Instagrammers can be fickle, really fickle. You’ll get a follow, they’ll expect one back and if not, you’re gone! Instagram, from its early days, went from being a simple app for sharing your photos and videos, all the way to where it is now - a mass content, branding and marketing network. There are a lot of inner workings in regards to how Instagram’s posting algorithm works and ways in which you can optimise your posting strategies to help boost your business, but we’ll cover those mechanics in another blog post. For now, here are a few pointers that can help boost your Instagram presence, number of followers and engagements on your posts.
One of the key healthy Instagram practices is that you tell a story with your posts. Now, this can be from post-to-post but there should be continuity across your entire feed. For example, some Instagram influencers have a particular colour pallet that will be uniform across the entire feed and people will buy into these looks. Before you know it, it has become a trend. Equally, you will want the content to be different and unique every time with the perfect caption that grabs the attention of the idle scroller.
We’re all photographers and videographers at heart; so when posting images or videos, give it a distinctive caption and a bit of a back story of how it came to be. A great habit to get into that will not only be useful for your posting, but will also help develop you as an artist, is to analyse your work. Explore what went right and what went wrong. Make mistakes. Fail dramatically, and turn it into a positive. These mistakes are a good thing and you will learn from it! Sharing your thoughts and analysis can become mutually beneficial to you, and your audience.
When the algorithm came into action, it stopped the chronological flow of everyone’s Instagram feed so you couldn’t just post at the right time and reap the benefits (more on that later). With this, the importance of hashtagging grew exponentially. Hashtagging is probably the most important thing to know about when it comes to growing a profile from the ground up.
You need to be selective when choosing your hashtags. It often seems like the best choice is to go for the most obvious tags with the most associated posts. But the fact is that new posts will be added to that tag so often (we’re talking every second for some of the most popular tags) that your post is likely to get buried very quickly. By all means, do use these popular tags, but you also want to be more specific.
Ponder this - You take a great minimalist photograph of a model using your Fujifilm X-T2 and Fujifilm 35mm F1.4, and you want to post it on your Instagram feed. The immediate thought might be to use the hashtag #photography. This tag has a grand total of 479 million posts. This oversaturated tag is going to highlight your image for all of a few minutes before it is buried under the next flood of tags. It’s also going to feature a lot of things that will not relate to your image in any way, e.g. someone’s dog, a random inspirational quote, or (at the time of researching for this blog) a questionable self-portrait of a man on the toilet. I mean, I suppose anything can be photography now… especially on Instagram.
Instead of using #photography, you could use #fujifilmxt2 (716K posts), #minimalistphotography (94.3K posts), #35mm14 (29.7K posts) or even #fujifilmminialism (about 2K posts). Whilst I wouldn’t advise completely ignoring popular tags, I’d encourage you to incorporate more specific tags too. These will help you seek out people who are more likely to actually engage with your work in a meaningful way, rather than those who simply follow-for-a-follow and then unfollow once it looks like they have more followers than who they are following!
Before the Instagram algorithm calamity, you could plan your posting schedule knowing all your followers, and more would see your posts. You could post before people went to work or when they had finished work; any time that you’d expect people to go onto Instagram and scroll. However, without going into too much detail, the current algorithm changed things up so that content no longer appears chronologically. So surely it doesn’t matter about timing? Well, it does.
When using a business Instagram account, you have access to insights (via the analytics tab) that shows you when your followers and other users are actively looking at your posts, where they’re from, their gender and age. This data is incredibly useful for helping you understand your post demographic and will show you roughly when you should be posting, but really, this is something that you will have to test and analyse the results. Whilst your account is growing, you will want to consider scheduling posts for when your main audience is looking at your account and use the appropriate hashtags accordingly. Timings can be different depending on the audience. For example, if your main traffic is coming from the other side of the world, you’ll probably be posting throughout the night - but with the magic of scheduling, this won’t be an issue. On the other hand, in the UK the most ideal time to post for most profiles is 6pm.
Hopefully, this has given you a small insight into how you can gain a following on Instagram and increase engagement with your feed. Instagram is forever changing (and all other social media, for that matter), but if you can implement some of what has been discussed, you might just see a positive change. You just need to remember that it all comes down to a combination of creating unique content and utilising your insights to reach the right audiences.
Oh, and of course, hashtags. Raise that hashtag game. #winning