My name is Imogen, I am from Melbourne, Australia and 9 months ago I formed an Instagram account that now has more than 110,000 followers. How did I do garner such a ridicously large following in a relatively small time? If you asked me back then I would have said either (a) I have no idea it still blows my mind its completely crazy, or (b sheer luck, determination and having a lot of time on my hands. However, I can objectively look back and realise that, even if it was subconscious, there was a definite "method" to my (completely obsessed) madness.
You see, I was for the greater part of my career, a lawyer. Something that I thought was exciting and impressive, that turned out to be, for me at least, extremely dull whilst still managing to be confidence-shattering, a career filled with mostly people I didn’t particularly like, chasing aspirations I couldn’t relate to, all with a sense of importance that was completely alien to me.
Anyway, back to the method to my madness part, these are 10 core “rules” that have helped me form a very large following on Instagram, in a relatively short space of time.
I do realise there are Apps you can download where you can “buy” followers, however if you are Instagram savvy - you will soon realise that such accounts are:
(a) incredibly obvious (to those looking in); and
(b) do not form a very good business model if you want to have an idea of how people are genuinely reacting to your posts.
Here are my top 10 tips of what worked for me when I was building up my Instagram account:
Post regularly. Even now, I make sure I post at least 3-4 times a day. Sometimes more. Every time I post I gain more followers. After around 24 hours posts pretty much become “dead” and you won’t gain any more followers from that post, unless you are very specific and clever with your use of hashtags. I post every day now because it’s become an addiction. I have seen people abandon their accounts for a month or two, and if you do this, you will of course lose followers. You must keep the momentum going! I have heard that there is an unwritten rule that if you are posting more than 1-2 times a day, it is unseemly and considered desperate. When I first started my account in March 2015 I posted 10-12 times a day! I would have 100 unfollows every day at points. But on the same day, I would also gain 1000 more followers. Needless to say, I was quite content with those odds.
Follow back everyone who follows you (at least in the beginning). When I first started my account, I made sure I followed everyone back that followed me. To me, it was a courtesy thing, an acknowledgement of appreciation if you will (but see point 3 below!). I didn’t generally follow back private accounts because that seemed weird to me, as I didn’t know the person. Eventually I had to stop this method, as I could not see the posts from people that were my actual IG friends or the bloggers I followed. At one point I was following 7000 people! I made the harsh but necessary decision very recently to trim that number to under 1000 and it has made my IG page a lot less stressful for me. In saying that, I didn't do that until I reached probably 60,000 followers!
There are a lot of people on Instagram that just follow lots of people, wait to see if that person follows them back, then they ultimately unfollow you. I have even seen major fashion bloggers use this as a method of gaining more followers. I’m not going to name names, but I think you would be fairly shocked at some of the Australian fashion girls who have accounts of more than 500K followers who use this method. To avoid this – make sure you install an app which shows you who has unfollowed you. When I started my account I made sure that if anyone unfollowed me, I immediately unfollowed them back. So long, suckers!
Always credit the true owner of the photo. Sometimes I can spend up to an hour searching for the correct details – it’s all part of what makes posting a picture fulfilling, like a small-scale investigation if you will. The owner of the photo will usually be so grateful they may even comment to thank you – then it is an opportunity to have dialogue or even make an online friendship with someone! I used to get so mad at people that didn’t credit that I used to tag the true owner of the photo in the comments so the perpetrator could feel the wrath that way and maybe learn a lesson. The most ripped off photo I have ever seen would have to be that of Nina Holst (AKA Stylizimoblog’s) closet. That picture is EVERYWHERE on Instagram uncredited. I have even seen large international companies commit this Instagram “sin”. There are heaps of popular interior accounts out there that make absolutely no attempt at all to credit anyone. To me that is disgustingly lazy and disrespectful to the amazing creatives that design and photograph these beautiful homes. Crediting Pinterest is not proper credit!
The time of day you post is very important. The best times of day to post (for your local market) are 6-7am, 12-1pm, maybe even 3:30pm (school pickup runs) then again at 7,8, 9 and 10pm. Those are the times that most people are on Instagram – before work, on the way to work, lunch time, at home relaxing – posting at these peak times will get you the most likes and (ultimately) more followers. If you have a lot of international followers this might not matter, but if you are only selling your product nationally then you should try and stick to these times in your local market.
Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag. I am of the opinion that you may as well not post at all if you aren’t going to include some hashtags. I have heard on the grapevine that it can be perceived as “needy” or “desperate” to post more than a couple of hashtags. Bah! I throw that advice completely out the window. I hashtag as much as I can hash. I don’t care – I wouldn’t personally unfollow account because they used excessive hashtags if they otherwise had beautiful content. I now put my hashtags as a separate comment underneath my original post (something I saw the Scandinavian girls doing) so that its less “messy” looking in my post. My most popular hashtags are #interior #interiors #interiordecor #interiordesign #interiordesigner. There is a website called Webstagram that I use (albeit extremely occasionally now, but it was very helpful when I started my account) which tells you which hashtags are giving you the most impact.
Research – study those accounts that you admire and are in the same field as you are doing – the time of day they post, the hashtags that they use, what is popular on their page and (possibly more importantly) what’s not so popular - and ultimately decide what might work for you. There is so much knowledge to be gleaned from other successful accounts on Instagram. Choose a handful that you admire and ask yourself what is it about what they are doing that makes you want to follow them? I believe the reason why I have managed to continue to have a popular account despite turning it from initially just pure interior inspo photos into a business account is that I hardly ever post obvious business related photos. If I do want to promote a certain product I sell, I will find a lovely picture of said product in someone’s house, styled amazingly - sometimes I won’t comment that I am selling that particular item. If someone directly asks in a comment I will direct them to my website, but I am a huge proponent of this type of what I like to call subtle and classy advertising. In the end I think it is more important to have a larger base of followers that you aren’t turning away with in-your-face marketing methods for the sake of making a sale.
If it is a business account, do not post lots of personal photos. Obviously this is not a hard and fast rule, and the occasional photo can be incredibly beneficial to add a personal touch to your account, but if its every second photo, that is WAY too much. In saying that – it is such a fine line. There are a number of Instagram accounts that carry off the interweaving of business and personal life in such a way that it feels natural and unobtrusive, but that takes a fair bit of talent I believe. My theory is that generally speaking it will distract from your business and turn a lot of potential followers off if they see too many personal pics intermingled with pictures that actually relate to your business. As a general rule, keep the personal posts and photos for your personal accounts, not business accounts.
Be consistent - you really are (in terms of what a new follower thinks when they decide whether or not to follow you) only as good as your last 5-10 posts, as this is as far people will bother to scroll down (if at all). Don't mix up too many different ideas on your page - stick to one theme to avoid a page that visually or content-wise feels disjointed.
Don’t wait. If you don’t know what you want your business to look like, or be named or just don’t have a clue but know that you might like to somehow, someday have something where you make your own money via an Instagram account Do Not Wait. Open that account right now. It does not matter – just get cracking. There is no time like the present, and to be honest, there is nothing to really stuff up. Just get in there, start posting, and start following accounts that you like and admire. Comment on those accounts (don’t just like – if someone has lots of followers they will never know that you “liked” a post” – comments are what Instagrammers notice. There’s almost zero point in liking a post if you want to get someone’s attention – you have to comment, and it has to be genuine and observant and considered – not just blaize statements of “love, love love” or emoticons. You need to create a IG posse – a group of like-minded peeps that will be your supporters and rally each other. Because once you get lots of followers – it is near impossible to get relationships like that, you have to build them when you first start out. I can tell you right now who I supported and who supported me when I very first started out (and some of these people were also just starting out) and if you check their accounts, you will find without exception that every single person has a large Instagram following now. Those people are (please forgive me if I miss you): @prettytidy_roshnee @willowstyleco @refine.design @meandzebedee @amarandfoo @justine_ash @blackandtype @thedustypoppy @mitahli_designs @misskyreeloves @littlemissapple @mitliversmikt @mamaisonblanche @seekandstyle @interieurtips @oh.eight.oh.nine @lottisplottis @peonyandpage @theworkspacestylist @the_everyday_edit @duet.studio @aselizaslept @formanpictureframing @l_e_a_b_o @myfabulousdesign @casa_lene @stylizimoblog @nor_folk @sartorialminimalist @chloekermerci @jensonandbeau
Please comment below if you have any tips or advice to add to this - I wrote this in about 20 minutes and its probably crammed with typo's and broad generalisations so please don't take anything I say too seriously - its more of a broad guide to share what worked for me. If you would like to hear more tips let me know and I'll consider doing another post!!
Happy gramming everyone!
Originally posted 28 January 2016