9 Tips for Growing Your Instagram in 2017

While I haven't been tackling all of my 2017 resolutions, I've been pretty good at the whole Instagram thing. I've been posting almost daily ever since the 1st of the year and some days I manage to post 2 or even 3 times! As I've gotten more into Instagram, I've picked up a few actionable tips along the way that I'm sharing today!

The reason I didn't title this post "tips for growing your Instagram following" or "how to get more followers on Instagram" is because I believe there's more to being successful on Instagram than having a growing following. Engagement is important too! I used to be terrible at engaging with others on Instagram and I think it caused my growth to get stagnant. If you want growth in followers, you gotta have engagement. The two go hand in hand!

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1. Be engaging
Like I mentioned in my little intro, engagement is important. It's obvious but it's not something I started doing until the past few months and it's made a world of difference. The more you comment on other's photos the more comments you'll get on yours.

Quality also matters, of course. I haven't found any source to confirm this but I've heard that short/ emoji only comments on Instagram don't factor into their analytics. I have no idea if this is true or not but it sounds like it could be a means to filter out spam comments. So if you are leaving comments, make them good ones. You don't need to be Hemmingway to comment that someone's flatlay looks nice or that their lunch is making you hungry. My criteria for a good comment is one that makes it obvious that I looked at the photo and read (or at least browsed) the caption.

There's nothing more insulting than getting a comment that says "cute outfit!" on a photo of a jar of face cream (okay there are more insulting things like let's say being banned from entering a country because of your religion but I'm trying to keep things light over here, folks.)

2. Use smaller and specific hashtags
Before I read Sarirah's post, I was working under the false impression that the larger the following of a hashtag, the better. A tag with 2,634,052 photos must have more users than a tag with 26,340 photos so therefore my photos must be getting more exposure with the more popular one.

But in a tag of 2,634,052 photos, your photo gets lost in a sea. In a tag of 26,340 photos, your photo has a chance to be on the top/ explore page! In addition, I've found that people searching the more specific hashtags are more likely to interact with your account since they're obviously interested enough in the topic to search that niche hashtag in the first place. And it makes sense to me because when I think of my own Instagram habits, I respond in the same way.

When I browse the #beautyblog tag I seldom interact with many with the photos because half the photos are visually unappealing or irrelevant. Here's a screenshot of some of the recent posts under the hashtag at the moment.
Out of those photos I see 1 maybe 2 photos that I would be interested enough to click through. Needless to say I got really bored really quickly and gave up looking at the tag.

In comparison I searched the #skincareobsessed tag and I pretty much want to click on every single photo. Because all of them are relevant and pull me in, I'm much more likely to continue scrolling down and browsing through more photos.

There's also the issue of hashtags being moderated to hell. While writing this post I searched the #beautyblogger hashtag on Instagram and got the following message:

So if you used that hashtag people wouldn't even find your photo unless it was on the top page!

That's not to say that I avoid larger hashtags but I try to have at least half of my hashtags be smaller hashtags. Two popular and growing "niche" hashtags for beauty bloggers to use are #beautycommunity and #discoverunder100k.

3. Maximize the number of hashtags you use
I've read various articles saying that despite the fact that Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags per photo, it's in "poor taste" to use all 30. Instead it's advised to stick to 10-15.

Well fuck having taste because I try to use all 30 of my hashtags and I've noticed many bloggers to do the same. Perhaps in other niches it's in poor taste but I promise you nobody within the blogging community will look down on you or unfollow you for using a crap ton of hashtags. If anything it's a sign that you know how to hustle.

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4. Be consistent with your hashtags
At this point you may be thinking, "really, another hashtag tip?" but people, hashtags are #awesome! I've found that I have more engagement on photos where I used the same hashtags over and over again.

The basic premise is the more someone sees your photos and account, the more likely they are to follow along. If I continually see someone's photos on the explore page and continuously like them, I'm more likely to follow them. The repeated exposure is almost like knocking down a wall.

5. Don't be afraid to follow people
I feel like there's some sort of unwritten rules that it's good or cool to follow as few people as possible on Instagram. I mean, I get where that sort of mindset comes from. I've held that mindset myself before! But when you follow someone else you're opening up the opportunity to gain an Instagram friendship with that person. And friends like and comment on each others photos. And Instagram favors photos with more engagement.

Negin Mirsalehi is one of the most popular fashion bloggers on Instagram with a whopping 3.7 million followers. I remember when I first discovered her account she had around 1 million followers but she was also following over 1 million accounts!

Note: I'm not saying to go ahead and spam 100s of random accounts in hopes of them following you back. Instagram has changed a lot through the years and if they see you acting spammy, they may disable your account.

Also don't be the asshole who follows people only to instantly unfollow them as soon as they follow you back. I've come to recognize these types of accounts. Often times they'll have a beautiful account and 20k+ followers. They follow more than 1,000 people so it's not unbelievable for them to be interested in your small potatoes account. You've never engaged with their account and they've never engaged with yours, but their photos are pretty and they fed your ego by following you so you give them a follow back. And baaam, once they got your follow they unfollow you.

I'm not saying that every account that I described is like this, but 9 times out of 10 they are. It's annoying and I've simply stopped following accounts like that even if their photos are beautiful because the shady tactics bother me too much.

6. Try your best to have a theme
At the moment I'm still trying to balance the whole theme thing. I want to post what I like but also want to have a cohesive looking account because I've definitely noticed an increase in followers when my feed is more uniform.

One of the most popular tips I've seen for maintaining a theme is to use the same filter on every single photo you post. This poses a problem for me because I don't use traditional filters on my photos and I don't edit all my photos in the same way. While that may work for having an appealing looking Instagram, every individual photo may not look all that appealing.

The way I'm trying to maintain a theme at the moment is by color. I've been rotating between white, grey, light pink, and green backgrounds.

I was flipping through Song of Style's Instagram book the other day at Anthropologie and I think I may need to order it from Amazon. It looked like she had a ton of great tips on how to curate your Instagram!

7. Put some meat in your captions
And by meat, I mean substance. I used to post minimal captions like "new blog post" or "lipstick of the day" or something like that, but I found that even slightly longer captions garnered more comments. Nobody's asking you to write the next great American novel but writing a proper sentence or two is a game changer. By writing more in your caption, you're giving people more info to respond to.

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8. Plan ahead
One of the most obvious tips for Insta-fame is posting consistently. Of course it's easier said than done. If you're able to take photos on the fly, props to you. I can't and if I want to maintain my posting schedule I need to plan ahead.

Planning my Instagram ahead of time has saved me so much time and stress. Usually I'll plan what I want to post during the week and batch shoot everything across a day or two. There are so many perks to planning ahead:
1) You can ensure that your photos will be cohesive, on brand, and on theme.
2) You aren't wholly dependent on the fickle weather gods.
3) You can post at optimal times (I find I get the most likes & comments when I post in the morning, around lunch, after work, or right before bed.)

Before planning I would post 2 or 3 photos one day and then go another 5 without posting anything. But with planning I'm able to maintain my one photo a day goal!

9. Join an Instagram challenge or two
Instagram challenges are a fun way to plan your content ahead and meet other IGers with similar interests and content! In January I joined two challenges: one was focused on the Asian beauty community and the other one was focused on the skincare community. I wasn't able to post every single day for either of the challenges but I still benefited from participating in the challenges.

Not only did I find a ton of new accounts to follow, but I also garnered a decent amount of new followers myself from both challenges. Most likely because of what I said in tip number 2: people searching specific, niche hashtags are more likely to interact with your photos and account.

My 5 most popular photos of the month were from both challenges!

The end! 
And those are the tips and tricks I picked up so far in 2017! I'm really happy with the progress I made within the first month of the year and I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings. Hopefully in another month or two I'll have another post sharing more things I've learned on my IG journey 😊

If we aren't following each other on Instagram but you think we should be, gimme a follow (@sharmtoaster)/ leave your account name in the comments down below!

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