How to grow your Instagram account - 12 super simple hacks!

When I started using Instagram a few years back, I wasn’t quite sure of what to do with it. I started small like we all do, and slowly and gradually grew as the entire community grew. I was never featured by Instagram (that helps you grow faaasst and is also a huge morale booster), so my growth was purely organic. Of course, in my journey over the past few years on the platform, I learnt quite a few things - hacks, as I call them - and this post is all about sharing those with everyone else. Instagram, after all, is all about community :)

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How to grow your Instagram account?

Before I move ahead, let me start with an assumption that you are reading this article because you are not just a hobby Instagrammer, but actually want to grow (a lot) on the platform, and maybe even make a living through it. I also hope that you understand that it’s not easy to become big on Instagram, but it’s not impossible either.

Tips to grow your Instagram account!

So here we go - here are my tips to grow your Instagram account like a pro. These are just some of the steps and there are far more of these out these - feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments with your Instagram handle and I might just include your suggestion and feature your account here too :)

Also, if you want me to feature your work on my Instagram page, use the hashtag #SidTheWanderer.

Tip 1: Pick your niche and create kickass content

It’s certainly easier said than done! We all want to do well in the online space and always do our best to create the best possible content that we can, but the question is – is that enough? Actually no.

We as creators can always do better than what we are currently doing, and one of the ways to do it would be to benchmark against the best. If you want to be a travel photographer, find some of the best ones in the world and learn from their work. See what works for them, how they interact with and build their community, what kind of collaborations they do and so on.

My feed right now!

I actually started with just my daily life as a general theme and those are the kind of pictures that I posted on my feed earlier. But I was already a travel blogger and eventually my blog and my Instagram handle came together and now my content is all travel related and I am known for that.

For instance if you are photographer, and your images are average or below-average, your progress will be limited no matter what you do. However, for other niches like humour, gym-life, quotes etc, beautiful images are not as important, though relevant images still are.

But how to create awesome content? I will write a post on that as well soon - so keep checking the blog for details in future as well.

Tip 2: Collaborate with other Instagrammers

In my opinion, it’s a unique feature of this platform which has made it more about ‘us’ than just about ‘me’. Most big instagrammers I know (and I know many) are always open to relevant collaborations.

But what are collaborations?
Well, it’s how you define it to be, there is no set definition for it on Instagram. It just means two or more Instagrammers do something together. A collaboration not only helps you learn from each other, it also exposes your work to the other person’s audience and that helps in growth.

Be innovative on this and you can generate a lot of interest for your followers.

Here are some (certainly not all) examples of collaborations:
- posting each other’s image on your account - this is the easiest
- doing a parallel project together in different geographical locations and sharing about each other
- a feature suggestion in stories
- making a video together
- meeting up and making a photo series together
- meeting up as a subject-photographer for a shoot

Tip 3: Getting featured by BIG accounts

This is one of the ways through which I grew. Even though Instagram hasn’t put me a ‘suggested’ user, many other (far smaller, of course) pages have featured my images on their pages. Every time there is a feature by a big account (100,000 plus), there is a spurt of followers which visit your page and many of those end up following my account.

So how to get featured?

Well, there are three simple steps:
1. Take a great picture (this is a must)
2. Use the hashtags for the page
3. Tag the page on the image (only when relevant)

Usually I am not a fan of tagging individuals unless they are a part of the image, but tagging big accounts is a fairly acceptable practice.

If you have a good relationship with a page, you can also send them a DM with your new image and they might feature it.

Though I have a personal account, I also feature 1-2 images on my feed every Sunday. All you need to do is use my hashtag- #SidTheWanderer!

Tip 4: Engage within the community

There is absolutely no denying the fact that engagement is the key to growth and to get your content be seen by thousands of people. You may have 100,000 + followers, but if you don’t occasionally engage with the community, far fewer people will ever see your content.

Here are some tips from my side:
1. Every time you use the platform, don’t just scroll through images, do interact with them as well.
2. Be generous - like an image, leave a thoughtful comment (not just hi or hello or just a emoticon).
3. To be more strategic, engage before (10-15 minutes) you post your content, and immediately after that as well.
4. Reply to comments on your content - at least like them for sure
5. Reply to DMs and be helpful to the community (more on this later)

Tip 5: Using relevant hashtags to grow

Hashtags is perhaps the single most important factor when it comes to growth on Instagram. Use them effectively and you will see a big change in how far your content reaches.

When you search for hashtags, you will always see Top posts and latest posts. If your post gets lots of engagement, it can be in the top posts and that’s when it can even go viral.

You can use up to 30 hashtags with image, but you don’t have to use them all. Use a few relevant ones in the main comment with the image, and a few more right after you post. I actually have a list of hashtags based on destination and I simply copy-paste those when I post the image. If I go to a new destination, I often do an advance search and make a new list for that specific place.

Tip 6: Use the DMs (Direct Messages) to grow

Now this is a new way to grow, and it’s not an obvious way to grow as well. It’s very easy to become spammy with DMs, so use them with caution.

Here are some tips on using these:
1. Reach out to people whose work you admire just to build connections. Please don’t ask for favours or feature - that’s a sure shot way killing a relationship even before it starts.
2. Genuinely ask for tips and suggestions - share ideas
3. Discuss collaboration - most people will be open to it after you’ve built some trust already.
4. Make plans for meet-ups or photowalks if you are in the same city or traveling to their city. Do bring in something useful for them as well.
5. If you think your post is a good fit for a feature account, feel free to reach out to them and suggest your image. Unless they respond, please don’t spam them. Keep it professional and respectful.

Tip 7: Things not to do on Instagram

Growth isn’t just about doing the right things, it’s also about not doing a few things. Instagram always rewards you when you do the right things (like active engagement with the community), but it can also take some punitive action.

Here are some of the things that you must avoid like plague!
1. Buying followers/ likes
2. Over-engagement like a robot - liking everything, leaving the same comment on everything
3. Spreading negativity - leaving rude comments etc
4. Posting content against the guidelines of the platform - for example full frontal nudity is a no-no, but there are ways to mitigate that by blurring content
5. Stealing content from other creators and pretending it to be your

Tip 8: Portrait over landscape

Instagram is a platform for the mobile phone, and so it’s always seen in portrait mode. The large part of your screen your content occupies, the better is the visual engagement with the audience.

Even though I still do an occasional landscape or square picture, I’ve also moved away to landscape content, and it does work.

I know of many big Instagrammers who have stopped posting any landscape content for a few years now, and looking at their progress, you can see why as well.

Tip 9: Do an Instagram project

In the beginning of 2015, I decided to do something different (at least different back then) – a 365 days project called 'Tell me your dream' capturing one dream every single day through the year, no matter where in the world I was. As I travelled in six different countries, the project became a huge motivation for me and also gave me unprecedented exposure both in digital and print media. Every leading newspaper in the country covered my project, even CNN did a story on that.

It not only got me words of encouragement, but also a large new audience. It was my most fulfilling time on the platform, but also very draining emotionally. I had a choice to continue doing it forever, or end it at the end of one year, and I chose the latter.

So there you go – think of a unique concept and do it on Instagram as a platform. It could be a week-long project or extend to a month or even an year. Do what works best for you, and if your content resonates with your readers, you are bound to grow.

Tip 10: Move from personal to business right away.

I took a while to make this change because I was afraid Instagram will go the Facebook way and force you to pay for any engagement at all.

Maybe that’s the long term plan, but it makes no sense to lose out on all the Analytics data based purely on speculation about future.

The process is very simple and is also reversible, at least right now. I have seen no reduction in engagement after changing over to business, now having analytics available has made it far more easier to work with brands as I can always showcase my value to them quantitatively as well.

Tip 11: Learn to use analytic with business account

Now, as you move to business, you get access to a landmine of information – the analytics of data for your account, as well as your posts, posted after you’ve made the switch. The data might look daunting if you are not used to looking at numbers and making strategies, but it’s nevertheless essential to get used to it.

So how does one use the analytical data?
It can help you plan both your content as well as the time of posting the content. If you are on Instagram for fun, this might not so relevant, but if you are looking at serious growth and making a living from it, both of these are essential. You can look through the data to see which posts did well, and why and this can help you plan for future posts.

Another way of using the data would be if you are a serious advertiser. You can select the demographic, location and so on when you choose to out an ad out or just promote a post.

Tip 12: Go beyond digital connections

This is perhaps the number one reason why Instagram is such a popular platform for social media. Many of us don’t just stay connected digitally, we also meet up and share ideas - about photography, life or anything else.

I know of so many who’ve met in real life and become good friends and collaborators.

Word of caution - don’t meet to grow your Instagram account, meet with an open mind to learn. If your intentions are good, good things will follow.

Please do not beg anytime to feature you or tag you, it really gets irritating to hear these requests. It’s completely fine to grow your account, but don’t just depend on others to do it for you.

My Instagram journey

I started on the platform in 2012 when I saw it on my girlfriend's phone and the first thing I loved was the filters! It's strange to think that I don't even use the filters at all, though I do use their editing tools often. Anyway I though it would be interesting to show my personal journey on than platform over the last six years. The selection of the images is more or less random, and all I want to indicate is that there is much that's happened here, and there is much more to happen in future as well. Enjoy :)

2012





2013





2014





2015





2016





2017





2018






A word of caution

Before I end, here’s a word of caution – growing on Instagram can take up a lot of your time, so it’s important to be conscious of how much time you spend on it. Don’t get addicted to it, and don’t try to game the algorithm – just be yourself and enjoy doing what you do. Unless I am completely free, I keep certain hours during the day for Instagram and try not using it at other times, even if I am tempted to. I know it's easier said than done, but do try :)

So here are all the tips that I can share to help you build your account. There are many more, and I will continue to add more to the bucket. However, if you have a unique tip that’s worked for you, leave that in the comment and I might add your tip (with your Instagram account) in the article itself!

Happy Instagramming!

Comments

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  2. Hi Sid,
    Those are wonderful tips that I may return again to grow my instagram. Could I ask you a favour though? Will you be willing to check my feed and suggest where I am failing? https://www.instagram.com/shomaabhyankar
    Would love a feedback. TIA

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