Ever since I published my book How to Start a Home-Based Etsy Business back in January, I’ve found that the longer I blog and learn about social media (especially Instagram), the more I learn. It’s only natural, right? As small business owners, we just learn what we need as we grow. And personally, I take things in chunks: learn how to get more page views, learn how to monetize properly, and learn how to grow social media. While there are certainly bloggers who are way better at Instagram than I am, I have found a pretty good success rate in growing my Instagram rather quickly. Since March of this year (2014), I’ve grown from just under 5,000 followers to over 14,000 followers. And because I know a lot of you who follow my blog for Etsy advice because of the book, today I’m going to share some secrets I’ve learned. All of which I kind of figured out on my own. So here are my ten best tips for how to get more followers on Instagram. (PS – you can follow me by searching on IG for ShabbyCreek!)
Let’s get the mean stuff out of the way, shall we. I’m not saying this to be harsh or cold or even a big old meanie. I’m saying it because I think you’re taking the time to read this blog post because you ACTUALLY want to grow your Instagram following.
Think of your account in regards to your profile page. All of the photos should look like they belong together in some way. To do this you want to:
- Concentrate on a theme. It’s up to you…. but don’t deviate too far from it. Mine is about my house/decorating/diy ideas. Oh and everything aqua. I figured this out because the photos that had aqua in them got about 10x the amount of interaction that my other photos did. So I just concentrate on photos of my house – which is all aqua. You can concentrate on whatever you want…. but be authentic. You’ll have much better response if you make it something you are truly interested in.
- Think of your page as a portfolio. Whether it’s for an Etsy shop, your style for blog content, or even if you’re all about quick tips. Look at your overall page and see if everything there is an AMAZING photo. One by one, are those the photos you want to represent you/your brand?
- Cull out the bad stuff. This is gonna hurt. And it’s probably going to take a while. A few months ago when I decided that I wanted to concentrate on Instagram and really give it an honest effort, the first thing I did was go through my entire feed and I deleted over 1,000 photos. That left me 300ish photos after I deleted all the bad ones. But now when folks find my feed who dig my style, the entire feed is on point. It’s exactly what I want it to be. And I still delete things all the time. As I’m writing this I have 317 photos. And I’ve been on Instagram for 3+ years. I post at least daily, but I constantly cull out the worst of my feed and try to put better and better images up – so the end result is a (hopefully) magazine worthy profile. Delete fearlessly.
- Post personal stuff on your PERSONAL Facebook page. Out of those 317 photos – there are TWO that are personal. One of my when I met Ronnie Radke (one of my favorite musicians) and one of my daughter when we adopted our new dog Sophie. That’s it. I don’t share my kids – I rarely do selfies – and I keep my personal stuff on my personal FB. Why? Because my followers love my feed because I’m sharing decorating advice, not kid stuff. Now if your business is about kid’s gear – that would work for you. It doesn’t work for me. You’ve gotta know your crowd.
- Learn to use your phone’s camera. There are tips and tricks and tutorials out there. Find them. Read them. Practice them. I used to preach that you should only take photos with the camera app and then edit them in another app like SnapSeed. Nowadays, Instagram has such great editing tools within the app, it’s almost unnecessary steps. I take most of my photos within Instagram, then edit them right there in the same app. It’s quick and easy. Practice makes perfect – so take TONS of photos until you have it down.
- post photos of food taken with yellow light. Blech.
- take cryptic photos of things only you and one other person will understand. Keep it clear.
- post a billion times a day. Once, twice – maybe three times – and you’re good. I try not to post more than every six hours (except #instalovesunday, which we will get to in a minute.)
2) Find your friends!
Unless you are just now plugging into the internets for the first time (if so, welcome!) then you have online friends. Instagram can help you import those friends you have on Facebook or Twitter (and others) to connect with the folks you already know. Once you’ve done that, look at who follows them, who leaves comments on their posts. Who do they follow? Follow the virtual breadcrumb trail and look around to see if you can find some folks you like to follow.
At the heart of it, Instagram is a community. Let’s assume you move 1,000 miles away tomorrow and you land in a town where you have absolutely no friends or family. How do you find new friends? Maybe through people you work with. Or maybe you join the YMCA. Maybe you find a new church. We’re social beings for a reason. Exploring Instagram is much like exploring a new town – you just have to literally get out there and make friends.
Three ways to find Instafriends…
- Use the search page to see what Instagram recommends. They do a great job of helping you find people who post and like the same types of things you do.
- Search for hashtags that pertain to interests you like. Are you a fashion lover? Try #fashionblogger or #styleblogger to find some new peeps to follow. Are you a foodie? Try #recipe or #food. Love music? Try the hashtag for your favorite band (like, say, #falloutboy). You’ll instantly be connected with people who have something in common with you.
- Look for businesses you love on Instagram. They’re almost all there – look at who comments on their photos and see if you like the commenters. You’d be surprised at how many great feeds you’ll find that way!
Once you find those friends – interact with them! Liking photos is great – but comments are GOLD. It’s an easy way to quickly touch base with people that inspire you. Some of my best buddies on Instagram aren’t even bloggers – they’re just people that I’ve connected with and talked to over time exclusively on Instagram! Be authentic, actually contribute something to the conversation, that’s the best way to actually make friends. It’s just like your mom taught you before kindergarten – say hi, talk to them, and the rest is easy!
3) Be active on Instagram, but not obnoxious.
There I go being mean again. Being active isn’t just about posting new photos every five minutes. It’s about checking in to see if someone has commented on your photos. Do they have a question? If so answer it! I don’t care how many followers I get on Instagram, my goal is to try my very, very best to answer every single question. I do recommend posting at least one photo a day, but you can interact on so many other levels. Answering questions, finding new folks to follow, liking photos, leaving comments on other people’s photos. Once again, it’s a community – and if you embrace it I’m sure you’ll think the same way I do: It’s the most welcoming online community in social networking. People there are truly nice. It’s an amazing space!
4) Grow followers through sharing.
Sharing with friends is the very best way to get your feed out there in front of new folks. The easiest way to do it is to privately talk to someone who has a common interest as you do. Most people have a network of friends that do the same thing they do online – whether it’s about Etsy, blogging, pet rescue, music – whatever! Email them (or you can send private messages on Instagram) and just ask if they’d like to do a follow swap. Follow Friday (#followfriday) is one of the best ways to do it. You share a photo from your friend’s feed – they share a photo from yours, and you give them a little shout out to your followers. It’s a fun way to spread the love of folks you love to follow.
My best advice in doing so is this: Try to stick to people who have numbers within 1,000 of yours unless you are REALLY good friends. Like you can text or call them at home kinda friends. If you only sorta know them, then make sure you at least have feeds that are relatively the same so you will actually be doing a good service to sharing them.
And PS – I delete features after about 24-36 hours. Their photos should not be part of my portfolio. And 24 hours is plenty of time for my followers to see their photos and follow them.
On another note, you can also send your posts on Instagram to Facebook and Twitter (as well as others) if you connect them. When you send them over, folks from those social outlets may also follow through and find you on Instagram, too. It’s never a bad idea to share!
5) Join (or create) a daily photo challenge.
This isn’t something I’ve done yet – but it’s coming soon, my friends! I have seen this successfully work for a number of other folks on Instagram, though. Here’s how it works: create a topic for a photo challenge and then create a calendar so your followers have a prompt for each day. Accompany that with a hashtag that you create for the challenge – and you have folks sharing your account while building your community. Don’t have enough followers to create one (I suggest at least 5,000 followers before you start one) – then join someone else’s! They’re all over the place and easy to find, just search for #photochallenge and tons of them will pop up. You can then look at the stream of photos for that challenge to find new friends. It’s a lot of fun – especially if you find one that you love the theme of!
Every great idea is essentially borrowed from someone else – so I’m not even going to pretend that I’m the one who started this… but I will tell you I borrowed it from some of the music pages I follow on Instagram. Yes, I follow teenage fan girls, because, well, honestly I love the same kind of music they do. Not only that, teenagers have learned VERY quickly how to grow social media way better than my 40 year old brain could comprehend. So I borrowed this idea from them and it’s been one of the biggest tools that I’ve used to grow my account. Here’s how it works:
- Offer your followers the chance to be featured on your feed (I do four features per round)
- Ask them to share one of your photos and tag you in it (along with a hashtag if you want)
- Ask them to leave a comment once it’s shared.
- I also encourage them to go through the comments and find new friends – so it’s not just about me… it’s more about building upon the community feeling of my instagram family.
- Share some photos on your feed, featuring a few of those who did the “Share for Share.”
- Easy, huh?
The first round of this I did got me nearly 2,000 followers in 24 hours. Major results! I tried it when I was just at 8,500 followers and was trying really hard to get to 10K (because after 10,000 you get a fancy K after the #). I thought it might bump me up to around 9,000 – but I was pleasantly surprised that it more than tripled my expectations!
Using this tactic very sparingly will increase the results you’ll see. It won’t work if you do it too often. I now do it about once a month and always see great results. Your followers love what you do and will gladly share your content if it’s great stuff. New followers for you plus a great way to find new folks to feature!
7) Pin your Instagram
Say what? It’s not super quick like sharing a blog post on Pinterest – but it can be done. I haven’t had much luck figuring out how to do it on a desktop – but I did figure it out on my phone.
First open up your internet browser (I use Safari) and go to www.instagram.com/YOURIGNAME (mine is instagram.com/shabbycreek). It will pull up your profile.
Click on one of the photos so it will open up that exact URL in a new page.
Why pin it? Because people searching for whatever will land on your photo – and if they like what they see they might follow you on Instagram. It’s a great way to reach out to another popular social media and cross promote them.
8) Create your own hashtag
Why do this? Because it groups together a batch of photos that are relevant. I personally have three that I’m currently working: #instalovesunday, #aquaholics and #rockthatDIY. Why? Because I want my followers to know that on Sundays we spread the love. My feed isn’t just about me – it’s about them, too! I want to give back to the community that I love so very much.
#RockthatDIY is all about finding your own awesome in DIY projects. It’s ultimate goal is to get people to think outside of the DIY box. I don’t work it as often as I should, but it’s a fun way to refresh people’s minds that I am a DIY blogger. And I rock. Haha! Seriously, though, it’s about connecting that group together.
#aquaholics is a call out to all of my aqua lovers. Some days I don’t want to clean up a messy space to take pretty photos of my house. So I search and find amazing things online that are always aqua (because that’s my thing) and I share them on Instagram. It’s like my own personal homage to my followers – I call them my aquaholics. It’s fun and it works for us.
This is low on the list because it’s more for the community building aspect – but if done right it might catch on and help you spread out to bigger audiences.
9) Put it in your blog side bar.
If you have a blog, then you should have a link to your instagram, along with some photos from it in your sidebar. Of course, I just took mine out a couple of days ago because I’m reworking it – but the advice does work. If you get traffic to your blog and they like what they see, your readers will probably follow you on Instagram. If you don’t have a blog, don’t stress. Just skip this step and keep on trucking.
10) Give it away, give it away, give it away now.
Dude, I had to get a song reference in there somewhere. Giveaways work. Seriously. They’ve worked to help bloggers find new readers for years, and they work on Instagram, too. I do them one of two ways….
- Group giveaways: gather together a group of your IG friends, whether it’s 5 or 10 or however many, then at the same time, on the same day, you each give away something to your followers. In round robin fashion, you tag the next person on a list, they tag the next, etc., until it makes a big circle back to the first person. Then all of the followers from all of the IGers travels through the circle and finds all the giveaways. If you make it a requirement that they follow you to win (which is currently still “legal” on Instagram), then if you have a good prize you will most likely get a batch of new followers.
- One for you and one for a friend giveaways: This is a solo type of giveaway that I came up with on my own. If someone else invented it then we have the same mind, because I never saw it before I decided to try it. The premise is that you give TWO prizes (say 2 $25 gift cards) – one for you and one for a friend. To win, the follower comments on the post tagging their friend. Both the commenter and the friend have to follow you to win. I personally let them tag as many friends as they’d like, but they have to do it in individual comments (not a group of friends at once). The better the prize the more followers you’ll get. Keep the prize relative to what you share on Instagram (I do a lot of tools and home decor type things) and you will get followers who will love your feed.
Either way you do a giveaway – if you “force” them to follow to win, you will have a few unfollow you after the giveaway is over. I call it fall out. I can expect to lose from 25-100 people each time I post for up to three posts after a giveaway. It’s ok – those are not your people. The people who stay are the ones that love what you’re doing – so don’t worry about those who unfollow. Just keep being your awesome you!
So that’s my tips for growing Instagram. Got something fresh and new that I missed? Leave your ideas in the comments, because at the end of the day it’s just like Insta…. comments are gold!