Welcome to my series on how to grow and curate an account on Instagram. I would eventually like to do a Pinterest and Blogging series as well.
I’ve been asked so many times over the years to do this blog and I always felt like I wasn’t big enough to talk on these subjects.. but the more I hold off, the more I see people giving advice that just isn’t true.
Advice like needing expensive equipment or a photographer or needing the latest trends and hiring services and tools.
Let me say first before you continue reading, true growth comes with you developing an emotional connection with your following.
Continued growth comes with you engaging with your following.
If you’re sitting reading this blog and wondering what you’re doing wrong, maybe you need to engage more or pour more of your heart into you ‘gram.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into how YOU can grow your Instagram.
1. Find Your Niche
When you start your Instagram, you might talk about your dog, your love for cooking, your home decor and everything in between. But what makes an account really blow up is a narrowed in niche.
For me, I’m a lifestyle blog. So I have three main points of focus. I can talk about other subjects, but I always have one of these three things as my focus.
When you are all over the place and start talking about so many areas of your life, sometimes it can feel a bit spacey and you can lack interest. This is a big one for me as in the beginning I tried to be good at it all and you simply CANNOT be good at it all. Dive into what you truly love and what you’re truly interested in.
Once you have found what you love and you’re good at, start hashtag research. If you have curated hashtags for each category saved in your phone, it can help your photo be seen by anywhere from 20-90% more people who aren’t following you.. which is on to the next point!
This biggest misconception about hashtags is people think they should use the most popular hashtags to promote their posts.
If there are billions of people who use Instagram and who use hashtags, how will your post ever be seen if you’re competing against people with much better engagement and following than yourself?
Here’s the simple truth:
Use hashtags that have been used under 15,000 times for the majority of your hashtags. You can use a few bigger ones between 50-100,000 and a few that are between 25-50,000. But if you’re a smaller account under 50,000 try to keep the majority of your hashtags as smaller hashtags that have been used under 15,000 times. This will help your posts be seen by WAY more people and you will gain followers, likes and more shares this way. This is an amazing way to grow and have your content seen.
With my current hashtags, I’m currently having my posts seen by 70-90% more people as seen below in a screenshot from my Instagram.
If you follow this simple rule of thumb, you should be good to go on the hashtag front and keep trying out different hashtags
20 Hashtags that are used under 15,000 times
5 Hashtags that are used under 50,000 times
5 Hashtags that are used under 100,000 times
This is the biggest biggest misconception on Instagram. That you can just drop a photo and have it preform well.
Instagram is an app based on engagement.
When I first started my account back in 2016, I could post a photo without any prior engagement and get over 500 likes with a small following over under 5,000.
Flash forward to 2019 and people are scratching their heads wondering what they’re doing wrong. They’re using services, they’re buying their likes and they’re searching everywhere how they can get better engagement.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a service that can help you get better engagement. The only thing that can give you better engagement is engaging.
So now that we know this, how can you engage at the right times to help boost your content?
I like to engage 30-60 minutes before dropping my photo. Not only does this show Instagram that you like using their app, but a lot of people will actually return the favour.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned in the last year, it’s to be consistent.
If I don’t engage prior or after, my content shows and my reach is terrible and there is no one to blame but myself. The current algorithm favours those who engages on the app.
Yes, Instagram is a lot of work and if you’re expecting people to like your content but you refuse to return the favour, you need to lower your expectations for your own page.
I also try and comment back in a timely matter to every single comment on my photos. Not only does this help your reach in the first hour, but it also shows your loyal commenters that you value them and they will continue to comment on your photos.
Imagine yourself commenting on your favourite Instagrammers page and having them never respond or even acknowledge you. Would you continue to comment? Most of us wouldn’t.
The same goes for you. It’s extremely important to show your followers in your DM box and on your feed that you care and appreciate their time.
That being said, as you grow, it might be impossible to keep up in your DM box and that is okay too. But those that do, will continue to grow. I find it hard to keep up in my DM box, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate every single message that comes in. Even a simple like or heart can show your appreciation.
Other ways I engage:
-Follow Hashtags and engage on the top posts
-Engage in your feed
-Engage on the explore page
-Go through your DM’s and respond to messages
4. Creating an Interesting Bio
Your profile photo should be of your face and should be a quality picture. This is the first thing someone sees when you comment on their feed. Even if you aren’t a photographer, using a clear and crisp photo will make people want to follow you and will help you stand out.
Your Bio should sound like you’re an actual adult talking and it should be interesting. Here is what not to do:
“Hi, I’m Casey
Mom, Wife, Blogger, Foodie
Email me at XXXXXXX”
This does tell you a few things about Casey, but it makes her sound like a billboard and not like an actual emotional person. Would you want to follow Casey?
See how I added humour in there by telling people I’m a hermit who loves living in stretchy pants? People can connect to that and might even follow back. I mean, what stay at home mom doesn’t wear stretchy pants?!
Your bio doesn’t really give you a ton of characters to let your audience know about you, so you have to get creative. It should be a reflection of what you post on your wall, just a more condensed version.
I also like to have my location in my bio as well as a link to my blog. I use Link Tree so I can use multiple links.
Also, utilizing your highlights are an amazing place to save your favourite stories, blogs and parts of your life into folders.
5. Take an Iphone or Photography Course
One of the biggest things on Instagram is that it is a visual platform. It is all about photos. If you post blurry photos that do not have the best lighting, your engagement will reflect that.
If you cannot afford a DSLR camera, invest in an Iphone or Phone photography course. There are some amazing accounts on Instagram who use their phones to capture their life.
For any type of photography, check out Skillshare. I continually promote this platform for free as It’s taught me all I know. I’m not a photographer, but I continually get better by taking these online courses which cost pennies.
For an amazing DSLR photography course, check out “Sean Dalton – Photography Essentials”. He also has an amazing IPhone course.
Here is my feed currently. But let me show you how it looked a year ago. I have for sure improved my skills over time. I’m sure next year this time I will look back and have improved my skills even more.
Two Years Ago ( Half of the photos weren’t mine. Photographers photos )
That being said, all you need to start your account is you, your emotion and connection. Do not let people tell you that you need fancy equipment to grow an Instagram. I know people with perfectly curated accounts with very poor engagement. Instagram is all about connection. Pretty photos are important, but if they’re missing heart and soul, they’re empty photos.
6. Emotion – Let People In
Maybe you like to keep more of your life private, that totally okay. People on Instagram like story tellers. So use experiences in your past, or maybe something that you saw in public to draw your audience in.
Let them into your heart a bit and show them that you’re a real person with big feelings.
You can still keep your life private and still share parts of your heart.
7. Curate your Feed
This is important, but not the end all and be all. In fact, I follow accounts who have thousands of followers who don’t curate their feeds. For me, my Instagram is an art display and I love to create a cohesive and curated feed.
Presets are an amazing way to do this.
They’re basically specific edits saved called a “preset” and then when you take a picture, you just add them to your photo and they help your feed look like the same person took every photo. I like to add more contrasts and brightness onto my photos to make my pictures pop.
I use Lightroom to edit my photos and in this app, I also have my presets saved.
I use “Sena Nelson” presets
That concludes my tips on how to grow and curate your Instagram account. There is literally so many more small “rules” on Instagram and you will find these out over time. But Instagram is really all about trial and error and honestly, they change the algorithm so much that you can never really master this platform anyways.
Let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer.
Also, Sharing is Caring 😉