Recently, I was looking through some old photos, and I discovered that I grew about 6,500 followers in the past year. I asked if you wanted me to share my tips for growing an Instagram, and I received an overwhelming response to make this post. I am aiming these tips towards micro-bloggers (this is generally a term used for bloggers with under 10K followers), as I have no idea if all of these tips are necessary / useful for someone who already has tens of thousands of followers. One year ago, I had 700 followers on Instagram, and about 300 were friends and family that already followed me (because @blackdenimchic used to be a personal account ), so these are my tips for your first year of growing your Instagram account.
1. Focus on Curating Your Feed
Before we can even consider strategy, the absolute first thing is curating a feed, and developing an aesthetic. Think of your Instagram feed like an art gallery- while each individual photo matters, you want all of the photos to look good together, and your collective feed should immediately tell the viewer what kind of account you run, and what sort of aesthetic you have. If your feed does not look good, no amount of traffic you create for yourself is going to help you successfully grow your account. Look at your feed and think objectively- if you were a stranger, would you follow your account?
If you are interested in a more in-depth blog post about curating and maintaining a consistent Instagram feed, you can check out my article here.
My current feed
2. Use Hashtags
Hashtags are a quick and easy way to broaden your audience and expand your reach. Each Instagram post is allowed 30 hashtags, so use them! In order to not spam my post, I like to copy and paste my hashtags as a comment under my photo. It is most effective to use a mish-mash of generic, popular hashtags and more specific hashtags. A couple hashtags like #instagood and #love work well, but do not fill up all 30 spaces with generic hashtags like these.
It also helps to use a couple hashtags like #l4l and #likeforlike. Particularly at the beginning of a post, these hashtags can help boost your photo.
Explore different hashtags, and also feel free to change them regularly! I have a standard set of hashtags that I have saved in my notes, but I typically change a handful of them each time, to curate the hashtags to be more specific to what I'm wearing (i.e. brands, coffee shots, specific accessories...).
3. Tag Brands + OOTD Instagrams
If you are wearing a specific brand, be sure to tag it in your photos! Also tag accounts like OOTD Magazine, which are large Instagram accounts that repost the content of other bloggers. Tagging brands means more exposure, being reposted means more exposure.
On a similar note, always geo-tag your location as well! If you are traveling, this is a good way to gain exposure in new places (especially if it's a tourist location, where new people are constantly coming and going), and if you are at home, this is a good way to gain home support.
4. Get Involved with Instagram Pods
Ever since Instagram changed their algorithm, it has become harder and harder for smaller accounts to gain exposure for their photos. One way that many Instagram accounts have combat this issue, is by creating and joining Instagram pods.
I started getting invited to Instagram pods when I had about 500 followers, and at this point, I knew very little about the Instagram algorithm, and really very little about anything to do with blogging.
Instagram pods are typically made up of a small, selective number of individuals who like and comment on each other's photos in exchange for likes and comments on their own. While small pods do not make a significant difference for likes, the comments can help boost the photo- the primary goal of Instagram pods isn't to improve numbers, but rather to combat the Instagram algorithm.
5. "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You"
I do not have any mathematical proof that this is how Instagram works, but this is essentially what I've learned about Instagram in the last year: like all social media, it only works if the people who use it are actively participating. The more you put into Instagram, the more it gives back to you.
I believe (and again, no mathematical proof here) that the more time you spend liking / commenting / saving photos, the more Instagram favors your posts.
So spend some active time going through your Instagram. Go through your feed and like and comment on other people's photos. Do the same for the explore page. It not only helps boost your post in the eyes of the Instagram algorithm, but commenting on other people's photos also increases your exposure.
And when you regularly comment on other people's posts, you will notice an increase in comments on your own photos too. And when people do comment on your photos, take the time to like their comments, and respond! The bottom line is be active.
6. Be Authentic
As far as my Instagram and blog goes, I have expended a tremendous amount of energy to maintain an air of authenticity, and relatability. I am a 20 year old American college student- that might as well be a synonym for "broke as fuck." I am a poor college student who's life constantly feels like it's falling apart at the seams, and I would not want the world to see me any other way.
Before I ever implemented my "Let's Get Coffee" series into the blog, I used to do Instastory rants, and share my thoughts, and complain about things that bothered me. While my feed is very curated, I have always made an effort to show my followers (whether I had 400, or 4000) that I am as confused and as messed up as any other young person (I just go to class dressed nicer, hehe).
The market is incredibly over-saturated with fashion bloggers. Let's be real, if I randomly fell off the face of the earth, you could get your fashion advice from 500 other bloggers. And this goes for every single blogger- there are so many people who would love to do this- and I love doing this, but you don't need me. The market certainly does not have a shortage of fashion bloggers. I am not conceited enough to believe that my style is so unique, and so unlike anyone you've ever seen, that you could not get your inspiration from somewhere else.
This is why your authenticity is the greatest marketing tactic you have. I know that I can't entice followers with designer looks and Gucci shoes, but I can sell myself on being young, and broke, and messed up. Because what young person isn't broke and messed up? My highest goal is always to sell you my personality, because individuality cannot be replaced- a trendy, "everyone-and-their-mother-is-wearing-it" piece from Zara on the other hand? That can be. Authenticity never goes out of style.
And remember not to take any of this too seriously! The moment it stops being fun, the moment it loses any significance. Blogging (whether paid or unpaid) is a creative outlet, and it is a job that should bring you joy, whatever your numbers look like.