NOTE: This blog post is part 21 of my INSTAGRAM SERIES - content all about helping YOU manage your way around instagram. In the INSTAGRAM SERIES I've touched on subjects such as how the instagram algorithms really work, the three real reasons your instagram account is not growing and is organic growth on instagram still possible. Just click here to find all the other parts in the series. Now on with today's post with that cheeky blog post title...
There are countless blog posts on the internet telling you how to grow your instagram following - use the right hashtags, time your posts correctly, show your best shots - we've all read those instagram tips 100 times before. But the thing is, many people I know are doing all those things and more, but still not gaining traction, which got me thinking: With soooo much choice of stunningly curated feeds and insanely gorgeous pictures, how on earth do we decide to take the leap and click the FOLLOW button on instagram? Is our decision to follow an instagram account much more complex than all these popular articles acknowledge? Or will a little hashtag make or break me on my favourite app after all?!
Eager to find some answers, I delved a bit deeper these past few weeks; I did some research on the internet and asked my community on my instagram grid and stories what actually makes an instagram account worth following? You ready to see what I discovered?
1. AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHY ON INSTAGRAM
Granted, this isn't breaking news. Photography still is everyone's first touch point when they stumble on an instagram account and their main reason to turn from visitor to follower. Why? Because instagram is first and foremost a visual platform! FULL STOP. However, two interesting discoveries did come to light which might explain why accounts with stunning images don't always have as high a follower number as one might expect.
I can't tell you how many times I see an instagram gallery that oozes beauty, yet I still don't press the follow button. It's because I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed by so much choice. It paralyses me and results in me not following anyone new on instagram at all! And it looks like I'm not alone. Many of you reported feeling the same and/or worrying that following too many (beautiful) accounts would mean that you'd not actually have time to genuinely engage with all the people behind the stunning grids. (FYI that's my other BIG reason for sticking to following no more than 200 accounts, NOT because your photography isn't amazing and I don't appreciate your support and encouragement ;)).
Another interesting discovery that closely connects to this feeling of overwhelm - you don't follow more people on instagram out of FOMO (fear of missing out). Quite a number of you noted that you're reluctant to follow new accounts because you're worried that doing so will mean the algorithm will stop you from seeing the content of people you currently follow and adore. And you know what, you've got a point!
TELL A STORY ON INSTAGRAM
So this begs the questions, what to do if you're creating the most amazing images you can, are new on the block and eager to grow your audience? TELL A STORY. I personally think pictures on instagram speak louder than words and pretty pictures that take viewers on a journey are incredibly powerful. For me an instagram grid that tells a visual story beats any feed that 'just' shows random food porn. In fact, story telling is an art form and one that us humans have been drawn to for centuries. It's practically in our blood to want to go deeper and be swept off our feet through cohesive imagery as well as beautifully written stories!
Oh yes, writing, which brings me nicely to captions on instagram. You guys were pretty split here with about 60% of you reporting that you read captions and 40% saying you don't. If you're targeting the 60% then make sure your captions tell a clear and engaging story. If you're not confident in your writing (yet) and want to entice the remaining 40% to follow you, allow your images to tell your story. If you want everyone to like you (no shame, you go girl!), then see if you can let both the visuals as well as the captions do the talking. Make sense? (BTW I teach visual story telling in my on-line course, please click here if you wanna find out a bit more ;)).
2. BE INSPIRING
I cannot count the number of people who used the word 'inspiring' to describe why they ultimately make the decision to press the FOLLOW button on instagram. But what exactly makes for an instagram account inspiring? I asked precisely that of my creative community. What I discovered is that inspiring means something different to everyone, but a common thread did emerge; namely to be considered inspiring on instagram you need to have:
an ability to spread joy and positivity NOT through sugar coating everything, but by pushing threw life's obstacles with determination and heart
exceptional skill (in photography) that is acquired through hard graft rather than solely innate talent
the capacity to spark a desire in your audience to try their best, to have faith in their own abilities and to give them the strength to push to the limits of their creativity
3. FEEL A CONNECTION
We are social creatures; being social has allowed us to survive and thrive through the centuries and it's why we seek a deeper, more meaningful connection with the people around us in real life, as well as on social media platforms like instagram. The question then is - how do you create that connection when you're first starting out on instagram and no one knows you? By showing up again and again for others. By commenting again and again on other people's feeds, by supporting and encouraging those you truly want to lift higher. And - the important thing is - to do all that NOT because you want something in return, but because you genuinely mean it. YIKES, tough right!? But it's the age old principles of karma played out in today's digital age.
4. ADD VALUE
Let's be honest, instagram can be a total time suck! So imagine how cool it is to spend time on instagram and walk away wiser and happier? Awesome, right?! That's why accounts that add value to their audience and improve their audience's experience are worth following, according to lots of you.
So now you're wondering how to add value on an app where we 'just' show pretty pictures? Truth is there are 101 different ways to do that. For example, show how you can make a great, filling meal in under 30 minutes in one pot under £10, use your instagram stories to talk through your photo editing process, do an instagram LIVE and answer your audience's biggest queries around pitching themselves to brands. Whatever you do ALWAYS think about where your audience is at and what would make their life better, simpler and more fulfilling. Then create content through your captions, stories or photography that tackle THAT issue! Done! Still not sure? Then ask your audience what they'd like to see more of!
5. BE RELATABLE AND AUTHENTIC
Last but not least, everyone's favourite word - authentic! Though when asked, you didn't rate it as highly as you did gorgeous imagery and inspiration, authenticity and being relatable may actually be THE secret sauce that makes people not only click FOLLOW but also makes them stick around.
Ok, may I anticipate your next question: How do I communicate my authenticity and show that I'm relatable? Did I get that right:)? There are lots of ways you can show your personality and let your audience see that you're more than a pretty-picture-taker.
GO LIVE on instagram! It's SO in the moment, making it IMPOSSIBLE to be anything other than yourself.
Write genuine, heart felt captions. Tell us a bit about who you are and what makes you tick.
Show your face on instagram stories. I know it's daunting, but it makes you come alive and turn from two dimensional pretty pictures to a three dimensional human being. BTW I was interviewed on the Elise Get's Crafty Podcast talking all about how to best use your instagram stories.
That's all folks. SO hope this is helpful and gives you ideas and food for thought :). See you all next week :). P.S. Want more FREE instagram tips? Then please check out my entire INSTAGRAM SERIES here.
I'M AFRAID TO ASK BUT....
As some of you may know, I had a MASSIVE surprise last week when I found out that I've been nominated for the SAVEUR Blog Awards in the BEST FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY category. I cannot even begin to tell you what this means to me (and every time I try I get a bit tearful so let's leave it at that ok?!). Thing is, what happens next is in YOUR hands and hence may I ask, would you consider voting for me here? It would mean THE WORLD, honestly. Thank you so, so much.