An Uncomplicated Life Blog: 5 Unconventional Steps to Improving Your Instagram NOW

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

5 Unconventional Steps to Improving Your Instagram NOW

When I laid out my October goals, I said I was going to take the rest of 2015 and work on improving my Instagram account. I had done the same for Pinterest the previous quarter and had FANTASTIC results. I outlined some of the challenges I was having with Instagram in this post. While I'm still working on it, and will likely always be "working on it", I DID discover a few things that made my account much better very quickly, and resulted in higher engagement and more followers consistently. Some of these things are unconventional. Intrigued? You should be! Read on for the dirty deets.

5 things to do and not do to help your Instagram account grow with new followers and higher engagement


1. STOP doing follow for follow threads
Here's the deal with these monsters: Yes, you can get a whole bunch of new followers in a very short amount of time. That seems like it's great. But it's not. Why? Because these people don't care about you, your photos or what you're posting. They're not going to like your content, and that will lower your engagement ratio. In an age where we can all go out and buy followers, brands now CARE about your engagement ratio! Have 8,000 followers but your photos only get 80 likes? That's bad news. I haven't come across the magical ratio brands want yet (I don't think there is one; they just want it to be high), but if you have that many followers, you better have triple digit likes and tons of comments if you want brands to believe your followers care about you and that you didn't go out and purchase all your follows. Purchased followers are useless to brands, and low engagement is a huge red flag.

Additionally, I'll be honest with you here: After doing follow for follow threads, I found myself disliking Instagram, not even going on my account once a day. It HAD been my favorite social media platform, so what the heck?! I realized that I wasn't excluded from the "I don't care about you club." Meaning, I now had a feed full of {bad} photos from people I didn't know and didn't care about, and therefore I didn't like interacting on this platform as much anymore. Which brings me to non-conventional step two...

A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on
 
2. Unfollow bad accounts
There. I said it. Phew! Weight lifted off my shoulders! Ok, before you start throwing stones at me, hear me out! First, this is subjective, so unfollow who you deem to be a "bad" account. There are no rules here! If the person consistently posts content you don't care about or bad, grainy images, just unfollow them. Why? THIS IS KEY: Because when your feed is full of beautiful images and content you enjoy, you're inspired to create better content yourself. You get ideas! You interact with others! You improve your photography! It's only going to benefit you to really enjoy what you see. So make the feed you follow a good, inspiring one. Only following great accounts has been a game changer for me. I now don't run my un-follow app and don't care if a great account follows me back - I'm following it because it will inspire me to be better myself. If you're only on Instagram for reciprocation, your account will never take off. It simply wont.

3. Get your color(s) consistent
You want your aesthetic to be consistent. Don't post one super light photo right after you've posted a super contrast-y one. I don't apply a filter anymore (although I did use Lark for a good while) but instead I go into the editing function and take out most of the yellow, increase the brightness, lower the highlights and lower the shadows. I do this to every single photo, in that same order. This way, all my photos have a consistent, branded look. I also try to group photos with the same colors together. You'll notice groups of photos featuring something green or orange in it together. I usually select one or two colors every few days. Then I post photos featuring these colors one after the other so that my feed runs smoothly and creates a pleasing aesthetic.

A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on
 
4. Do NOT post unplanned photos. Save those for Snapchat
Instagram is for planned, styled, well thought out photography. Take a cute selfie? If it doesn't fit your current color theme, or the photo is a bit grainy, DO NOT POST IT. The majority of my photos are now planned about a week in advance. They're all simple shots that are simply styled, usually involving my DIY photography backdrop boards if it's a product closeup, fashion (that I'm probably not actually wearing that day!) or something with more depth of field that includes my color scheme for the week. I like to keep my photos clean, simple and bright and {attempt} to get creative in the comment to add some "flavor" to it. Anything unplanned, not clear, not bright or too "flavorful" goes to Snapchat (@anuncomplife, let's be friends!) or simply gets texted out to friends. If it isn't planned and part of my branded look, it does NOT get on my Instagram!

And now my friends, for my biggest unconventional secret yet:

5. Do NOT use more than 2-3 hashtags
Yup. You read that right. Thought loading up your photo with 50 hashtags made it more searchable? Perhaps. But do you know what it does with certainty? It knocks your photo rank down. Here's the scoop: Instagram is owned by Facebook, and they're busy applying Facebook-style algorithms to your photos. This past fall I attended a workshop on Instagram where the presenter gave us some legitimate research. She said that if you want your picture to be in the top 9 spot for a hashtag, and therefore FAR more visible, you only want two hashtags. That despite potentially having more likes than other photos, if you load your shot with hashtags, Instagram won't promote your picture as much because it's under 50 different search locations (aka, hashtags). I found that interesting, so I gave it a try from Oct - Dec of 2015. By the end of Oct, my photos were consistently in the top 9 for both the hashtags I was using, despite some of the other photos getting more likes than mine. Even some of my fashion pics were top 9 trending, and fashion is one of the most competitive markets to break into on Instagram!

One more quick note on hashtags, don't get too creative with them. Keep them simple and to what your photo is about so that people searching that topic can find you. When I post a cute outfit my kiddos are wearing, I'm a fan of #babystyle #toddlerstyle or something similar. Remember to keep your creative juices to your comment and keep your hashtags searchable and simple! This source has amazing info on hashtags (including only using 2 rule) and how to write a great caption. Great advice!


Want to read another great piece on Instagram? Check out Jaelan's post on "Instagram games" and how you should NOT be playing them!

I've had a ton of success with these unconventional steps to improving my own Instagram account, and think you will too! But remember, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to social media. We all have different audiences and different goals with out accounts! Play around with some of them for a few weeks or months and see what works for you. The biggest surprise for me was the hashtags, but I'm telling you, it works!

45 comments:

  1. Great advice! I don't use a ton of hashtags anyways, but that was interesting to learn that using a lot of them is actually bad for your photo rankings. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thank you for linking to that article! I am also trying to work on my Instagram lately and these were great tips!

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  3. As always, great tips! After deleting all the accounts I didn't like from my feed, I have enjoyed interacting on Instagram again. It seems less like a chore, now. I'm still not busting my ass on it because I find it hasn't done much for me, but I'm happy to at least be there, having fun again.

    I've been utilizing the 2 hashtag rule and I really love it. I'm off to read the article you linked, too.

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  4. The 2 hashtags is really interesting! I see some bloggers use like 20 hashtags and I could never even keep that many straight! I usually end up with 3 or 4, but I'll try the 2 and 3 approach and see how it goes. Really great tips girl! I love how you choose a color for the week. I need to go delete some accounts I follow. On the list for this week!

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  5. Thank you so much for this post! Being new to all the blogging world, this was a great informative read that I can't wait to implement!
    Linds @ Not A Mom

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  6. I also hate follow for follow threads and while I think clear pictures are a must, I could never plan out my shots like that. Just not for me! ;)

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  7. LOVE all of these tips! I agree with all of them. Follow for follow threads on *any* platform are garbage. They don't actually boost your fanbase at ALL - they just falsely bloat your numbers, which doesn't help anyone. If you're in it to win it, focus on building genuine connections and getting inspired on the reg!

    Coming Up Roses

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  8. YES! I love this! I was following so many people from follow for follow threads who I didn't actually care about. but I hadn't unfollowed them because I didn't want to lose followers myself. I finally got so sick of it one day and unfollowed LOT of accounts that didn't interest me. I lost a lot of followers in return, but I no longer cared!

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  9. Great advice, even though I don't use Insta. I really appreciate your information.

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  10. I love all of this! I used to participate in those types of threads and now I just feel so fake. I'm going through a massive learning curve of being authentic and genuine. I've experienced a lot of disheartening so I'm reluctant to use Insta much now even though it was my favourite platform too.

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  11. Thanks for sharing that information about hashtags. I had no idea!

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  12. I don't know if you'll know the answer to this, but if you post a million hostages in a comment instead of the "caption" does that still hurt you? I'm kinda glad you should only be using a couple of hashtags! It makes posting simpler!!

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  13. I hate that Instagram is more planned photos and everything has to look nice and matching and all that. When I first got on Instagram (for personal, before I had a blog) I loved it because it was more the "day in the life" pictures - now it's less fun, I think.

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  14. That's super interesting information about hashtagging; I'm going to try it out to see how it compares to how I hashtag now. I took a social media course last year that taught that 15 was the magical number for hashtagging, which is what I shoot for now (and have seen amazing results from)! And YES! Unfollow all the accounts that don't inspire you! I did that and it's changed EVERYTHING! Go where you audience is!

    xo Chelsie @ life with Rosie

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  15. lots of great tips girl! you clearly rock at instagram so thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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  16. I think building a facebook aesthetic is so difficult and it is something I have been working on this year a lot. Great post!

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  17. I definitely need to go through and unfollow instagram accounts.
    I didn't know that about hashtaging -- I might need try using less and see how that works.

    xoxo, Jenny

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  18. Great advice! Thank you for sharing, I had no idea that was how the hashtags worked!

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  19. That's strange about the hashtags, and I have to say I disagree. I use anywhere from 15-20, depending on the photo, but I always only put them in the comment after my description. I'm almost always in the top 9 for the majority of the hashtags I use. I even got in the top 9 for socality and that's unheard of!

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    1. I agree...I use anywhere from 20-30 and I consistently rank on the Top Posts section for certain hashtags, even some that have over 1 million posts! I wrote a blog post about this and my hashtag strategy, if you want me to send you the link you can email me at ane@hungrydigitalmedia.com

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  20. Wait, there is a ranking for Instagram? Or did I totally misunderstand? What is the top 9 and how do you find it? Apparently I've been doing IG all wrong this whole time. Glad I found this.

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  21. I've loved following you on Instagram and feel like I've learned a lot from your feed! I've been going through a lot of my social media accounts lately to unfollow/unlike pages and feeds that just don't fit my niche or brand. That has been especially big on Instagram because I had the exact same experience you did - spent a few weeks annoyed with Instagram and not wanting to use it before I realized it was because I had all these random people's not great pictures in it! One of my biggest goals for 2016 is to improve my photography and I'm excited to apply some of that to Instagram too. Thanks for sharing your wisdom! :)

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  22. I found this really interesting! I use my insta primarily for real-life memory keeping, and I have considered having a "blog" instagram that follows rules like this... but I am lazy, ha!

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  23. Funny enough, I actually don't like to follow accounts that are too styled. I find them boring. Give me your cute selfie, even if it doesn't exactly fit your color theme, just as long as it's not an ugly picture. Otherwise I agree. Some great tips. I'll try to go with less hashtags for a bit, suits me anyway.

    Have a nice day!

    Alex - Funky Jungle

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  24. These are great tips! Thanks so much for sharing. I especially loved the advice about planning instagram photos. I need to do that!

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  25. Cleaning up my instagram from snapchat worthy only photos made such a difference with the overall aesthetics! I also am with you about keeping an overall theme, right now I'm all about color and staying in the same family of tones. I can't unfollow bad accounts fast enough it really junks up your feed. So interesting about the hashtags I definitely need to start limiting mine more now!

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  26. What do you think about descriptions on Instagram photos? How long should they be? I've seen both, short and long, schools of thought.

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    1. Hank they can be as long as you want them to be! With some of the changes Instagram has done recently, people just see the first three lines of a post, so make sure those first three lines catch people's attention...make sure to focus your energy there, if the person goes so far to tap "more" then they're likely to read your entire post, just don't type out a novel ;)

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  27. Interesting tips! I love browsing Insta but I don't really enjoy posting. I don't have a good camera so I feel like my pictures are always poor quality and not worth posting. I think a decent camera will be my next investment!

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  28. I'm all about unfollowing. I'll give accounts a pass if there are a few photos I'm not a fan of (no one is perfect) but if I'm not feeling it, I'll hit the button

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  29. Great tips! I definitely want to improve my IG feed this year!

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  30. Hmm, the "less hashtags" thing would do the opposite for me. I never used a ton of hashtags before and I rarely saw likes. Now that I add more hashtags, generally as a second comment not the original caption, I see a lot more interaction. I'm getting comments and likes and new followers. And I don't think it's the photos either, because I've been posting photos of my cat for years now. She's just as cute as she always was! But I'll keep the rest of this in mind, for sure!

    -Kaitlynn

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  31. Thank you for this!! I've been trying to improve my insta as much as possible, to give the user a quality experience. Awesome tips and I will try the hashtag.

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  32. This is a great list! I've never taken the time to plan out my posts in advance - that would certainly be helpful in producing consistent branded content though. Something to add to the weekly list! :)

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  33. Unsure how true that lost point is, I have seen my photos in the top 9 spots in multiple of the hashtags I use, and I generally use a dozen or so of them! The hashtag game is definitely a tricky one, I want my photos to get the exposure and more people to see them, but I don't really enjoy putting all those hashtags in there. I definitely perform way better when I use more hashtags, though!

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  34. Love this tips! I definitely need to work on keeping my coloring consistent on photos. Your hashtag tip is interesting too... I typically don't use more than 3 hashtags in my actual caption, but sometimes apply more to the first comment in my thread. Do you have thoughts on that practice?

    Alyssa with an A

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  35. Great info! What if you put more hashtags in the first comment? Does that still push your photo down?

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  36. Holy smoly, I've been doing EVERYTHING wrong. Except those follow for follow things...

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  37. I am just loving your blogging advice! I have so very very much to learn. Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips with us!

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