Another few months, another few followers on Instagram. I’ve decided that the 2,500 milestone is a good time to reflect again on what I have learnt about growing an account on this busiest and most demanding of platforms.
There is a lot of speculation about the mysteries of Instagram and it’s (supposedly) menacing algorithm. I’m going to try and stick to what I’ve found to be demonstrably true and workable for me. Please share your own thoughts at the end. I’d love to learn from your experiences too.
I wrote about starting an account from scratch a few months ago, if that sounds like a good fit for you then read my post Zero – 1,000 followers on Instagram.
Make the first move
I like to think of Instagram as the most crowded, noisiest and darkest nightclub you’ll ever visit. If you don’t get out into the crowd and start throwing some shapes, then no one is ever going to notice you. So my first bit of advice is as true today as on the first day that I opened @notaboutthekids.
If your growth has stalled or is struggling to get going, the simplest thing to do is become more involved with other people’s content. Discover, like and comment on their posts. Hopefully, it’ll encourage them to pop over and check out yours.
Often the best way to find fresh and interesting content is through the accounts that I love, and that I think are most closely aligned with what I’d like to achieve. Who are their followers, maybe we could get along?
And remember it’s not all about you
Often, my most successful posts (if we assume that comments are the most meaningful form of engagement on Instagram) are when I directly ask my followers for tips, advice, thoughts and views. I try and ask myself all the time, what are people getting out of my content? Where is the value for them?
If you take a look at lots of really successful accounts, you will see the immense benefits that come from working with other people on Instagram. You can share, and potentially double your followers.
Interiors stylists Lisa Dawson and Dee Campling are a brilliant example of how teamwork can boost your account. Both have now sailed past 100,00 followers and are (even more importantly) building a solid business for themselves.
Anyone can do this by running a giveaway with an Insta mate, or just taking pictures together, or launching a hashtag.
Having the blog gives me the perfect opportunity to collaborate with people I admire on social media. They can contribute expertise that I don’t have to my posts, and if they talk about it to their followers, even better!
If you post a good picture that has an item that is currenlty available in it, tag the brand. They might feature it on their account. Mint Velvet regrammed one of my shots, and I gained more than a hundred followers.
People often get so absorbed in watching Stories content on Instagram, that they barely make it on to the main feed. It took me a while to fully find my Stories mojo, but try and stop me now.
I’ve found it is a great place for experimenting with the more frightening stuff. Chuck a video up there, or try and be funny. Let people get to know you. If it bombs it’s gone in 24 hours.
You can gain a huge amount of engagement on Stories as well. Use polls, hashtags, @mentions and add geotags (location tags) to get your content shown in local feeds.
Stories is the most intelligent search engine out there so ask it questions. You will receive great advice from a group of like-minded people. People love to share recommendations.
I suppose that I used to be typical of someone my age (41) in my attitude to selfies. I really did not like the way I looked and I thought it was mad to assume that anyone would want to see a picture of me anyway.
Immersing myself in social media for the past few months has helped me to get over this. I now realise that posting photos of yourself is such a powerful way of connecting with people. We like to know who we are talking to.
If your feed isn’t about faces, show up on Stories instead. Trust me, this is something that gets easier incredibly quickly.
It’s not new research but the Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs found that pictures of faces are 38% more likely to get likes and 32% more likely to get comments.
Read about the selfie secrets of people who are nailing the art.
All of what I said about faces, apply to video and double it. Video has a growing dominance in social media and Instagram is a great place to dabble. Do a Live chat. Make a short, fun stop motion video or show people around your house.
If you are interested in making your own videos but are reluctant to appear in them, or don’t know what to shoot, the blog of video coach Tors Grantham is a good place to start.
Just remember subtitles. Here’s a statistic to remember: 80% of video on social media is watched without the sound off*.
Lots of content
Am I any nearer to answering the big questions like how often and how much should I post on Instagram? It goes against all my instincts (around not boring people or showing off) but post lots and lots of content appears to be the answer.
Eva Chen is Head of Fashion Partnerships for Instagram. It’s her view that if you only post occasionally, your pictures and Stories will be buried underneath everyone else’s. So don’t be shy. Click through to watch Eva chatting to Women’s Wear Daily, she also has some great (and healthy!) things to say about grid curation and the Instagram algorithm.
Finally, I have no advice on how to grow your account super super quickly. So persist at being persistent. Turn up every day, but only while it’s fun.
A few other useful clicks….