Instagram, the popular social sharing platform has often been joked about as a place to share your food and whatever else. Frankly, I love looking at food pics. Some of those are some of the most beautiful works of art, am I right? I’m on a mission to try and grow my Instagram. Take the 30 Day Instagram Challenge to Grow Your Account too!
I’ve been using Instagram for, gosh, almost six years. My first post on Instagram was 12/11/10, and it was a silly framed photo of Clark Griswold in an antique store. Kid you not. I mainly shot it to text over to my brother because of our unhealthy obsession with Christmas Vacation.
I started a new account just for my business after Instagram introduced the ability to switch quickly between multiple accounts. Genius. So, on March 3rd of 2016, I made the decision to focus on my account as a way to be more branded.
My personal account is there still, but I hardly post to it. I just hated to let it go, because, after all, almost six years of photos have been shared by me. Granted, most of those are my beer or dogs. But I still have a connection to that stuff, so it’s not going anywhere.
What’s funny is that after I had started this new account, my number of likes started going up. I was worried about all of the changes to Instagram introducing the algorithm that I’d seriously struggle to grow it. But that’s not been the case. No, I’m not getting tons of new followers, but I am getting more engagement. And, that’s what I’d prefer.
Using Iconosquare to Analyze My Data
Upon reviewing some of my stats to get started, I found that 4.41% of my followers actually like my last 15 photos on average. And 10.12% of my likes are from non-followers for the same stat. Also, my optimal post times are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. So, how do I get my numbers to increase? How to get more engagement on my images? You create an Instagram challenge you can use to keep yourself accountable and grow your stats.
That’s what this post is all about. I’m going to challenge myself for 30 days. Wanna join me?
First off, write down your numbers. Use my 30-day tracker that you can download at the bottom of this post to keep you accountable and track your stats. You can find out your stats via Iconosquare. Note that this service is free, but to see analytics you have to have a paid account, and they give you a seven-day free trial to start. If you’re going to do this, commit and get your starting stats. The price for Iconosquare is only $28.50 for the year, so I am going to pay that so that I can see the results after 30 days.
The 30 Day Instagram Challenge Steps
If you’re going to do this challenge then let’s talk about what you should be doing:
Have a clear purpose and define your target. What is the point of all of those followers if they aren’t engaging, or even clicking through to purchase your products or services? I put together five steps to help you build your Instagram account.
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Develop a Cohesive Feed
Your Instagram feed should match your brand. And, your Instagram feed should have the same feel across everything you post. This means for me that I’m incorporating my brand colors and message. If I’m not posting pictures that feature my brand colors, then I try and shoot those on an all white backdrop, so there is some consistency to it.
Edit your images for the same feel. If you like white and airy images, edit that way. If you prefer bright colors, then increase saturation. Just do it across the board.
If you’re shooting with your DSLR and editing in Photoshop, figure out your editing method and develop an action that you can use to make sure everything stays consistent.
I use an app on my iPhone often called VSCO Cam to edit my photos. I like it, and it works perfectly for my images that I shoot with my phone. I recently watched a video by The Wonderforest as she shared how she edits her Instagram images for her feed. Check it out!
How do you find a style? Look through the feeds of your favorite Instagrammers. What are you drawn to most? Which one of those feelings is most in line with your brand? Choose something that you’re drawn to, but also exudes who you are.
Also, make sure that you’re shooting your images in great light. If you’re struggling with this, invest in some reflectors or foam core boards to help bounce natural light back into your subject’s shadow areas. If you’re willing to invest more, purchase a continuous lighting kit (those come in handy for video work by the way).
Don’t feel like you have to stick to your phone to shoot your images. It’s perfectly fine to use a regular camera. I would bet my life that the majority of your favorite feeds are using their DSLR cameras to shoot their Instagram images.
Only Share Relevant Content
Don’t post just for the sake of posting. If you don’t have the best light or the best picture, don’t share it. For me, I am finding that batch shooting helps me bank up my photos. I pick one day to shoot a few things and then I have a selection of images to share. I don’t post in the moment because something awesome just happened. I make sure to think my posts through carefully.
I tend to post about one image a day. Some people state that to start growing your new Instagram account that you should be posting more frequently, like three to five times a day. That’s just not feasible for me. I have a business to run. There is no one else helping me with my income or living expenses. So I wouldn’t commit to that. Do what works best for you.
With this 30 day challenge, I’m committing to one to two images per day. I work from home, so it’s not as though I am out and about with tons of opportunities to see awesome stuff out there to start shooting. To stay relevant, it doesn’t add up for me. If you choose to post more frequently throughout the day, don’t do it all at once. For the love of Daryl Dixon, don’t! Nothing is more annoying that having to scroll down ten images of your kid at Disney riding the same ride over and over (sorry, not sorry). Check out my post on best times to share on social media.
Looking for ideas on what you can share: behind the scenes of a project or around your office. Also, tag people or businesses. For me, my extra posts are lettering quotes. A motivational quote is great, just stay consistent and on brand. If you can, use Canva to create your regular quotes. Color story and fonts should stay consistent. More ideas to help you would be to look at the feeds of someone else in your niche. What are they sharing?
I recently purchased an ebook from Stephanie Gilbert of Small Talk Social called, Hashtags: Demystified. Stephanie lists out a bazillion hashtags, and they are linked to topics that are niche-friendly to what you may be blogging or sharing. When I bought it, I put it to use right away by creating several group of hashtags based on what I typically post in my phone’s notepad. And, it works! Join her group on Facebook, Gram Gang to get more inspired with Instagram.
A tip that I learned from a few Instagram users was to use all 30 hashtags that you’re allowed to use. But, put them in the first comment under your description to be less annoying. Using your phone’s notes app, add five bullets (one on each line – bullet/return, bullet/return, etc.) before your group of hashtags and then paste the whole thing in the first comment. This makes it so that your tags don’t show up in the main feed, only if it’s expanded for comments. Clean. Nice. Lovely. And, you can copy and paste from your notes app every time without having to type them all out again.
I will be revisiting the hashtags I have been using, and consider more. I will mix it up a bit for variety to see what’s working. Also, I’m going to look at other Instagrammers in my niche to see what they are using as well.
I suck at this. I admit it. I just don’t do well trying to manage all of the social platforms out there. I hyper-focus. I learned that as someone with ADHD that hyper-focusing is typical. I remember asking the therapist, why the hell am I so anal about how clean my desk is at work, but at home, my room is a disaster? Hyperfocusing (did I just save you a therapy bill?)
I’m great with Pinterest and it’s totally changed my blogging game. Pick one and perfect your process before trying to perfect another one. Take my word for it, it’s hard.
So, for me, my goal here is to engage more. Here’s how I plan on doing that:
- For every person that comments on one of my posts, I will comment on two of theirs.
- I will click on a few of the hashtags I used and choose five users (at minimum based on my time) to find and comment on one of their posts that I actually like and consider following them.
- I will click on a few of my hashtags and like 20 images (whether I follow them or not).
- I will like two images minimum for every person liking one of my photos that day. I don’t believe this is going to take a ton of my time, but engaging is important.
I’ve read from various people that you need MORE engagement than that, sometimes they say like as many images in an hour as you’re allowed to (150.) And, leave a massive amount of comments. Do what you’re comfortable with so it’s not overwhelming. I’m going to start small and reevaluate after a month.
You do NOT have to follow EVERYONE that follows you. That’s stupid. How can you engage with people in your feed if you don’t care what they are sharing? I use the app, Crowdfire to unfollow people every day that unfollow me. Nothing personal. It’s just that I need a manageable feed to stay on top of engaging with everyone.
Some people will tell you that you need to have a similar follower to following ratio. I call bullshit. Just follow people that matter to you. You’ll probably get multiple unfollowers a day. Don’t take it personally, just unfollow back and move on. These are people looking to grow their accounts and aren’t interested in your content.
If you’re struggling with getting likes to start, you may want to invest in an automation system for liking other photos like Likestagram. You’re telling the app to look for specific hashtags you identify and have it auto like images that use those hashtags. This service is $9.99 for it to like photos for you without you having to do it. Hmmm. I don’t know how I feel about this and the authenticity. If you do it, just don’t have it like more than 10-20 images and hour, so Instagram doesn’t think you’re the bot and freezes your account. Yikes!
Create a Landing Page for Instagram Visitors
My friend, Kari over at Crazy Cat Girl Blog (awesome food recipes by the way) showed me that she was doing a landing page just for Instagram followers. I really like this! So I’m going to be doing this too.
The link to this landing page will be in my profile on Instagram. Then, I just have to update my landing page when I want my followers to find something based on a post. Also, I will be creating an email capture system with a content upgrade on the landing page.
Look, with the algorithm changes you really have no control over what happens with these social media platforms. You don’t own your followers like your email list. Give them a chance always to be updated with what’s going on with you and what you have to offer.
Make sure that your posts keep talking about you or what you’re doing if it fits. The more you talk about you, the more people know what you do or offer. So you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about your business!
Action Steps Recap:
- Be Cohesive & Brand Your Feed
- Post Relevant Content to Brand & Audience
- Use Hashtags That Fit Your Brand Message
- Engage with People
- Use a Custom Landing Page
I will start my challenge tomorrow and then end it in 30 days and come back and let you guys know how things went! For now, I think I will be batch shooting my photos on Sundays. These tend to be great days for me to knock some things out.
Starting Stats 5/9/16
- Followers: 401
- Following: 238
- Most Likes On an Image: 90
- Most Liked Image: This one right here.
- Followers that Like My Photos: 4.41% (going by the lower number average)
- NonFollowers that Like My Photos: 10.12% (going by the lower number average)
Here is my most liked image so far. It’s so basic, right? Featuring some paper clips and a post-it pad from Target Dollar Spot that I wrote a motivational message.
I’d love to see my account grow by 200 new followers in 30 days. Don’t ask where I got that number. I’m trying to be realistic here. I mean, if I fail one day during this experiment I will not be too hard on myself. We’re human. We should be having fun with Instagram. Right? But, most importantly, I’d like to get my engagement up. So, let’s set a goal of about 15% for followers to like my photos. And, a 20% rate for non-followers to like my images. I really have nothing to gauge this off of so after the first month I might have a more realistic goal increase.
See ya in 30 days!
Meanwhile, you can follow me on Instagram if you want to see everything I’m trying @hollymccaig.com. And, download my monthly tracker below to make sure you’re doing everything you need to do each day to grow your Instagram account.
Let’s all use the hashtag #hollyinsta so I can find you and start liking your photos, and help you get your stats up too!