I *love* Instagram. I do, I really, really do. Instagram is my happy place, whereas Facebook is my where my business head sits (and I make money!). Instagram is also where I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with some supremely talented and wonderful bloggers who I am now proud to call friends. These bloggers have helped me on my journey growing Instagram and one of these wonderful bloggers is Harriet from Toby & Roo, otherwise known as the Instagram Queen (by me anyway). Sharing her top tips on growing your instagram following by sharing what worked for her along the way. And seeing as right now she’s sat at over 50k followers I’d say she knows what she’s on about.
Over to Harriet, Instagram Queen
Instagram is, by far, my favourite social media platform. It’s vibrant, it’s fun and it’s a great way to connect with people.
So how did I go from 2k to 50k followers in just under 12 months? Honestly? With a lot of hard work and focus on defining my brand and really connecting with an audience that I wanted to connect with. I’m now at a point where Instagram has become my method of putting the grub on the table, the heating on (hello chilly Yorkshire) and the toys in the playroom. In light of the fact that Laura isn’t going to be able to make it to BlogOn MSI in May where I will be speaking on how to grow and monetise IG, she’s asked me to guest post for her and share my core Instagram building tips with her audience… so buckle up and prepare to pixelate:
Content is Queen
Instagram is all about the pretty. Developing your content is everything. Pick a niche and figure out how to work it for your brand. I work to the principal of finding 2-3 things that define my brand. These are emojis (every post is littered with em, I just can’t help it – I’m a slave to the emoji life), humour and I always struggle with the 3rd but we could go with a wrinkly dog, a cute baby or just a sweaty affirmation that it’s okay to not feel like parent of the year.
Guess what? My niche is parenting/lifestyle… but can I post a photo of nail polish? YES but only if I do it in a way that appeals to my reader… in fact, one of my highest paying collaborations was with Nails Inc for a single sponsored post featuring their nail set. A flat lay would not fit with my niche, or with my followers expectations so I applied it to taking 10mins while the kids are napping, in this photo (see below). It was hugely popular and both my followers and the brand got what they expected and liked (literally).
If content is Queen, engagement is her King
Engagement is everything. The Instagram algorithm is a cruel mistress, especially as you can have thousands of genuine followers who would love to double tap or send you a friendly “Love this!” But they don’t see your feed. Ever. The algorithm is built on speed, so the more comments/likes you get in a shorter period, the more people will see you. So how can you help the algorithm and become engaged?
- hashtags: use your max allowance of 30 in each post. Think of it as a free advertising slot in a magazine… are you going to pass up one of those babies? Hell no. Put them in the first comment after your post. Another tip? Don’t use tags with over 100k posts in their gallery until you are over 10-15k you won’t get into the top 9 and that is your goal.
- Join a comment/like group (sometimes called a comment pod) – these are a group of like minded people (it won’t work if you’re all different niches) who will like and comment on each other’s photos as quickly as they can.
- After every post, go into the hashtags that you use and like/comment on the photos of the top 9, then comment/like on the most recent 5-10. Do this in several tags and you will see people really interacting – which is what you want as (get your tags right) and they will be your niche.
- Reply to comments on your own photo: it’s polite and a booster to boot.
- Follow people in your niche – you will read this on every “how to grow” guide. Just note; other bloggers are NOT your niche. Your niche are people who would engage with your stuff, if they don’t engage and you don’t have them in your feed to like/comment, unfollowing is fine. Sometime bloggers act like following someone is a commitment, it’s not. Instagram is ratio heavy, so you shouldn’t be following more than 2-3k people (in fact you physically can’t follow more than 7.5k) otherwise it just looks like you are following people to be followed and that is the worse thing for engagement.
Utilise IG stories
Lots of people have said to me that they don’t use IG stories at all, but you should! Stick to the same principal as above (2-3 things that define your brand) and you will be able to provide a “behind the scenes” sort of vibe that can genuinely help followers get to know you. It’s one of my favourite ways to engage. It’s been suggested that a minimum of 5-30 stories is best, but I think that’s utter rubbish. In my experience 3-10 a day is FINE any more and it becomes a drain.
Final note on what NOT to do
There are a few things you should NEVER do on IG.
- Never buy followers – firstly, it is painfully obvious and makes you look like a total wally, secondly it is one of the fastest ways to get banned. Buying followers can be spotted by a total lack of engagement, but Instagram bots can also tell by the fact that there has been a sudden surge of followers (usually 1K+ in minutes).
- Never follow for follow with other bloggers – I’m always amazed at this one. It is such a common blogger practice and the WORST thing for engagement because it’s done purely to bolster numbers, will no intention of engaging (the opposite of what you want). Eventually one of you will no doubt unfollow the other, inspiring a raging Facebook tirade, or you will just be dead weight on each other’s accounts. It isn’t polite or supportive. Also, if you don’t practice follow4follow you won’t get annoyed by follow/unfollow. It is such a bad practice that’s brands even refuse to work with people using the hashtag, so it’s better left to wannabe music.ly stars. Same goes for following bloggers with the intention to unfollow them an hour later – having tried it, I can tell you it genuinely just annoys people. Stick to following people in your niche, not your industry.
- Never buy likes. Likes shoot in from a singular random IP address. It’s obvious as a photo will suddenly have 200+ likes after 2 seconds. No. It is the fastest way to get banned on Instagram and both this and buying followers could hold legal ramifications if you are working with brands.
Good luck on Instagram, once you get the hang of it it can be a network that is inspiring and absolutely a way to take your brand to new heights!
A massive thank you to Harriet, and you can find more from her over on Toby & Roo, Facebook, Twitter and of course Instagram.
Now I really, really wish I was in the country in May to come to BlogOn – those of you going you’re in for a treat, now maybe someone will film for me hmmm
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Thanks a lot for sharing all those tips, Harriet. Your Instagram success is inspiring! Off to comment on those hashtags 🙂
Great post! Yeah the follow unfollow game is seriously annoying and I for one used to block those accounts doing it : D great tips on engagement and I’ll try that in the future. Hashtags too, I have to get some new and fresh ones 🙂
I LOVE this – it’s so helpful! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I thought I was doing everything I could but didn’t understand why I couldn’t grow my following (I’m not even at 300 yet *sob*) – turns out there’s a ton more I can be working on. And I didn’t realise that’s how the algorithms worked either. Thanks again 🙂
Super useful post. I never know about these “Instapods” and have gone to seek them out after reading this!
Also I do love her feed – it’s always beautiful
Some great tips here. Well done Harriet.
These are some really good tips. I need to pull my finger out a bit with Instagram. Harriet is definitely the Insta Queen with Princess Edith of course!
Great tips I need to work on my hashtags – I only can ever remember a few!!
Some brilliant tips there, it’s great to know it’s possible to build instagram successfully. It’s such a difficult platform to crack.
Ooo I need to get my tags better organised! Great piece looking forward to hearing more in May. Xx
Fabulous post with awesome tips. I love Instagram but find it very hard to grow. Xx
I have been using pretty much the same strategy and went all the way up from 5k to 27k in a matter of 6 months. ☺
My instagram is @creativitywithkay
I loved this post. So many useful tips that you actually implement. I’ve pinned it to come back to #BlogStormT
Some amazing tips that I didn’t even know about,definitely gonna implement this on my instagram. Thank you
Such fantastic tips! Well done on your huge Instagram success 🙂 very inspiring, thank you for sharing x
This was such a lovely read. Your Instagram looks so beautiful.
Thanks for this – I’m new to Instagram and not in love with it yet but found this very useful. Going to implement you advice #blogstorm
I just opened an Instagram and have really been working to try to figure it all out. Your tips where what I needed. My issue is staying on my niche. That is something I need to configure both there and my blog. Thank you.
Great post with some amazing advice. I never new 90% of this. Thanks for sharing.
Just wanted to drop down a question while I remember it – will try and find you in a group somewhere to ask – following private IGers. I don’t do it because I don’t want to find they have a terrible feed I don’t want to follow, but actually a lot of them are going to be the non-blogger niche. Obviously I can’t engage with them either. What’s your thoughts on following them? Or how to get to the non-blogging audience? In non-parenting niches it seems to be a lot easier because they’re more into photography etc but mums are more likely to have private feeds.
Great post too by the way!
Thank you for these tips. I’m going to follow these, ice got a lot to learn! Xx
Amazing tips!! I have so much to learn on instagram, this is so inspiring!!
This is a really interesting post… I’ve found Instagram a bit of a slow burner and although I just past 3K it’s taken forever to get that far! So going to get on the commenting wagon 🙂
Any tips on getting to 2k? Was this the hardest part?
Great article, thanks for sharing! Instagram is my favourite social media too, so I’m going to try to implement some of these tips!
Saving this as only just rejoined so need all the tips I can get. Really useful piece
Thanks for or these great tips. I have t ventured into Instagram yet as a blogger, but this will help.
Definitely the best post on Instagram that I have come across! some great tips, thank you for sharing.
Such amazing tips. I’ve been guilty of trying to like for like and yes that kills engagement and just gives the wrong impression to those you are liking.
I will take these tips on board and try a new method! X