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Instagram is unquestionably one of the biggest social networks today, and it’s undeniable that every photographer should have a presence here. But if you’re like me, you’ve probably struggled to amass a following beyond your existing friends and colleagues. So how do you truly (and organically) grow your Instagram following? Here are some tips.
When I first started my personal Instagram account, my posts were all across the board. From pictures of my breakfast to photos of a recent vacation or cute dogs I met in my neighborhood, there was no consistency to my Instagram feed. My followers didn’t know what to expect when they looked at my feed, and thus there was no incentive to follow me. As a result, I decided to revamp my approach to Instagram.
My personal Instagram shifted to focus purely on food, restaurant, and event photos as an extension of my professional photography portfolio. Since making this shift, my personal account has seen a drastic jump in followers, as well as interaction with my individual posts. I’ve also built a community of food, restaurant, and event Instagrammers, many of whom I’ve even met in real life at InstaMeets (more on this below). As for my travel photos, those now live on a brand new Instagram account that I’m still growing from scratch. While overall followers for this account are still minimal, interaction with posts has steadily gone up using the rest of the tactics below.
The lesson here is that keeping your posts consistent in either style or subject matter will give people a clear incentive to follow you. People will follow you when they’re interested in the photos that you post, so you must give them an idea of what to expect, and when to expect it. Make sure you post at least several times a week, or maybe even more often if you can come up with enough content or have a larger following. Also pick one or two themes to focus your photos on, for example, food photography or travel photography. This will help you pick out relevant hashtags to post.
Many Instagram users are electing to have at least two separate accounts; one for their personal posts, and one for their more professional, targeted posts. If you go this route, Instagram has made it easy to switch from viewing and posting from multiple accounts via Options > Add Accounts. You’ll have to sign in to your second account; afterward, a dropdown menu will appear under your profile name and you can flip between your accounts.
In order to have your posts be seen on any social network, you have to understand how new content gets discovered. For Instagram, it’s all about hashtags. But don’t just invent hashtags out of thin air. Instead, you leverage existing hashtags that are both relevant to the photo you are posting, and hashtags that have been used by other people. Note that Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, so add as many as you can!
So where do you find relevant hashtags to use? Here are some ideas.
Check out the Top 100 Popular Hashtags section on Websta. This will give you a sense of how popular certain hashtags are. The more photos or posts that are tagged with these popular hashtags, the more eyeballs are scanning them, meaning there’s a higher chance of gaining more likes for your content. However, you’re also more likely to get spam comments on your posts, which is why you should not only use super popular hashtags but also drill down into more niche hashtags, per the steps below.
As mentioned above, it’s important to focus your Instagram posts around specific topics, such as food or travel. Not only does it help you figure out what types of photos to post, but it also gives you ideas of other Instagram profiles to emulate. For example, an account focusing on food photography might look up Instagram handles for leading food publications such as Bon Appetit and Food and Wine. Follow these handles and also study their Instagram posts. Do they use a bunch of hashtags? Consider using them too. And most importantly, check to see if they offer a hashtag that you can use for a chance to be featured on their account. If so, start using it! More details on leveraging Instagram hubs over in
For example, an account focusing on food photography might look up Instagram handles for leading food publications such as Bon Appetit and Food and Wine. Follow these handles and also study their Instagram posts. Do they use a bunch of hashtags? Consider using them too. Most importantly, check to see if they offer a hashtag that you can use for a chance to be featured on their account. If so, start using it! More details on leveraging Instagram hubs over in this article.
It’s totally fine to reuse the same hashtags on your posts, as long as they are relevant to each photo. But instead of typing in your hashtags over and over, consider keeping them in your note-taking app (ie. Evernote) and simply copying and pasting them into your new Instagram posts. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it is much more efficient than typing in your 30 hashtags to every new post.
When it comes to Instagram, you have to give a little in order to receive. While experimenting with my brand new Instagram account, I noticed that simply adding hashtags to my photos simply wasn’t enough. My very first Instagram posts had a bunch of hashtags, but only gained 6 or 7 likes. Suddenly, my third post jumped up to 39 likes. What changed?
Immediately after I published that post, I spent five minutes scrolling through my Instagram feed and interacting with as many posts that caught my eye. The interaction was simple in the form of adding likes and a quick comment or emoji. This not only gave me new ideas of accounts to follow but also seemed to bring more people to my profile since the number of likes on my posts immediately skyrocketed. The bottom line; be an active Instagrammer, not only by adding new posts, but also interacting with your followers or new people you discover.
The absolute best way to organically grow your Instagram followers is to meet them in real life. Thankfully, Instagram has picked up on this and has a section on their site where you can find local InstaMeets or even coordinate one for your area. Also, consider checking Meetup for local Instagram meetups or photography clubs that might hold an Instagram-specific meetup. Attend these events to connect with local photographers, and be sure to follow each other on Instagram and interact with each others’ posts.
One of the best ways to get more viewers (and hopefully follower) of your Instagram account is to put it in front of as many people as possible. There are many ways to do this. Here are a few ideas:
When you make a new Instagram post, cross-publish it to other networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Flickr by selecting the respective icons when you create a new post.
If you have a website or blog, there’s a good chance that you attract brand new visitors via search engines on occasion. Make it easy for these website visitors to connect with you on social media platforms like Instagram by embedding your feed into your website. For websites hosted on WordPress, there are many free Instagram embed plugins that can do this for you.
Whenever you send emails, there’s an opportunity to get your Instagram in front of the email recipient via your email signature. Use a service such as WiseStamp to include a link to your profile or even embed your feed into your email signature. Just make sure that your Instagram feed is full of images and content that you don’t mind being seen by people you email.
Like most other social networks, Instagram occasionally rolls out new features. While not all of these features may stick around or be worth your while, you could certainly experiment with them to see if they can work to your advantage. At the time of this writing, here are two brand new features worth trying out.
Instagram Stories is like Snapchat where you can post a photo or video that can only be viewed for a limited period of time before it is deleted. What’s the point? For professional photographers or brands, Instagram Stories can be great for posting behind-the-scenes shots from photo shoots. They’re also great for posting mediocre photos that might not be worth permanently adding to your Instagram portfolio but assist in building your brand’s personality.
Finally, Instagram is allowing users to post up multiple photos at a time. If you’re thinking, “Wait, Instagram already lets me do this with the Layout By Instagram Collage app,” this is slightly different. Instead of displaying photos in a collage format, you can view up to ten photos in a slideshow This gives you greater flexibility in publishing longer form visual stories and not having to choose just one photo out of a batch.
Another new feature Instagram recently rolled out is the ability to convert your personal account into a business profile. Currently, this feature is only enabled if you link your Facebook page to your Instagram account; after doing so, a button should appear at the top of your profile asking if you want to switch to a business profile.
Why switch to a business profile? Well, you’ll get some enhanced features that can help you craft a better Instagram strategy such as:
Organically growing your Instagram followers isn’t as difficult as it may seem. But don’t expect it to happen overnight. Craft a consistent, long-term approach that incorporates some of the tips above and your Instagram interaction will slowly but surely start to increase!
Do you have any tips for growing your Instagram following? Please share them in the comments below! Follow dPS on Instagram here too.