Watching my Instagram evolve this last year has been both a tedious and exhilarating exercise for me. I started my Instagram not knowing what to expect or how to best nurture and manage its growth and the past twelve months has instilled me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we all want to see our following increase infinitely but on the flip side – it translates to more critical eyes and the constant pressure to innovate and create.
I reached a personal milestone a little over a week ago and hit 50K on Instagram and thought it was only fitting to time my post (long overdue) on how to create your perfect Instagram feed and how to grow it. The reason I have said ‘your’ instead of ‘the’ is because everyone’s idea of the aesthetically pleasing feed is different – there is no one-size fits all approach. Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional. I am consistently asked this question and I am afraid there’s no magical formula for it. Performing a ritual sacrifice of five Victoria’s Secret angels whilst dancing the haka around a bonfire appealing for more Instagram followers to the social media overlords isn’t going to magically churn out 100K followers overnight. In fact, unless you’re Kylie or Kendall Jenner – I’m not sure achieving that will ever be possible. Here are my 10 tips for creating an aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed (in my experience and in no specific order).
- Establish Your Personal Aesthetic
This is one of the points that I stress. Whilst it is very tempting to mimic the style of popular accounts out there – it doesn’t reflect your own voice and this will show in your work when things seem forced. I’ve always stuck to my aesthetic of having colorful and vibrant images both on my social media and throughout my website. I’ve very often – by often I mean just the other day – described my Instagram feed and I quote verbatim; as though “a unicorn had just regurgitated a rainbow all over my images.” Haha.
- Be Consistent
I mean this on two levels – be consistent with the imagery you post and stick to your aesthetic. If you’ve got a primarily monochrome account with beautiful black, white and grey tones throughout – then stick to it. Don’t disturb the balance of your grid by throwing a neon pink image in the mix just because fluorescent sports bras and tights are trending.
The second level would be to be consistent in the amount of posts you’re uploading. This is a tip that goes across blogging as well (I can admit openly that I don’t follow when it comes to blog posting) but I have religiously stuck to this without fail with my Instagram. Don’t flood the feeds of your followers one day and then drop off into a social media black hole for a week. I’ve established a routine of posting twice a day – occasionally three if I have an overflow of content – and roughly at the same time every day – on the way to and from work.
If you’re consistent then your followers will know what to expect and when to expect it – keeping in mind that an Instagram photo generally has the shelf life of 4-5 hours before it disappears into the newsfeed.
FACT: 50% of comments are posted in the first six hours.
- Focus on the Entire Grid
Be conscious of what your entire grid looks like – do you have contrasting colors beside each other? If I posted an image by the water with vibrant blue hues – I would try and post a color that contrasts against it. Here is a screenshot of my feed currently just to show you what I mean by this point. There are of course exceptions to this but as a general rule – you should be checking how a new image will look against the entire feed as a whole.
- Post High Quality Images
This point may put most people off because they think they need to invest in a DSLR camera and all the gear that comes with it but you definitely don’t need to. In fact, quite a number of images have been taken using my iPhone 6. I think the most important thing when taking images – using an SLR or smartphone – is the lighting conditions. I generally try to take all my images when there is an abundance of natural light – try shooting next to a window or in the shade on a sunny day.
Also download a range of photo editing apps such as VSCO, Snapseed, Colour Splash etc. and take the time to edit your pictures as required. These images have been taken with my iPhone 6.
- Engage with Open-Ended Questions
If you’re looking for more audience engagement then try to include questions in your caption – I generally try to keep everything light-hearted as I don’t believe people want to answer questions like what the
meaning of life is on Instagram.
Now I’m sure everyone already knows this but it doesn’t hurt for me to reiterate that using the correct and appropriate hashtags for your target audience is important. I generally keep hashtags in my immediate photo captions to a minimum to avoid the cluttered look. Try and post your hashtags in a comment immediately after your image.
- Tag Relevant Brands in your Images
If you’ve got a prominent product in your image then it only makes sense to tag the brand or company in the image because chances are – if the social media manager of the brand likes your image, they will repost and credit you for the photo and you’ll be tapping into a new audience.
FACT: @mentions in Captions Receive 56% More Engagement
- Engage with Other Instagrammers
The amount of times I have been asked about how I grew so quickly is staggering and my biggest advice to everyone is that you have to engage and not expect everyone to want to engage with you without giving something in return. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
FACT: There are now over 300 million users on Instagram posting more than 70 million photos and videos per day.
Does this blow your mind? It definitely blows mine. How do you make everyone else aware that your account exists with that many users? Simple – engage. It’s not about responding to every comment (don’t get me wrong it is important to respond – especially to questions) – it’s about returning that engagement. Provide support and encouragement to others too and build a sense of community.
- Tag your Location
FACT: Adding a Location Results in 79% Higher Engagement
This is something that I have been trialing as of late and can already see a difference in tagging and not tagging. When you provide your location – such as at a favorite local café, it means other users can search and connect based on the fact that you share this in common. Furthermore, it provides a great ground for discussions to spark up; for example, “how amazing are those bacon stuffed donuts they make?!”. Ok so I don’t know how many places make bacon stuffed donuts but you get my drift.
- Enjoy Yourself and Create Content that YOU are Proud Of
There’s no use creating content that you’re not proud of or don’t enjoy because chances are – you’ll get bored and this will show in your work. If you don’t enjoy taking aerial shots of your feet over asphalt and every other accessory you can manage to cram into that square – then don’t. If taking pictures of greasy burgers and foods that do terrible things to your cholesterol gives you warm fuzzy feelings inside (hopefully not heartburn) – then do it.
You may question what you enjoy and if others will enjoy it too but I’ve found that if you are passionate enough about what it is you’re creating, others will feel that transcend through your images or videos. That itself, is inspiring and people love to be inspired.
So there you have it! My tips and if you have any other questions then please feel free to ask! xoxo H-dawg.