As I’m writing this I want to be really honest with you and say that at the moment I’m not growing a lot on Instagram. However, what I will say is that I know exactly the reasons why: I have chosen to do something I want to do and am passionate about, versus what I know would make me grow on the platform. That is and always will be something we all struggle with and at some point we have to make a commitment and decide what is most important to us.
Before I get into how I grew my account and what I would do if I wanted to grow it more, let’s get a few things clear.
- 1. I will not at any time in this post blame the algorithm for anything. I just don’t subscribe to that. The algorithm’s only job is to measure the behaviour of people and adjust accordingly, so it’s never the algorithm’s fault or the algorithm that is suppressing a post on an account, it’s that the people aren’t responding to your content as much as they use to for whatever reason. As harsh as it may sound. it’s the truth. Sure, the algorithm has biases of all kinds, which I won’t go into here, but suppressing growth and engagement is not one of them.
- Remember, it is driven by the behaviour of the people on Instagram.
- 2. Each account is different, which is why I’m not a fan of growth tactics and strategies; an account with 3,000 followers will behave differently to an account with 50,000. Remember, followers are people; each community around each person on Instagram is different and behaves differently and only you know your audience.
- 3. Trends come and go on Instagram, changing often with the seasons and people’s likes. A person is in one day and out the next, not necessarily because they are doing something amazing but because they are doing something that people like at that moment. Each country behaves differently on Instagram; what works in the States might not work with a UK audience, an Instagrammer in another country might get massive growth simply because the app is gaining more popularity there.
- 4. Instagram has reached mass adoption, meaning more people have it than not. When this happens behaviours changes, simply because there is so much overwhelm and content out there that people get much more selective in who they follow and why and like much less content; it’s just the name of the game.
- 5. Accounts that do well on Instagram tend to deliver consistently similar content around a similar subject. When I was solely a book account it was much easier to grow. Accounts that show interiors (think Tumblr aesthetic) and girls in pretty dresses in front of pretty places always seem to do well on Instagram and if that’s your thing, go for it. For most though it isn’t. And here is where you have to make a decision with what does well on Instagram versus who you want to be and the content you want to produce on Instagram. I choose the latter.
- 6. Numbers are not everything. I know it sounds easy for someone like me to say that but really, they aren’t. I know I make more money than some people with many more followers than me. It’s much more about content and strategy than it is about numbers.
- 7. Don’t pin everything on Instagram, it would be foolish; grow it alongside other areas, other ways you want to build your business. It won’t be here forever.
What has Instagram become?
Before I give you my tips, here is something I heard recently that really got me thinking. Instagram used to just be about pretty pictures and great light, etc. As it reaches mass adoption it changes and James from Fohr recently talked about some research they did where they found that posts that seem to do the best had one of these three things in command: They either educated in some way, were entertaining or inspiring.
This is certainly something that rings true for me in the accounts I follow and I think this is the shift we will see more of as the platform develops. He also said that if you were posting anything else you were just self-serving, which may seem harsh but I think the question we could all ask a bit more is, how will what I’m posting help my followers?
My tips for growing on Instagram
Saying all that, here are my tips for building your account from the ground up.
- 1. Firstly, decide why you want to build an Instagram account; what is your objective? Without this it just seems silly. You have to know what you are trying to achieve. For example, I wanted to write a book so at the time, starting with a bookish account seemed the best way. I think if I was starting again I would also ask ‘How do I want to serve people?’ and add that into the mix.
- 2. Once you know what you want to achieve, how you want to serve think about what kind of community that means you need to be in (i.e. who you need to make friends with or who might be your audience). Stalk them, watch the community, see how they behave and what they do, figure out how your community behaves on Instagram. The Bookstagram community for example do all sorts of things that other communities just don’t do; they were using story templates before the rest of the world knew they even existed.
- 3. Look at the kind of content that does well in these communities, look at perhaps what is missing, how you could produce content like that but maybe a little better or different, or with a different slant on this. My account really started to grow when I took what the Bookstagram community were doing and pushed it up a level, doing something different.
- 4. Start taking shots; don’t worry if they are bad to start with, you will get better. My photos were so bad at the beginning, but really you just need to start posting.
- 5. Follow, comment and engage like your life depended on it. You are trying to inject yourself into an already established community so you will have to fight for it. Follow as many people as you can, assuming you like their content, comment as often as you can, look in your explore feed and engage with people in there. This is something you have to do whatever the size of your account.
- 6. Monthly, look at your posts and insights and see what did well and what didn’t, what can you learn from that and how can you move forward and be better next month.
- 7. Keep going, doing the same thing and slowly but surely you will grow.
- 8. Always use hashtags; they come in and out of favour so check what’s in them and when people last posted too. Check people you follow and what hashtags they are using, play around and see which ones tend to work for you, it is often trial and error and sometimes you will get it right and sometimes you will get it wrong. It doesn’t matter if the hashtags go in a comment or the post and you can still use up to 30; just don’t constantly use the same ones and make sure you are using a mixture of small, medium and larger hashtags.
- 9. Take part in hashtag projects. A lot of accounts do hashtag projects where they give you a word and you create around that. For example, a prompt in the Bookstagram community might be bluebooks, so you create a picture with blue books. This is a great way to make new friends and if the account that started the hashtag project picks you and gives you a shout out, you may gain followers.
- 10. Be in your stories as much as you can, show who you are, not too much as you don’t want to bore people, people may well follow you just for your stories.
And I think lastly I would say have fun this is supposed to be a social space, a place to create, share and connect with others. I think that is all too easy to forget!
Bronte | From Bee With Love | Instagram: @frombeewithlove