With over 400 million active users on Instagram it’s fair to say that Instagram is massively popular.
On Instagram the average user has around 150 followers and the most posted picture is a selfie – a step forward from a picture of a person’s dinner which is what you used to see a while back.
Now unless your face or more likely your body is particularly hot, posting selfies is not going to get you many followers (around 150 apparently).
If you are someone who wants to grow their following, be that as a blogger, writer, or just crazy egotist like me, then there are things you can do to help bring in those likes and followers.
I have around 21,000 Instagram followers, which is a reasonable number, though I have to say it has taken me a long time to get to that amount. Over that time I’ve learned one or two things that have really helped and might help you too.
Some are basic and ones you’d assume people would do without thinking (like having a profile pic), but for some reason (I’d guess stupidity), they don’t. Through to using Instagram’s built in tools to make the most of your photos and by tools I don’t mean filters #nofilters
Super Simple Things
Have a profile pic AND fill in your profile – it’s amazing how many people don’t do either of these things. When you are filling in your profile try not to be vague. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to work out what the hell someone is saying when their profile is just made of emoji.
Though I can tell you how many times I’ve followed these profiles with text made of emoji ...and that’s never. (well pretty much never, who doesn’t fall for the cute poo emoji?)
When you’re writing your profile, you can throw in the odd hashtag - two or three are usually enough. It helps if you hashtag the thing that you do or are promoting - #writer #blogger etc and I always like to hashtag the place I’m in, so at the moment that’s #Leeds (remember to hashtag the place you’re in, not Leeds :)
Think Through Your Photos
If you want to take great pictures then it pays to take a little time to think them through. I never take pictures directly with the Instagram app, instead I use my photo’s camera and take several shots of the same thing. I take pictures both in portrait and landscape as it’s hard to know, until you start working on them in Insta which is the best format.
Many people rush their photos, and if you’re just taking a spontaneous, ‘look we’re all having a great time’ kinda pic then that’s fine. If you’re trying to show off your best work to a hopefully growing audience then spare a few seconds to line up each shot.
There is a very old photographic idea – the rule of thirds – that works great for Instagram.
The basic idea is that you imagine (or if you have a fancy phone/camera turn on), the rule of thirds grid lines like in this photo. You then do your best to make sure there is something interesting, or at the very least something, in each of the intersecting lines (where the red crosses are).
I’ve found this helps me a lot when it comes to framing a picture.
The other thing that’s common in photography is the idea of ‘filling the frame.'
If you look at this picture of my favourite flower (tulip), then you can see how it fills most of the image.
I find this works really well and again, it is something to think about when you’re sparing yourself a few extra seconds to take your photos.
There are a couple of times when it’s best not to fill the frame and that’s when you’re taking pictures of animals moving, then it is nice to leave a space at the side of the animal, to give the impression the animal has somewhere to go. The other is when taking pictures of paths, then it’s good to give the path space. This leads the viewer’s eye – fancy, I know.
Always Edit Your Photos
Once I've loaded a picture into Instagram I work my way through the following stages to get the end result I want. Try not to be precious with your photos and crop them as needed. After that work your way through the settings and bring out the best in each photo.
There are not set rules from one photo to the next when it comes to the settings you use for each edit, it's more just trial, error and experience.
You can see the before and after pictures at the bottom - this isn't an amazing shot as the day was overcast and ideally you want bright days and good lighting for photos. But this picture was taken in the UK, with it's often dodgy weather, so I had to take what I could get. (The picture was taken in the cute seaside town of Scarborough if you're interested).
I quite like this photo, though I have to say it looks better on Instagram, on a photo. You can however, see the difference five minutes of editing makes.
I do my best to post a minimum of five times a week when I’m at home in the UK and when I’m travelling I often post twice a day. Ideally, you want to be posting something every day, and trying to avoid having long gaps where nothing is posted. If you want to be noticed, you have to have pictures on Instagram to be noticed and this can often mean keeping your eyes peeled for any opportunities to take a picture.
Even if you’re just walking down the street keep a look out for something interesting that shows off a little creative flair.
It’s All About The #Hashtags
I read once that 11 was the magic number for hashtags and for a long time I always put 11 on the end of each Instagram post. I then read that this was too many and 3 was the new magic number, so I moved to 3 (I’m easily led) – I didn’t notice any difference in engagement. I now put around 3 or 4 just out of habit.
How many #Hashtags do you use? Comment or Tweet me and let me know.
Share The Love Across Your Social Networks
This should go without saying, however you can do it in a more fancy way. There is a wonderful website called Ifttt.com (if this then that) – it lets you do lots of very cool stuff and is well worth exploring.
One thing it does is let you post your Instagram pictures to Twitter as an actual picture. If you just click the share to Twitter button in the Instagram app then what you’ll actually post is a link. Using this recipe (which is what ifttt.com calls it’s magic), then you’ll post the actual picture – so much better. When you’re searching around Ifttt.com you’ll also find recipes to post your pictures to Pinterest and Facebook.
If you’re really serious about Instagram then I would suggest investing in the excellent software Massplanner. This is the only software (as far as I know) that lets you schedule posts to Instagram – incredibly helpful If you are away travelling for a few days but want to keep consistently posting.
It also helps you find people you might want to follow, and can unfollow people who haven’t followed you back. It does many, many more things too and I talk about it more in my How to get more Twitter followers post – so it’s well worth a try.
I have to say (mostly because people get upset if I don’t), that if you click on my link to Massplanner and decide to give it a go, I get a small amount of money. That money helps keep this site going and doesn’t cost you anything at all – so why not give Massplanner a try.