This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019
More than 300 million photographers of all skills and ages use Instagram to display photos to their friends and followers. Originally created for instant display of cell phone camera shots, now it is used to showcase all photos and videos, taken with various cameras and using a variety of filters and shapes (it is no longer limited to a square photo).
If you’ve never used Instagram before, it’s a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family, by seeing “snapshots” of their lives as they feed into your view instantly. You can also make comments and “like” (click on a heart) and “share” (forward) your favorite pictures to others.
Many of you use Instagram as an easy place to share your photos with friends, and that’s all. But there’s a whole world of Instagram out there sharing photos because “growing” followers is crucial to your business or your pastime. In 2013, right after Facebook bought Instagram, Instagram grew by 23%, while Facebook only grew 3%. Instagram has become the new way to attract attention, and it is very popular.
How can you be successful at Instagram?
- Post good quality pictures
- Post often enough, but not too often (once or twice a day at most)
- Post a variety of photos to appeal to many
- Look for and follow Instagram accounts you like, and regularly interact with them
- Use hashtags – hashtags (words or phrases that start with a #) help people find what they’re interested in. Use hashtags that are popular in your niche. Look at the hashtags used by those who have a lot of followers in your niche and try them out. But don’t use more than 30; some prefer a lot less, say 5-10. And don’t use the same ones every time.
- Interact with your followers; “like” lots of photos and comment on the ones you really like
- Invest some time – spend about 30 minutes morning and night going through your feed and liking, commenting, and asking questions
- Follow the Golden Rule – treat others the way you’d like to be treated
- Be sincere – don’t follow and then unfollow, don’t “like” photos just to get attention
- Learn from others – find out what you like and then ask questions like “What filter do you use?”, for example.
- Praise others and give shout-outs – everyone enjoys a little praise now and then. Sometimes you will find someone who really deserves a shout out; feature them in your feed or in your “stories” and send them a little “love”. They might do the same for you!
My Instagram Secrets
Honestly, there really aren’t any “secrets” to having a good Instagram account, but I’ll share a few tips with you…
Edit your photos
My favorite editing app is Snapseed. It has some really cool editing features, like “healing” to remove telephone lines or other distracting items from a photo. My favorite filter is the HDR Scape filter, which I usually use at 25-50%. Here’s an example of the difference it can add to a photo of some lemon clover. See how the edited photo has more color, light, and depth to it?
Make sure your photos are level
Maybe it’s just me, but it drives me crazy when an otherwise beautiful photo of the ocean or landscape is crooked! And it’s so easy to fix. In fact, you can do it right on Instagram. Snapseed also has a leveling feature (“rotate”).
Put together an attractive preview
You know…like the front cover of a magazine. Your preview is the last nine photos everyone sees when they go to your profile page. Choose a theme and be sure your preview reflects it. For example, choose one, two, or three colors you will always use in your photos. In my photos, you’ll usually find blue, green and sometimes yellow. Those are my “happy” colors and they kind of represent me. But here are some other examples…one in pink and another with orange and turquoise.
You can also use all black-and-white photos or photos with black frames around them (or white). You can alternate photos and tiles with captions, or you can have each row fit together like a puzzle. Another theme is to use all “landscape” oriented photos, or alternating between portrait and landscape. Just scroll through Instagram and see what others have done and decide what appeals to you
Use an App to help you
There’s even an app you can use called “Preview” that lets you drag and drop your photos to arrange and re-arrange them to get the look you like. Then you can post them in the right order so they make a gorgeous preview.
Change things up every once in a while
Use the multiple slides option, where you can choose two, three or more pictures from the same place and people can view them by swiping from one to the next.
Use ten-second videos instead of a post. Sometimes the best way to show something off is to post a video – especially if sound is important. For example, let your followers hear and see the waves crashing on the beach…or the song of your Venecian gondola driver as you drift through the canals!
Work on your bio
Make sure your “bio” sells you. In just a few words, tell who you are and why people should follow you — and what you have to offer them. This is also where you can use a direct link to your blog, store, or favorite cause.
Don’t forget the usefulness of Instagram stories
Instagram stories are posted and remain for only 24 hours. This is a good way to promote a new blog post up for readers to view…or the latest giveaway. And if you have 10K or more followers, they can swipe up to link to a website directly. You can use stories to promote your favorite accounts (shout-outs), your favorite products, or whatever is dear to your heart. It can be pictures of what you ate, your workout routine, or seriously, just about anything that is happening in your life.
Add hashtags to your stories, too, so they’ll attract the people interested in your subject. Did you know you can make the hashtags super tiny so they won’t distract from your story? Just pinch them down to a super-small size and put them in the corner, out of the way. They don’t need to be legible to draw followers to your story.
Is this all there is to Instagram?
Not at all! This is really just a beginner’s look at how to create a successful Instagram account. Please share your own tips, and I’ll be back again with more ideas to share. Instagram is always changing it up, so there will definitely be something new to learn.