How to grow your Instagram (in 2017) is one of the most asked questions I get online, so I thought it was about time I wrote a detailed post about it. I know that there are many similar posts on the Internet already, but I hope you learn someting new from me. I don’t consider myself “Instagram famous”, but I have managed to grow my account to 35k by following a few key steps.
Now, on to my tips on how to grow your Instagram!
Pick a Theme and Stick to It
When you have made the decision that you want to become more “serious” or professional on Instagram, you need to think of a theme. What is it that you can see yourself posting about for the next 2-5 years consistently? I say 2-5 years because your interests are likely to change within the span of a year. My theme now is predominantly fashion, with some added lifestyle and travel aspects to it. When I was first toying with the idea of creating a curated feed on Instagram, I considered fitness. At that time, I went to the gym religiously 4x a week and was lifting heavy weights. I thought Instagram would be the perfect platform to show off my progress. However, I wasn’t sure if my passion for fitness would last, and it hasn’t.
A theme can also mean a colour theme. For example, you could choose to only post neutral images, white images, etc., so that your feed looks uniform. Once you have picked your theme, don’t diverge from it. No one wants to see pictures of your cats or cousins if your theme is make-up, for example.
Post Good Quality Content – Focus on Image Editing
You don’t necessarily need a professional camera for Instagram, but you do need to learn how to edit your images. Image editing is a whole other subject and I am not going to get into it in this post that much. Carli Cristman has done great videos on her Instagram editing secret’s on YouTube and Evelina has also done an amazing video on the topic here. I edit my images with the A6 filter on VSCO now, previously A9 was my favourite. I also use Snapseed, FaceTune, SKRWT and AfterLight. I will do a post about my editing in detail in due time, so stay tuned!
Know Your Audience – Use Data to Your Advantage
To really understand how to grow your Instagram you need to know your audience and give them more of what they want to see. There are two main sources for you to satisfy your thirst for analytics: Iconosquare and Instagram for Business. Both tools give you a quick insight into what your most popular posts are, where your followers are from and what age they are. Both of them have their flaws as well.
The Instagram Business Account is free for anyone to get, and it gives you access to all data that you could possibly want, ranging from post reach to the age of your audience. Having used both IconoSquare and the Instagram Analytics, I think Instagram’s own analytics are far superior. The only downside? Your growth stagnates. I am not sure if this is because Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t push your posts as much, or if people are just less inclined to follow a “business”.
IconoSquare is a separate platform which doesn’t affect your account’s growth rate at all. The analytics it provides are less comprehensive and you have to pay a yearly fee ($56) to join. It may be worth it if you don’t want to get Instagram’s analytics. They do have a free 14 day trial, so check them out.
Which ever platform you use, analyse which posts tend to do better on your page and post more of them (in moderation). For me, my best performing pictures are of my hair, but there’s only so many times a month that I want to upload a picture of my hair… (The image I’ve used is old data – I don’t use iconosquare anymore.)
Consistency is key in everything you do in life. The Instagram algorithm favours users who post more than once a day. It has also been shown that bigger accounts that grow etremely fast post multiple times a day. However, if you haven’t yet achieved celebrity status, I would advice against posting more than 2 times a day as it can be annoying to your followers and you may end up losing them instead. And remember to not post random pictures that don’t fit your theme. Quality over quantity, always.
Newsflash, Instagram is all about engagement. If you want other people to take an interest in your life, you better take an interest in theirs first. Follow similar accounts to yours and engage with them on a daily basis. Spend at least 5 minutes a day liking and commenting on pictures of the accounts that you follow, and the same amount of time on the explore page. You can even type a certain hashtag into the search bar (e.g. #londonblogger) and like all images that please your eye. When commenting, it is best to be genuine and not post spammy comments with a hundred heart emojis etc. If the person who’s image you are commenting on has captioned their post, read it and try to comment on it. Over time, you form “insta-friendships” through this technique. The more active you are on the platform, the easier it is to grow your Instagram.
I hate to bring up the Instagram algorithm here, but the more active you are on Instagram, the more the algorithm pushes your posts. If it sees your account is engaging with other accounts, it will think “Oh, these accounts have a relationship. I should probably make it easy for them to see when the other account has posted.”
Social media brand builder Gretta van Reil (15 mil+ followers) has talked more about the impact of account relationships on how to grow your Instagram in a podcast here.
P.S. This goes witout saying in my opinion, but always reply to comments! There’s nothing more annoying than a blogger who doesn’t reply to comments, especially questions. Be polite.
Use Hashtags, But Do Your Research
How to grow your Instagram the fastest way? Make it easy for people to find you! Contrary to popular belief, the most popular hashtags are not the best hashtags to use. To put things into context, if a hashtag is used 100 times in a minute, how many minutes will it take for your post to sink to the bottom of the hashtag page? Not very many. My tactic for discovering hashtags is to go to the accounts of people who post within the same niche as me (fashion) and take the tags that they use. I like to mix very popular tags (100k+ images) with hashtags that are less popular. The best way for you to get noticed is if your image stays on the top9 pictures for that specific tag for a long time. Here, I’ve used the tag #minimalfashion and my picture remained in the top9 for the entire day.
If you are featuring any branded items in your post, make sure to tag the brand, and also use their hashtag if they have one. They might end up reposting your image, which gives you added exposure. Here, I’ve tagged Runaway the Label.
UPDATE MAY 2017 As of recently hashtags have stopped working for many accounts. Read “Shadow Banned on Instagram?” next to find out if your account has been banned from the explore page and if so, what to do about it.
Post During Prime Times
Timing is everything when posting on Instagram. Generally, the best times to post are around lunch or after 6 pm in the evening. There is a great app called Prime for Instagram, which allows you to see your personal prime times and engagement on your profile. If you have an Instagram business account, you can find the same data in your business insights. This data has to be taken with a pinch of salt however. The Instagram algorithm works in mysterius ways, and sometimes you will find that alternative times work better for you. Keep testing and tweaking your content every now and then!
Participate in Loop Giveaways
Do you ever see those amazing giveaways on your feed that promise the winner a MacBook, a pair of Louboutins AND $500 in cash? Yep, those are most likely loop giveaways. Bloggers usually participate with up to 20 other bloggers and buy a very tempting prize for a single winner. Usually, participants need to follow every blogger that is in the loop, and tag a couple of friends in the comments. I am not kidding when I say that I’ve seen accounts go up from 19k to more than 100k+ within the space of a year just by using this tactic. Another account went from 820k to 840k just from one giveaway.
I have personally been part of one loop giveaway, and my followers increased by 1k in one day. The way in which Instagram’s algorithm works is that when a lot of people start following you, the algorithm thinks: “Oh, this account is worth following. I’d better push it to the explore page so other people can see it”, and so you get even more followers than people who actually participate in your giveaway. Granted, some of those followers will be spam accounts which will lower your engagement and be annoying to get rid of. Loop giveaways are probably the most powerful way to increase your Instagram following, but that’s where the catch lies. No one wants to tell you where they found the person hosting it. In my opinion, your best bet would be to organise one yourself, and email other bloggers with a similar following to see if they are interested in participating.
If you can’t find any loop giveaways, regular giveaways are a great idea too. On top of improving your follower count, it will help you create a community feeling on your page, and gives you a chance to give back to your amazing supporters.
UPDATE October 2017: I have now participated in a Loop Giveaway myself and it has slightly changed my opinion on them. Read about The Pros and Cons of Instagram Loop Giveaways next.
So, How to Grow Your Instagram in 2017?
TL;DR: The basic rules of Instagram haven’t changed. Be active, post great content, post often, reach out to people and post at the right times. If your feed is aesthetically pleasing and you’re a great person to communicate with, your account will grow. All good things take time.
Did you learn any new tips on how to grow your Instagram?
I feel like this topic has been exhausted to its core, but I hope you got a few new ideas on how to grow your Instagram!
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Good luck on your Insta journey! Do you have any other tips on how to grow your Instagram following that I should know of?
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