As Instagram constantly changes how their algorithm works, growing an account gets harder and harder. Even the biggest, most active, most studious users face the same challenges. Just staying current on what works can get to be a full-time job.
There are however a few universal things you can do that have continued to work through every change that Instagram makes. Below you will find some foundational, non-engagement based tactics that will help you grow your following and maintain your account.
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Happy birthday to me means happy birthday to you! I begged my dear friends @gebhardsnyc to serve their Black Fortress Sliders back onto the menu for my birthday party and they’ve decided to put them on the menu for the summer. . The Black Fortress Burger is a take on a White Castle slider properly made with fresh smashed @certifiedangusbeef, steam grilled onions, American cheese on a potato brioche. . Once you have them, there will be no going back for you. Get to the Upper West Side now before they are gone! . Suggested beer pairing: ANYTHING from @gunhillbrewery! . . . #munchmafia #burger #burgers #burgerlovers #burgertime #hamburger #hamburgers #instaburger #cheeseburger #burgerlife #🍔 #bestburger #bestburgers #bestburgerintown #bestburgerever #bestburgersever #burgerporn #burgeratti #instburger #slider #sliders #BeautifulCuisines #bestfoodworld #buzzfeast #cheatdayeats #cheatmeal #devourpower #eatfamous #eatingfortheinsta #eatmunchies
At the time this article was written, that post is the highest engagement I’ve gotten on my main Instagram account. It was shared on my birthday as part of a special promotion I set up with one of my favorite bars in NYC, Gebhard’s Beer Culture. It happened 2,693 days after my first post to Instagram on March 12, 2011, which was this:
I have no idea what that was but apparently it was from a bar named Clive in Austin, TX, likely while attending SXSW. It wasn’t until 8 months later that I shared my first food photo to Instagram.
Since then I have shared nearly 15,000 photos to Instagram across about a dozen accounts and amassed more than 300,000 followers. I tell you this not as a humble brag but to establish my experience and accomplishments. Throughout all of this, I’ve learned a lot about how to grow an account, stay relevant and earn engagement.
And now I’m going to give all those secrets to you.
These are absolutely the best and most valuable tips I can share with you that will help you do the same.
6 Algorithm Proof Instagram Tips That Will Help Grow Your Account
1. GIVE PEOPLE A REASON TO CARE
Absolutely the most important part of growing your followers and increasing your engagement is having a reason they should engage with you. What is your theme? What is the value you bring? What do you want to get out of this? Why should somebody care about everything you post?
Answer these questions and everything else you do on Instagram will more easily fall into place.
Does the photo you want to post, the text you want to write, the link you’re putting in your bio match your goal and the reason why people want to follow you? If yes, then post. If no, skip it.
Once you’ve figure it out what is your reason, make sure your bio reflects it.
For me, I want to be known as a marketer as well as a food fanatic and an NYC / NJ based food influencer. That’s why I started writing marketing tips as my captions and using hashtags like #RevsMarketingTips and updating every Monday using #MarketingTipMonday.
By the way, your reason and goals can change over time so don’t feel the pressure to nail it on the first try!
2. QUALITY CONTENT
It doesn’t matter what time you post, what hashtags are used, how many pods you use, how many times you share a day, if you do video or photo or stories or post just to your feed… Nothing is more important than the quality of the photo or the video.
Not all photos have to look amazing. If you’re a meme account, it’s about content that gets the biggest laugh. If it’s all live videos of you talking, whether you are telling jokes, giving advice or making a how to video, whatever the topic is, it had better be engaging.
3. EDIT YOUR PHOTOS
If it’s a photo, especially food, it comes down to three things: the right angle, great light and great editing. I don’t edit on my laptop, but I love Photoshop.
Even the greatest photos can use a little touching up. Whether it’s just doing a white balance, bringing up the contrast or adding some structure, a couple quick taps can make your photo look amazing.
Look at the difference in the raw photo vs what went live on Instagram.
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C’mon @burgerking! You can’t put an offer out there like 100 chicken nuggets for $10 and not expect me to want to do this! . . Big thanks to my bigger nugget devour partner, @chrispy.eats. . . . . #burgerking #100nuggets #nugget #nuggets #chickennuggets #nuggs #chicken #foodbeast #eeeeeats #forkyeah #buzzfeast #insiderfood #heresmyfood #lovefood #beautifulcuisines #9gag #foodporn #foodnetwork #foodblogfeed #hypebeast #complex #eatmunchies #eater #tryitordiet #fastfood #devourpower #instafoodlover #foodgasmic #tryitordiet #cheatmeal
If you’re never going to post on a Saturday and Sunday, then never post on a Saturday and Sunday … unless there’s a darn good reason. If you’re going to post once a day, make it the same time every day.
We may not appointment view TV anymore thanks to DVRs, on demand viewing and streaming services, but most of the rest of our life is on a schedule. We get up at the same time, we go to work at the same time, we eat lunch around the same time and we check social media at at the same time every day. If your followers love you or your content, give them what they want when they are online.
When should you post? The short answer is whenever you are most likely to get the most engagement. To figure this out you’ll need to test, test and test again. For a deeper dive, heres a guide to the best time to post on Instagram.
Look into your Analytics and see when the most of your followers are online. If you’re in engagement pods, figure out what time most people are active. If you can match those two up you’ll be in a good position. The first hour your post is live is the most important for engagement and growth.
5. HAVE A CONTENT MIX
What is your theme? What do you post? What gets the most engagement? Which types of your content gets the most saves and or profile clicks? What do people know you for? What do you want to be known for? Figure out what you should be posting and make sure that you stick to that even if it includes a certain percentage of experimentation.
If you’ve already done #1 above, this will be much easier.
I know for me, pizza and stacks of burgers do the best. I make sure I try to have two of those every week. Because I want to brand myself I try to make sure there’s always a picture of me once a week. I also want to be known for steak so I make sure there’s always at least one steak per week. I’m a french fry guy, so I make sure there’s one french fry post per week. What should your weekly mix be?
6. TIERED HASHTAGS
Use a varied mix of hashtags that have different levels of usage. Some people call this this “Three Tier Strategy.” The idea is to use some hashtags that don’t have a ton of volume, some that have big volume and some that have huge volume. You’re trying to try to get enough engagement behind your post so it makes it to the top of the explore page for any of the hashtags you are using. The ranges of the tiers will change as your account grows.
If you are small account, then trying to get your post to the explore page using hashtags that have millions of uses is a futile attempt. But 100,000 might be possible, 50,000 is definitely possible and 20,000 is much easier.
If you are a large account, tier 1 might be hashtags with more than a million uses, tier 2 might be 100,000 to 1 million and tier 3 might be hashtags with less than 100,000 but more than 50,000.
Another way to think about it is hashtags that are extremely specific to your post, some that are relevant and some that are generalized. Using food and restaurants to explain; you want to use a mix of food items specific, foodie, location and Instagram themed hashtags. You also want to make sure that you’re not all using hashtags that have the same quantity of people using them.
As an example trying to get your post to come up under the #Food is nearly impossible but #besthotdogs is much easier. Having a mix in sizes will help you. Remember, you can use up to 30 of them so I suggest you take full advantage.
Here’s a fully baked restaurant example. It has category, item, foodie and location tags.
#sandwich #sandwiches #sandwichoftheday #sandwichamerica #bestsandwich #bestsandwichever #sandwichporn #roastbeef #roastbeefsandwich #buzzfeast #cheatdayeats #cheatmeal #devourpower #eatfamous #eatingfortheinsta #eatmunchies #eeeeeats #f52grams #feastagram #feedfeed #foodgasm #foodlovers #foodstagram #foodietribe #foodilysm #foodyfetish #njeats #njfood #njfoodie #njrestaurants #forkyeah
Following these tips will help guide the growth of your account and increase your engagement.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to email me: email@example.com