Instagram is easily my favorite (and strongest) social media platform out there (right next to Pinterest, that is). Although I don't post on it every day, I am definitely always on it, checking out other peoples' posts.
As a blogger, Instagram becomes more than just a place to showcase your life. It also becomes a way to promote your blog (and potentially other businesses/brands), depending on how strong your Insta-game is.
Depending on the type of blog you run and your own personal preferences, you can also choose between using your personal Instagram for your blog or creating a separate account for your blog. For myself, because of the nature of this blog and my own preferences, I've chosen to keep my personal Instagram even for my blog.
Regardless of whether or not you have a separate account for your blog or even if you're a blogger or not, let's face it: we all want more followers and likes. It's a natural thing to desire, since as human beings we want to be affirmed, and Instagram can be a space for that, if used in a healthy context.
But that's not what I'm talking about today. I'm talking about my tips (based on personal experience) on gaining more followers and engagement on Instagram.
I've read blog posts and articles where they say things like "use a ton of hashtags" or "use _____ filter" or whatever. I'm here to say that based off of my own experiences with Instagram, those don't work.
With that being said, here are my top tips for Insta-engagement.
Tips for More Instagram Engagement
1. Edit photos with a third-party editing app. Sometimes, Instagram filters aren't going to work for the photo. Sometimes I'll take a great photo, but the lighting is just a little off. Before adding filters to the photo, I use vscocam to edit the brightness and other aspects of the photo. It's a free editing app with amazing filters. If you want to spend a dollar or so, apps like Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess (now ABM) are worth looking at as well.
2. Photos with a 1:1 ratio don't always work. Framing is very important for an app like Instagram, where the photos are square and photos are naturally rectangular. Most of my photos are using a 3:4 or 4:3 ratio so that the photo in its entirety can fit into the square shape. I use PicFrame, which is great for collages and adjusting the ratio of the photos. It was free when I first got it, but now you have to pay a dollar or two. A free app you can use for this is Squaready. I've used this app before as well and it works just as fine.
3. HQ is the thing to do! As much as possible, use high-quality photos! While the photos come out beautifully, you don't always need a photo from a DSLR camera. With a good eye and stable hand, you can make a smartphone camera photo look just as great. Here are a few of my favorite Instagram photos that were all taken with an iPhone camera:
4. Forget what all the other posts say, don't use more than 3 or 4 hashtags. Many blog posts talking about Instagram say to use as many relevant hashtags as you can. If you have a blog Instagram then I say it's a little more acceptable, but if you're using your personal Instagram, I would advise against it. From observing the habits of the people that follow me (mostly friends) about when they post and how they react to my posts, posts with less, sometimes even no hashtags get the most engagement.
+ Extra tip about hashtags: If you want some examples of what to do with (or without) hashtags, most of my photos above can give you an idea of when and what kinds of hashtags to use. I try to use one useful hashtag that isn't... I can't put a word to describe it. But my sister explained it to me like this one day: if you want people to like your photos, don't use "stupid" (her words) hashtags, like #love #sun #nails #cute. Use hashtags that are either funny or "cool?" (I'm honestly not sure how to describe some of these hashtags): #ootd, #mcm, #arewecoolyet, #fatlife
5. Captions matter. The way that you phrase your captions actually do make a difference in engagement. You could have a great photo, but the wrong caption could scare people away from wanting to engage with you. For me, I've noticed that really short captions that include something humorous or cute or really long and meaningful captions work best for me. For you, I would say caption your photos based off your followers' habits. More on that on tip #7.
6. Quality over quantity. I talked a little bit about quality photos in tip #3, but this tip is also in regards to the amount you post in a day. Some people say to post multiple times in one day, but I say no. I'd rather post one decent/high quality photo than 5 okay photos in a day. The same goes for followers and likes. Sure, I only have 700+ followers, but per photo I get 80-100 likes on average. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the photos. But I'd rather have less followers and more engagement than vice versa. Especially if you're a smaller blogger, if you have like 500+ followers but can't get more than 10 likes on most photos, then brands will most likely see that and think "That person's followers don't like what they post/don't care about what they post" or "their followers aren't genuine and must have followed them in a follow train or giveaway." Not all brands look into/care about your Instagram, but if it comes down to the possibility of collaboration with someone through Instagram, you want your profile to be top-notch.
Maybe I'm being a snob about this, or maybe it's just because of my observations of the friends that I follow. Most of them aren't bloggers, but I've definitely learned a thing or two about Instagram from their posts. I even look to my sister's Instagram for ways to improve my own.
Once you get up into the thousands of followers, then I think engagement as far as number of likes per photo don't matter as much. At least, that is what I've noticed with bigger blogs or even brands that I follow.
+ Extra tip about quality vs. quantity: I only post more than once if it was a really great day and there were some great photos taken. But even then I will not post more than two photos, and posting like that is rare for me. Like I do it once every few months kind of rare. Many times, I don't even post every day because I don't have a quality photo to share with my followers.
Think about it like this if you're a blogger: You wouldn't post blog posts on your blog just to stay consistent, right? It's better to skip a day of posting if that means you'll post something great next time you post. The same goes with Instagram, especially as a visual platform. People want to look at attractive or cool pictures/videos on Instagram. Why don't you appeal to your followers and give them just that?
7. Observe your followers' Insta habits! This last tip is because the tips I'm giving you are all based off my followers' habits on Instagram. Especially if you are a blogger using your personal Instagram, you want to be able to have your non-blogger friends engage with your posts as well as your blogger friends. Observe how your followers that get the most engagement/followers edit their photos or how often they post. Take a look at your own photos and examine which ones people like the most.
The reason I say to observe your followers' and the people you follow on top of yourself is because their habits may be slightly different than what I've observed. Different groups of people do different things.
I'll showcase one of my followers' habits: my sister. She isn't a blogger herself, but for having less than 500 followers but more than 100 likes on most of her pictures, she's getting awesome engagement, much more and better than me. Here are some screen shots of a few of her photos (her profile is private but she gave me permission to use these):
If you'd like to stay updated with how I Insta, follow me!
So, what do you think? Do you agree? Do you disagree with these tips? What has worked for you? Have you found this helpful? Let me know in the comments below!