Instagram is without a doubt one of the leading photo sharing social networks around at the moment. While many people only use it in a casual manner so they can share photos with friends and family there are also a lot of people who are actively looking to grow their Instagram followers for one reason or another. This can be frustrating especially when you are just starting out on Instagram.
In this guide I’m going to outline some common best practice advice that will help you to develop your following on Instagram.
Setup your profile correctly
The first thing you need to do is setup a clear identity for your Instagram account. Your profile is the first place people will look when they want to find out more about you so making sure it is setup correctly is important.
In doing so you will need to have a clear idea of what the purpose of your account will be. Are you trying to promote yourself as a serious photographer? Are you trying to promote a business, a brand or lifestyle? Or are you just planning to use the account to showcase your day to day life and therefore connect with friends?
Once you know what the aim of your Instagram account will be then you’ll need to write a profile description that will reflect this. Make sure this description is short and snappy but descriptive and that it has a clear call to action. If you have a website, an app, a product or service that you are promoting, then include a link to this. Also include a cool photo of yourself to help people identify with you.
Next you will need to decide what types of photos you are going to be posting. The photos you post will need to reflect your identity and the theme of your account. If you are a photographer, then your aim will be to only post the best photos from your portfolio. In so doing, make sure you only post your best work and avoid anything that is likely to be seen as sub-standard. It will detract from the flow of your photo feed.
Next aim to keep the theme of your photos on topic. If you are a street photographer then post street photography, if your passion is landscape, artistic or portraiture then aim to post photos that are centred around these topics. People will follow you based on their interest in the photos you post and may be turned off by random pouting selfies or photos of a half eaten sandwich.
Next, you need to be consistent in how often you post and as mentioned, be consistent in the subjects you post about. Being visible in your follower’s photo streams will keep you in the forefront of their minds and will help your photos attract more likes.
If you can post 2-3 times a day and we’re confident that you can maintain this, then do so. However, if this sort of schedule is likely to be unmanageable then it is better to post regularly on a less frequent basis rather than being a bit adhoc about it. Above all though what you post MUST be of high quality and on-topic with your accounts theme.
Hashtags are an excellent way of helping people find photos that relate to a certain theme or topic. By using hashtags that are both popular and relevant will help you to expand your reach. A good place to find out what tags are popular at the moment is Webstagram, Populargram or tagsforlikes.
Although hashtags aren’t going to guarantee an influx of new followers they will help to get more eyeballs on your photos.
TIP: When you post a photo don’t put the hashtags in the photo caption. Instead add them to the comments. Instagram limits the number of hashtags you can use to about 30 so choose them wisely and don’t abuse them.
Follow people and engage with them
One of the best ways to get onto people’s radar and instigate a new follow is to engage with them. Don’t just like an image, leave a comment. In so doing make sure the comment is engaging and not just a straight ‘Great Photo’ or ‘nice pic’. Leaving something of value will most likely prompt that person to view your profile and photo stream and hopefully follow you.
The process of commenting on a mobile device can be time consuming though. I have found it much better to use a service like IconoSquare on my desktop computer. As well as offering several other benefits such as analytic stats on user interaction, IconoSquare will make the process of commenting and liking much easier.
To use IconoSquare login into the service with your Instagram account then search for a hashtag that relates to the theme of your photos. You can then scroll through the photo stream leaving a comment wherever you have something relevant and worthwhile to say. You’ll find doing this on a desktop computer is much faster than trying to do it on a mobile device.
TIP: When using IconoSquare, only comment on new photos posted in the last day or so and only leave comments on photos with a handful of comments rather than hundreds. This way your comment won’t get lost in the noise.
Use the Right Filters
An important factor in the make up of a great photo is the look and feel that the image has. Instagram gives you the opportunity to apply a wide choice of filters. Using these will help to give consistency to your photostream.
If you check out Populargram under the filters section, it will show you a list of popular filters currently being used.
However, many people (including myself) prefer not to use the Instagram filters but instead edit their photos outside of Instagram in order to create the result they are looking for. This approach will give a lot more control over the end result. Instagram is then only used as a means of showcasing their work.
There are no rules that state you must use the Instagram filters as long as the look and feel of the end result is consistent with your account and the audience you wish to engage.
Leverage Other Social Channels
When you post you will find it useful to broaden your reach by leveraging other social channels such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Post at times when your following on these channels are most active and also include a link to your Instagram account in the profile of these social channels. You can also use geotagging on your photos and relevant hashtags will help let people know where you are or what you are posting about.
Growing your Instagram following can be a slow process but at its core the main takeaways you need to be mindful of are as follows:
- Have a clear idea of the theme your account will have.
- Next make sure your profile reflects this as does the theme/topic of the photos you post. Make sure the photos you post are the best they can be.
- Make sure your account has a clear call to action.
- Be sure to engage with others, like they photos and comment on them. Instagram is a social network so be apart of that community.
- Be consistent. By being consistent with your approach will ensure you build a long lasting following and relationship with your audience.