Hey folks! I recently had a chat with a fellow creative about how to grow her Instagram following. I wouldn't say that I'm an expert, but it's true that I went from zero to 2000+ followers within 2 years. That's called organic growth. No gimmicks, no buying followers from Instagram bot feeds - I didn't even do that mean trick where you follow 100 people in an hour (just so they'll follow you back) and then unfollow them the next week when they're not suspecting it. BTW that happens to me way too often!! Follow with intention, people!!)
...But to get back on track, I grew my following just from interacting and encouraging people in that beautiful, colorful, picturesque community called IG.
I owe a lot of my connections and client base to Instagram. I started out somewhat reserved about my work, but when I started a feed and saw the positive feedback, it motivated me to make more work for a growing following.
Here are my tips for getting yourself out there with your work! Whether you're a visual artist, photographer, writer, or musician, you'll find the following ideas some great tools to add to your arsenal.
1. Take Beautiful Photos
This is easier said than done! Especially if you produce something other than visual art to post, it can be tough to know what a "beautiful photo" is. It's subjective. Sometimes what was once thought of as hideous, is suddenly trending. Washed out, creepy polaroid snapshots? Now they're cool.
So here's my two cents - go see what photos are popular now and recreate them. Don't copy, necessarily, but study what makes these photos popular and beautiful. (Hint: it's probably the lighting)
LIGHTING LIGHTING LIGHTING
Get near a window or get outside. Natural lighting is the best, as anything from a lightbulb will usually cast a yellow sickness on everything. Take a look at some behind the scenes photoshoots that artists take with their products for their Etsy shops. When you take a step back, you'll find it's not all that glamorous, but incredibly insightful! These artists are usually under a window, with a white backdrop, using their iphone or DSLR camera, and then utilizing some photo editing skills.
When I snap a shot, I play with *Brightness *Contrast *Highlight *Shadow (less dark) *Structure and *Sharpen. I NEVER use a filter. Good, clean light is enough for me!
Want to add props to your photo? Whatever your aesthetic, come up with a "thing" that people can think of as your trademark. Some people use flowers, and these days Peonies are specially well-liked. Others prefer cactuses. I've seen some incredibly successful Instagrammers use antique objects, like old compasses, cameras, and other tools.
I don't use props in my feed, simply because most of the photos I post are of my art. I do, however, try and vary the angle, the zoom, and the lighting, and I try to keep my trademarks consistent. What are my trademarks? Skulls + bones, some kind of greenery, hands, hearts, and quilts. If I add a picture of myself, it's seldom, and usually doing an activity relevant to the lifestyle I keep and want to show to Instagram, such as traveling, hiking, attending art shows and art museums, etc.
(Quick tip: If you're taking pictures of your art, consider having the edges of the painting in the frame...it looks more professional and concise.)
2. Consider the Overall Effect
I touched on this in the previous point - consider varying your zoom, angle, and type of photo. I post a video once every few posts. This will create a pleasing 9x9 square feed when someone first arrives to your page.
Color and lighting is big here! You'll want to alternate your photos by posting one light and one dark, so that you have something like a checkerboard. Have all light photos? Great! I'm going to discourage you from posting all dark photos...unless you have a macabre feed that warrants it.
What colors are consistent / do you want to be consistent throughout your feed? I'll keep using my own as an example: on my page, you'll find greens, reds, and yellows. You might even see a pattern...one week it will be pieces with mostly red, and then shift into green...I like to step back and look at the feed in the 9x9 squares to make sure it's all flowing together as seamlessly as possible.
3. Use Hashtags (Correctly)
It's easy to go hashtag-crazy and write 50+ descriptions...but to avoid the spam-bots and looking too desperate, maybe stick with 10-15? For some people, that's too many to begin with. But here's the way it works: a hashtag puts your pictures on the map of the search page. This way, people with like-accounts can find you. I've seen several accounts who don't use hashtags at all. Whether they grew their account without them (I highly doubt it) or have a following big enough that they don't need hashtagging in order to be found - bully for them! I'm not there yet. Hashtags are my security blanket, and let me rest easy, knowing there are new eyes looking at my work.
In addition to the correct amount, you'll need to decide what your hashtag should be. The common ones like #instadaily #like #love and #photooftheday have so many hits that you're likely to get lost in the search sea. Maybe get clever and hashtag your photo succinctly. Photo of your cool new artwork? #artwork #dailyart #watercolorartist #artstagram are a few reliable art hashtags.
This is one that takes extra effort, but can be incredibly rewarding. You're looking for new followers, right? You can find like accounts in the search bar (especially ones with a low following, so that they're bound to notice you), like 4-5 photos and comment on 1-2. This way, on that instagrammer's notifications, they'll get a chunk of YOU, and be more intrigued to check out your page, as well as reply to your comments. If you're shooting for a more popular Insta user, wait until their recent post has sat a while (so your comments don't get lost in their notifications) and like and comment enough to be noticed. Be careful not to go overboard and seem too stalker-ish.
It's only sneaky and manipulative if you actually have no interest in what they're doing. People appreciate sincerity and encouragement, and likes can go a long way! After liking about 20 accounts in one session, I can count on at least 2-3 new followers. Give it a try!
5. Post consistently (and not too often)
There are different schools of thought for posting. Some people wait a week in between, and the suspense is what keeps their followers thirsting for more. Other people (such as myself) prefer to keep the posting habit daily, so as not to forget one day and then let too much time elapse before posting again. (I'm extremely forgetful and will fall out of habits quickly.) Here, consistency is key. Whether you post weekly or daily, shoot for the same day/time.
I would recommend avoiding posting more than once a day...that can be overwhelming and you'll quickly see your faithful followers getting aggravated. You don't want those numbers to drop! And besides, that's what Instagram Stories are for now! You can create extra little videos and photo loops for people to see quickly, but that won't clog up their feed. It's there at the top of the page, to watch-at-your-leisure, no pressure!
START A TREND
It's also a great idea to start a kind of "special feature." For me, every Monday, I use my daily post to showcase an up-and-coming artist, or someone else that inspires me - #MondayInspo. Everybody loves it and appreciates finding new artists to follow. It's a great way to spread the Instagram cheer around. With my following getting their eyeballs on this other artist, hopefully they'll get some more people added to their numbers. It would be awesome and karma-y if they returned the favor, too! Although, that's rarely the case, so just know that this is a good deed without expecting anything in return.
6. Know When to Post
The best way to figure this out is to look at the "Insights" within your Instagram app. You'll see how many impressions you made that week as well as which posts are the most popular. By scrolling down, you'll come to a bar graph that details when your followers are more likely to check their Instagram feed, thus coming across your post, and hopefully liking it. As long as a page is in my feed, I'm a serial liker, and scroll-tap-tap, scroll-tap-tap. If I follow you, it means I'm invested.
7. Be positive!
All of these tactics can work for other social media - like Tumblr and Facebook, and maybe even Youtube? But Instagram is the one that I stuck with. I recommend finding a social media that suits you and your work, and has the client potential to support you, and focus on that. Right now, I'm split between Instagram, Youtube , and Facebook, 55 - 30 - 15 (those are percentages.) Obviously, Instagram is the site that is directly connected from clients (current or potential) to my website. Youtube is my side hustle, where I post videos about art and travel, and is more for rounding out my work and giving it a face (mine!) Facebook is the kid who was popular in high school, but is 35 and still works in fast food. It does a decent job, but these days organic is the trend. Weird analogy? Sorry. Basically, Facebook it out, but I'm still hanging onto the connections there.
PUTTING IT INTO ACTION
I recently detailed this (condensed) list to my sister (whose fantastic poetry and lifestyle you can find HERE). A.C. reported that after implementing #4 on my list -
SHE GOT 5 NEW FOLLOWERS IN A 1/2 HOUR.
She's also putting #2 into effect, choosing an potent look and feel for her page. I think it's wonderful to see her following growing! She has such tremendous work, I think everyone should know her spicy, witty micro-poetry! Here's an especially perky one:
In the end - don't be too overwhelmed or irritated when you're using Instagram. It's supposed to be a fun place to share and appreciate people's work and lives. I love that that it feels like a happy, encouraging community. Let me know if you have any tips that have worked for you, or if you have questions about implementing any of the tips I've listed. Happy Gramming!