Novice Advice On Instagram Growth

Writing is a tool I understand. I know the best practices that optimize posts when I write for companies, the proper length, the back links, the calls to action, and the checkpoints that make for a successful piece. The ratios that determine readership, conversions and ultimately sales are easy math. For me, written word is a comfortable space that makes a sensible, calculable return on my investment every time.

But more and more, I am reminded that I need to develop the same level of familiarity with Instagram.  My paycheck literally depends on my ability to engage with consumers on a platform I have yet to conquer.  As one of the primary tools to inform purchasing decisions in the direct to consumer world, I know Instagram’s something I need to get friendly with.

I’ve been looking for the flashcard version of guidelines and best practices. So far they don’t exist. As a consequence of being self-taught I have accidentally disabled my account for a variety of reasons. But, I am a very persistent optimist.

Insofar I’ve established that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to make the gram happy in the ways that would work to amplify my content. In case you want to give it a try, here’s the novice notes I’ve accumulated from many conversations with other skilled professionals. Mind you, these are things we are going to put in play now as a company moving forward. To date we have not made use of these methods on our company IG profile, nor have I used them on my personal profile. But hey, I have under 300 followers; you can definitely trust my information!


Stories are 15 seconds of anything you deem appropriate that “disappear” 24 hours after you post them, (although they are downloadable from other sites), and are apparently absolutely mandatory to create if you want a decent shot at ranking higher in the algorithm. Stories were disabled on our accounts for quite a while and no one could give me a direct answer as to why. I clicked the plus and no dice. I updated the app on all devices and still no luck. Finally, we realized that the microphone was disabled and without both the camera and the microphone being enabled, you cannot post stories. Stories can get ugly really quickly, with the addition of stickers, @ mentions, tags and other nonsense. What’s nice about stories is the ability to see who’s viewing them.  Click here for a beautiful example of Instagram stories from Bauman Photographers of San Diego, CA.


Like stories, but featured long term in the cute little circles above your feed. These are typically categorical montages of events or posts which are then labeled with cover images. A great tool for creating feature covers and numerous other marketing bits, (like perfectly sized headers for everything as you probably already know), is Canva.


Pour your heart out, babe. The longer and more anecdotal the better. Keep it verbose, describe the photo, if you can put some dots in it that force people to scroll that would be fantastic. Again, your ability to maintain the favor of the algorithm gods depends on it.


You can put up to 30 but I’m told by my friends that doing so is a total giveaway that it’s amateur hour. Still other reputable agencies have said that using all 30 every time is the key to your growth overall and being included in search results.  As people search for new sources of pre-sorted content, hashtags can be followed just like people. Apparently the perfect hashtag is popular-ish, (for example #coffeemom at 23,914 posts), but not too popular, (for example #coffee at 93,564,136 posts or #mom at 33,017,690 posts).


Posting too many of the same hashtags in succession as captions to your photographs can apparently get you “shadowbanned” which means that your hashtag usage is blocked and you no longer appear in results for said hashtag.


Swipe up is out of my league, but it looks baller. By that I mean, it’s a revenue generating call to action.  While it has lots of intrinsic benefits, (according to the knowledgeable sales rep I asked at a content and Instagram Growth company called Jumper Media), you can only utilize this feature when you reach 10,000 followers. I will look forward to asking people to swipe if they want things in future, in a completely non-Tinder manner.


Post when you have the most eyeballs on your feed. When might that be, you ask? You should check the insights (graph icon) on your account and view the information it provides you about your audience. As a general rule: noon, 3 and 6 all seem to be active times for our audience.


Posting at the same time of day and on the same days of the week on an ongoing basis will provide an excellent cadence for your followers. But also, the algorithm. A great tool to achieve this with is HootSuite. With the HootSuite platform you can schedule posts in advance and deploy those lovely dots I mentioned before.


Going live is another wonderful way to boost your ranking and do things you never imagined, like lip sync to an entire song in your car alone as strangers look on from their devices. Often these are Q & A sessions or interviews that allow for commentary and emoji laden expressions of approval from viewers, in real time.


This is a good tool for long format videos. While stories are only 15 seconds and video posts to your general feed are able to be up to 1 minute in length, IGTV allows for even longer vertical videos of up to 1 hour in length. Most IGTV “channels” have several video options to flip through.


Photo aesthetic and color schemes are supposed to be consistent on your feed. There should be obvious cohesion in terms of whatever treatments have been applied to the images for a minimum of 9 squares so that if changes occur, they do so out of the frame of the previous theme. There are exceptions made for creativity of course, like using an ombre effect or rainbow effect with the arrangement of the images. Many people will select one photo filter from those that exist in the options within Instagram and use that filter universally. Oftentimes, people purchase the photo actions or presets from their favorite influencers and duplicate their aesthetic. Click here for a clean white preset. And click here for this dreamy orange millennial favorite.


Just writing @hotcupoffocus in the caption of your image will not add it to the tagged images section of my profile.  You have to click the little person icon, type the username and select the individual you want to tag. As a business when you are tagged in unsavory images you have the option of hiding it from your profile. I am told that liking and commenting on 10 or so photos from each of the tags you plan to use on your image, both before and after you post it, will also raise your placement in the search results.


It can be beautiful when someone gets creative and breaks the mold on all of this regimented self expression. Occasionally there will be a feed that features only rectangular images or one that uses tools like Gridify to turn a singular image into separate squares. Within the app you will find Boomerang which replays your clip over and over on loop, and the sheer number of associated photo editing apps could easily be their own post.  If you bother to post things, I sincerely hope you have fun doing it.


As a general rule, everyone and their brother has said IT IS NOT COOL to follow more people than the number of people that are following you. As a person with varied interests, I had a very difficult time narrowing down the accounts I follow and subsequently have about 4X as many as follow me.

But I’ve never claimed to be cool and I already told you… I only have 300 followers, so you can decide the finer points for yourself. Ultimately, if you aren’t using your profile as a business tool you can do whatever you want. Just remember it can all be downloaded and live on in infamy.

Ok, your turn. School me to the IG game.

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