8 Rules for Rapid Instagram Growth
Eager to grow your Instagram following. Looking to make the “Popular” page? Want to win friends and influence people with your ninja-like iPhoneography skills? Read on to learn eight rules that will help you quickly grow on Instagram. These rules may not guarantee Instagram success but they certainly might help!
What is Instagram?
In its simplest form, Instagram is a photo sharing application for your iPhone. The Instagram app allows you to take pictures from within the app, or choose a picture from your photo library, apply a filter to the photo if you so choose, and then upload it to the Instagram server. It goes something like this: You walk out of your favorite shopping center and notice the sun has nearly set and the clouds look pretty. So you whip out your iPhone, fire up Instagram snap a shot, apply a filter and send it off to the world. Your friend across town in his basement playing World of Warcraft, who hasn’t been out of doors in 22 days fires up Instagram while his raid is rezzing from their recent wipe, sees your photo in his “feed” and thinks to himself “So THAT’S where our capricious healer is!” All the same, he vaguely recalls that bright object in the sky and how it makes him squint so he double taps your image to “like” it and enters a comment such as “Yo, nice pic but my tank is taking it in the shorts.” Next time you fire up Instagram you are notified that your friend likes your photo and that he placed a comment on it reminding you why you took up iPhoneography as your newest hobby…
To be less sarcastic and more enlightening, Instagram is a social photo sharing site that lets you easily post your photo creations with your circle of followers and allows you to follow others who’s photos you enjoy. It all sounds really simple so you may ask yourself…
Why should I care?
Because once you’ve invested tens of dollars (or in my case hundreds) on photo editing apps, followed by hours upon hours of editing (sometimes called “apping”) your pictures, you suddenly find yourself starved for validation. You wonder if anyone else would find your photos pleasing to the eye. Could they be inspiring to anyone? Sure, you could post to Flickr, or even Facebook, but to date neither of those sites match the easy-of-use and simplicity of Instagram. Besides, people on Instagram want to see your photos and they want to show you theirs. Your Facebook friends may careless about your ninja photo editing skills, and likely will just ignore them because they are too busy spamming you from Farmville. Flickr is an excellent photo sharing site which I intend to join someday, but it wasn’t built for, nor does it cater specifically to mobile photo sharing.
Instagram offers that proverbial carrot of making the Popular page. That is the equivalent of being selected as employee of the month – you get your 15 minutes of fame where random strangers see your photos, “like” it, leave comments, and start following you because you are so awesome. Trust me, it is much better than it sounds when it happens for you! Getting highlighted on the Popular page is great. Getting loads and loads of followers is also like a warm fuzzy on steroids.
How to become Popular on Instagram
Rule #1: Post only your best photos. Don’t just think you are going to post random pics of yesterday’s worn gym socks and people are going to follow you in droves. I would recommend putting together 10 – 20 images that you are really pleased with as your base for your portfolio before you even create your Instagram account. When you are just starting out you can’t afford to post anything less than your best photos. You are looking to attract people with your photography or app editing skills. Unless you know an unruly number of other Instagrammers in real life, you have to rely on total strangers to help you achieve your goals. Always, always, always put your best foot forward. I feel so strongly about this that I would recommend starting over again with a new Instagram account if you’ve already started and your current portfolio looks like a laundromat. There are some incredibly horrible looking photos on Instagram but that isn’t going to be you.
Rule #2: Only post a few photos each day. It’s okay to post a chunk of photos immediately to get your portfolio started. However, I would not recommend more than 12 – 16 photos to start with. After that you should post 2 – 4 pictures a day tops! You don’t want to bury people who follow you with tons of images. If you are really prolific with your iPhoneography and have hundreds of photos to share, great! See rule #1 above – only post your best!
Rule #3: Spread your postings throughout the day. Don’t pick your 2 – 4 images from rule #2 and post them all up first think in the morning while drinking your morning coffee. Sure, go ahead and post your first photo while you enjoy your first cup, but wait and post the others throughout the day. I try and spread mine out by at least 2 hours each. If I have 4 photos to post for the day then it’ll take me 6 – 8 hours to get them all posted. If you only post 2 photos a day, try posting one in the morning and another one around the evening commute. Which brings me to rule #4…
Rule #4: Post when people are most active. Get to know your followers Instagram habits. If you post your images during the most active times of day you are more likely to get a lot of likes in a short amount of time. That appears to be the main driver behind making the popular page – a lot of “likes” in a short period of time. If you are getting a like or two every 30 seconds for 30 minutes you are likely going to make the Popular page. If none of your followers are online when you post an image it is unlikely you are going to get that rapid-fire “liking” you need. As your follower base grows, this rule becomes less and less important because you will have enough followers to generate the snowball effect you need. 100 likes in 2 days will not get you on the popular page but 50 likes in 10 minutes probably will. This rule may seem to go against rule #3 but it really doesn’t. Remember the Instagram community is a global community so the busiest time of day for US folks will certainly not be the busiest time of day for folks in Korea. The point of rule #4 is to get to know your followers and when they are most active. This is why it is, in general, a good idea to follow the people who follow you – so you can time your posts according to their habits. Their habits become your habits, where by, infusing the entire experience with more social yumminess!
Rule #5: Tag your photos! Tagging with a hashtag will cause your photos to be grouped with other photos with the same tag. If you are posting an image of a rose tag it with #rose and #flower, and maybe even a color tag like #red (if it’s red). Don’t put random and unrelated tags on your photos. If it is a flower don’t tag it #tractor. But feel free to get creative if you like. A rose can represent a lot of things like #love #passion #crush – whatever. You get the idea. Also, there are a lot of popular tags that will help you get noticed. Here are a few you can use on almost any photo: #jj #teg #photooftheday
Rule #6: Follow other people. Following other people is one of the best ways to get followers. Some people are auto-followers, if you follow them they’ll follow you. They may expect the same in return. If you are really eager to grow your following then go follow a lot of people. However, I highly recommend not following too many people. It is obvious when you are following 5,000 people and only have 50 followers that you don’t really care about the people you are following you just want to grow for selfish reasons. I personally only follow people who inspire me or who have taken the time to leave me meaningful feedback. Which brings me to my next rule…
Rule #7: Leave meaningful feedback and comments. Leaving meaningful comments is the second most likely way you’ll get someone to follow you. You will shortly realize that the majority of feedback reads something like this: “Nice!” “Awesome!” “Cool!”. Those comments are welcome but they aren’t going to win you any followers. Rather than saying “Kewl!”, try something like “Your edit really brings out the natural light. Did you use an app to produce those rays? They are beautiful!” Notice that I’m providing feedback and asking a question. If you ask a question, most people will take the time to answer. If they take the time to answer, then they are likely to take the time to go look at your portfolio. If you’ve followed rule #1 then your chances of getting them as a follower are looking pretty good.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting you go out there and leave a ton of contrived comments all over peoples feeds. Think about their photo. What do you like about it? How is it composed? Did it make you smile? Did it remind you of something? Does one thing look like something else? Tell them so! I understand it is hard to always leave meaningful feedback. Once you’ve established a relationship with the person a simple comment is sufficient unless their photo really moved you.
Rule #8: Get involved! Be active in the Instagram community. There are many “micro communities” within Instagram. One of the very best is the @joshjohnson #JJ community. Josh runs daily challenges and Insta-forums twice very day which are great for finding others and being found. Join in on the fun and participate in the daily challenges and forums. Tag all your photos with the #JJ hastag and follow @joshjohnson’s “123 rule” which is: For every 1 photo you post, comment on 2 others, and like 3 more. Don’t just spend all your time looking at the Popular page. Really, don’t. While it is cool to make the Popular page, you’ll get exceedingly frustrated with what other photos make the Popular page. Besides, if someone has made the popular page they are probably pretty well established with their following/followers and less likely to care about your neophyte portfolio. The #JJ community is mostly comprised of other people just like you, eager to find new followers and folks to follow. Spend most of your time there.
Getting involved includes staying active with your current followers/following crowd. Watch your feed, like the photos coming in from those you are following, leave meaningful feedback, and thank people who have left feedback on your photos. When I was first starting out, I made a point to every day “like” and comment on the photos of the people who were following me even if I wasn’t following them in return.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give you one major caution in growing your Instagram community. One cardinal rule that you should never break. Do not, I repeat, do not spam peoples photos with “follow me” begging. Nothing turns folks off quicker than that. Chances are if you beg for people to follow you they will do the exact opposite and ignore you completely!
That’s it, my Eight Rules for Rapid Instagram Growth. There is no magic formula for growing your Instagram presence. It doesn’t happen over night. But be patient, stay active, and within a couple of months your Instagram inner circle just may be 10 to 20 times the size it is today!