The Blogger’s Guide to Instagram.

I love Instagram, and we’ve been over this about a million times here already. But basically, Instagram is just the best. But Instagram was also a big mystery to me for a long time. How do bloggers rack up thousands on thousands of followers? How do they get that many likes so quickly? How can I do that?

One of my many #BloggerProblems is the amount of time I waste analyzing profiles of amazing semi-instafamous bloggers. I have been trying to implement some tactics I’ve seen them do for the past few weeks – and I’ve had results! Despite a large fallout from unfollowing a good sum of users, my following has remained largely the same and I’ve seen a massive increase in engagement. And you all know that I just love you a lot, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you!

My goals:

  • Gain followers who want to be there and that will engage with my content.
  • Boost engagement to at least 15% (and ultimately 20%!)
  • Curate a feed that I’m proud of!

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How we’re not going to do it.

There are a ton of ‘get followers fast’ methods floating around, and for the most part they are counterproductive and ineffective. We are trying to find followers that are genuine and interested in our content. Not people who are going to follow, stick around for a day (never liking a single thing) and then unfollow. If you don’t care about engagement (and if you don’t, that’s OK! There is no right or wrong goal here!) then maybe this section won’t be relevant to you. But if you’re looking to work with brands and build the most authentic following possible these are a few things to consider.

Loop giveaways are actually the plague.

Here we have the first unpopular opinion & piece of hypocrisy of the night: I hate loop giveaways.

“But Morgan – you’ve done loop giveaways!”

I know, I know. And I deeply regret it! I am now very anti-loop giveaway for a number of reasons:

  • The new followers don’t engage. Ok, maybe one or two or even twenty do. But that’s not enough. Once you get over the 1,000 follower benchmark engagement counts for a million times more than followers do. I’ve seen girls with 2,500 followers struggle to get even 50 likes on a picture. My top secret informant (aka my favorite campaign manager ever) told me that they look for a 20% engagement on Instagram profiles and any user under 10% is going to be disregarded. Now this probably isn’t true of every network – but it is something to keep in mind. You are much better off with 100 followers giving you 100 likes than 1000 followers giving you 20.
  • They (usually) aren’t your target audience. Unless you’re joining forces with a very select group of bloggers, you’re going to get followers that don’t care about you. I’ve entered loop giveaways where I’m going from a mommy blogger to a fashion boutique to a gluten free food blogger to a college blogger. College bloggers and mommy bloggers don’t have the same audience and aren’g going to benefit from the other’s followers.
  • The fallout is the worst. Sure, you can easily gain 1800 followers doing a loop giveaway, but 600 of them are going to unfollow when they don’t win. Then over the course of the next month whenever you post a picture they are going to realize that they aren’t your audience and you are going to keep losing followers. And it’s not their fault and you can’t be mad – because when you sign up for a loop giveaway you are essentially signing yourself up to watch your number plummet for months to come.
  • The exception: Remember when I mention that benchmark of 1000 followers? If you aren’t there yet I’m not entirely against participating in a loop. There is a psychological phenomenon that makes people more likely to follow somebody that already has a large following. So even if your account is great people might not follow you when they see a low number of followers. The last loop I did got me over that hump, and then I swore them off.

Follow threads.

If you are a blogger, you’re quite familiar with follow threads in Facebook groups. They are basically an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” trade. And they only serve  to get you disinterested followers. And more than that they will turn you into a disinterested follower. This is another tactic I used this time last year when I was trying to figure everything out and I followed so many people who were posting poor content and things I simply didn’t care to see. I just recently went and cleaned out my following list. I never scrolled through my feed because it was boring and muddied with pictures that (even if they were great for their targeted audience!) I couldn’t care less about.

I had a lot of people unfollow me afterwards, but that is actually a good thing – because remember I’m trying to increase engagement percentage. Every follower I have that doesn’t care for my content is hurting me. Losing followers who never engaged with me is helping.

Buying followers.

First off, just no. This one is infuriating and leaves me feeling a bit embarrassed for the blogger. I haven’t seen too many accounts with bought followers, but when I do I just shake my head. So please, just promise me that you aren’t going to buy followers and we can leave it at that.

How we are going to do it.

Now that all of that is out of the way, lets talk strategy on growing your Instagram following and curating the best feed possible.

Things to keep in mind about pictures:

    • Keep all of your pictures the same shape and size. The classic square is my favorite, but just be consistent! There are a ton of apps that you can use to help edit a picture so that it fits in the square frame even if it’s a long picture. I used Moldiv for the one below this list! (Do you see how the left edge is just mirrored?)
    • In fact, consistency is key all around. Edit all of your pictures in the same way so that your feed looks cohesive and like it belongs together!
    • Instagram isn’t like Facebook where you drop all of the pictures of the night. Put only your best pictures on Instagram – remember people see your feed one picture at a time and it only takes one poorly lit or grainy photo to prompt somebody to unfollow!
    • On a similar note, while it’s fine to post several times a day, make sure to space the pictures out! Instead of posting 4 pictures in as many minutes, space each one an hour or two out so people don’t feel like you’re spamming them.

Dressing my #Hanes sweatshirt up with a fun pair of heels and great jewelry. Fashionable & comfy! #ad #hanesoffdutystyle #CleverGirls

A photo posted by Morgan Timm | Mostly Morgan (@morgantimm) on

My favorite apps.

  • VSCO Cam – I use this for every single picture I post and I have an editing routine down. I edit every picture the same way and it takes only a minute or two because it’s become so systematic. (In case you’re interested, I increase the exposure, contrast, & saturation, bring the temperature down, add a pink tint, and crop.
  • Snapseed – this one is great for editing super specific areas of the picture. So if there are weird shadows in the trees or the eyes are drawn somewhere they shouldn’t be I can go in and adjust the offending area without impacting the rest of the picture.
  • Facetune – Ok, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out: Facetune is actually the best. I like all of my whites to be very crisply white and facetune has an option for that! I also will use the details option to make my hair look shinier and very carefully on my eyes to make them pop. I know a lot of people are really against this app, but if you use it the right way it can be a huge asset!
  • Photoshop Express: This definitely isn’t as good as the desktop Photoshop, but it gets the job done! I don’t use this for every picture – but it has a cool feature where it reduces noise and sometimes I’m able to salvage an almost perfect picture using it!
  • Moldiv – this is my go to app for images that won’t crop into a square. I can add a reflection like on the image above – or do a cool collage like I did here:

Mondays got me seeing double. All JC Penney everything. And thanks @mynameismykle for taking every picture of me ever. #ad

A photo posted by Morgan Timm | Mostly Morgan (@morgantimm) on

Be conscious of how your posts look together.

A picture can be absolutely perfect and beautiful but it simply won’t fit with what you have already posted. There are two things you can do here: scrap the picture all together or (my favorite route) save it and transition your feed to where it fits.

There are some users that keep their theme super strict, but other users have a more fluid theme that transforms ever so slightly with each picture. From a follower’s standpoint both are really great and striking, but from a curator’s standpoint the latter is better for the sole reason of simplicity.

It is a lot easier to know that you can potentially make every picture work rather than having to have very specific and certain conditions. If you are a lifestyle blogger you probably want to be able to snap pictures whenever you are doing something super exciting and share them.

If you want to go that route… Then all you need to do is make sure that the picture that is going to be next to your new picture and directly below your new picture have similarities. This can be in color or composition – you just want them to relate somehow!

Engage!

OK, this one is underrated and so important. I spend an obnoxious amount of time liking pictures and leaving genuine comments on them. I go through people who I already follow (so they want to be my best friend!), I go through recommended users, and my favorite – I go through hashtags!

Speaking of hashtags…

Hashtags are the most important part of gaining engagement on Instagram! If you’re not using them – you’re missing out in a big way! I get so many likes and comments solely through the hashtags I use. Now the hashtags you use are going to depend on who you are (and I’ve got an entire post of hashtags in progress!) but I will let you know a few of my favorites!

  • #CollegeBlogger – this is an unsaturated hashtag (college bloggers – use it!) but I’ve been able to find some really great accounts using it!
  • #ThatsDarling – I use this for any lovely post – a pretty outfit, a nice flat lay! If it seems darling, this is the hashtag I use!
  • #LiveAuthentic – this is a great one to use if you’re posting pictures of an outdoor adventure you went on!
  • #wiw #ootd #wiwt – these are all good for fashion posts!

I usually put a few of my favorite hashtags in the main description, and the rest in the comments to clean everything up! As soon as I get a few comments the big chunk of hashtags are hidden and I don’t have to worry about them looking messy.

And a giveaway!

I’m teaming up with a few other fab bloggers to bring you a back to school giveaway! If you love (or need!) coffee to function during the school year then we’ve got your back! We are starting your semester off right with a huge starbucks giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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  • Samantha Davis

    I don’t necessarily have a favorite drink for fall, but I am incredibly fond of the Peach Green Tea Lemonade. I love them a lot.

    • Oh yum! Those are so delicious and refreshing!

  • Courtney Dunsmore

    Please please please do a guide for pinterest! I’m just in awe of your success there. Most of my traffic comes from there as well, but my top pins are only in the hundreds,not in the thousands!

    • Good idea! I will get started on that. Thank you so much for the suggestion, Courtney!

  • May

    I have SO been struggling with Instagram. I feel like my blog content is there, and my Facebook page and Pinterest is okay, but Instagram just isn’t coming together. These tips are definitely helpful, especially about making all the photos the same shape and color scheme. Thank you!!!

    • Instagram is definitely one of the trickier ones! I am still getting the hang of it, but seeing what the successful Instagrammers are doing definitely gives me some inspo!

  • SUCH a great post– and definitely agree with the loop giveaways as the plague. xoxo!

    http://www.ADIMAY.com

    • Thank you so much, Aditi! And like the plague, they are everywhere now, too! Hopefully people will catch on soon that they’re not worth it!