1. Making friends is key
I have to say that for the first couple of months of my IG account, I was pretty anti-social in the sense that I wasn’t taking the time to interact with those accounts in my niche. This was a mistake for a few reasons;
- First of all, IG likes it when you are engaging and actually part of the community and by engaging with these kind of accounts, your profile is automatically shown to a wider audience, so you really do get out what you put in!
- Second of all, you can learn quite a lot from those who have been doing this for a long time; the way they shoot, the edits they use, the kind of shots they get at a particular location we are going to etc. The people around you will be your biggest source of knowledge so why not use them?
- Finally, people are just actually a lot nicer than you would expect! This might sound stupid to some but I think after a long time working in London, I just assumed that most people are driven solely by their own ambition and so learnt to rely on myself and my immediate friendship circle for support. However, I can’t tell you how many times someone has been kind enough to reply to one of my annoying DM’s asking a question (and then probably regretted it after I followed up with 10 more!) and I, in turn, I also try to make sure I do the same for anyone who messages me. Therefore it’s really important to have this reciprocal attitude from the moment you start.
2. Consistency is key
True to my “all or nothing” personality, I tend to go long periods of posting almost every day, only to follow this up with periods where I won’t go on the app at all. This is normally because I have had social engagements, family vacation etc and have just completely gone offline. I noticed that after I returned from these periods of inactivity, it would take me a while to build everything back up again, and so I have learnt the hard way that in order to stay on people’s radars, you must be consistent.
Whilst I think it’s definitely important to have a balance (I will come onto this), you need to decide on what level that you can be consistent in terms of how often you want to post, how often you want to engage etc and try your best to stick around that level. My advice would be to start somewhere in the middle and work up to a stage where IG has nicely integrated into your life but also hasn’t taken over. Try to post 3-4 times per week and if that goes well for a month, go up to 5-6 times per week and if that goes well after another month, try to make sure you are posting almost every day. Also, try to decide on the amount of time you are prepared to spend per day engaging with comments from your own posts and with other accounts, I would suggest begin with 30 minutes per day and try to work your way up to an hour (spread across the day; 20 minutes in the morning, 20 afternoon, 20 in the early evening).
3. Balance is important
I have actually written a blog on this explaining how me and Sophie take steps to make sure IG doesn’t take over our lives and whilst I am big believer in working hard to achieve your goals, Instagram has a nasty habit of taking over and dominating your days but only if you let it! Therefore, it’s important to set boundaries and limits to ensure that you’re not letting Instagram take over, because what’s the fun in that? If you want more detail as to how we try to achieve balance between life and IG, read my blog “5 rules we live by to stop Instagram taking over our lives”
4. Don’t try to do everything at once!
So this is still very much a work in progress for us! Whilst it’s important to have as many things in your locker as possible in terms of your social media presence (YouTube, IG, FB, IGTV, Blog etc), if you spread yourself too thinly then you will just end up being average at everything which isn’t ideal. My advice would be to focus on 1 or 2 areas in which you would like to become specialized in, whether that be Instagram, your blog or anything else and only once you have got a real handle on your chosen area, then you allow yourself to move onto the next. When we first began, we set up our blogs, our Instagrams and was looking into video and we had grand plans of:
- Posting one blog per week
- Posting one video per week
- Posting on IG every day
- Setting up a YouTube channel
We soon realised that if we were to progress, then we would have to step back and focus on what we felt would be the foundation of our social media presence and for us this was Instagram. We don’t have IG mastered at all, far from it, but we know enough now to be able to start focusing more on our blog and video, but also with the knowledge that if things get too much, we will need to cut back once again.
5. Your feed is your advert
When people click on your profile they will make a decision within those first few seconds as to whether they will follow you or not and the large majority of this decision is based on how your feed looks. It’s so important that your feed looks good as a whole, and I wish I had have known this before I had started. I would suggest purchasing Lightroom and spending your time trying to get a particular editing style (eg, a consistency throughout your content with regard to shadows, whites, contrast, saturation, etc) and apply this style to every post, as this should give your feed some cohesion and encourage people to follow when visiting your page. I’m not saying my feed is a piece of art and is perfectly curated but look at the difference between when I first started (left) and now – which account would you prefer to follow if you had to?
I’d recommend download the app ‘Preview’ and planning your photos at least 6 photos in advance, ideally 9. Finally, whilst this is important, it does take time to get use to editing and to find your style etc, so don’t stress out; your style and feed cohesion will come as long as you keep it in mind from the beginning.
6. Don’t post landscape formatted shots
This might be controversial if this is your style but, in my opinion, Instagram wasn’t made for landscape shots due to being predominantly accessed through phones, which have portrait/vertical screens. At the beginning, I posted mainly landscape shots and thought it was fine but, after speaking to various large feature accounts who politely declined posting my shots due to their aspect ratio, I realised I’d have to change my shooting style. If you want to grow on this platform, you need to be creating content that will be easily shareable both in terms of content and style and so this realisation was a big turning point for us. Therefore now, the majority of our shots are portrait and 4:3 (almost all of them) and it has led to features from numerous large feature accounts. If you disagree with me, please go a and look at any successful travel account over 100k (this is what I did) and look how they are posting, you will notice that they will very rarely post landscape and even square but mostly portrait.
7. Play by the rules
Due to the algorithm changes there are a lot of companies out there that will approach you trying to sell ‘powerlikes’ , fake likes, giveaways etc and you’ll hear about people doing follow/unfollow techniques and automation etc. From what we’ve heard, IG is quick to restrict accounts or any activity that it doesn’t deem normal. One way we experienced this was when we took part in a few ‘giveaway’ competitions, a seemingly transparent way of giving something to your followers and also getting your account on more people’s radar at the same time. However, despite going up in followers initially, I’m not convinced any of these stay and actually interact with your account and it can be harmful to engagement, which is so important! Therefore, the best way to grow is to be consistent, post the best content you can, and then you will organically grow with no underhand behaviour or activity.