6 Months On Instagram – And What Have We Learned?

So this month is the 6 month anniversary of our love affair with Insta and what a rollercoaster ride it has been. A love/hate relationship some might say? Happiness and heartache have certainly been served in equal measure, and we thought now was the time to reflect on our journey so far.

Perhaps our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned could help you if you’re a small account or business trying to navigate your way around the dreaded algorithm.

It’s like a drug isn’t it, Insta? I mean yeah, social media is addictive, no revelations there. But the impact it can have on your mood and outlook, not to mention your time, is dangerous. “LOOK UP!” We hear the anti-phone campaigners cry, and yes – we know –  we try. But sometimes ‘looking down’ is just too damn enthralling.

When a post does well in terms of ‘likes,’ or you get a flurry of new followers, someone mentions you in their story perhaps, or leaves a complimentary comment, the highs of the Instagram drug really do kick in. But the comedown is never too far away when a photo you were really excited about posting turns out to be a flop, your followers figure has remained static for an age, or you’ve shared the love for another account and they haven’t even found the time to say thank you.  Like we said, its a rollercoaster.

The trick is to keep the addiction in check. Limit your Instagram usage to a small window of time each day and don’t let your insta success (or lack thereof) define you. After all, as in those famous words used by Lisa Dawson…

This week, as if by way of an anniversary gift, Insta gave us our P.B in ‘likes’. Yes one of our images hit over 1000 and we were beside ourselves.

The very next image bombed at 78. And we wanted to know why. Something didn’t add up and we were determined to find out what.We use Instagram primarily to promote our interior design services and direct traffic to our blog. So building a following and being visible on there is important to us.

 After several hours of research and lots of reading up on the internet we made a few key discoveries.  And yes, we’re afraid it all comes down to that pesky algorithm.

 First and foremost it seemed our ‘1000 hit wonder’ had made its way onto the Explore Page (the page that appears when you click on the search icon and a load of videos and images that Instagram thinks you might like pop up).

This happens when a much bigger account engages with your post and Instagram decides it must be good, so exposes it to all of that particular account’s followers too, via the Explore facility.

The network effect of this is huge as you can imagine and as soon as your post starts generating masses of engagement, the effect spirals. After all, the algorithm dictates that ‘the more engagement you get, the more exposure you shall have,’ so Insta starts showing your post to more and more people.

What seems most important is how quickly you get your engagement. If you get an immediate surge of likes and/or comments straight after you post, Instagram rewards you by putting your post to the top of your followers feeds. If it doesn’t, you’ll find engagement will screech to a halt quite quickly.

Steph Sanderson from @the_country_shed says “Instagram will show your post to 10% of your followers to ‘test’ it and if it doesn’t reach a certain level of engagement (which I think is 8 comments of no less than five words each) then it doesn’t make it through to the rest of your followers. This level of engagement must occur within one hour of posting.”

For more advice on organically growing your Instagram following, read on for our top 15 tips.

 It will take time and there is no easy fix, but if you start putting some serious ground work in, you’ll see that ‘followers’ figure steadily start to climb.

Top Tips For Insta-ing Like A Pro

  • Quality and quantity in equal measure – Post high quality content and do it consistently, daily if you can. Instagram is overrun with accounts all offering the very same thing as you. Your name needs to be seen regularly on your followers feeds if you want to stand out and have them really connect with you. The quality of your images is also paramount. Use an up-to-the-minute device with a good, high resolution camera facility. Don’t use filters. Stick with the brightening and sharpening tools to make your images appear more professional.
  • Show your personality and a touch of normality – Sharing a little bit of ‘you’ in your posts and what makes you tick or even what tickles you can often help others to identify with you, your life and what you do.
  • Use hashtags – You’re allowed 30 so where possible use all of them. Hashtags are the best tool you have in ensuring your post gets exposed to a wider audience. For interior related posts, check out @eclectic_street’s weekly hashtag round-up, or use the same hashtags the big dogs are using.
  • Tag brands and larger accounts – If you tag brands or accounts with big followings in your posts, they will be more inclined to ‘like’ them. That means, more chance of appearing on the Explore Page.
  • Include a question in your captions – This will also help boost your engagement and get you more exposure. A question or a ‘please comment below’ in your caption will prompt more people to engage. Reply to all your comments and do so as quickly as possible.
  • Keep a cohesive feed – Your feed should have an identity and flow quite seamlessly. That means colours should be similar in each post and your images should have a certain ‘style’ that they stick to (This is difficult for Homebirds being that there are two of us and we have very different homes). Try not to put similar pictures next to one another, and mix up whole room shots with close-ups if you can. Here’s a great example from @oxfordone of a well-planned, cohesive feed.
  • Check when your followers are online – We spent way too long posting at the total wrong time of day for our niche (i.e. 7am ish). Turns out the majority of interior followers are on Instagram from 9pm onwards. Posting at optimum times is crucial in gaining maximum exposure. The trick is to find out when their checking their home feeds, but not posting their own content, hence less competition. There is an app called ‘Later’ that can post your images for you at scheduled times.
  • Use the Insights facility – If you have a business account, get to know the Insights page. It can be accessed by clicking the ‘bar chart’ icon in the top right corner of your accounts page.
  • It gives you all kinds of free and invaluable information including who your followers are, when they are most active and how many of them have visited your website. There is also an ‘Insights’ facility available on each of your posts. Simply click ‘View insights’ which is written in blue just under your image.
  • DON’T edit your post once shared – and if you really must, then at least wait one hour after posting. Editing your post can seriously hinder the amount of exposure it gets.
  • Record videos for stories – This was one of the best pieces of advice we’ve ever been given (thanks @thislittlehouseofours) and we’re still only dipping our toe in with it. Some people take to videoing themselves like a duck to water. Us? Not so much. Its cringe and it doesn’t feel natural. But if your followers see your face and hear your voice and they like it, they will feel more connected to you and go out of their way to search for your latest updates. Try to be interesting and if you can’t be interesting, be funny. Funny always works. There is an app called ‘Stored’ that lets you use whole videos (unlike the 15 second ones allowed by Instagram Stories) and chops them up for you, making them Insta-friendly.
  • Avoid ‘spammy’ behavior – This is anything that makes you seem – to Instagram – like a robot and will likely get you shadowbanned (i.e. your content will no longer be seen by followers when they search for it via hashtags). Participating in follow trains, or anything that results in a rapid surge in your following can appear spammy, and won’t necessarily bring you an organic following anyway. Copying and pasting the same hashtags in the same order in multiple posts also looks dodgy to Instagram, as does putting hastags in the comments section and doing marathon #followfriday mentions in your stories. DON’T DO ANY OF THE ABOVE!
  • It’s fine to repost-  Don’t be afraid to use the pictures that get you the most likes and followers more than once, just change your accessories around.
  • Share the love – Perhaps the most important tip, hence us saving it til last! Be sure to regularly like and comment on others posts, as well as do your bit to promote similar or smaller accounts via shout outs. Instagram is about networking and building relationships. The more love you give out, the more love you’ll get in return.

So is Instagram good for the soul? Hmmm, not always. But it sure is fun. Not to mention imperative if you’re trying to get the name of your small business out there. It has helped us do exactly that and connected us with hundreds of likeminded interior enthusiasts who have offered us endless support and advice. So embrace it we say, but with caution. Don’t take things literally on there, or personally in any way. Because none of it is real after all.

We’re still in the very early stages of developing our insta page and we’re under no illusions about the long and arduous road ahead. Spiv and I often say that for every mile of work we put in, we get an inch back – and that’s if we’re lucky. We’re just hoping our perseverance pays off.

If you’d like our support in growing your following or would like to offer yours in helping us grow ours, please do get in touch. Because one thing is for sure amidst the smoke and mirrors of this social media platform that we’ve come to know and love, we’re all in this together.

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