram, and the number of posts associated with that tag is displayed beneath. The smaller and more specific the tag you use, the more chance it has of remaining at the top of the ‘most recent’ posts, and the more chance it has of being seen for longer. The longer it is seen for, the easier it will be for you to grow your Instagram account.
For example, #travel currently has 268,768,404 posts (woah), whereas #igtravels has 152,137 posts, #thailandtravel has 82,412 posts, and #wildtravels has just 1,156 posts. Play around and mix it up for the best results.
6. Location Tags
Similarly to hashtags, location tagging works best if you use more specific locations for your posts and stories. The larger and more popular the location, the more competition you are up against and the lower the odds are for your post to be seen and your profile noticed.
On the other hand, if you go too specific there is a danger that no one will see your post! Instead of checking into an entire country, narrow it down to a certain province, town, neighbourhood, beach, or restaurant.
7. Stay in the Know
Follow the updates as they are announced to stay on top of upcoming changes. Some resources we recommend are:
Follow Alex Tooby @instawithalex
Growing your Insta isn’t just about people liking you and your photos, you have to reciprocate!
There is no way around this – you will need to invest time into interacting with others. We spend at least 3-4 hours daily on our Instagram account, and we both have full time jobs. Try to comment with at least four words at a time (emojis aren’t included in the word count), and make it genuine! If the user asks a question in the caption, respond with an answer. At the very least, make your comment relevant to their post. Respond to comments on your posts quickly, even if it is just to like it.
If someone likes one of your pictures, go and check them out and like a few of theirs back. If someone posts a comment, go and comment on your favourite pic of theirs. Remember, these are real people taking the time to look at your photos. Treat them as you would treat a person standing and complimenting you in real life. Be nice, be real, and don’t behave as though your time or energy is more valuable than anyone else’s. No one likes an a***hole.
9. Consistency is Key
People like routines. Your followers will respond better if they know you will post at roughly the same time, with the same type of content, every time you post. Use the same editing style and software to maintain a uniform look down your grid.
If you haven’t already done so, switch your account to a business profile. You don’t need to have thousands of followers to do this, and it allows you to see valuable insights into your followers and engagement. We also use apps like UNUM to allow us to see when our optimum time for posting is, based on when our followers are more active. There is a debate going on at the moment around whether Instagram penalises business profiles that don’t buy advertising, but the jury is still out on that one.
We had no idea what this even meant when we first started out. A pod/wave pod/engagement pod is essentially a group of users who agree to like, comment on, and save each member’s posts. The algorithm releases your posts to the top 10% of followers, and after a period of time it will decide whether to release to the rest depending on how much engagement the post generated at the start. With this in mind, the first hour after posting is critical.
Pods are set up across a variety of platforms, including Instagram itself, Whatsapp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger. There are rumours flying about that it’s best to avoid using apps owned by Facebook (they own Instagram) as they supposedly monitor activity and shadowban users they think are part of a pod, but this is hard to prove. Others say that there are checks in place for groups who use ‘new post’ or ‘new’ as part of a pod, and they get blocked also. If you are part of a pod, it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep your ear to the ground.
We hope you find these tips helpful. Do you have any that we missed? How do you keep up to date with social media updates and changes? How has the IG algorithm affected your growth?