Instagram is one of the best social media platforms out there. It is perfect for building brand awareness, seeing entertaining content, finding inspiration, meeting likeminded people and provides many other benefits. You may also be able to build a big enough following to become an influencer. For those wanting to build a good Instagram following with excellent engagement it can be a slow process. But by following a few simple techniques you can make your account grow a lot quicker.
Here are some of the techniques I used to grow my personal account (@mikecleggphoto). You may also like my post 5 Reasons Instagram is Great for Travel Photographers.
1. Stick to a theme
From the start you should choose a theme, such as Travel, Fashion, Food, Lifestyle etc, and then you should stick to it. If you have a travel account and then start posting pictures of portraits then your followers may get confused and unfollow.
Should you be interested in several types of photography then consider creating more than one account, such as one for your main travel images, and one for more lifestyle/people shots. However, remember that the more accounts you run, the more work it’ll be and it can be pretty tiring to keep up. We have had 5 accounts in the past but have now reduced down to just two main ones.
2. Stick to a photography style
Try and stick to a photo and filter style. If you use different filters all the time, then when someone looks at your profile they will think it looks messy and are less likely to follow. You can also build or buy presets for Lightroom which can help you create a consistent look.
Also, think about how each photo will look in your grid. What I normally do is not post two night shots next to each other, or two landscape/nature shots.
3. Post in square or vertical crop
Posting pictures that are square are popular and get good engagement. But I’ve found posting shots that are vertical crop get the best engagement. This is probably because the viewer can see a bigger image on their screen. Posting a landscape crop image often gets less engagement because the viewer will probably see a smaller image, especially on mobile devices with smaller screens.
4. Use the slide show feature
Another top way to get engagement and also slow down your audience when they’re scrolling through their feed is by using the slide show feature. This allows you to share several photographs in a post, rather than just one. It means you could share your favourite shot as the first image, and then some other perspectives after that. Using the Instagram slideshow feature you can share up to 10 images in a post.
5. Share Instagram Stories
Instagram stories are another great way to engage with your followers, allowing you to share behind the scenes and fun moments. Instagram has also added lots of great ways you can make your stories, such as incorporating a ‘Quiz’, ‘Sliders’, ‘Questions’, animated ‘GIFs’ to name a few things. You could also use a feature such as Boomerang which allows you to take short videos that then loop back and forth and can be very entertaining for your audience.
6. Engage with similar accounts and your followers
Instagram is a community and you shouldn’t expect people to follow you if you don’t give back to the community. I recommend following and interacting with accounts with a similar interest and leaving comments on photos when appropriate. You should also follow hubs/feature accounts that interest you, and leave comments such as praise the account that got featured. This all helps to build awareness. My hub/feature account is @travelanddestinations.
7. Interact and reply to your followers
You don’t have to reply to every comment, but when someone asks you a question you should try and reply. If you notice somebody regularly leaving nice comments on your pictures, then it’s polite to say “thank you” now and then.
8. Use up to 30 hashtags based on your theme
You can use 30 hashtags in a post and tags help people find your content. You should always post relevant tags, such as if you have a travel account and are posting city pictures of Italy, then there is no point in tagging #selfie or #canada. It’s also worth tagging hubs that are likely to repost your shots. I run a hub called @travelanddestinations with the hashtag #travelanddestinations – I then check this hashtag for appropriate content to post as well as who has tagged the account in their photos.
9. Get featured by large accounts
A great way to grow your following is to get reposted by feature accounts. These are mini-communities within Instagram and post other peoples content (UGC) with permission. When your pictures get reposted or featured it will give you exposure to a large audience and may bring you new followers.
10. Use Instagram Insights
Although not immediately available, once Instagram Insights does become available they provide a fantastic insight into your account performance, such as what content gets the best engagement, both for Stories and normal posts, as well as which countries your followers are from and other useful information. You can use this information to understand more about your followers and then try and build your strategy accordingly.
A few things not to do…
1. Don’t buy followers
This often backfires and you are likely to get a lot of ghost followers, ie followers who will never check or engage with your feed. I know someone who purchased 10,000 followers from eBay and have noticed on some days he loosed 1000s in followers in one go. This is most likely Instagram is getting rid of fake accounts. Another downside to buying followers is that it’s unlikely to increase engagement so you may end up having thousands of followers but getting a disproportionate number of likes. This will make you less appealing to brands who you may want to work with.
2. Don’t follow and then unfollow.
This is a tacky technique and is not good for the community. I would avoid this and grow an honest feed and be a good member of the Instagram community.
If you are into travel, photography, lifestyle, or just want some picture based inspiration and entertainment, then you should definitely be using Instagram. I hope by using the suggestions above you will be able to grow a large and successful account, and also enjoy being part of the community.
Finally, head over to our Travel Photography section for lots of tips and techniques for improving your images.
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