Instagram used to be my favorite social media platform but the algorithm and other recent updates lately have made using it incredibly frustrating. Earlier in the year, I thought I was the only one feeling like engagement had gone down but a few friends had mentioned they saw a stunt in engagement as well. Fast forward to end of Spring, engagement became worse and growth almost nonexistent. At first I thought, what in the world did I do? I was posting consistently and I thought the quality of my photos were pretty darn good for someone who had 0 experience with photography.
Fortunately (and unfortunately) lack in growth and engagement was an issue for nearly 90% of the people I followed as well as others I’ve seen in different niches. It sucks but rather than moping around (okay I still do this LOL) I began to do TONS of research. After months and months of reading articles and talking to dozens of Instagrammers, I think I can offer a few tips on how grow and build a loyal audience.
Similar to what I did in my post about Do’s and Don’ts of Brand Pitches, I asked several fellow influencers to give me their opinion on this topic.
Let’s just get right into the main points. Below will be tips you should use as well as things you should not be doing. If you think some of the tips are generic that you may see in every single article out there, it’s listed because IT WORKS. Trust me, I wouldn’t put something in here that doesn’t prove to be effective.
Hashtags allow your posts to be seen by more than just your followers. Your posts will gain more impressions and catch the eye of potential new followers! BUT WAIT! Lots of hashtags are shadowbanned. One way of finding out which ones is to go to a specific hashtag and scroll down. If that specific hashtag is shadowbanned, a message will pop up saying something along the lines of “posts in this hashtag do not comply with the community guidelines”.
Paige over at Bake and Glow gives great tips on hashtags and which ones to use:
Make sure your tags reflect what is in the image you’re posting. We all know that certain tags get more engagement, but sometimes using those tags when it doesn’t match the content can negatively impact your post engagement. I’ve heard that Instagram is creating a new algorithm that actually checks the content of the picture with the tags you’ve used and if this algorithm deems it as “unmatched”, then your content won’t show up in that tag.
Yikes! I personally haven’t heard about this news but it does make sense for them to be working on a new algorithm to track specific tags and content.
Moreover, some IGers have noticed that placing hashtags in comments leads to a bigger chance of getting that particular post shadowbanned. Paige also gave me her thoughts on this:
One thing I’ve noticed is that putting the tags in the comments makes your post likely to get shadow banned, so even though it may look uglier, it’s actually more beneficial to keep your tags in the caption. I will say that this method has worked for me, but whether or not it’ll work for others, I’m unsure.
I definitely agree with Paige, my posts frequently were shadow banned when I put hashtags in the comments. I tend to add 3 dots one below each other and then the hashtags to make it more visually appealing!
Engage With Others
Don’t expect to gain a huge following just by posting content. Engaging with others and building relationships will entice others to visit your profile. Comment on photos you find appealing, like content from creators in your niche. Now, don’t expect everyone to check out your profile and engage back, in fact, you may encounter quite a few folks who may not respond to your comments. There could be TONS of reasons for it – they may not have seen the notification – IG only lets you see the last 100 notifications, so it’s easy to miss them sometimes! Other reasons could be, the person may have gotten caught up with life, been distracted, or they could be a straight up snob (hopefully not the case but they are out there as Rochelle from Beauty_And_Rochelle talks about below!).
My biggest complaint is the “big” accounts that don’t comment back, like back, or respond back ever. They choose their friends or people they follow and never acknowledge you.”
Now on the flip side, when people comment on YOUR photos, it’s beneficial to reply back to their comment. For starters, it’s nice manners and secondly, it’ll help boost your post up the algorithm! Comments with four or more words help your post rank higher, leading to more exposure.
Rochelle makes some great points about engaging with others:
I try to engage with everyone I follow as much as possible so I don’t become a ghost. Sometimes it does slow me down but it reminds others we follow each other.
Posting consistently is really important. Try to come up with a schedule or some sort of theme to help! For example, I see MUAs post a product shot, swatches, and full look. Something I started to do is post 2 beauty related shots (flat lays, product shots, swatches, etc) and a graphic made by yours truly.
Paige has some great tips on this as well:
Instagram has more or less traffic depending on the time you’re on, so keep that in mind. 5PM is usually a good time to post, I find night time posts get more engagement. It’s also good to post consistently. It keeps you closers to the top of people’s feeds and makes you more visible.
If you have a business account, insights will show what time your followers are most active on Instagram. For me personally, I’ve seen the biggest peaks at 1PM, 3PM, 5PM, 7PM, and anytime after 9PM.
On the other hand, posting consistently doesn’t mean you should skip on quality. Hailey over at Gingers Beauty Corner makes a good point about this.
Concentrate on your content and the followers will come. You can’t expect to grow if you’re not putting out the best content possible.
Don’t Follow to Unfollow
Just don’t. It leaves a bad taste. Especially when you unfollow someone right after they follow you back. It’s not cute and you will be judged.
Don’t Buy Followers
Like above, it’s not cute and can be VERY obvious when people purchase followers, and even likes. For example, seeing someone gain 5K or even 30K followers overnight..who do you think you’re fooling? People gaining thousands of likes within minutes and absolutely none right after..really? But that’s none of my business.
Daisy over at DWGlamGeek makes a great point about this!
You as a person, what do you want to see when you get on IG? What draws your eye when you look at something, if that’s what you like, and see others like it too, go for that. You don’t need fancy cameras, your phone will do, but great lighting is always a must, so natural lighting is always the best!
It’s always great to be featured on a company’s page so thing, what does that page like to post a lot of? Also think outside the box, you get a lot more attention from being unique. When I first started doing more creative swatches, people were noticing. And so did company’s pages, and I would get reposted and that would help my follower count. There’s lots of times where you won’t get very many followers at all, but don’t let that discourage you, just keep doing your thing and people will always see it!
Don’t Be In It For Numbers
Reaching a new milestone is always exciting, but don’t let becoming “popular” or “big” be your end goal. Daisy sums this up really well!
Wanting more followers should not be the main reason for why you’re on Instagram. You should have fun doing it and interact with others, it will help a lot. Don’t think about just gaining followers. They are your friends and you want to keep growing by being a good person and not just trying to get big because you want to be insta famous.
Be humble, people lose sight of who they are when they start begging people to like their pics or tag the company. You shouldn’t ever have to do that, that’s just IG hungry people. You should just do what you love and if they like it, they like it, if they don’t, then don’t dwell on it, keep it positive and always empower others, but also try to be original.
Think of Instagram as a community and you will make some really great friends like I have. Your work will show and companies will see it. With your positive attitude, your followers will come.
Like Daisy mentioned, it’s great to be unique through your content and Rochelle used to do something I found unique and admirable.
I was doing a feature for accounts under 1K accounts so I follow and comment a lot in smaller growing accounts to show my support. Sometimes they may or may not be my personal cup of tea for photos but we live the same thing.
I hope these tips are helpful to you and your Instagram goals! I also wanted to thank the beautiful ladies who took the time to collaborate with me to share some wonderful advice! They are linked above but I will link their Instagram accounts below:
Do leave your thoughts and any tips you would like to share in the comments below!