Since starting my blog, I’ve been really focused on writing compelling content and growing my reader base. Of those two things, surprisingly, the harder part has been the later. Once I sit down to write, as long as I know what I want to write about, the post is done pretty quickly. It’s getting people to actually read the post that’s challenging (congrats to you if you’re here reading this right now!). Since turning to Instagram to build up my reader base, I feel like I have joined a secret society. There is a whole world of rules and unspoken Instagram tricks and tips that I had no clue about when I was just posting food pictures on my personal account.
The first and by far most infuriating “strategy” that I have discovered on Instagram is the Follow-Unfollow. When I first started The Swaddled Siesta’s Instagram, I was very pleased to see my number of followers growing steadily. However, I soon noticed that if I got 25 new followers in a day, the next day I was back down minus 20. It was two steps forward, one and a half steps back. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. After some investigation, I downloaded a free app to tell me who was unfollowing me. Once I had the app, it was pretty easy to see that most of the accounts that would follow and immediately unfollow me, were promotional accounts or shops. They were hoping that I, seeing that they had followed me, would follow them back. Awesome. Even if I did follow them back, they still unfollowed me. “Why??” you might ask? Well another one of the the Instagram tricks and tips I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t follow too many people. Who knew?
I unfollowed the shops and promotional accounts that hit me with the Follow-Unfollow and quickly became more selective in who I chose to follow.. Then, I stopped following accounts just because they had chosen to follow me. The Follow-Unfollow continues, but it’s very rare now that I had followed someone who then unfollowed me. Also, I cannot deal with the number of times I have typed out “follow” in this section…sorry…
This is actually a really cool trick that I learned about by reaching out to accounts whose feeds I liked. The big trend on Instagram right now is having a consistent feed. To be successful, your feed needs to have a color scheme and an aesthetic that basically brands your account. I kind of knew this when I started my account, but my aesthetic was “I want it to be really white and bright.” So, not super specific.
I quickly found some accounts that had beautiful, curated feeds with pictures that were all the same style, colors, and filters. Knowing that I had no chance of figuring out how they were editing their photos by myself, I reached out to them. Of the few I reached out to, most people responded and their secret to their gorgeous Instagram feed was all the same…Presets.
They all taught me that you can buy (or make your own) presets in Lightroom CC (part of Photoshop) that you can apply to all of your photos, then tweak as necessary. I also found that 90% of the accounts that I had reached out to were using presets by Allie Boss. Obviously that was a style that I really liked. I headed over to her website and became part of the preset in-crowd.
Using a preset makes things so much easier. I’m slowly, but surely developing a style for my Instagram and am using all of my restraint not to buying Allie’s new presets (but they are seriously beautiful…who can blame me for wanting to?).
Talking about the follow-unfollowers, a lot of those users fall into this category. If I had a penny for the number of accounts that have followed me with the word “fit” in their handle, I’m sure I would have at least a dollar or two. I suppose these accounts profit from getting people to join their fitness bootcamp program or use whatever supplement they are selling, but it’s just the most annoying thing. I totally support everyone’s personal fitness journey, but no need to push it on other people. What’s the “trick of Instagram” here? I don’t know…I just really dislike these accounts.
When using Instagram as a marketing tool for a blog, other business practices come into play. One of them is networking (or should I say internet-working *ha*). To gain (real) followers and see true steps up in terms of engagement, you really have to take the time to connect to other accounts in your niche. My niche is mom blogging, so I have been taking more and more time to find other mom bloggers to reach out to. I send messages with questions about the trade (see: presets) and like and comment on posts that I really like and have something to say about.
Really the name of the game is engagement. With Instagram’s mysterious algorithm for sharing your content, they will only display your posts to a certain base of your audience. Then, depending on the number of views, likes, comments, etc…you receive, Instagram will continue to show it to more people (or not).
Making connections and networking on Instagram is important because another way to grow your engagement is through follow trains, spotlights, and features. All of these are ways that other accounts promote yours. They might repost one of your photos as a feature, they could highlight your account in their stories to link people to it, or they could set up a follow train and include you in on it. The only way to get this extra boost of promotion is by making connections with the people running it. Unless you are an influencer with 10k+ followers, it’s not super likely that anyone reaches out to you to ask if they could promote you. That’s the dream.
This whole world of Instagram is new to me, but I am loving it. I have really enjoyed figuring out how to make my photography better and get really inspired by the creativity I see in so many accounts. Hopefully I can continue to get even better at everything Instagram and it can become a real place for me to promote the blog. If you aren’t following me, now is the perfect time to!