Let's admit it together.. you probably have a love-hate relationship with instagram. You love to hate it and you hate to love it. Can I get an amen?
I know how frustrating it is when you've done everything possible to up your instagram game and nothing seems to be working.
You're still there left wondering...
"How to get instagram followers fast?" or "How does the instagram algorithm work?"
Well guess what, I took all those commonly asked questions into this one post to kill all your instagram burning pains once and for all. How cool is that?
1) I'm not a photographer, how do I take good photos for instagram?
I totally feel your pain. I'm not a photographer either. (To all the photographers out there, you the real MVP), how you shoot astounding photos is just beyond me.
Despite that, somehow I get so many wonderful comments from my followers (specifically other artists) who compliment me on my photos and ask me what my secret is.
I hate to spill the beans, but all my photos are taken with my iPhone (and the old version too!).
You can seriously take amazing photos with nothing but your phone. You just need a little strategy and creativity.
You basically need:
A flattering composition and layout
A focal point in your image
2) How do I create a theme for instagram?
Creating a theme for your instagram account is actually one of the fastest ways to get followers (yep, I said it!).
It takes 3 seconds for someone to decide whether to follow you or not, and that will be based on the first 9 photos they see in your grid.
You've got beautiful accounts like Desiree Moore who has a beautiful theme of greenery, blues and travelling. You can easily tell by looking at this snap shot of her feed...
Best way for you to create your own theme is by looking up accounts you're drawn to, writing down a few notes of what you like about it and see how you can incorporate it by making it your own.
Personally it was pretty easy for me to figure out what theme I wanted to adopt.
I wanted to make sure my feed is filled with the colours teal and white - because that's what my branding colours are.
So I made sure to include one heavily teal photo and one white photo as a way to keep it aesthetically and visually pleasing.
You need to really think about what you want your visual story to tell... Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you want to focus on just one colour through-out? (inspiration: The Grace Mattei)
Do you want your feed to be dark? (inspiration: Cheyenne Gil)
Do you want your feed to be bright? (inspiration: Anna with Love)
Do you want your feed to be minimalistic? (inspiration: Minimalist Style)
Do you want to go for a rustic or vintage look? (inspiration: Suzy Shattuck)
Do you want to go for a super modern look? (inspiration: Dennis Schoof)
Once you pinpoint what you want your feed to look like, focus on creating all your content to follow that theme.
3) What hashtags should I use for my photos?
Say no more, I actually have a step by step guide that tells you what hashtags you should be using and how to use them strategically.
You'll find this really hard to believe but Ideally, you don't want to use overly popular hashtags. Why?
Because your photo will get buried in seconds which prevents your content from getting found. Download the guide, trust me! :)
4) How do I get bigger reach for my instagram account?
There are a few things you can do to make sure your instagram content gets a wider reach (and wider reach means more eyeballs on your instagram account which means higher chances of getting followers - WHAT WHAT?!).
Here are my recommendations:
Use geotags in your photos. This allows it to show up in the explore section of that location.
Use hashtags strategically (you can download the hashtags guide that tells you how to do that).
Add hashtags in your insta-stories too!
Be active on instagram by using all their features (i.e. instagram live, instagram stories, etc.). The more active you are, the better your engagement and this signals to instagram to push out your content in the explore page.
Use instagram live, IGTV and more video based content.
5) How do I get instagram followers?
I bet you scrolled or hit (control or command F) to find the answer to this question faster, AmIrite? - I probably could've been a psychic.
This is the biggest burning pain of all - getting instagram followers fast and organically!
Here's what NOT to do: buy followers or play the follow/unfollow game. It's the easiest way to get shadow banned by instagram, and if you don't know what that means you should click here.
On the other hand, here's what you should do:
Create a visual story by having a cohesive instagram feed - here's a guide that tells you how to do that.
Use captions to tell a story that draws people in - click here to find out how (scroll to number 5).
Post during optimized times - click here to download 'When to Post', an app that tells you when instagram users are most active.
6) How can I improve my engagement on instagram?
The best way to do this is by writing inviting and compelling captions. I've found that my most engaged photos (meaning it got a number of comments or likes) when I had a caption-filled image, kinda like this one...
I write 2 truths and a lie in my caption and ask people to comment what they thought the lie was. The engagement on it was amazing!
7) I don't know what to post? Help!
Ahhh yes, the inevitable scrolling through your phone, looking up any image to post on instagram. I've totally been there.
There are 2 things I did that helped erase this struggle completely.
Firstly, I plan all my instagram posts about 2 - 3 weeks ahead of time - no joke! I use a third party app called Plann which allows me to see what my feed will look like before even posting.
But then you're there thinking, well I don't even know what to post. Don't worry, I still have you covered.
Because I plan everything in advance, I use a little strategy I like to call the "4 Degrees of Separation".
And what that means is that I'll mix up my feed in 4 separate categories:
My henna designs
My work space
Something personal about me
A quote (that's related to my brand)
Here's a little snapshot so you can see what I mean...
You should figure out what your 4 degrees of separation are and that way you have a strong base of what you should be posting and what content to create.
8) When should I post on instagram?
You definitely want to aim to post your photos during optimized times (meaning when people are most likely to be active on the platform).
There's no one size fits all answer here. BUT... you should consider these 2 variables:
When is your target audience most active on instagram? For example, if you target working moms, they'll probably be most active during their lunch hour.
Where are you based? Take time difference into consideration if you're trying to get an international audience.
Generally according to the Huff Post, people are most active on instagram between 5 pm and 2 am where the highest levels of engagement happens on a Wednesday.
The good news though is that there's a free app to help you figure out what the most optimized times are. It's literally called "When to Post" and you can download it here.
10) How can I edit my photos to make them look professional?
Editing is a step I never skip because it not only makes my photos look much more "professional looking" and polished, but it also helps me be in keeping with my instagram theme.
One of the best tips I can give you is that you should apply the same (or at least similar) editing technique on all your photos. This means, stick to the same filters, same photo size and similar colour tones.
I edit my photos using 3 separate apps on a single photo:
Image Source: Kevin Lam Seck
11) I keep losing followers. What am I doing wrong?
I know how frustrating it must feel. Especially when you feel like you're gaining followers, only to lose the same amount the next day.
The thing is, there are common mistakes that could result you in losing followers...
You're not posting quality content: the whole reason of instagram is for visual curated content. If your photos are low quality, blurry or just not visually pleasing to the eye, people may not want to follow your content anymore.
You're not posting consistently: I regularly go through the list of people I follow and to those who are rarely posting, I'll unfollow them as a way to clean my list. This indicated to me that for darn certain, a lot of people use that strategy too.
You're too self-promotional: there's nothing people hate more than ads. So if you're constantly posting either about promotions or fill up your captions with a generic website link or a 'Book ME' call to action, you're coming off as salesy.
You're not active on the platform: believe me, I'm on instagram every single day; liking, commenting and engaging. If you're not active yourself, that's a sure way to lose followers.
Your posting schedule is out of whack: if you go quite for weeks, then all of a sudden add 6 photos all at once, it can get straight up annoying (sorry!). Give with moderation. Remember, consistency is key.
People are doing the follow/unfollow game: Unfortunately, that's a real thing. You get a handful of people who follow your account, but their sole purpose is to get a follow back from you. And whether you decide to follow them back or not, they already have every intention of unfollowing you because they didn't have a genuine interest in following you in the first place.
12) How can I get customers or clients from instagram?
Good question.. it's probably why you're on instagram after all, correct?
The problem sometimes is that we underutilize instagram as an online portfolio when in fact, it's an amazing leveraging tool to get clients and customers.
The best way to do this is by opening a channel of communication through DMs.
13) How does the instagram algorithm work?
The instagram algorithm can seriously feel like taming a beast. But it doesn't have to be so complicated if you understand it to truly defy it.
The thing is, Instagram actually went on the record and stated what their algorithm awards and what it punished, here's a play by play:
Instagram loves it when people engage with your comment (meaning: comments, likes and saved posts).
Instagram will pick up on signals how long someone spends looking at your photos or feed.
You'll get awarded if you use all of Instagram's features (like: Instagram Stories, IGTV, etc.)
Instagram also loves it when you interact with your followers and create genuine relationships
It detects how specific or relevant your hashtags are to the post you've added and speaking of...
14) How can I create those little icons for instagram story highlights?
It's super easy. Here's the step by step:
Create the icons (if you're not a designer, you can use canva.com which has an assortment of templates to choose from and can easily create your own).
Upload it to instastories
Then you can "add to highlights"
Go to your highlights under your bio, and click those 3 little dots in the bottom right corner.
Hit "Edit Highlights"
Then click on "Edit Cover" and select your icon.
There you go, easy peasy.
15) How often should I be posting on instagram?
This answer is fairly simple. You should be posting at least once a day or at least remain active with insta-stories.
Through my own trial and error, I found that my engagement on instagram is very low on the weekends, so I make sure to post Monday - Friday with one photo per day.
16) How do I get accounts with big followings to recognize me and repost or mention me?
We all want that recognition, we all want to get republished with major influencers. Can I get a hallelujah?
I've been lucky enough to get reposted by major South Asian wedding magazines like Indian Wedding Buzz and Shaadi Wish and even got the attention from Aerie in one of my photos (as you can see in the screenshot below).
What I do is I'll become very strategic in posting a photo that looks similar to the kind of content they're already posting, and I'll tag them in my photos.
Tagging them in your photos alone WILL NOT HELP, you really have to be deliberate in creating and posting photos that already look like something they would be posting themselves.
17) Will paying for instagram ads get me more followers?
It could and it could not. It really all depends on how you play the field and how you set up your ad.
But honestly, if your sole purpose to pay for instagram ads is to get followers, I'll strongly advise against it. That's not the right marketing strategy or basis.
As much as we're all obsessed with growing our followers, it's actually so much more important and effective to increase your engagement with the followers that you already have.
Now if you were to ask me, should I pay for instagram ads to create more awareness or grow my email list? then I'll wholeheartedly tell you - YES GO FOR IT!