Rants and Whimsy

How I got 1000 followers on Instagram

November 10, 2015

The-Mayfairy-Instagram-1

First off, I realise that this title is rather pathetic. There are people with hundreds of thousands of followers, millions even. Heck, most of my blogging friends have more than a thousand. Thing is, I really struggled with Instagram for the longest time. I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t figure out how to get my head around it.

For ages I had about 30 followers. I would only log in once every three months if I could be bothered, post a bad, random photo, get confused then pop out again. At some point (a year ago, maybe?) I decided to make more of an effort. I made sure I was following all my blogging friends to begin with (hopefully I have achieved that objective, or I’ll be rather shamefaced).

I also started posting better photos, ones taken on my DSLR, not my iPhone potato camera. However, as my camera is very old and doesn’t have Wi-Fi, this meant taking photos, putting them onto my computer, retouching if need be, putting them into Dropbox, downloading them onto my phone and then remembering to log into Instagram every now and then to post a photo. I work full time and it really ground my gears that I couldn’t schedule in posts like you can with Facebook and Twitter. After this I had about 200 followers and it was slowly growing. But I just didn’t feel that I had the time for Instagram.

Finally, I read this post by Jasmin Charlotte and decided to make Instagram my pet project and sort my shit out.ย  This was in August 2015. If I was smart I would have noted the date and my follower count, but I’m not so it was late August with vaguely 200 followers, now it’s early November with vaguely 1000 followers. Roughly 11 weeks. How did I do it? Well:

1. Get your head around hashtags

I hate typing on my phone, and I found it really hard to think of good hashtags when I posted a photo. This in turn made it really hard for prospective new followers to find and follow my feed. JC recommended #TagsForLikes app, and I too think this is a great place to start. You tell the app the “theme” of your photo (food, fashion, architecture) and it gives you a list of great hashtags to use. This is then copied to your phone so you can paste it as the Instagram photo caption. You can edit the list of hashtags if not all of them are applicable.
Remember: Instagram now only lets you use 30 hashtags. That may seem a lot if you’re like me and didn’t hashtag much in the first place, but you’ve got space for 30 so try and use them. It means more people will see your shit.
Remember remember: Instagram now orders their search results from the time you posted the image, not from the time you added the hashtag. So there’s no point in adding amazing hashtags to photos you posted six weeks ago. Add all of your hashtags as soon as you post your photo.

2. Choose your Instagram spirit animals

You need role models. People you look up to on Instagram that you can use as a kind of virtual mentor, stalking their account and trying to second guess their Instagram strategy. You can change and update these as often as you need to, once you feel you’ve sucked the life force out of an account, or if you find someone new and shiny.

I recommend not choosing a celebrity or a person with a million followers, as they don’t have to work for the likes. You want someone successful, with a little bit of hustle left in their game. Three is a good number. I chose:

thecutlerychronicles annixontong aladyinlondon

I’ve met all these people in real life, so I know they’re not unicorns. They’re just magic at Instagram.

Now you need to really follow these people. Don’t just click the green button and casually add a like every now and then. Look at how often they post. Look at what hashtags they use. Look at what kind of accounts they follow. Look at the quality of their photographs, how they caption them. Don’t copy them so much that your feed begins to look like a clone of theirs, but work out what actions they take that are key to their success that you can start working into your everyday strategy.

3. Schedule your shit

This might not be for everyone, but I work full time. If I was going to live update everyone on my life you’d have a lot of photos of my chipped nail polish typing on a grubby keyboard. That’s not a real like-grabber. I was always reading stories in the news about people who create these immaculate lives on Instagram and it’s all a big facade that blocks out the mundane reality of a real, every day life. I realised with glee that I could be one of those people!

I use Hootsuite to schedule my Instagram posts, but it’s not as simple as scheduling Twitter. Basically, you choose the time, the photo and the caption (including hashtags) you schedule it and Hootsuite sends a reminder to your phone when the time comes to post. You physically have to push the buttons in Instagram to post it, but it’s not as much hassle as the photo is already chosen (no need to load it onto your phone) and you just paste in your caption and hashtags with the click of a button. If your scheduled post alerts you and you’re in a work meeting, it’s ok. The alert isn’t going anywhere, so you can just go back into Hootsuiteย  later on when you’re free and post then.

I decided to post three times a day. Once in the morning, once in the middle of the day and once in the evening. I try and experiment with times, but I mainly choose by when I’m going to have access to Wi-Fi. No point in blowing your month’s allocation of 3G with a week’s Instagramming, or planning a post that coincides with the hour you’re underground on the tube.

One downside of Hootsuite is that you can only post square photos and I’ve never been able to choose my own crop. So I now have a folder on my laptop with lots of photos I intend to share on Instagram that I’ve cropped to square exactly how I want them.

There’s also a Word doc in that folder with lists of hashtags to use, all in groups of around thirty so I can copy and paste direct to Hootsuite. I never quite list thirty because I need space to include a couple of hashtags that are more specific to the image being posted. But they are in groups arranged by the kinds of photos I usually post. There are food hashtags, including a group specifically for cocktails, or specifically for dessert. There are travel hashtags, London hashtags, street art hashtags, architecture hashtags, art hashtags.

If I want to post a photo that doesn’t really fit with any of the hashtag groups I’ve already created I can always refer back to #TagsForLikes for a starting idea, or see what hashtags other people are using by doing a search on Instagram. Keep updating your hashtag list, keep growing it, keep joining in on new tags in order to share your work with more people.

Buffer and Latergram offer a similar service to Hootsuite, but I’ve never used them. Maybe they’re a better fit for you, it’s worth a try.

The-Mayfairy-Instagram-2

4. Get shared by famous people

This advice seemed very silly when I first heard it. A lot of people with big accounts seemed to say they received lots of new follows when some huge account shared one of their pics. This made it all seem like luck, not a strategy that’s easy to follow. But there are ways to get noticed! Tag brands and companies that appear in your photos. Clothing, food, beauty products, stores, make sure they see your beautiful shots!

Also, there are many huge accounts dedicated to sharing their followers best photos. Use their hashtags and tag those accounts in the photos to make sure they see your pics and consider them for sharing. Some of these accounts:

Food: @top_london_restaurants, @food52, @infatuation, @igmeals
Travel: @bbc_travel, @guardiantravelsnaps, @traveldudes, @passionpassport
Art: @arts_help, @top.draw, @worldofartists, @justartspiration
London: @prettycitylondon, @timeoutlondon, @london, @londonforyou
There are plenty more, but this post is long enough!

5. Be nice, be pretty

Keep learning. Learn about what people like. It’s not necessarily what you like. This is my most liked photo on Instagram. It took me ages to put it on because I don’t really like it, the focus is a bit off. But people go mental for oozing, melting chocolate. You’ve also got to think a little bit about the order you post in, and how your feed looks when viewed as a grid. Is it colourful enough? Does it look messy? Are there a few bad pics that are letting you down? This is all very subjective, but make sure you’re happy with it.

Lastly, make sure you’re active with other people. Reply to comments. Comment on other people’s photos. Like, like, like, because love is free. It’s not all just about you and your feed. You’ll enjoy Instagram much more if you really do like the stuff you click the heart on, and your genuine love will shine like a beacon in the night.

 

That’s it. I don’t now claim to be an Instagram expert. I’m clearly not and I still learn something different every day. Sometimes I follow the wrong person and a mob of spammers descends upon me. Sometimes I use the wrong hashtag. It happens. I’m always open to new tips and tricks if you have them! Hopefully this helps the people who are struggling trying to balance it all and just not getting it, like I was.

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  • Such helpful tips, Frankie – love the idea of having a list of hashtags to use regularly. I didn’t realise that you have to put them on straight away but noticed the difference when I forgot to do so on a photo recently and it got half the likes that the others got, even after I added them a few days later

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    • You are also one of my flock of Instagram spirit animals x

  • adales8

    All wonderful tips! x

  • I was the same as you my Instagram was really languishing and I decided to up my game. My tips are very similar to yours, the number one being content. Just post damn good photos and at try and do around three a day. My Insta shot up since I started working harder on it too. I do engage with other accounts, liking and commenting but my engagement hasn’t increased that much. Any tips for that?
    Lots of love,
    Angie

    SilverSpoon London

    • Beautiful photos are everything. I’ve taken that as a given here, but posting too many “average” photos can mess up everything. I find that some photos provoke more engagement than others, like the melting chocolate (again)! Also, funny captions help but I just don’t have time to be clever ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • This is so useful, thanks Frankie! I completely agree with you and Angie on the fact that content is king! I suppose it’s the same as your blog in a way – you can engage with people and post as much as you like but if your content is not spot on, people aren’t going to continue to follow you. I am still a bit of an insta-novice but I’ve noticed that adding really engaging captions and asking a question in my description helps to draw people in and often gains me more likes and follows.

    Polly xx
    Follow Your Sunshine

    • Yes! Captions really do help. I suck at captions, mainly because I feel I don’t have time to sit and think of something clever for every photo. It’s something I want to work on, though!

      • Polly

        I think some of your sarcastic humour would go down a treat! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  • I’ve literally never thought of instagram like this, but it sounds pretty good and makes a lot of sense! I usually just post photos as and when I see them, rather than using photos I’ve taken before or planning them at all. Getting your head around hashtags is also something i need to learn, there are many a joke between my friends about excessive use of them! Alice xx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

    • It’s the only way I’ve found that works for me. I’m much more at home with a DSLR camera and a desktop computer than doing everything on the spur of the moment on my phone!

  • Sam

    Some really great tips Frankie! I didn’t realise that there was a site for # – I can never think of any to use, so this will be helpful!

    Sadly, I am being inundated with spam accounts at the moment – so frustrating and even more so that Instagram don’t seem to be doing a damn thing about it! Gah!

    • YES! This is happening to SO MANY BLOGGERS right now. It’s ridiculous. Once Instagram do get rid of them I’m sure my following will drop to 998 just to spite me and make me have to change this blog title XD haha

  • Ten

    This was a very good read girl!!! Definitely gonna be using these tips! Thanks so much!!

  • What a great post! Taking notes over here ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I am somewhat disappointed I am not a unicorn in real life. Are you completely sure. Did you check? I mean, *physically*..

    • I mean, I didn’t get clinical. If you have something you’d like to share then themayfairy.com is as good a place as any ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • aladyinlondon

    Great post (and not just because you mentioned me)! I agree with everything you said, and it’s great that you’ve grown your account so much so quickly. I’m really flattered that you chose me to highlight, too!

    • Your account is amazing! Everyone should follow you (though it seems like most people already do) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Interesting post and I am glad to hear that you are doing so well with your instagram account!

    Rae of Love from Berlin
    Bloglovin’ // instagram

    • Thanks! I’m still learning but I seem to have made a little progress ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thank you so much for this post – it’s really helpful! It’s the most honest and easy to read post on this subject, so many others throw in jargon I can’t understand, or just have naff suggestions like add people then they will add you – then you can delete them. I’m not an ass, I don’t want to do that. So this post has been brilliant.

    • Hahaha, don’t they realise that if you do that people tend to unfollow you back?! Life is easier if we all help each other out with Instagram tips ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Instagram goddess.
    Thanks for the tips.
    Great read. Mx

    • Haha, thanks Michelle! I’m getting there!

  • Summer Daisy

    Love your ideas and the way you put them forward โ™ฅโ™ฅ

    summerdaisy.net

  • Thank you — just considering to dip my big toe in the waters. Might make the leap. XO

  • Awesome tips! I need to get better at taking photos, that’s my biggest problem, they’re ok but not very good! Think in the new year I may take myself on some sort of course.

    • I like your photos! It’s always good to keep improving, though. I swear though, a few decent hashtags work wonders!

  • What a harry-hard-out! Ok, I’m just totally jealous and impressed… I’ve found it really hard to grow my instagram, something to do with the inconsistent posting perhaps. Oh and I could totally work on my pics too!

    • I was so terrible at it that I just got annoyed and decided to STALK EVERYONE until I could figure out how it all worked. Being able to spend an hour scheduling stuff in on a Sunday is a life saver

  • Great tips and advice. As someone who used Instagram when it first launched and actively grew a following in 2010 it has lost its appeal for me just when it has become popular. I need to maybe look again and use Lucy x

    • Oh Lucy, you’re such a hipster ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Haha! Please do come back and join us x

  • #hashtag #hashtag #hashtag
    And I seriously love @annixontong’s IG account.

    Honey x The Girl Next Shore

    • It is AMAZING isn’t it? He’s such a nice guy as well x

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