Less than 18 months ago, I tentatively dipped my toe into the water of Instagram. It was a social media platform I knew nothing about, except that it revolved around photographs. And I’m no photographer, in fact my mobile phone is my go-to camera in most situations.
But still, I quite liked the idea of a chewing-gum-for-the-mind style social network where I could interact by looking at people’s photos rather than putting the effort into creating witty content and trying to engage people in conversation.
After 12 months, my Instagram followers on my Plutonium Sox Instagram account were building quite well and I began to see the potential that it held. So, I decided to put a little bit more effort in and asked for some tips from the Instagram guru, Amy from Mr and Mrs T Plus Three.
Building Instagram followers
Amy kindly explained that part of the strategy for building followers was to “copy” followers from similar accounts to your own. Amy advised me to follow some of the people that followed her to start with, as she is a fellow blogger and many of her followers might like my account too.
I got stuck in with gusto and my following slowly started to grow. But I realised not that many of the people I was following were following back. Then I had a bit of a reality check. Amy is a photographer, her Instagram feed is beautiful.
Whilst we are both bloggers, my photography compares to hers in the same way that Lidl value instant coffee compares to Kopi Luwak – it is a poor relation. So if you are looking for a fabulous Instagram account to follow, check out Mr And Mrs T Plus Three.
So, I read up on Instagram and how people were making it work for them. I also found out that some people were buying Instagram followers and it made me cross. So, I decided that I was going to put some real effort and work into Instagram and prove that it is possible to be ‘good’ at Instagram without being an amazing photographer or buying followers.
Following the accounts I love
Having realised that comparing myself to others wasn’t the way forward, I started to just follow accounts that I loved. From there, I moved on to follow the accounts that followed them – and suddenly, things all fell into place.
I write a lot on my blog about travel and days out. This will only increase as time goes by, so I followed some travel bloggers – and then followed their followers. From there, I moved on to follow photographers and their followers.
The result? When I look at my Instagram feed (which shows me photos from the accounts that I follow), it is full of stunning, breathtaking photographs. And actually, quite a few of these people follow me back. I’m not competing with them, our photos aren’t in a similar niche and so as well as following back, they like my photos.
Developing my own niche
My Instagram is, and always will be, a record of our lives. As it says on my profile, I share the ordinary moments that make life extraordinary. But I wanted to stand out. So, I started looking to see which of my photos got the most engagement. I found that my most successful photos were the ones that had a frame of some description.
Clearly, the frames made them a bit more eye-catching. The only problem was, I didn’t like them. So I experimented with using a soft frame that looks like a bit of a dreamy filter around the edges of the photo. The result was quite pretty and lots of people were liking my photos. So now, my Instagram account is full of photos with this effect around the edges.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it gives my account a bit of a theme and I quite like it. Every photo I post now gets between 200 and 500 interactions – predominantly likes with the odd comment thrown in here and there.
I use a lot of hashtags on my photos. It’s a great way of getting your photos out there to people who might be interested (and thus gaining followers). But it is also great for finding new accounts to follow. I often search on the hashtags I’ve used and like other people’s photos when they have used the same hashtag. This has resulted in me discovering some of my favourite accounts.
Laura from Life with Baby Kicks wrote a great post on building your Instagram following using parenting hashtags, and the same can be done for any interest niche. Many of my photos are taken outdoors, so I often use hashtags relevant to that, such as #OutdoorFun.
On Instagram, there is a limit as to how many people you can follow. Since a relatively recent rule change, no account is allowed to follow more than 7500 people. This means that in order to continue building followers, you do need to unfollow some. So, how do I decide who to unfollow?
Every couple of days, I use the Crowdfire app to unfollow everyone who doesn’t follow me back. You can only unfollow 60 people per hour so it is important to keep on top of it so you don’t end up spending whole days sorting through it.
I always follow bloggers who follow me. After all, we’re all playing the same game so why not support each other? That said, I have had a couple of ‘big’ bloggers follow me for a matter of days before unfollowing. They are the ones that think they look better if they only follow about 10% of the people that follow them.
The one thing I’ve noticed about these bloggers is that they have very low engagement on their photographs in comparison to other Instagram users with a similar number of followers. Why? Because it’s a form of SOCIAL media. Anybody who is willing to be ‘just a number’ in building up somebody else’s following is generally someone who isn’t particularly active on Instagram themselves.
That said, I don’t follow back everyone who follows me, I only follow back if it’s either a fellow blogger or an account with beautiful photos.
I unfollow anyone who posts photos that offend me such as anything cruel or derogatory. It also includes people that use their Instagram almost exclusively to promote their blog or business. And every photo I see on my feed that contains a flabby belly and an advert for wraps or juice diets is an instant unfollow. I don’t need to see excess flesh and cellulite thanks very much, if I want to see a lardy midriff, I only have to look down.
How do you make Instagram work for you? I’d love to hear your tips too so please do leave me a comment!