Okay, so a caveat: I think gaining followers on any social media platform can be a bit of a slippery slope.
Mainly because it’s a goal that is largely out of your hands.
With Instagram, yes, you can control photo quality. When you post. How you filter. Which hashtags to use. But at the end of the day, you’re relying on another person to click “Follow.” And one of the first rules of goal-setting is to pick a quantifiable goal that you have the power to control.
I would say right off the bat that there are no shortcuts. If you want a high follower number AND high engagement (which, why wouldn’t you?) then it just takes time and effort. Sure, you can buy followers, but do you really want to be the person who has 30k followers but just 500 likes and a handful of comments on a photo? Probably not.
This is the big one.
Generally, if you post a nice photo, you will gain a few followers on it.
If every time you post, you gain followers, then more posting leads to more followers.
Research seems to say that where IG is concerned, it’s not so much how many times a day you post (and I personally do not recommend more than 2 or 3 at max) but rather if you post consistently. So, figure out what is doable for you and stick to that.
When I first started out, I would post whenever I felt like it and after about two years of using the platform in this random fashion had 200 followers. I started posting once a day last year and went from 200 to just over 950 followers! So I definitely recommend it.
If you don’t think you can swing a year of posting almost every day, try one month and see what happens.
#hashtag #hashtag #hashtag
If you want to grow your feed and followers, you need to be hashtagging. I think it’s a pretty common mistake when you first start out to either use weird, made up hashtags (for example, one of my own gems #plasticcupcollections) or none at all.
And if you want no one to find you, then keep doing that.
If you want more followers, then read on!
I became more interested in hashtags after watching Gary Vaynerchuk’s Skillshare class, Context is Key: Social Media Strategy in a Noisy Online World. He basically says that Instagram (and Twitter, for that matter) are hashtag platforms. That means it’s mainly through hashtags that people search and find other accounts or photos on these apps.
It’s a bit like television channels. If you want your show to be seen, airing it on more channels means more people might tune in. Consider each and every hashtag a channel that you’re putting your photo on.
So what do you need to know to start hashtagging better?
Instagram has a hashtag limit: right now, if you post more than 30 hashtags on a single photo, the picture will upload but the hashtags and your caption will not. So stay under 30 hashtags.
Hide your hashtags: it’s a bit of an unwritten rule but no one should be able to see your hashtags when scrolling through your feed. This is less of an issue now that IG only allows a few sentences of your caption to show in the main news feed, but people should still have to go looking for your hashtags.
You basically have two options: on the left is how I, @letsmosy, hashtag. I write my caption, add an emoji and perhaps add one hashtag that sums up the photo. Then I . . . . to my hashtags. The periods just make sure that my hashtags are low enough to not be posted right after my caption. On the right you have @Supertrampeur’s style. He posts his picture with a caption and then he posts a comment right away, again beginning with . . . . so that the hashtags don’t show up in his comments.
The only difference is with Supertrampeur’s option, the caption you post under your photo will never be cut off while mine sometimes does get cut off in the main feed (it’s still there if you click on the [… more] but it doesn’t fully show up just scrolling through).
Do your hashtag homework: if you’re a fashionista, you’ll be using very different hashtags than a travel photographer or a bookworm. The easiest way to find hashtags relevant to your style is to look at which hashtags popular accounts in that category use. Pick the ones you like and start using them. Most people use a basic set of hashtags and add to it depending on the subject of the photo. I personally copy and paste a set amount of hashtags and then tweak them.
Find the hashtag sweet spot: this one is more my own personal opinion; however, when picking hashtags, I will use maybe one or two of the really general ones like “love” or “cute” or even “photooftheday.” These are some of the most used hashtags on Instagram but the problem with that is if 1000 people use #love in the next 2 minutes, your photo is going to be buried beneath 1000 photos in just 2 minutes. The likelihood of someone finding your photo is pretty low. It’s basically #nolove.
I prefer to use hashtags in the 50k-500k realm. That shows me that while people are using these hashtags, it’s not so many people that you’ll never be found. Again, I will use a mix of big, general hashtags, my sweet spot hashtags and maybe a couple of extremely specific hashtags, too. Just use the hashtag search option to figure out how many people are using each one.
Time of Day
There are all sorts of articles out there on when is the best time to post on Instagram. Here’s just one example.
I actually find that I tend to disagree with a lot of the articles. For instance, I would never post a photo at 2am. Of course, I’m rarely awake to post a photo at 2am so maybe I’m missing out.
The best way to figure out what’s best for you is to play around with different posting times and see what happens. For the most part, I don’t see a huge difference – although weekend afternoons really are a terrible time to post.
I personally go more for consistency so my general time-related posting rules are as follows:
- I’m a morning Instagrammer so I generally post every day between 10am and noon.
- On weekdays, I can post anytime between about 9am and 9pm and get pretty similar results.
- Saturday mornings are okay but once late afternoon/night rolls around, it’s best to avoid.
- Sunday is almost the same as Saturday except nighttime is not bad – everyone’s at home getting ready for the week ahead. But definitely avoid Sunday afternoon.
If you want to get really technical, there are a bunch of free Instagram analytics tools out there and they can actually calculate when your best posting times are. I use squarelovin’s free Instagram Insights and would definitely recommend it. My own @letsmosy posting time graph looks something like this:
In order to follow you, a person is going to land on your main feed page to do it. So, while you may post stellar single photos, if they look like a mess when pictured side-by-side, it’ll make your feed look sloppy. You want someone to land on your feed and say “Wow!”
Next, I have a photo gallery on my phone that is an exact replica of my online feed. I add photos to this gallery to see what it will look like before posting. This allows me to tweak filtering so nothing seems out of place and lets me see if the picture looks good there.
I use an Android LG G4 so I just use the stock apps that came with my phone: Gallery allows me to move the photos and Google Photos allows me to see the photos in an IG feed-esque style. This way, I always consider a photo both within my feed and as a singular, stand-alone photo.
The Instagram Blues
And on a final note, while it’s fun to gain followers, if you find yourself becoming a little too obsessed with your numbers and it’s affecting your enjoyment of the platform (which has happened to me, for sure):
- Turn off Instagram notifications
- Designate a specific time of day to check Instagram – I personally IG in the morning and go most days without checking again. Sometimes I’ll check it once in the evening.
- Get out and shoot. The best way to forget about followers is to remember why you started using Instagram in the first place – for me, a general love of photography!
Do you have any tips or tricks that have helped you to gain more followers? Let me know in the comments! Until next week, happy Instagram-ing!
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Want to invite more people to your #Instagram party? Check out these 4 ways to gain #followers: goo.gl/246ACE #photography