If you came here to learn tips and tricks to “beat the algorithm” or how to grow your Instagram account over night, you’re in the wrong place. I hate to break it to ya girlfriend, but Instagram has changed so much that it’s time to start changing how you use it and your social media strategy in general. I want to share 7 actionable and authentic strategies that you can use to “grow” your Instagram in a way that isn’t measurable by numbers, but by impact and community.
These are things I’ve personally started implementing that have boosted my engagement like crazy, while my follower count continues to goes up, then down. If you’ve grown frustrated and are at your wit’s end, keep reading to learn a new approach that will grow your Instagram by embracing the algorithm, forgetting about the numbers, and focusing on building a community.
Before we get started…#RealTalk
This post was inspired by a string of tweets I read Monday morning which led me to write this long-winded Instagram post, which led me to write an entire blog post that I present to you today. Whenever I read about people’s struggles with Instagram and how crappy it makes them feel about their blog and themselves in general, I just want to give them a hug, help them get through it, and then give them tips to take action and fight it.
So many of you left amazing comments on that post that made me truly feel connected to you. After drafting this post up, I got the idea to feature some of your comments that inspired me to write this. So I’m super excited to share some accounts with you throughout this post and I encourage you to check them out!
This comment from @ischarliel really made my day!! (Charlie also has amazing photos BTW so definitely worth a follow) I love that we can support each other and remember we’re in this together.
I’ve changed my perspective on Instagram and what it takes to “grow.” I worked SO hard to grow my account to 6,000 followers and then I was stuck there for literally 6 months. I’d gain, then lose. Then gain, then lose. It was a cycle that lasted what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t understand why people kept unfollowing me or how to gain more followers that actually stuck around.
It was in May when I got to the point that Instagram took me over the edge. I posted a photo that got HORRIBLE engagement and then I realized that I was shadowbanned. I let my emotions (and hormones) get the best of me and spent the entire day sulking. I deleted the photo and felt not only fed up with IG, but lost with my blog and myself.
That entire ordeal led me to rebrand my blog and that is why I shifted my content to focus entirely on helping bloggers and creating a community around In Search of Sheila. And damn, I’m happy and inspired af every day. Much of this community has been built on social media–Instagram and Twitter to be specific. I want to use this blog post to share authentic strategies that I have used and I think would help you if you’ve hit a wall and don’t know what to do in terms of growth.Social media is fast paced and as bloggers, we need to keep up. Click To Tweet
My first bit of advice is: don’t give up. That’s lame. Take this low point as a sign it’s time to change something in your strategy. Social media is fast paced and as bloggers, we need to keep up. I’ve learned to embrace the ups and downs of Instagram because it’s forced me to think outside the box and become more creative and inclusive with my content. And that’s how I’m able to continually grow my In Search of Squad every day.
So with that said, I want to share some authentic strategies to grow your Instagram community!!!
1. Be Patient + Forget the Numbers
First of all, you need to get this idea of “instant gratification” out of your head. Our culture has become so obsessed with getting what we want and getting it RIGHT NOW that it’s not even something we bat an eyelash at anymore. To put it simply: we’ve lost our patience.
True, organic growth takes time. There are many bloggers out there who have found success by taking the authentic approach. Yes, it might have taken them longer to get where they are today, but they have a loyal, genuine audience. They don’t let their number of followers define their worth or “success.” They focus on helping and inspiring their followers and that’s what keeps them going. I LOVED how so many of you told me you don’t focus on your follower count.
@toyoufroma (who inspired this all.)
Then there are successful bloggers out there who have bought their entire following, comments, and likes. I mean, did you read this article? Mediakix created two fake Instagram accounts, bought their entire followings, and scored PAID sponsorships with legit brands. So fascinating and disheartening at the same time.Focus on growing your Instagram authentically and remind yourself why you created it in the first place. Click To Tweet
What I’m trying to say is that you need to focus on growing your Instagram authentically and don’t let the frustrations of slow growth keep you from the real reason you hop on to post every day.
Maybe you love sharing your photography and writing like @brightboldlife or you like helping other people who are going through something similar to you. Don’t let other accounts make you feel discouraged by how quickly they’re growing, because it’s honestly not genuine. Keep putting your best work out there like @bitesizednichole and remember that it will be worth it in the end.
2. Adapt To the Algorithm
I think why so many of us are so frustrated with Instagram is because the algorithm change hit us out of nowhere and we’re still trying to use the same strategies to grow our accounts: post nice photos, throw in some hashtags, and that’s it. Face it: we don’t like change, especially when it comes to social media. We already have a million other things to do, so why do we have to spend hours on Instagram trying to figure out new ways to grow?When it comes to blogging and social media, the game is changing every single day. Click To Tweet
Because when it comes to blogging and social media, the game is changing every single day. There is no solid way to get a certain amount of followers by the end of the week or a certain amount of likes and comments on your new post. And even if we do discover something that seems to work for us, it’ll probably change in the weeks to come.
Okay, love this comment and insight from @@huesofdelahaye !!
My advice is to change your approach to Instagram and embrace the algorithm. Instead of getting bent out of shape that you can’t keep up with the changes, adapt to them. Instagram knew what they were doing when they created this new algorithm. It’s meant to focus on the users and what THEY want to see. These are your followers, so you really need to step it up and dive deep into figuring them out.Change your approach to Instagram and embrace the algorithm. Click To Tweet
What are their interests? What inspires them? What compels them to engage with and follow an account? These are questions you need to start asking yourself and spend some time mapping out how you plan to answer them through your content.
3. Only Follow Accounts You Genuinely Like
I don’t need to talk about the follow/unfollow technique that has become a wide spread disease in the blogging community, do I? Summer of Coffee With Summer wrote a great post on why it’s something that needs to be stopped ASAP so I highly suggest you go read that post here.
Basically, this whole follow/unfollow trend is a “growth strategy” people are using by following a bunch of people with the expectation that they will follow back, only to unfollow them later. While we’re all dealing with this crap, I’m sure we’re all a little guilty of doing it ourselves. There is *however* definitely a point of “sleaziness” (as Summer likes to call it) where it is just completely fake. Please don’t ever reach this point if you strive to build your blog with authenticity. It will only hurt you.
What you should do is follow accounts that you actually like (what a concept, right?!) My best tip to stand out and speed up this process is to literally go find your potential followers. You can’t just sit back and wait for people to come to you and instantly feel that *spark.* You need to be proactive and seek out accounts that align with your values and interests, are in a similar niche to you, or are your target readers. Only follow accounts you genuinely want to build relationships with and don’t unfollow them if they don’t follow you back. Just don’t.Only follow accounts that you genuinely want to build relationships with. Click To Tweet
When I rebranded this is the exact way I grew my audience. I put myself out there and followed people I genuinely wanted to connect with. Most of the time they caught my vibe and we became friends. The best way to do this is to search for relevant hashtags and stalk the follower list of users similar to you.
*Pro-tip: Pay attention to if you have any mutual followers on the accounts you find. Whenever someone follows me and I see that we are in a “similar circle” I will usually follow them back!
I LOVE @laurennatalia29’s mindset and approach to IG.
Remember that it’s okay to unfollow accounts ONLY if you didn’t follow them with the intention of expecting a follow back. That’s just not authentic girl friend.
4. Be Genuine + Engaging
If I had to tell you the #1 strategy that has really helped me grow my account in the past month, it’s that I started to take more time to leave thoughtful comments on other people’s accounts. I engage with the intention of sparking a conversation. Or I want to show them that I really connected with their caption or image and would love to become Instagram friends.
I owe a lot of this to enrolling in Helene Sula’s Instagram For Success course. I’m not even halfway through the lessons yet and I started to see results almost immediately after implementing what I learned.
It’s also important to create posts with meaning behind them that compel users to comment on your account.
This post was the first one I really started to see results from the strategies I learned in Instagram For Success.
My caption was super relatable and I asked an engaging question: do you prefer to be in front of or behind the camera?
Since it’s Instagram, everyone has an experience with taking photos or having their photo taken. I noticed that whenever I talk about this subject in my posts, I get pretty good engagement.
I also posted this at around 4 pm, which was honestly an experiment on my end and it turned out to be an optimal time to post. I try to use my Instagram analytics and post when my followers are on the most.
My biggest tip is to strive to build a community that encourages your followers to share their stories, struggles, and input. We all want to be included in life, ESPECIALLY on Instagram. Make us feel included! Remember that there is someone out there in this world that is being impacted by your post, whether they let you know or not, and that is truly powerful.
@apronstringsandstickyfingers really hit the nail on the head with this insightful comment.Strive to build a community that encourages your followers to share their stories, struggles, and input. Click To Tweet
5. Create a Community Hashtag
What better way to grow a community than with a hashtag? Hashtags are still a strategy I use and recommend to get your content noticed. I’m always experimenting and finding new ones to try out. This is a great way to connect with like-minded people around a specific topic or movement. I love finding new accounts by browsing smaller community hashtags because I know we all share something in common.
When brainstorming your hashtag, create something that encompasses your blog and mission. If you’re a fashion blogger, start a hashtag that is meant to connect fashionistas and offer the chance to be featured on your account. If you blog about a certain topic such as gardening or simple living, create a hashtag that would bring together other bloggers who write about those topics too.
In terms of using hashtags in general to grow your account, you have the opportunity to get featured on the Top Posts section which will help your post stand out more and attract followers.
6. Instagram Stories
I loooove creating my own Instagram stories and watching yours! Honestly, it gives your followers a more personal view into your life and is a great way to boost your engagement and relationships. Plus it’s a fun way to get a little creative and experimental since you don’t have to worry about it being curated like your theme.
My biggest tip when it comes to using stories is to just have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously. Don’t worry about your shots or video not being “good enough.” We want to see that raw part of your life that isn’t curated.
I also LOVE it when bloggers talk to the camera. It makes me super connected with you, which means that it’s good for your engagement. If you have doubts or are shy, just do it! It’ll take some practice and getting used to, but we aren’t here to judge ya girl.
It’s also a great way to promote your blog posts with behind the scenes content, sneak peaks, and announcements when it goes live. Have fun and get creative!
7. Instagram Live
Video is quickly becoming a great way to increase your engagement and stand out on Instagram. Live video is something I always wanted to do, but was a bit scared because I didn’t know if anyone would watch haha. I eventually got over my fear and just went for it!
If you read this post, then you know that I was enrolled in Summer Camp, a program created by Katherine of Slightly Savvy to learn how to work with brands as a blogger. First of all, I have to say that Camp EXCEEDED my expectations and I learned a lot of great stuff that I immediately started implementing that very week.
Day 1 of Camp was How To Use Instagram as a Non-BS Influencer and Katherine spilled some great tips about the benefits of using Instagram live. Instagram’s algorithm rewards accounts that utilize video, so going live is a great way to push yourself to the front of everyone’s story feed for up to 24 hours!
Katherine also gave me some personalized tips on how to use live plus how to actually get people to show up and her advice really helped me. Last week’s stream was a total success and I left knowing I helped people and felt more connected with my followers. Now I’m planning to incorporate IG lives more into my social media strategy 🙂
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