I’m sorry for the clickbait title. And no, I’m not even Instagram famous myself (make it happen @kyleminors), but I still think this is worth a read. Why? Because I struggle to learn techniques from people with millions of followers. Sure, they know what they’re doing, but I have no idea how they got there. I want to see their journey while they’re on their journey. Did Casey Neistat unfollow and follow people on YouTube? Did Gary Vaynerchuk get to where he is with hashtags? Doubt it. The only way to see what works is by doing, and I don’t want to be another wanker who just preaches how easy social media is, when it really fucking isn’t.
I want this article to be an example of how someone with less than 1000 followers can grow their audience and become an influencer. I will post updates, tips and honest techniques to explain what I’m doing, what works and what doesn’t.
For today, here’s what I’m doing on Instagram now.
Why do you want to become an influencer? The answer to that question will shape your entire approach to Instagram. My answer is that I want people to see the apps I’m working on. Simple. I want to to develop apps and have thousands of people download it. This doesn’t mean I post about apps and the development process: that’s boring. I use my lifestyle and natural desire to create to take amazing images, drawing people in with adventure and escapism before throwing out a “oh and while you’re here, check this out”.
This is something that can be constantly evolving; I’m sure I’ll change my approach eventually, but you should always have a purpose in some shape or form.
I think the most important thing to have is an appealing profile. This is where a lot of people struggle, because if you have a scattered feed with weird colors and silly posts, you’re unlikely to get a follow. I approach Instagram as if I’m a professional photographer. This is so my feed, colour choices and editing style present a really strong personal brand.
I edit all of my photos with Adobe Lightroom CC (tutorial coming soon) and try to emphasise the reds and blues in my shots.
At this stage, all of my followers, reposts and comments are related to the quality of my content. I have people coming to me all the time saying they love what I’m doing or asking how I’m creating my content. This is positive for a few reasons, but the main one is that people care about what I’m creating. If you can get your audience to actually give a shit about what you make, you’re winning.
Stories should tell a story
Yep, sounds obvious. It probably is for most people, but as I’m always telling people, I’m not most people. In this case it meant I was uploading sub par Instagram stories and being ignored by my audience. This is an enormous missed opportunity for me, because when I pitch apps, shirts, prints, whatever, I’m going to be using my Instagram stories.
This last week I’ve started using an app called Unfold, which has really stepped up my story game. I’ve used it with polls and have received messages about how nice they look.
Engage with your audience
I don’t mean like their posts and comments. For a while, I was a pure creator, posting every day without paying attention to anyone else. The Instagram gods do not like this. Your content will not be prioritised if you’re not actively participating.
I’m not pretending to have “cracked the algorithm” or anything like that, I just know that activity = followers.
Hopefully you know how to use hashtags. If not, you should use hashtags. Use as many as you can, as often as you can. I’ve found that the best way to be time efficient is to have 25 good hashtags in Notes, and then copy and paste them into the comment section of your post. This keeps your content clean and consistent while making sure your post is discovered by people interested in your topic.
Always keep context in mind when you use hashtags; there’s no point tagging “#selfie” for a drone photo. Use hashtags as a tool.
HACK: Every few days, delete your hashtag comment in a previous post, then paste it back in on the same post. Comment here what a fucking genius I am when you’re done.
MAKE THEM INTERESTING. For the love of whatever you hold dear, don’t do ridiculous, preachy captions that take five minutes to read. Write about your post, tell a story, and fuck off. There aren’t many things more irritating than life advice, hardship stories and inspirational quotes being spouted out by wannabe photographers. There are rumours that Instagram favours longer captions, which I personally haven’t found to be true. I’ve found that the more relevant and readable my captions are, the better the post performs. My most successful video (ten times more views than any other) had a two word caption.
Follow your target audience
An easy way to gain exposure for your profile is to follow other accounts. If you care about your ratio, you can unfollow them later; don’t unfollow them straight away because the algorithm always seems to punish me for this.
The thing to keep in mind when doing this is to only follow people who will be interested in what you’re posting. An easy way to always get this right is to follow people already following the accounts that post the same content as you. They don’t necessarily need to be influencers, because a lot of the time your account will gain follows from an account that doesn’t post content as good as yours.
If Instagram was easy, everyone would be famous. No tips, hacks or amount of money can substitute hard work and marketing savvy. Put in a few hours every day. Experiment. Pay attention to patterns and trends. And most importantly, enjoy it. If you hate Instagram, social media and content sharing, I think you should do something else.