A picture is worth a thousand words.
Well, not 1000 but 60,000 words to be precise. That is because our brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
This is exactly the premise on which Instagram has been created. The seamless combination of technology with visual content has made Instagram, a very popular platform. With 700 million followers worldwide, Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform. That people like to spend time on Instagram is apparent from the fact that Instagram is now twice the size of Twitter and has surpassed Snapchat.
Though I had an Instagram account, I had hardly ever engaged on it for 2 years or so, as I never really understood the platform. Once in a while, I would post at random, and naturally, I had only a handful of followers. It was only in December 2016 after I started uploading the pictures from my trip to Jaipur that I started paying attention and figured out how to the engage on Instagram.
Within 8 months, I gathered 6000 followers organically, plus an average engagement rate that is more than 10%. By no means, I can claim that this is a great number as there are several accounts that have millions of followers. Yet, having discovered the power of Instagram in the high traction it garners, I can categorically say that Instagram is a platform that a digital influencer should not ignore.
So, how do you build and grow your Instagram account?
Of course, the easiest is to buy followers, but when people buy followers, they do not necessarily engage with the account. So, when you come across accounts with ten thousand or more followers and a very low engagement rate (1- 2% of the followers), you know that the followers are most likely fake.
Engagement Rate = [(Likes+Comments)/ No. of followers] as %
Engagements (likes, comments) can also be purchased. But again, if you go on purchasing interactions for all your pictures, you’ll most likely end up spending much more than the benefits that accrue from your account.
Here’s how you can boost your Instagram presence in an organic manner
1. Post consistently on Instagram
The thing that attracts me (maybe others too) about Instagram is that it encourages quality over quantity. Posting only one to two pictures in a day is sufficient to start building your follower base, provided you post on a regular basis.
When you post regularly, the Instagram algorithm that detects your posting and engagements (likes, comments, shares) rewards you by making your post appear in the feed of your followers or in the feed of those you engage with. If your pictures have a rich visual appeal, it increases the chance of people liking your pictures while scrolling through their feed.
Pay attention to the timing of your posts. Posts on times when the traction tends to be the highest.
In my experience, I can say that Instagram rewards consistency more than any other platform.
2. Improve the aesthetics of your feed
On Instagram, many people generally tend to like pictures that stand out while scrolling through the feed. Pictures with higher exposure, warm temperatures and higher contrast have been found to have higher engagement levels. Use of certain filters that create these effects is thus likely to increase the engagement level. Apart from the filters that Instagram provides while posting, filters can also be applied using filter apps. My favourite filter app is Aviary. Some other good filter apps are Snapseed, VSCO, and Instasize.
Pay attention to the overall look of your Instagram gallery
Besides paying attention to the individual image, also pay attention to the overall look of your gallery. A well-arranged Grid visual results in higher engagement as people like to scroll through interesting feeds. Nobody likes to see a tacky feed. Before uploading, see each picture in the context of the last 3 pictures in the feed to get an idea of how it looks along with the picture that is next to it, and with the one that is directly below it.
The above grid is from my Instagram gallery.
Some of the ways that I keep in mind while posting are as follows:
- I decide upon a theme for at least 3 pictures in a row and post pictures pertaining to the theme. The predominant theme for thie above grid is nature and landscape. The images in the lower row are of monsoon in Mumbai, while the images on the top row are from Nepal. The middle row buffers the two.
- I select a colour scheme or use complementary colours in adjacent pictures
- I use some images with soft colours and white spaces to give an uncluttered feel to the feed
- I generally space out close-ups with long shots or with opposite patterns to break the monotony and create a neat look for my feed.
3. Be creative with captions, comments and your bio
Posting a picture on Instagram is easy but the challenge lies in crafting a caption that adds value to the picture and conveys your story along with the picture. A brief well-written caption draws the attention of people while they are scrolling through the feed and prompts a reply. Genuine comments initiate genuine conversations. A well-written bio sets the viewers expectation for your feed. Emojis in comments, caption and bio add expressions to your words. 🙂
4. Use the most relevant hashtags
Hashtags are used for performing Instagram searches, just like in Twitter.
Instagram allows the use of 30 hashtags for a post. Identify the most popular hashtags for your theme and use the most relevant hashtags for your posts. The opinions about the optimum number of hashtags vary and often remain divided. Yet, it does not harm if you use more hashtags. For any particular hashtag if your post appears in the top 9 posts, the visibility of the post increases, thus increasing the likelihood of interactions.
However, many Instagrammers do not refer to use hashtags in the caption. If you are one of them, then you can still use the hashtags in a comment.
Personally, I think hashtags are more important at the initial stages. My engagement started improving a lot after I made use of hashtags. However, recently when I experimented posting with hashtags and without a single hashtag, the post without hashtags drew more engagements, as you can see in the screenshots below.
After you post on Instagram, engage actively for at least for half an hour up to an hour.
When you post a photo on Instagram, it starts accruing engagement (likes, comments, saves & shares). If you get a lot of engagement (particularly within the first hour), the algorithm will favour your post and make it appear higher up in a greater number of feeds and on the users explore pages. The rate engagement tapers off after 4-5 hours. That is why your own engagement on Instagram immediately after you post matters a lot as it helps a lot in increasing the visibility of the post.
6. Use the explore tab of Instagram and features such as stories and videos
Based on the kind of images you like and interact with and the people you follow, the explore tab of Instagram shows you posts and Stories that Instagram thinks you may like. When you engage with posts shown on the Explore tab, there is a possibility that those people will also visit your gallery and engage with your posts too if they like your posts. Thus, engaging with the posts on the Explore tab can help you to get new viewers for your gallery.
Use Instagram Stories to create engaging content and also share a live video to connect with your followers in real time. Instagram sends a notification to your followers when you add a story. When you broadcast a live video, your profile picture will appear at the top of your followers’ feed with a colourful ring around it and the word Live.
If you step up your effort on all these fronts, your visibility on Instagram will certainly grow much faster. As your Instagram presence grows, so does your digital influence, which is always a plus for every blogger.
The next thing that comes to my mind is how to use Instagram with your blog. But that’s for another time.
Which of these ways do you follow? What are some other ways that have worked for you?
You can join me here on Instagram.
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