It’s no wonder celebs get millions of Instagram followers: they’re famous. But what about all those 20-year-old apparent nobodies who seem to get the entire internet’s attention whenever they post? Lots of them are raking in cash, too. It’s enough to make you despair at having to have a day job.
Well, there’s more to cultivating an Instagram army than just being pretty and wearing nice clothes. Or owning the cutest puppy in a 3-mile radius. (NB: Those things help, we’re not going to lie.) Six years to the day that Instagram launched (October 6), we’re going to get our Instagram strategy mojo on. Want to join?
1. HAVE A UNIQUE HOOK
Sorry to break this to you: no-one really cares about your shots of slightly off-kilter buildings or pics of your dinner. Even your friends only like them so you’ll carry on liking their similarly boring snaps. To get ahead what you need is an angle.
Upscaling Primark gear so it looks like catwalk fodder? An account for your 2-week-old pug? Or one dedicated to pictures of Shia LaBeouf sitting on toilets? All of these are potential winners, especially if you want to reach a circle outside of your friends. The ideal scenario is that your Instagram disciples will know a photo is yours because they recognise your style. They know you make £3 Primani sweaters look fierce, that Dibble the dog loves tummy rubs. Or that you’re the weirdo with the LaBeouf obsession.
2. LIKE MORE PEOPLE‘S PHOTOS, STUPID
To become an Instagram force of nature, you need to get some momentum going. And to get that you need more people to see your posts. The simplest way is to just like more people’s stuff. Don’t indiscriminately like everything you see. An 11 year-old could probably code you a bot to do that.
What you want to do is to like the stuff from people you want following you. But don’t aim too high – Taylor Swift or Kim K probably won’t start recognising your posts in the sea of 72 million followers just because you like a few of their selfies.
3. USE ONE OF THE SPECIAL HASHTAGS
There’s no end to the hashtags you can glue onto your posts. However, a few special ones act as not-so-subtle begging tags to try to get people to follow you, like your posts or promise to like their posts if they do the same for you.
#L4L is “like for like”, meaning you say you’ll like posts of those who kick a bit of love your way. #follow and #followme are other top picks, their use being really quite obvious. Right? You might also want to use #photooftheday for your best shot at Instagram stardom each day.
4. MASTER THE HASHTAG (BUT DON‘T ABUSE THEM)
Don’t fancy begging? The key is to tailor tags that suit the actual post. People do actually use hashtags to find stuff, you know. What else you do you think they do on the toilet apart from playing Candy Crush?
Don’t just spit out a random word that seems appropriate, unless it’s also totes hilair. Hashtags are a language of their own, full of conventions and trends. A lot of obvious words work, like #cute, #happy or #fashion, but your best bet is to stalk a few successful Instagram accounts that do what you want to do, better, and then rip them off just a little bit. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? (Note: don’t nick their pics, just their tags.)
5. ADD CAPTIONS TO YOUR PICS
Instagram is about pics and vids, but adding captions is a great way to inject a bit more fun and personality into your posts. Even a sullen selfie can be turned into something funny with the right caption.
And having a funny personality to your Instagram account is one way to get ahead. Using a caption also stops your posts from looking like a picture with just a load of hashtags dangling off the bottom: not a good look even if you have just recreated a red carpet look for £4.50 above all the tags.
6. MAKE SURE YOUR PROFILE PIC LOOKS GREAT
Your posts need to represent your Instagram brand, but don’t forget about your profile picture too. As with so many other elements of this voyage to Instagram fame, it’s all about delivering a concentrated 100% proof shot of your account’s essence so that people start recognising you even if they don’t know you.
That most likely means a shot of your face, and not one where you’re partly obscured. Unless that’s your whole schtick. Don’t think about these pictures at the size you’re going to upload them either, but as the handful of pixels people are actually going to end up seeing on their phones. Think… small.
7. POST REGULARLY, BUT DON‘T SPAM
Here’s the funny thing: Instagram is all about selling a personality. But those personalities are a bit like tiny little businesses. Don’t suddenly go on a Twitter-a-like posting binge or you could see your follower count drop like a stone. You need to be your own publicist even if that does make you sound a bit like a split-personality wannabe Z-lister. It’s really a simple case of strategy.
You want to post a couple of times a day, and try out different times of the day to see what works best. It’s a bit of a balancing act: you want a popular time, but not if it’s exactly when everyone in your Instagram circle posts, with the exact-same strategy in mind. Experiment, play around, but make sure you keep a steady stream of posts coming to build your Insta-brand.
8. SCHEDULING MIGHT HELP YOUR SANITY
Once you get on the cubic zirconia-encrusted road to Instagram stardom, you might start to realise that 80% of your fans are living eight hours behind you. Suddenly waking up at weird hours just to keep up is going to do your selfies no favours. There are plenty of tools that’ll let you schedule posts so you can even take a break from social media every now and then. Yes: it’s possible even in 2016.
Tools like this include Hootsuite and Latergramme. If you want to dig real deep you can even sign up with an Instagram analytics tool like InstaFollow or SimplyMeasured. These do a lot of the hard graft for you, either looking at exactly who is/isn’t following you or checking out which of your posts are gold and which are stinky, stinky duds.