How I grew my Instagram following by 80% in six months

12 April

Yep, you read that right. Back in late October 2016, I had just under 300 Instagram followers. I now have just under 1,500. Not a particularly large amount, but quite a big increase compared to how it was, especially considering I've had Instagram since 2011. Lol.

It all started when I posted a photo in October and it got an insane amount of likes in a very short time. Like, 100+ in about half an hour. Which, considering I usually got about 50 likes maximum, was crazy to me. Following this, I started to take an interest in growing my Instagram and using it as more than a place to stockpile photos of my poorly lit dinners.

So, I thought I'd share what worked for me.

I started using hashtags properly

I used to use hashtags sporadically and not use them strategically at all. I also found it a liiiittle bit cringe to use loads of hashtags, but I've learned that it's just a self conscious thing and even people with massive followings use them. I think you can use up to 30 hashtags per post, but I tend to use between 12 and 18. No particular reason why, I just usually run out of ideas at that number and they have to divide by three because I'm a crank.

Anyway, I did a bit of research on what kind of hashtags I should be using for my posts. So if I was posting a photo of my outfit, I might use hashtags like #ootd, #wiwt and #mystyle. Some brands also have their own hashtag, which you might want to use if you're posting a photo of one of their products. I recently used the Joanie Clothing #JoanieGal tag on a photo of my outfit and they picked me as their Joanie Gal of the month and sent me £50 credit to spend on their website!
I don't use any irrelevant or inappropriate hashtags on my posts, because I find it quite annoying if I search for #streetstyle and a load of pictures of cars and babies show up.

Sinead of Love Style Mindfulness wrote an excellent post on which hashtags to use, which you can read here.

I followed a routine

I usually post around 5pm, every day. The time isn't too important, I just figured that since I usually have a little scroll through Insta on my evening commute, other people might too.

I tend to take and edit lots of photos and add them to my drafts on Instagram, so I always have something to post.

The routine works because it means that I post on a regular basis, which I've been told is quite useful for engagement. However, it's not as useful as the next thing I started doing...

I only posted high quality photos

Quality over quantity, every single time. It's much, much better for your growth to post great photos less frequently than to post rubbish photos regularly. Unless you're Harry Styles, who could post a picture of a pile of dirty dishes and get a million likes.

I've noticed a huge increase in likes and followers since I stopped posting random, grainy photos of me and my mates on nights out. Sorry, guys. Maybe we should go to a bar with better lighting next time.

I also started editing my photos properly instead of just faffing about with the brightness/exposure and sticking a filter on it. I use the ColorStory app, which makes otherwise meh photos look super bright and professional. It's easy to use once you get the hang of it, and although you can pay for extra filters and settings, I haven't felt the need to do that yet. My most used filters are Pop, Toasty and Palm Springs.

I don't use VSCOcam as I never quite "got" it. But if you're interested, blogging queen and Insta-whiz Hannah Gale wrote a very useful post on how she edits her photos using it here.

I followed and researched accounts which I aspired to be like

I took the time to figure out why I love my favourite users, and which ones posted either similar content to me, or posted the kind of content I wanted to start sharing.

For example, if you want to start posting candid-style outfit shots, you might want to follow people like Olivia Purvis and Megan Ellaby. If you're all about the gorgeous flatlays, take a look at Kate La Vie and Rebecca of From Roses. I also use the Save feature to erm, save photos I like for a bit of inspiration.

It's helpful to take note of what your Insta crushes share photos of, how they lay out their posts, if they have a theme and what kind of hashtags they use. Don't outright copy them though, just take a pinch of inspiration.

I also browse the hashtags I use on a regular basis and follow users who post similar things to me for a bit of inspiration on my feed.

One thing I've been advised to do in the past is find a similar account to yours and follow everyone who liked their last photo, as you are almost guaranteed that some of them will follow you back. However, I'd advise against this, as you'll end up with a feed filled with photos you aren't really interested in.

And for the love of God, don't play the follow/unfollow game or use bots unless you have no shame (in which case, power to you)! It will be very obvious and people will notice.

I made a conscious effort to interact with others

I'm guilty of absent mindedly scrolling away without liking or commenting on the photos I like. Since late last year, I've made more of an effort to tell people when I dig their post. Not only is this a nice way to spread a bit of appreciation, it makes the poster and whoever views their comments aware of you.

I do find it more difficult to comment now that spammy comments are on the rise, though. I don't want to write "I love your dress!" for fear of being accused of being a bot. But sometimes I really do love the dress!

I didn't take it too seriously

Okay, that's a complete and utter lie. I took it extremely seriously and put a lot of pressure on myself up until around Christmas, when I cracked and abandoned Instagram for a bit. But now I take it a lot less seriously. It's supposed to be fun!

I also really, really do not recommend getting an app which tells you who's unfollowed you if you're a sensitive little flower like me, it's guaranteed to ruin your day whenever you check it. Also, when you unfollow an account, is it because you hate the person? Nope, probably not. So don't take being unfollowed personally.

And I think that's pretty much it. Phew! I hope that this post was useful, if you have any questions at all please do comment or feel free to tweet me.

Oh and by the way, here's a link to my Instagram, if you fancy following me...

Do you have any tips for growing your Instagram following? And the all important question, do you have a theme?

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