How to quickly grow an authentic following on instagram

This post has been requested more times than I can count. So I figured why not make it the first one?

I started really trying to grow my instagram back in July of 2017. So as of today, about 8 months ago! You’ll notice if you look back to my very first post, my instagram used to be my personal page, so I already had a few hundred followers of just my close friends and family. I didn’t really think about starting an entirely new instagram because #1 I didn’t want to manage two accounts and #2 I figured that my friends and family would want to keep up with me anyway, and I would really only be posting on the account I was trying to grow! I ended up growing to about 10K in 6 months. I know that many others have grown so much faster, but I also know that my growth is nothing to baulk at. I am by no means a professional at this, and I will only be sharing my actual experiences. These tips are what I have found to work for myself up until this point.

Disclaimer/warning: This is a very lengthy post, but I wanted to go into as much depth as possible for you guys! Please keep in mind that all of what I’m saying only applies to trying to grow on instagram! And also that Influencing/blogging is something i’m passionate about. I put a lot of work into it because I love it all, and I’m creating a brand for myself + my family as well. It takes a lot of dedication, but it is so worth it to me, and I think it will be for you too! Without further ado.. here are my best tips!

 

1.) CREATE QUALITY CONTENT!

Seems simple enough right? Well, actually not really… quality content is not just pictures of your baby, your dog, your food, or your family. It’s pictures that take real time and effort to create. Don’t just post a picture that you snapped without thinking.

Quality content is well thought out, creative, and alluring. You may have 100 photos that you could post.. but my advice is find those few that are the BEST and use only those. Sometimes it means going the extra mile. I could take 100 photos of one scene but if I view them and some small detail is off I literally take the time to fix it and retake. I believe it’s about going above and beyond to get that one shot that’s “it”! And the satisfaction I get from seeing the final piece that I created (edited and all) is so incredible! I love it! So keep going until you get that same gratification from your work!

I highly recommend for you to BE IN the photos. People don’t only want to see your kids, they want to see the person behind the account, YOU. Photos with the account owner in them also tend to perform better. This can be hard especially when that means you have to ask someone else to take the pictures for you, or use a self timer, but it is 100% worth it.

One thing to keep in mind is that not every photo that you create will do as good as you think, even if you spent a lot of time creating it! Sometimes I have created photos that I am in love with, and I think “man this post is going to do so good!”… and then it tanks. Then i’ll post a photo that I really don’t think is all that great, and it goes what I call “viral” Which basically means that it gets into the top posts for the hashtags it has, and also appears on many peoples explore page! From that happening I gain about 200-500 quality followers! This is the #1 way to grow authentically which is why quality content is so important!

Its also important to do this consistently (which I will talk about.) Because the more content you create the better your chances of a post going viral!

Just keep creating, + making that quality content, (along with applying my other tips) and I promise organic growth will follow!

2.) EDIT IN LIGHTROOM

This is a game changer! I used to use VSCO like the majority of people on Instagram use, and you guessed it… I used A6! However I never LOVED the editing. It was the filter I liked best, but my own pictures never “wowed” me. Once I saw feeds that used Lightroom, and how amazing they looked, I knew I needed it! I bought the subscription for $9.99 a month and you can get that here. The classic version is a bit more confusing than Lightroom CC but it is capable of more, however if you want Lightroom just to apply presets, and use it on your phone, you can get Lightroom CC here.

Next I searched around and bought a preset since I basically knew nothing!! That seriously changed my feed so much and I was starting to really love it, But it didn’t feel like “me” I started practicing in Lightroom +  trying out different settings, seeing what everything did, and after a long time I finally had a preset that I made and LOVED!! Since then I have created about 6 quality presets! You can purchase them here. If you have a different style and want something else for your photos you should search around on Instagram, or on Etsy for ones that better suit you! Either way editing in Lightroom is a must and it’s a night and day difference (with a good preset) than editing in anything else I’ve tried! Lightroom is the best!

 

2.) CREATE COHESION

This is so important! Feeds that are the most aesthetically pleasing have some sort of theme or consistency to them, and it’s that cohesion of photos that makes an account truly breathtaking. I use the app UNUM before I post to make sure everything flows together! I didn’t use to, and now that I am it has helped so much! Also, using Lightroom will help with this as well! Applying the same preset every time with minor tweaks makes the colors flow together the best! Obviously its okay to post those gems that you love that don’t necessarily look the best in your feed, but try to keep photos that don’t flow to a minimum, as to maintain your cohesion!

Another thing that helps with cohesion + gives you a better aesthetic is taking pictures from farther away + with everything in focus. Don’t ask me why, but these photos do perform the best. If you look at my feed you can see whenever I post a photo that is more close up it may not flow as well as the rest. Scroll to the bottom for the link to my instagram.

3.) BE CONSISTENT

This isn’t just about posting everyday. It’s about being consistent in how much work you put into it, in how much you engage with others, and in the kindness that you speak to them! Be consistent in the time and effort you put into each photo, and into each edit! Never post something that isn’t your best! Stay consistent with your theme, your quality of photos, and the thought you put into each idea! For those starting out completely new, I suggest getting 9-12 photos up and posted to your account! Have these first photos really showcase who you are and the aesthetic that you’re going to keep creating! That way when people go to your account they will know what to expect + if they want to see more of it! To those who have already started but things are going slow.. don’t lose hope!! Keep posting your best work, and I recommend posting at least once a day, and to your story at least 3 times daily. The more practice you get the better you’ll become! Stay consistent and push through! Its worth it!

 

4.) TAKE BREAKS

I realize this contradicts what I just said, however that can be very tiring + overwhelming and i’d say for sure that Instagram/blogging/influencing is a full time job! People underestimate the time, thought, and even money it takes to create quality content consistently! It’s okay to take a few days off every now and then! Even a few weeks if thats what you need! Usually I try to take a weekend off every month. You’ll know when it’s time for a break! Don’t spread yourself too thin, and don’t do it when you’re not excited about it or you will start to not enjoy what you’re doing and that is not the goal! I truly love what I do, and if I always felt stressed, and worried about what I’ll do next instead of excited and eager, this would not be worth it! It’s just like any other job! You really have to love it! Also it can be hard to stay inspired or come up with ideas of what to even post! On those days go hashtag searching! Get inspired by other bloggers! (I don’t mean steal their ideas, and copy) just let their post give you ideas on how to make your own, and make it unique! I also love Pinterest for those days I have no idea what to create! Pinterest is my bff when I have a creative block, you can find my Pinterest here. Im always pinning, so hopefully I can help too!

5.) BE RESPONSIVE

Theres a few things I want to address under this category. the first one is reply to comments. Sometimes all you can say is thank you, but try to elaborate + create conversation in your comments! Go the extra mile, and find out their name, and address them by it. These things make all the difference!

Reply to DMs. I see so many accounts that once they get bigger they stop being as kind and thoughtful, or stop replying to DMs or comments, or they just don’t do as much to give back to their followers. It’s easy to feel like you don’t need to anymore when you’re making a living from it, and get thousands and thousands of likes regardless. I think it’s important that no matter how “big” you get to stay humble, stay kind, keep giving back, and keep replying to DMs!

I get anywhere from 3-50 a day! Yes it gets harder for me to reply to everyone but I make it a priority, and I get it done! Also don’t let your values change! stay true to who you are as a person IN REAL LIFE. Don’t try to be like someone else that you look up to. Don’t pretend to like something because everyone on instagram does! Be yourself! Just be authentic, and it will shine through, and people will be attracted to that!

6.) RESEARCH HASHTAGS

You are allotted 30 hashtags per post. I don’t always use them all, but sometimes I do! I think you should always switch the amount up personally. It looks less bot-like. Also never use the same group of hashtags! Always be switching them up, and adding new ones, I am always finding new hashtags. Make them relevant to your post as well. Whenever I post a picture with my golden doodle crew I try to use hashtags that involve dogs which I don’t usually do, but with that post it makes sense! Just follow that rule, and it will be easier to come up with or find new ones! Also switching hashtags up will highly lessen your chances of getting shadow banned! (To read more on that visit THIS post.) If you’re always appearing under new hashtags then you will have the chance to get seen by way more accounts.

I also recommend using hashtags of different sizes. Some that are very large, some that are medium sized, and some that are small. You will have a better chance of getting into the top posts of small hashtags, but you will be seen my more people in the large ones!

I post my group of hashtags in the comments, and for those of you who have heard the rumors going around that posting in the caption/comments makes a difference… it doesn’t. Its the same either way, it just has to be done by you! If a friend comments a hashtag on your post it wont show up under that hashtag. You should always post your hashtags right when you post, so it can get visibility sooner. If you post the hashtags 30 minutes after, its going to still show up, but it will show up way down the list of recent posts, instead of having some time being at the top of most recent posts! I can email you different hashtags to use every week that I choose from daily. While still adding new ones. If you enter your email in the subscribe bar on the right side of this post you can get access to those!

7.) ENGAGE

Instagram is a social app.. BE SOCIAL! Like every photo in your feed, like every photo in explore, like all the top posts in every hashtag in your niche! Likes for everybody! hahaha! Most people won’t just stumble upon your account, especially when you’re under 10k. You have to bring your account to them! I recommend using strategies for this. Some that I use are: going to all the main hashtags in your niche, liking every photo in the top posts, and commenting on them all as well! I have had people find me just from seeing my comment on a post from someone with a large account! After that go to the most recent posts under hashtags and like a large amount of them, and comment under any that peak your interest! I also recommend visiting profiles this way. Click on different peoples profiles from the hashtags and like 3-5 of their photos + comment on one. This is a good rule to follow because its not spammy, but still gets their attention, and gets your account seen by them! They can then choose to follow or not from there!

Another strategy for using your engagement wisely is going to accounts that are similar to yours with a similar amount of followers. Once there, go to their follower list and visit some of the profiles on that list, and do the same (like 3-5 photos, and comment on 1) rule as I said above! If they like to follow that account, they are likely to enjoy following yours as well! I also go to accounts similar to mine and go through their likes on every photo and do the same thing! Again.. If they liked that photo they are likely to like yours as well!

8.) GAIN ACCOUNT EXPOSURE

This tip is a collection of other ways to get your account seen more.

Tag feature accounts. I tag many feature accounts for almost every photo. Whatever your niche is, find out at least 10 different feature accounts you can tag. Every time a photo of mine is featured I gain anywhere from 5-100 followers.

Follow Fridays/Mom crush Mondays. These definitely help, but don’t over-do them. Try to keep it to 1 maybe 2 of these a week. I’ve gained anywhere from 5-100 followers from these depending on the group size and the other accounts involved. Don’t do a follow Friday with any accounts that you don’t truly love. I talk more about this in my post about what not to do on instagram, and you can find that HERE.

Loop Giveaways. These help a lot, especially in the beginning. There are loop giveaways that have a host that provides the prize, you just pay money to help cover the product cost, plus some for the host, and that secures your spot. Just search “loop giveaways” on instagram. These can gain you anywhere from 100- to as many as 1,000 new followers. Ive never gained that many from them, but I have friends who have. Just be careful with these. Make sure that the giveaway you enter is related to your niche. You will usually get a lot of unfollows after these as well. I’d say its about 10% that leave on average. Don’t do too many of these either. Sometimes you can find authentic, engaging followers from these, but sometimes it just ups the number of people following you, therefore lowering your engagement rates. The number of people wanting to enter loop giveaways also seems to be decreasing. I think its partly because the list of accounts who the entrants have to follow is at least 20 long.

Brand Giveaways. These are the best kind to do. Because all of your entries come from your followers already, and they’re tagging their friends (which usually have similar interests) You can gain a lot of really quality followers! I’ve gained at least 50 every time I’ve done one of these.

Geo tag photos. (add a location) People often look things up by location. Its proven that by geo tagging your photos you increase that photos exposure by at least 20%. Tag large cities near where you live, as they are more looked up more + more well known. Or just geo tag the state you are in.

9.) INSTAGRAM ALGORITHM HACKS

There are a few little things i’ve found that helps the algorithm work with you rather than against you.

Be active 30 minutes before you post and at least 30 minutes after. Engaging 30 minutes before you post shows instagram that you are using their platform currently, and the more you engage the more they show your account, so this can boost engagement for what you are about to post. This would also be a good time to implement the strategies for engaging that I listed above. Engaging 30 minutes after is the time you should be replying to any comments/questions you get. You should be implementing the tip I stated above about responding to comments here, to reiterate, try to provoke conversation.

Find the best time to post. Posting at prime times of the day is extremely helpful for boosting engagement. The more engagement your photo gets right after its posted, the more it’s shown. This is calculated by how many people see the photo, vs. how many people out of that engage with the post. There are apps that can show you what times are best. One that I used before I switched to instagram business is Followers + or Prime. If you have an instagram business account, their analytics will show you prime posting times + a lot of other cool analytics.

Use all of instagrams features. This includes stories, going live, posting videos, using hashtags, searching, using links through IG, etc. Using all of its features definitely increases engagement. Its good to post in stories at least 3 times a day. I think if possible you should be putting out 4 pieces of content daily, so about 1 post and 3 stories, or 4 stories, etc. Just don’t post more than 4 times a day, or that can get annoying to your followers.

Instagram stories are very underestimated by some, as your story can also get put in the explore page. Make stories that will provoke thought, and engagement through DMs or do polls so that people can take action on them. Use links if you have this capability. I  learned that swipe up only works with business accounts that have 10K + followers. Show your day to day life in them. A photo on instagram is less than 1% of your life, show them what its really like. People love watching other peoples lives, me included. Stories are a good time to really showcase your personality + get people to feel like they are really getting to know you, and then you can in turn, get to know your audience back.

Leave a gap between posts of about 4-5 hours. This gives the previous post enough time to gain momentum, and get the exposure it needs before releasing a new one, which if posted too soon after can then take priority over the first, causing the first one to be seen less. If you are in a loop giveaway usually its a rule that you have to wait a minimum of 4-5 hours before posting again, and thats why.

Ask your friends to save your posts. Saving posts is extremely good for engagement.  You could relate it to being equivalent to about 10 likes. It just shows instagram that people really liked that post, and want to come back to it, so that can help a lot.

Write a spell binding caption. It can be short, it can be long, but write something that can draw interest or provoke engagement. Ask questions that you are actually curious about. This is a win-win. You get answers + engagement + others can share their input. Sometimes other people may have the same question also, and they can refer to your post for insights.

10.) DEVELOP REAL RELATIONSHIPS

Lastly, and maybe the most amazing tip of all. Instagram has helped me to gain REAL, GENUINE friends. I have grown close with people that I actually get to hang out with in real life + many others that I’m planning to meet.

I highly recommend you take advantage of the platform you’re building and develop relationships with those on there. I chat with some friends almost daily, and I can come to them with problems I have + any help. I have had some very kind people send me some very thoughtful gifts in times of need. That to me is priceless.

Don’t only do this with other influencers/bloggers but also with brands. I have built some awesome relationships with brands I have found on instagram. Working with brands isn’t just a one time thing, to me its a mutual relationship + friendship.

Not only is this uplifting for all parties involved, but it can help you to better be able to really enjoy your time spent on instagram, and even make it more worthwhile.

CONCLUSION

I know that was a novel, but there are so many things i’ve learned + that still wasn’t all of it. You’ll learn more as you go, but I wanted to give you as much info as possible. I wish I had one compiled post with everything I needed to know when I began, so I tried my best to give that gift to you.

I’ll never retire from saying this because its always true. I love you guys, and i’m grateful for all of you. It’s really because of you that I get to do what I do. You’re forever my “family” because family supports + loves one another, and thats what you babes always do for me.

xoxo

 

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18 Comments

  1. March 30, 2018 / 4:39 am

    Hello Sabrina,

    I’ve been following you since last year. You actually gave me ideas on how to make my site looks good. So I changed my account into business account and created a preset on my own. I’m just glad I saw your profile.
    Keep it up!

    Thanks for this.

    Xo Abel

    • March 30, 2018 / 3:45 pm

      Awww yay!!!! That makes me so happy!! Knowing that I can help or inspire in even a small way really means the world to me! How incredible that you took the time to create a preset! Thanks for following along! ??

  2. Tatiyana
    April 1, 2018 / 3:50 am

    Thanks so much for all the time + effort you put into your blog! Love reading your content !! Xo?

  3. Jessica
    April 3, 2018 / 5:09 pm

    This isn’t long at all! At least, it doesn’t seem like it since there’s a lot of good information 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • April 7, 2018 / 5:26 pm

      I’m glad you didn’t think it was long! It probably just doesn’t feel that way because like you said the information is very useful!

  4. Jessica
    April 3, 2018 / 7:57 pm

    Hey girl, when I tried to subscribe to your email list, I got this message:

    “The feed does not have subscriptions by email enabled”

    • April 7, 2018 / 5:25 pm

      Yes I’m so sorry!!! I am trying to work on getting that fixed!!

  5. Emily
    April 30, 2018 / 1:48 pm

    Hi! I tried to subscribe and for some reason it wouldn’t work!
    I so enjoy, and appreciate your willingness to share every detail! It’s hard to grow your account without the knowledge of the little factors. And it seems like everyone leaves out most of the vital points. So it’s very appreciated!!!

    • June 18, 2018 / 10:38 am

      Hi! Im so sorry, I haven’t been able to get ahold of the person who helps me do the coding to fix it! Also thank you so so much! Yes i’m not sure why people leave the information out that seems most important!

  6. May 30, 2018 / 8:57 pm

    You are so amazing! I love you & your super inspiring blog!

    • June 18, 2018 / 10:24 am

      Thank you so much! This means so much to me!

  7. June 19, 2018 / 3:00 pm

    Love, love, love how detailed you got (yay novels!). Super concrete and helpful info. What I gathered from reading this is that MY strategy of screaming at strangers on the street to follow me probablyyyyy isn’t working 😉

    Cheers!

    • June 27, 2018 / 9:25 am

      hehehe! Im glad I could be of help! 🙂

  8. Sarah Jamison
    July 10, 2018 / 10:03 am

    I found you presets a couple months ago and it’s seriously been such a dream using them! My feed stays consistent and my babe looks gorgeous with them. You’re always responding to all my questions when i DM you and never leave me without an answer! Thank you for the amazing presets and for just being so kind.

    • July 10, 2018 / 10:47 pm

      YAY! That makes me so happy! I do pride myself in being so responsive to any and all messages or inquiries I get! Im so glad I could help you, and I’m so glad my presets have given you the feed you have been longing for!

  9. December 28, 2018 / 7:04 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled onto this blog post! It really gave me a different point of view and new ideas I hadn’t thought of to get my account out there a bit more!
    I really love following your account and I look forward to your posts! I also use a lot of presets but ALWAYS go back to your Mirror and Nostalgia presets!

    • February 4, 2019 / 12:18 pm

      That means so much!! Im so glad you found this post helpful!! Also Ahhh! so so incredibly happy you love my presets! <3

  10. Kylie Simon
    February 27, 2019 / 10:00 am

    I sent my email in the subscribe bar! I would love to get the list of hastags! I have no idea how to find hastags that work ? this post is amazing!

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