How do accounts grow to 10,000 followers, have on-brand colors and a high engagement rate?! Instagram can be one of the most fun, yet frustrating marketing tools out there. But with the right content and aesthetic, you can gain followers and a higher engagement rate, too! Here are a few tips to help get you there:
1: A Consistent Photography Style
One thing you’ll notice is that the most successful instagram accounts don’t post jarringly different images one right after the other. You won’t see a white-washed light photo next to a poorly lit dark photo (unless that’s part of their grid aesthetic). Choose the style you want your photos to follow, then stick with it to create a consistent feed. The goal is consistency–when a follower sees a post in their feed, they should be able to immediately recognize it as coming from you, even if they don’t look at the username. You can accomplish the same look and feel by using presets in Lightroom or VSCO.
A funny example of creating a consistent looking feed is Kim Kardashian–she recently spilled the tea on rumors that she photoshopped Khloe’s daughter True into photos of the family at Disney World. At the time, Kim’s instagram feed was made up of blues and pinks, and she wanted to keep that aesthetic by posting a picture of her daughter with Kylie’s daughter Stormi. Unfortunately for Kim, Kylie didn’t want the picture posted, so instead Kim photoshopped True’s face on top of Stormi’s, purely to post the photo and keep in step with her feed’s aesthetic. We applaud the level of dedication! (She was found out when Khloe posted “True’s first time at Disney World” a few months later, and people were like “wait, what?!”).
! TIP to get the best lighting: take your photos outside in the shade, or near a window. Direct sunlight isn’t ideal, but natural lighting is. So just stay to a naturally well-lit area and you’ll be fine. Harsh indoor lighting can be unpredictable and cast an orange glow to your photos, or create unwanted shadows.
You can also use a bounce (or a white piece of paper) to help fill in any dark shadows that you’d like to get rid of. Just place the white piece of paper on the opposite side of the light source (and out of the camera shot), and adjust the angle until you like the shadows.
2: Consider If You Want to Follow an Instagram Template
Sometimes you’ll see feeds that include a white border around the photos, or half of the picture is in one square, the other half is in another square. Queen Bey tends to post three carousels of photos in the same outfit, keeping her feed pretty consistent most of the time. There are a lot of pre-made templates out there, or you can develop your own. Try using Canva or Photoshop for a completely unique look. However, don’t feel like you need a template, as plenty of successful Instagram accounts don’t follow a theme, but they’ll use apps like Planoly and Tailwind to view the pictures they plan to post in their feed before actually posting it. Just make sure it follows a consistent look in one way or another.
3: Edit Your Photos
Probably the most important and easiest ways to get a consistent feed is to edit your photos in a similar way. Whether you want to bring out the orange-tones in your photos, create a bright white look, or give each picture a rose pink tone – you can do all of that in the editing phase. Know that some photos work better for editing than others, but you’ll quickly find that out as you begin to play with the settings. You can edit your photos for free in Adobe Lightroom, from your phone or your desktop. You can also use Photoshop, A Color Story, Afterlight, VSCO and many, many more. I like to use Lightroom because you can create (or purchase) presets that make editing super quick. You choose what preset you want to use on that photo, then make any tweaks that you need to and – voila! Your pictures all have a consistent look to them and they’re ready to upload to Instagram.
Are you posting original content with a high probability of getting shared? There’s no harm in adding your handle to your image like a watermark or along an edge of the photo. That way, you retain your ownership of the picture if it gets shared by 10 different accounts. Further down the line, when the photo credit is missing (it’s bound to happen), your handle will still be on the image so people will know to look at your account for other great content.
5: Schedule Posts Ahead of Time
One of the daunting things about social media is remembering to actually *post* the beautiful pictures you have! While plenty of studies have been done saying that the quality of the post is much more important than the quantity of posts, you still want to create a cadence that is easy for you to follow. But, life happens! Maybe you made the perfect post for National Lemonade Day, then the day-of you were asked to visit a prospective new client and you just forgot to post. Luckily, there are so many different apps you can use to plan your feed, and schedule your posts to auto-post on your behalf! Below are a few of the many scheduling apps out there:
Planoly has a great interface over most of the others when it comes to viewing your grid design, but Tailwind is great because as you’re writing your description and typing in relevant hashtags, they will recommend new hashtags to you. The hashtags are color-coded so you can see what the density of that particular hashtag is. It’s best to get a mix of hashtags with a large/competitive audience as well as niche-specific (allowing you to be found easier). Another great feature of Tailwind is that you can tag people in the photos ahead of time, saving you time later (because is it just me, or is it super time-consuming to tag people from your phone?). Finally, I like Tailwind because it studies your account’s analytics to make sure you’re posting at the optimal time. You want to post when most of your followers are scrolling their Instagram, increasing your engagement. A lot of the platforms offer free trials, so we recommend trying them out to see what you like the most!
There are plenty of ways to get your content in front of users who don’t follow you. Using hashtags is important, and using the *right* hashtags will get you in front of your ideal audience. You can use up to 30 unique hashtags per post, and the head of Instagram says using specific keywords in your hashtag strategy–and keeping them in your caption–will help your post appear in searches for those keyword terms. Our final note on hashtags: people have the opportunity to “follow” hashtags. If you find someone in your target audience, it’s worth checking what hashtags they follow and incorporating those into your hashtag strategy so you can get in front of more similar users.
In addition to hashtags, tagging accounts that are likely to repost your content is a great way to get seen. Say they like your content enough to share it, then your post is now getting shown to an entirely new audience! Also, even if they don’t share your photo, it will show up on their page in the tagged photo section, still potentially being seen by a new audience. Lastly, always use the geotags. When you post your photo, you can choose the location in which the photo was taken. This is one of the easiest ways to gain engagement. Just make sure the location is relevant to the photo. For example, if you’re posting a picture from your trip to Santorini, but you live in Ohio… tag Santorini, not Ohio. The people looking at the Santorini geotag are interested in photos taken in Santorini. Maybe the people in Ohio would like it too, but that’s not exactly what they’re looking for.
7: Don’t Post and Ghost
“Just because you build it, does not mean they will come.” – me.
This goes for everything. A beautiful website could have zero monthly views if nobody knows it exists. Same goes for your Instagram account. Instagram is always changing their algorithm, and they’re constantly reducing the audience of Business Accounts to make room in people’s feeds for those they interact with the most (or pay-to-play). A burst of activity on your photo right when you post it is going to make Instagram realize that this is content that people are really interested in, and your photo is more likely to show up on the coveted “Top Posts” for a hashtag – and if you’re really lucky, you may show up on the Instagram Explore page, giving you hundreds (or thousands) of new eyeballs on your content. I understand how little sense this makes… in order to get seen by more people, you have to have a high engagement rate immediately when posting, but how do you get high engagement when Instagram doesn’t put your post in front of your users? It’s like when a job posting is looking for young new talent with 20 years of experience. What Do You Want From Me?
When you post, make sure you spend 10-15 minutes liking and commenting on others. I recommend clicking on one of the hashtags you used, going to the “Recent Posts” section, and commenting on a ton of the photos. I’ve heard every number from 50 comments to 90 comments. I’ll let you figure out what is the best use of your time. I also recommend liking the last 3 posts on a user’s account. You’re more likely to get a user to click on your profile if you like multiple photos rather than only liking one. It’s time consuming, but the return on likes is much greater. If this sounds too daunting to you, you can hire us to do this 😉
8: Share to Your Instagram Stories
Although Instagram’s algorithm can be frustrating and confusing, one thing we know for sure is that Instagram favors those who use all of the tools they’ve created. Using stories will help you show up more on feeds that view your story (especially if you post your face! Instagram loves people over objects). You can tag locations, hashtags and people in your story, broadening the audience even more. Using boomerang, GIFs, music, polls and the face filters will make Instagram favor your account, because you’re actively using the tools they are providing. When you post to your feed, you can click the share button and share your feed post to your story. Use a cute GIF that says “tap here”, include a location and a hashtag – and you’re giving new users an easy way to view your latest post.
Reels reels reels! We cannot scream it enough–Instagram loves reels and video content. We have seen this proven time and time again when viewing post insights. A static in-feed post might get 750 impressions, and a video version of the same post will see thousands of impressions. Find trending audio that matches the vibe of your feed and the post itself, and test different reel ideas yourself!
10: Track Your Analytics
Having a business account is really great when it comes to analytics. I highly recommend tracking your post engagement rate to gauge your growth and see what users are interested in. You can find total engagement numbers, how many followers a post attracted, the number of impressions, etc all in the Instagram app. However, if you’re a blogger looking to work with companies, or a company looking to track your engagement rate, you can figure that out with the following formula.
Find your Instagram Engagement Rate by taking the total number of comments and likes on your post, then dividing that number by your total number of followers. A baseline benchmark for average engagement rates on Instagram is around 0.83%. (source)
If you post a photo showcasing a brand or a hotel, knowing your engagement rate of that post can help you potentially get paid for a similar post in the future. Or you can take that engagement rate to another brand you’d like to work with to prove that your audience is interested in that particular type of content.
If you’re looking for some help to get you started on your cohesive Instagram feed, let us know! We can create custom Instagram templates for you to use in your feed and in your stories. We can also build a custom social media strategy to build your social media brand presence and get you in front of your target audience! Let’s get your Instagram brand consistent, and a higher follower count!
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