Showing your photos to others and inspiring them is probably one of the best parts about photography and to increase the number of people that might see your photos on Instagram, we wrote down 10 essential tricks on how to grow your follower base.
Instagram is not only about growing a meaningless number, so don’t get stuck too much into this. Care more about your photography and real connections instead of the naked number, although it’s definitely great to know that there are more and more people that are interested in your photos. Just putting so much effort into social media because of a number is pointless, so before you start growing, you should always think about your goals. Write them down and make sure that your time is well invested, because Instagram and other social platforms are also about having fun, getting connected to other people around the world and having a way of sharing (and archiving) great moments within your life.
#1 Build - Measure - Learn
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is one of my favorite books about startups and being a successful entrepreneur. His techniques can also be used in the context of Instagram or any other social network, because it’s not about immediately doing the right things, but about learning as much and as fast as you can.
As a startup you usually have a limited amount of money and time to grow your business and earn money. That’s why the most important part in the early stage is to learn what works and what not. Stop fearing about doing something wrong or about failing and try out as much as you can. In his book he is describing this part as the „Build - Measure - Learn“-loop. First you build something, based on an assumption you have (f.e. increasing the size of a sign up button will increase the number of sign ups). Afterwards you need to measure this change (f.e. by using an analytics tool to see if the number of sign ups after the change really increased) and lastly you need to learn from this cycle (f.e. increasing the size didn’t help, let’s try to change the color instead). With every loop you will not only improve your product/startup/Instagram profile, but you will also learn a lot about your potential customers/followers etc.
The faster you get through this loop, the faster you will learn from things that worked and maybe didn’t work. You could try to like 200 images with a hashtag that’s relevant for your content. Did it work? If yes, what could you improve to get even more out of your time? In my case liking didn’t change anything at all, but liking an image + leaving a unique comment did increase the interaction with others quite a lot and got me much more new followers than just liking images.
#2 Use Instagram Business
Make sure to understand when your followers are active on Instagram, so that you can post at these times. If you share content during times where most of these people are offline, you will have a hard time to get traction on your posts, because the first minutes matter the most. The more people like and comment your image, the more it will be shown to other followers and maybe even as a top image on tag or location pages. Instagram assumes, that posts that gain a lot of interaction very fast, must be good and therefore might also be interesting for other users, because the more people are staying at the platform, the more advertising can be shown to the users. Their goal is interaction and if you can encourage this with your posts, you will be prioritized in the feed of others for this reason.
You can upgrade your profile to a business profile for free and you get a lot of detailed insights and statistics that will help you to grow your audience.
#3 Post on a regular basis
One of the easiest suggestions to get more followers is to post on a very regular basis. The reason behind this is, that the more content you produce, the higher the chances that somebody will stumble over your profile. Another important part about that is the number of interactions, because if you post only once a month, the overall number of interactions with your profile is very limited and your followers can only like this single image once.
I used a walk through the woods, that I would do anyway, to easily create some additional content. This photo was taken on one of the beautiful paths of the Siebengebirge in Germany.
Let’s say you tried and measured quite a lot of different time slots for your content and you finally found the perfect timing for your posts. While this is kind of the easiest and most straight forward part of social media, it’s also the part that requires a lot of effort and willpower to post every single day at this very specific time. There is an easy solution though, which is called Later https://later.com. The tool is free for private accounts with up to 30 posts per month and it helps you to plan your posts upfront. Instead of doing the work of finding new images every day, you can use tools like this one to schedule one hour per week for example, to do the work of composing your posts. The app will remind you on your smartphone at the time slots you set yourself and the only thing you need to do is to paste the image into Instagram and copy the text you already wrote from Later to Instagram. That’s it.
#4 Be consistent
Posting on a regular basis is just one part of being consistent in what you do on Instagram. Another part is the content and your profile itself. If you have a lot of similar content, the chances are much higher that somebody will follow you, because this person is interested exactly into this type of content. If you prioritize more than 2 or 3 things, you are not prioritizing at all, because everything is equally important. The same rule applies to your social media profile. Try to produce similar content for a while, maybe even use the same filters to generate a consistent first impression to new visitors, so that it’s easier for them to decide if they like your style or not.
Instagram has a feature to hide old posts from your profile, so you might even want to use this to clean up your profile to get that consistent look even faster.
Before: In the beginning I tried a lot of different things to see what works on my private Instagram profile. While this helped me to learn a lot, I also understand in retrospective why I didn't gain so many new followers on a regular basis. Every image had a completely different content and style.
After: My private Instagram profile - after I learned a lot about the platform - has much higher follower rates when people visit my profile.
#5 Learn from others
A great way to get some inspiration about growing your follower base is by searching for similar profiles and see how or when they post their images and how they interact with others. This is especially good if the profile isn’t too big and when you scroll down in their profiles, to see the first posts if they didn’t hide them. Nevertheless you might be able to see a transition from their beginnings to the current state, which might help you to understand what you need to do next to improve your content.
#6 Tune your profile
We already talked about tuning a profile by removing or hiding content, that doesn’t fit into the context of your general content or design pattern. Another important part of your profile is obviously the name (if you are not using your personal name) and the profile image, because both details are shown to others when you like, comment or follow somebody. If the name or the profile image is interesting, the chances are much higher that somebody will have a look at your profile when it appears in their feed of notifications. Think about yourself and pay attention to which profiles stand out in your own notifications and why you did click on them the last time.
Another important part of the profile is the description about you. Be precise about what you will offer in your profile and why others should follow you. An important detail is the region or city you are living, because people are feel closer to somebody who is living nearby and therefore maybe has similar interests. Think of this like meeting somebody from your hometown in another country. You might not know this person, but you will definitely feel more connected to him or her than to everybody else, just because of this little detail.
#7 Communicate with your followers
Interaction with others is the basic idea behind social media and that’s why it’s so important to create more content that is relevant for your target group and that creates conversations. You may tag followers in your images to get more interaction or ask questions about them. Anything that improves the activity with your profile and your content means, that this type might be interesting for other followers too. Since Instagram changed the algorithm towards the techniques of Facebook, instead of just showing the images in chronological order, you might want to pay some attention on this highly underestimated part of the platform.
You can try it yourself by having a look into the list of people you follow. When I do this, I usually see a lot that I’ve not seen since months in my feed and when I have a look at their profile again and start to like and comment some of their content, I will see them more often in the future within my feed again. If their content is good, I will probably like the images in the feed, which will ensure that Instagram will show me even more of their photos, because I seem to like them. This spiral works in both ways, so if you share photos that just a few people like, you will gain less and less coverage in the feed of others. For this reason it’s nearly always a bad idea to buy fake followers just to increase the number within your profile. It might be tempting, but on a percentage basis your followers are engaging less with you, which is a strong signal for Instagram that your content got worse.
#8 Include a person
This is probably obvious to anybody who is using Instagram on a regular basis, but it’s still worth to mention and to think about, especially as typical land- or cityscape photographers. Images that include people often have the highest engagement rates on Instagram for a good reason. Not only that social platforms are about the people behind the profiles, it’s also easier for the viewers to put themselves into your perspective. „Story Telling“ is one of the buzzwords, that is used within this context and that can help you to get a much better and unique connection to your followers.
#9 Improve your hashtags
Instead of just using the most popular hashtags, it’s often better to find special niches, especially if your account isn’t that big or if your photos are not something that everybody might like. Think of this like being yourself some of the big curators and seeing this huge amount of tagged images every day and you would have to find the best ones to post on your channel. You will immediately learn which type of image works and which don’t. It’s often not about the quality of the photos, but about what works best (see #2 Build - Measure - Learn). In our monthly Locationscout newsletter we are therefore often sharing places that might be enjoyable for the biggest part of the audience. This also means, that it’s not always about the quality of the image itself and that you don’t have to be sad if your content wasn’t selected. Sunrise and sunset often works better because of the colors and because a beautiful sunset isn’t seen as often as what we all see during the day. The same applies to fog or very special light situations or unknown places. Even if the quality might be worse, you as a curator might select the sunrise image just because you know that it will create more interactions with your followers.
That said, it’s important to find your niche where your images stand out from the crowd instead of being a part of it. It’s definitely better to get shared by a smaller curator with a lesser known hashtag, than to never get shared.
#10 Don’t be that guy
Please don’t just follow people to unfollow them a few days later. This isn’t only destroying the social part of the platform, but it’s also extremely bad for your reputation. I often block profiles that are obviously just following me to get attention on their profiles and not because they like my content. It’s definitely a way that seems to work, because if somebody starts following you, you might have a look at his profile to return the favor. Additionally, there is a follow-button in the notification feed, which makes this information stand out from all the likes.
Thank you to Jakob Kühne for supporting me with this article and his deeper knowledge about Instagram.
Did we miss any important tricks and are you already using Instagram? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your profile in the comments below and don’t miss to follow us on Instagram via @locationscoutnet.