Instagram. This social app, which enables us all to share our lives, homes, passions and hobbies square by square, invariably sucks us in – taking us on a journey into other people’s worlds, connecting us all and offering seemingly endless inspiration. Its popularity is growing continuously, and, whilst such fun to be involved with, it can also be a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, follows and un-follows and algorithm frustrations! This is especially true for those of us who are building our accounts for more than just a hobby, as an advertisement for a business for example, or to work with brands. How can we, in a sea of millions of tiny squares, hope to move beyond those with hundreds of followers, into the sought-after group with thousands of followers, and eventually into the elusive 10k plus group? It’s the one million dollar question, and one that I am often asked through my interiors account @life_at_number_63, as I have managed to organically grow my following from 0 to 16,000 in under nine months.
I wish I had an easy answer for you – that one step that would guarantee success. But I don’t. Half of me stares in bewilderment every time I look at that little number at the top of my page, the other half knows the effort that has gone in behind the scenes to get me there.
I do have seven points, that if followed to the letter, will definitely aid you on your journey to so called ‘Instagram success.’ Here they are:
- Take a good photo. I know I emphasise this a lot, but Instagram is all about imagery. It’s about beautiful little squares that capture attention, that offer something different, that motivate. You can write a witty caption underneath your post, you can be the nicest person in the world. None of this will matter if you’re not offering inspiration in that square on your feed (unless your audience is your mum or grandma, who will double tap on anything you post!) It is the first impression, the first step to gaining likes and new followers, and the way to make your feed as a whole look inspirational and eye-catching. Instagram is about visual marketing, and essentially, we are marketing ourselves and our homes or businesses to others. We want to show them how exceptional our decorating skills are, how well we can style our interiors or ourselves, how others can use our ideas to aid them when making lifestyle choices.
For interiors accounts, this also leads onto the (maybe obvious) point that your decor needs to be on point. Beautiful colour schemes, innovative and budget-friendly suggestions and great taste will stand you in good stead. You can view my tips for taking photos for Instagram on a previous blog post. I also personally find it useful to use a feed planning app, such as Plann, to arrange photos in advance, to see how they relate to each other, and ensure the layout of my feed is aesthetically pleasing. At this point I’ll mention that I had zero photography experience when I began. I have simply worked hard at it, discovering what works as I go, using my iPhone 7plus camera. So you can do it too!
2. Engage. Instagram loves us to do this. It wants us to chat, to form ‘friendships’, to connect with each other. So do it, as much as you can. Comment on posts you like, double tap on posts you love, message people on stories you find amusing. Have conversations, and reply to people who take the time to comment on your posts. It’s simple really.
Be nice, be funny (if you can), be sociable. Instagram will pay you back for this by showing your posts to more of your followers. This, in turn, will help your account grow and flourish. I have read that if you receive 8 comments or more of at least five words within the first hour of posting your picture, it will have better reach. This also includes your comments, so reply as swiftly as you can during the first hour after posting.
3. Use hashtags. In order to reach new audiences (which is vital for growth), you need to use thirty hashtags. And vary them. Look at other accounts similar to yours and see which ones they are using. Look at foreign accounts if you would like an overseas audience. I have found it useful to use an app called ‘HishHash’.
You can load hashtags into it, press a button and magically it spits out thirty each time you need them in different combinations. It’s a huge time-saver and very helpful indeed!
4. Do ‘giveways’. For those who are not au fait with them, they are competitions you can hold, where people have to follow you and tag friends to enter. I know Instagram is saturated with them now, but personally, along the way, I have found giveaways great for growth. Not only does it give something back to all your lovely, faithful followers, but it draws new people in, and, if you collaborate with a small business, it helps them gain exposure too.
I think so far I have done a 1k, 2k, 3k, 5k, 7k, 9k and 13k giveaway. Its fun too – who doesn’t love a competition (and freebie)? Just make sure you have a quality item/s to offer, and that you market it well on your stories, as it is easy to get lost in the plethora that are around these days.
5. Tag, tag, tag. If you know you have your photography nailed and are taking clear and beautiful photos of your interior, you mustn’t forget to tag as many shops in your posts as you can. This is important because if your photograph is shared on the page of a large or small business, it can quickly bring in a drove of new followers who share a love of all things home related. It is also useful as a follower to easily be able to identify where items are from so you can go and check out the shop pronto!
6. Create Stories. I have to admit that I was a little slow on the uptake for stories. I was a month or two behind those first brave Instagrammers not afraid to show their faces, chatting away to me through their phones just as naturally as if we were having tea together. A lot of people just don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera though and that’s okay. Show snippets of your life in other ways – take a silly ‘boomerang’ of your dog playing ball, or you could show people your favourite hangout, inspirational place, an day out with your spouse or friends. It makes you more relatable, which brings us back to point two – engagement. People will engage more with someone they feel they ‘know’ than someone they have no idea about. And since over 200 million people use Instagram stories daily, its also an amazing platform in which to bring in new followers. If you incorporate hashtags in your stories, you can be found by accounts that don’t follow you too! These can be found in ‘stickers.’
7. Work hard. Instagram can either be a pastime, or it can be a job opportunity. If you are simply here for the chitchat, posting a few times a week, and see it as a hobby, as a outlet for your interior interests then of course, have a relaxed approach. But if you are hoping to become an influencer, to create a popular blog, or indeed use your squares as advertising for your business, you need to work hard and long. You also need consistency with regards to posting – I have posted twice a day for almost as long as I have been on here. I have varied my photos, using a mix of close ups and full room shots, keeping it interesting.
I have had people ask me whether my house is a tardis, or a castle, or (hilariously) “a beautiful boho, scandi, nordic palace”- (love you Em @behind_door_28) because I vary my shots and try to find new angles to keep my followers engaged. Funny thing is that I have a pretty small three bed victorian semi, with an average number of walls, one bright yellow bathroom, one dog and two crazy children (who I also like to feature occasionally because they’re cute.)
That’s it guys. It’s self explanatory really – there’s no magic, or formula. It’s just like any other ‘job’. You get out of it what you put into it. It’s about grafting, having fun, being sociable and remembering it’s all about the imagery. The aim is organic growth, and by putting yourself out there, being creative, real, honest, and following these steps, it can only grow.