When I announced the Instagram Inspiration Challenge a couple weeks ago, two things happened: I realized how many of you also love Instagram and that many of you are semi-new to the platform.
My partner in crime (and business), Mayi Carles, tried to persuade me to join Instagram when the hype started. My reaction: groan, grumble, groan. I didn’t want to join another social media platform.
But, I should’ve listened to Mayi right away and not waited another eight months before finally biting the banana.
Instagram is my jam.
Spending the day taking and editing photos is up there with an Anthropologie shopping spree for me—that’s how much I enjoy it. Plus, my target market (i.e., creative entrepreneurs…you guys!) is all about that Instagram.
Like anything new, I dove in headfirst. I don’t know how to just dip my toe into anything…it’s not my nature. Thanks for that, Mom!
I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. What grows a following and what stifles it.
And, I want to share it with you, because if you’re a creative entrepreneur, you really should be using Instagram to grow your brand. It’s the place to be nowadays so bite the banana and let’s do this.
Over the past thirty days I’ve nearly doubled my following on Instagram and you can easily do the same if you spend some time improving your presence. You with me?
Here are the ten tips that will help you improve your Instagram account and double your followers in one month:
1. Keep it cohesive.
Out of all of the tips I give you, this one is the most important.
When I started my Instagram account, I was all over the place with the type of pictures that I was sharing: lots of sad selfies, flowers I found on walks, smoothies and doggies gone wild. That might’ve been fine if that represented my brand, but it didn’t.
If you scroll through my profile, you’ll see the exact moment I sharpened my focus. I recognized that if I wanted you to follow me on Instagram, I needed to get very clear on what you’d get from me if you did.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t share all different types of photos but they all need to feel like they belong. For me, that means I needed to combine two things in every photo: my distinct photo styling and editing. When I blend those two things, each photo has a similar “feel.”
The other themes for my Instagram account are: soft, white space with pops of color, and the combination of vintage and modern. Do you get that when you look at the most recent forty photos of my account? I sure hope so.
Those forty photos are how I’ve doubled my following in about thirty days.
There are tons of ways to make your account feel cohesive. You could focus on family and fabric or fashion and florals or patterns and color.
Whatever you decide, give yourself enough room so that you don’t feel creatively suffocated but focused enough that all the photos feel like they should be there.
2. Edit your photos.
After building a cohesive page, editing your photos is the second thing you need to do before adding each photo.
On Instagram it’s obvious what stands out: beautiful photos. You don’t get that by publishing unedited photos.
My favorite apps for iPhone photos are: Facetune for selfies (see the magic that happens when you whiten your teeth, give your lashes a bit more detail and smooth over your crow’s feet) and Afterlight for everything else.
I find beauty in photos that are more natural, but even those photos often need a little tweaking whether that be boosting the light or getting rid of the bluish tint.
3. Edit what you share.
Stop sharing every photo you take. Like my friend Mayi says, “You shouldn’t share the photos that only Granny really wants to see.”
Remember that you want to build a cohesive account.
For every photo you see me share, there are at least twenty that don’t make the cut. Keep those for your family albums.
4. Take lots of photos so that you have lots to choose from.
When I’m sharing a selfie, I take at least twenty different options, trying out lots of different angles and light. You want to share your best self.
When I post a photo of vase of flowers, I can guarantee that I took at least fifteen different options and usually it’s more like thirty or fifty.
If you want people to follow you, you’ve got to work for it. Give them a reason to add your account to their feed by taking this seriously.
And, remember that your Instagram account is a reflection of your brand. You want it to be a positive reflection or what’s the point?
5. Don’t just settle for the photos you take on your phone.
Another thing I did that made a huge difference to the quality of photos I share and helped me gain a lot more followers is posting photos I took with my “real” camera.
You don’t have to have a DSLR or anything fancy, but don’t just use photos you take on your phone. Use your camera to take photos for your Instagram account, edit them on your computer with Photoshop or Pic Monkey, email them to yourself, open the email on your phone, save the photos to your camera roll and then you can pull them up via Instagram. It sounds like a lot of steps but it isn’t really, especially when you do this in batches.
6. Be social. Engage with your followers.
I get so frustrated when someone tells me that a social media platform isn’t working for her and I take a look and she isn’t social on it. Are you kidding me?
Instagram is a social media platform. Social being the operative word so get social. I spend about ten minutes a day clicking on the profiles of people who like and comment on my photos and like and comment on some of their photos. Spread the goodwill and it’ll come back to you tenfold.
7. Write thoughtful captions and use hashtags wisely.
Even though photos on Instagram take top priority, your captions matter. The better the caption, the more likes and comments you’ll get. Take a few minutes to write something that’s filled with your personality instead of rushing to post. I promise you’ll see a difference in engagement.
You also want to take some time to think of the hashtags you use for each photo. That’s how people who aren’t following you will find your photos. When deciding on hashtags, try to think in specifics.
For example, if you use #pancakes for your hashtag, it’s gonna get buried much faster than if you use #blueberrypancakes #blueberrypancakerecipe and #glutenfreepancakerecipe.
Did you know that one of the top reasons people unfollow others on social media is the misuse of hashtags? It’s true. We don’t like spammy people who are just trying to get people to click on their photos. Only use relevant hashtags unless you want to irritate your followers.
8. Join an Instagram challenge.
One of the main reasons I started the Instagram challenge for this month is to help all of us creative Belles find one another on the platform. And, it’s working! Not only have many more of you started following me, but you’ve also started following each other by searching for the hashtag #BelleInstaInspiration.
My husband is participating in the challenge because he’s just that awesome and supports his wife. Swoon. And, on the first day, I remember him saying that he got more likes and comments on his photo than any of his previous photos on Instagram.
It’s a social platform so you’ll be more successful if you join social things and connect with others who have similar interests and values.
9. Plan things out. Start a content calendar. Be consistent.
I recently told a lovely creative entrepreneur that she should plan out the content she’s going to share on Instagram and I could feel the eye roll in her response.
Here’s the thing: when you plan this stuff out, it actually makes it easier.
It might sound like a lot of work at first, but it will actually cut down on the time you spend on social media. I pinky promise.
If you’re serious about growing your Instagram following and using it to promote your business, I suggest posting one to three photos a day. That way, people start to take notice of your photos and pay more attention to them. You build trust with your followers and that’s everything when it comes to marketing your online business.
I’ve set a rule for myself to post one to two pictures a day. But, I don’t take new photos for Instagram every single day. That wouldn’t be a good use of my time. Instead, I’ll spend thirty minutes twice a week taking photos for multiple days.
10. Do something worthy of sharing.
The other big way to grow your following fast is for others to share your handle/profile and photos (regram) with their followers. If you want others to encourage their followers to follow you, you’ve got to do something worthy of sharing.
That could mean that you have a beautiful profile with gorgeous photos that people can’t wait to share. It could mean hosting your own Instagram challenge. It could mean that you give people a reason to use a hashtag and search for that hashtag to find others. It could mean hosting a giveaway—giving away something that everyone wants (like a Life is Messy Kitchen cookbook!).
There you have it, my ten tips to improve your Instagram game and double your followers in one month.
I know this might seem like a lot of work, but if you want people to add you to their feeds and give you their attention, you’ve got to give them a good reason to do so. We’re all busy and everybody is vying for our attention.
Stand out among the clutter instead of adding to it!
I’d love to hear from you. Is there a tip that you’d add that I didn’t cover? What have you done to grow your Instagram following? Have you done any of these things and if so, did it work? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.