How can I grow my Instagram following? How do I make my grid look pretty? What on earth is Shadow Banning?
I've decided to do a bit of a throwback blog style post and try to answer some of the most asked questions on one of the most used social media apps.
I've picked up lots of tips and tricks over the last year whilst running my 'baby/parenting' Instagram and so I wanted to share these with you. I'll be talking about topics like the best time to post, the amount you should post, and good ways to grow your following. Hopefully you read something here that you didn't know and it will be able to help you make the most of your Instagram.
I also asked on the 'gram for people to let me know if they had any questions and I'll be answering some of these at the end.
One of the first things you need to do on your instagram profile is set it to a business account. This is free to do and is a gold mine of information that will help you figure out the best time to post based on your following, how many people your account is reaching and what age range and gender you target the most. It's interesting to look at your reach and see which type of images are the most popular, helping you plan your feed in advance. I know that the best time of day for me to post is at 9pm so I try and stick to this time as it will post my engagement which in turn will allow more people to see my content.
If you use the same hashtags every single time you post Instagram will pick up on this and assume that you are a BOT. To avoid this happening have a rotation of two or three sets of hashtags. Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags, however your post is likely to have a further reach if you use between 15-20. You also want to make sure that the hashtags you are using don't have millions of uses. If you are picking hashtags that have under say 20,000 uses (as an example) then your post is more likely to be seen, rather than getting lost. You could try using #mumclub rather than #mummy for better results.
The best way to be seen is to post regularly, and once you've made the commitment to post you need to continue to do so. If you post every day, once a day, the second that you stop doing this and have a couple of days off it massively impacts your engagement and the Instagram algorithm kicks in. It can take several days, or even weeks for your engagement to get back to where it was. You should only do what you realistically think you can manage. I post once a day, although I am guilty of the odd two posts. Recently I posted four times in a day and it had such a negative effect on my engagement, dropping my likes/comments from the hundreds down into the tens. The same can be said for pictures/videos, if you post videos on to your grid Instagram will expect this from you moving forward so make sure you are able to devote the time needed.
It seems like I've always known about loops when in reality I have only been using them for a few months. Loops are a great way to gain new followers and discover accounts that you may have not found otherwise. I run my own loop now and have built a fantastic community of women off the back of it. There are several formats for the loops but essentially the same process, you follow everyone and they have to follow you back. If you are looking for a fast way to gain, then this is it. Some people may argue that you aren't then guaranteed genuine followers that interact with your content but I haven't found that to be the case. In fact I've made some fantastic friends through doing loops so I'd recommend them if you are looking for new accounts to follow.
Instagram stories has only increased in popularity, with most people using it as a quicker form of Vlogging (Video Blogging). I started my stories on the first day of my Maternity Leave and I have posted every single day since then. I love the interaction it gives me with my followers and that it allows a greater insight into my life than just one picture on my grid. It is also a great way to promote my blog and also can be used to let people know that I have a new post on my grid. This helps combat the Instagram algorithm as it notifies people that may have otherwise missed it.
If you go on a massive liking/following/commenting spree it won't go unnoticed. Instagram will assume that you are a BOT and you will be shadow banned. Shadow Banning means that you are unable to use Instagram in the way that you normally would. You will be unable to follow new people, or interact with their content. You can report the ban if you think it is unfairly given but the quickest way to lift the ban is by having a 48 hour self-imposed ban from Instagram. By the time you come back you should be in the clear. Annoying but avoidable if you are careful with your engagement across content.
The majority of instagram users now have a Follow app. This is an app that you can use to check and see who has unfollowed you, who isn't following you back and who is a ghost user (someone who doesn't interact with you). These apps are particularly useful if you have completed a loop and you want to see who 'Followed to Unfollow.' These people are incredibly unpopular but there is no way to stop them from doing so. What they are hoping is that you won't have an app and therefore you won't notice if they aren't following you anymore, thus gaining followers whilst keeping their own following number down. There are many different apps out there but the most popular for Iphone users is Followers+ and I use FollowInsights on Android.
POD groups are set up to help you with your engagement on posts. They normally consist of a group of individuals who let the wider group know when they have posted a new picture. The group then go and either like or comment, or both, on the post so that there is higher engagement for that person. Some groups work that you have to like the 5 posts previously to yours before you can post, or that you have to comment over 5 words. Personally I don't like them as I would rather my likes and comments be organic but I can see why they are popular.
The best way to increase engagement through comments is to make sure your comment is 5 words or over
You can only follow 7,500 people but there is no limit on how many people can follow you
Limit the number of people you follow/interact with in a day. Over 100 in a certain time frame will most likely end in shadow banning
If you have a following of over 10k you will be gifted with the elusive 'Swipe Up' in your stories, allowing you to link affiliate links/blog/websites in your stories.
Ask questions in your caption. This will encourage people to get involved and will not only help boost your engagement but will also help you get to know the people behind the screen.
Best photo editor for a beginner?
I use Lightroom on my pictures as I've found it to be user friendly and a very good editor. Other good editing apps are Photoshop, Snapseed and VSCO.
How do you start a theme for your grid?
You need to think about how you'd like your pictures to look. Do you want them to be on a 'dark' background or a 'white' background. Would you like a single colour to pop and be included in all the pictures. Are you posting outfit posts on primarily pink walls or pictures of your baby against a white sheet? Once you've decided what kind of photographs you want to take, it is worth deciding if you are going to use a filter. If yes, then pick one you are happy using for every single picture as it looks odd if you go off 'theme.' You can also an app, like A Colour Story, to help you visualise your grid, which will allow you to play around with composition of the photographs and see which order looks the most pleasing. It will also allow you to schedule posts so you can have them set up and ready to go even if you didn't manage to take a picture that day. It's always a good idea to have a couple of photos on standby for this reason.
How do you make yourself stand out?
I think you just need to have your own individual style which sounds cliche and easier said than done but it's true. Captions are a good way to engage people and tell the story behind the photograph. I've found that my followers much prefer it if I let them see the reality and not the insta-reality. Take pictures that you care about, don't flood you feed with ads and take the time to like and comment on other people's posts too. As long as you like your content it's all that matters.
What camera do you use to take pictures?/ Did you invest in a good camera?
I've combined these questions as they are similar. I use a combination of my Samsung S8 and our Canon 1200D with either a 50mm lens or 18-55mm lens dependant on the subject. The Canon is actually my husband's but he lets me use it and I guess as we are married, we share possessions! I edit all the pictures I take in Lightroom. I am self taught with both the photography and the editing.
How to make highlight icons?
This isn't really my field of expertise but I use an app called Canva to make a nice 'stories' post as a front cover for my highlights. A quick Google of 'Highlights Icons' however brings up lots of pretty options that you could use.
Do you reach out to companies personally?
I'm going to assume you mean when I receive gifts. It's actually a combination of me reaching out and companies coming to me. I was incredibly surprised at the amount of people I assumed were getting sent stuff but in actual fact were asking for it. It's rare to get something for nothing though and there is usually a requirement, like exposure in stories and on the grid, or comments and reviews. I'd say that personally it's about 50/50. If I like the look of a company or product I will reach out and ask if they would like to collaborate but I have also been contacted by companies saying they would like to send something through. I wouldn't take anything that I wasn't going to use myself/on Rosie though.
How many hours do you put into Insta daily?
Ask my husband and he would tell you every second of every hour! Because I post on my stories all day it looks like it's a continuous thing, but more often than not I will store up pictures and then post them all in a big batch. On an average day I will think about the picture I want to post, take the shot, edit it and then post with a thought out caption - usually an update on the day. This will take about an hour to do. I also spend time watching people stories, replying to comments, liking others posts and scrolling through my feed so on average around 2-3 hours I reckon.
Remember kids, the majority of what you see on Instagram isn't real! If you use it in the right way, however, it can open up all sorts of possibilities. You can find me on my baby instagram @ohmybabygoulding.