The important word here is grow. Plants can only grow with attention: some water, sunlight and kindness. If you leave them in the dark and expect a beautiful bloom overnight, you’ll be sorely disappointed come morning. The same goes for your Instagram. I only started Instagramming with a view to creating a following in February this year - although I’ve been personally using the platform since its release in 2010 - but already I’ve learned so much about how to build an audience.
I don’t have a huge amount of followers (currently standing at 4K) but I’ve taken advice and cues from other large Instagrammers and I can already see what works and what doesn’t. So, without further ado, here’s part one of two in my little guide to growing your Instagram. Today we’re covering content and consistency.
Instagram is a visual platform, and when people click on your profile, they will instantly judge whether or not they want to follow you based on the first 6 pictures on your feed. This means two things are important: the individual photographs, and the way that your photos all come together to create one bigger impression.
In terms of individual pictures, I find the best performing pictures are the ones that have a strong composition. Think about using symmetry, or even the rule of thirds. One thing I find works well is the use of negative space: there are so many squares pushed together in your feed, if some of your photographs allow for a little negative space (where the subject of your photograph doesn’t take over the whole picture, or maybe just covers one side of the frame) your feed has more room to breathe.
Beautiful pictures are good enough to get people interested, but if you can master the way they all come together on the screen, that’s going to increase the chances of them clicking "follow". A good way of getting consistency is to utilise only one or two filters, and keep a similar run of colours in your photographs. For my journal account, I keep everything very pale and light, and all I do is fiddle a little bit with the exposure settings in Lightroom. For my Finding INKA Instagram (on the side bar to your right), I use filters from the VSCO app - A1 or A6, mostly. Currently I’m enjoying quite a greeny, autumnal colour palette there.
It’s all very well and good to have beautiful photographs, but a major part of Instagram is the timing of it all. Firstly, if you want to build a following, you have to be reliable and post regularly. For you, this might mean twice daily, or weekly. For me, this means once a day, and I’ve found that to be the most effective gameplan when you're starting to grow a following. The Instagram algorithm means that if your followers aren’t regularly engaging with your content, then your content is going to sit further down in their feed. If you have something to offer every day that people can like and comment on, then it gives you a better chance of being seen regularly.
Time of day is also important, and I've found that it can be a bit of trial and error. There are many thoughts on which time is perfect to post, but you have to consider what kind of audience you have and where they are based. My journal account has quite a young audience that’s mostly scattered between the UK, US and Singapore. This means that I have to find a time that most of these groups are online. I’ve done a bit of trial and error, I used to post first thing in the morning, then mid-afternoon, and have since stuck with 9pm at night for a while now. Experiment with posting at different times and see what sticks, then you will see what works for you and your audience.
The key to all of Instagram is, obviously, have fun with it. Stay tuned for my Part II which will feature information about hashtags and engagement, coming next week.