The thing that everyone loves, but everyone hates.
Everyone hates Instagram… right?
I say that to myself everyday. Like I love it, but I hate it. But I love it.
… But I hate it.
BUT I LOVE IT.
Maybe I’ll make a post as to why Instagram confuses me so much, but in the meantime, lets get down to the meat of it.
A year ago I was a struggling blogger (much like a struggling artist, but more modernized and with 2 Macbooks). My Instagram account was growing at a pace of about 3 followers per day, and I was getting fairly fed up. I couldn’t see why the girls who showed their ass but had NOTHING TO SAY had thousands of followers, while wholesome Beverley over here couldn’t catch a break.
Then one day I posted a photo that changed everything.
Literally, I think this photo changed my life.
Up until that photo, my feed was getting ~400 likes per photo and I had less than 15,000 followers. Engagement wasn’t super high, but I wasn’t too concerned about it. I just figured one day it might change, and I would bide my time patiently.
Well that happened quicker than I thought – this butt shot/transformation photo went ‘Instagram viral’, and got me hundreds (maybe a couple thousand) followers, plus tons of engagement.
After getting over the shock of seeing my photo reached by tens of thousands of people, I knew that I had to keep posting creative, quality, and USEFUL content, that would be inspiring for my followers and keep them coming back.
If you guys watch the YouTube video, I go through 10 things that I did to get to this point. I’m not going to recap all ten (you’re going to have to watch the video to get down to the nitty gritty!), but i’m going to highlight the most important aspects for me:
Shoot EVERYTHING in Natural Light
I used to film all my videos and take photos in the harsh, ugly lighting of my gym. Regardless if it was sunny, nighttime, or rainy outside – if I shot it, I would post it. Filming when it’s dark outside makes your videos all grainy, hard to see, the colors are ugly, and it will NOT fit your feed.
These days, I make sure to find the best lighting wherever I am (I have exactly TWO spots in my gym that I can film in, and you will see that all my videos are shot there), before I shoot. For photos, you’ll see that a lot of my shots are done outside – why wouldn’t I? Outside has the BEST NATURAL LIGHT, obviously. Yes it means stripping down to a sports bra in the middle of winter, but hey – anything for the gram.
If you’re shooting food, clothing, make up, drinks, WHATEVER, always try to get as close to a window or be outside as often as possible. Shots come out cleaner, sharper, brighter, and will step up your Insta-game FAST.
Use a Consistent Filter
Posting to Instagram a year ago, I would pick my best photo, and then I would choose whichever filter made me look the most ‘lean.’ Doing that led me to have a super inconsistent feed with different colors, lighting, etc. It was such a mismatch of photos and absolutely nothing flowed together.
Eventually I found the one filter that seemed to work with the majority of my photos, and stuck to that. Now when I edit, I always use the same settings/filter every time, even if it doesn’t make me look ‘as jacked as possible’ (lol). Using the same filter gives you a consistent feed that is aesthetically pleasing to look at, and allows everything to flow better.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend downloading Snapseed, VSCO Cam, and UNUM. Snapseed is what I use to edit my photos initially (get out any garbage on the ground, brighten and sharpen the photo, increase ambience, etc). VSCO is the filter app I use (don’t be afraid to spend a few bucks to find the filter that works best for you!). Finally, UNUM is the app that allows me to preview the photo before I post it (to ensure that everything flows nicely, and doesn’t look awkward with the rest of my photos)
Have a Clean Background
You know when you see a photo with just like… SHIT (sorry) in the background? Sweaty towels, a barbell, another human, shadows, garbage, etcetcetc. I can’t stand that. It takes away the focus from the subject of your photo unintentionally.
Poor Adam is dragged around until I find the perfect spot to shoot – something with a clean background with very little distractions in the back. When I shoot videos at the gym, I make sure to come early, or on the weekends, when there are very few people around. I spend ages cleaning up stuff, or waiting for people to move onto their next spot, before being able to shoot. I try to stick with a particular color theme: either a white background (like in my home, against a light wall, or on a pavement), a blue background (such as the ocean, lake or sky), or a light brown background (my gym or condo floors).
Post What People Like – Don’t Try to be Someone/Thing Else
This point can go one of two ways – I think you should stick with what you are good at, post pictures or videos that do well, and stay away from the shots that don’t get a lot of engagement. For food bloggers sometimes that means not posting any pictures of yourself! People follow you because they like the shots of your food or coffee or whatever, and not of the person behind the account. Sorry, but it’s actually true. I notice it on tons of accounts that I follow.
For a fitness blogger like me, it was the opposite – people HATED my food shots. So much so, that I would lose TONS of followers from posting them. I didn’t want my feed to just be some narcissistic portrayal of just myself, but that was what my followers wanted! If you want to gain followers (and that’s what this post is about), you have to focus on what they want to see, and not just what you want to post. In the end I completely got rid of posting photos of food because if anything, it was having a negative effect on my account, not a positive one.
If you want your account to be a reflection of who you are – there is NOTHING wrong with that. I 100% believe that you should do it. But if it’s conflicting with what your ultimate goal is, maybe it’s time to rethink your posting strategy.
Be Real – Have your Own Voice & Captions
I have seen so many different accounts posting the exact same shoe photo, same butt shot, same WHATEVER shot, with the exact. same. captions. I honestly can’t follow accounts like this, because they are all so cookie-cutter, lacklustre, and uninspiring to me.
Lauren from This Renegade Love puts it perfectly: They have so many followers, but yet there is nothing being said to these followers. Don’t be like that. Talk about something and give your followers a reason to want to follow you. Maybe it’s for your punny words, your motivational and inspirational quotes, or how you prepared your breakfast that morning. Everybody has something that they can say – don’t waste it with a few meaningless words.
I love my less than 50,000 followers because it’s a community of people that I honestly love to interact with. I’ve been told my captions are hilarious, and that they follow me because it inspires them to be true to themselves, and not worry about what other people think. You know how important that is for me to hear? Be that person.
Make sure to check out the video for the full list of tips and tricks to gaining more Instagram followers! There are some points on there that I didn’t touch on in here that could be useful to you!
What About You?!
- Is Instagram an important tool for your brand?
- What is one way you have found to gain more followers?
- Do you hate Instagram like me? (haha jk)