When I started on Instagram as Layered.Home in the summer of 2017, I didn’t delve into the algorithim, growth tactics, stories and everything else that sounded way too complicated and technical to my ears. I just posted, slowly made Insta pals, and ogled many accounts in an effort to better my styling and improve my own home.
(By the way, his blogpost is not sponsored. However, gifted items are featured in the photos and I have included links under the photo to the respective brands as a way of saying thank you.)
Before I go into the 5 things I did, bear with me as I briefly recount my Instagram journey first of all.
I joined hashtag competitions during the first few months and won a fair number of them, 23 to be exact, which really spurred me on to keep posting on Instagram. In fact, my first Instagram win was a total surprise. I copied someone’s hashtag not knowing there was a competition attached to one of them. I won the competition without first following the hosts which you normally have to do. Thankfully, the hosts sent me a private message saying they liked my entry and reminded me to follow them to be eligible for the winning prize, which I did pronto. I felt I was shown such kindness that time that I like to show people the same kindness because sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder!
Instagram interiors, I find, is a really friendly community. I couldn’t believe people I didn’t even know liked my style – which to be brutally honest, was mainly upcycles, faffing and re-arranging, DIYs, and styling with what I already had due to budget constraints. Instagram can easily burn a hole in our pockets if we’re not careful. There are so many lovely things and amazing homes out there that it’s difficult not to aspire to have what they have.
Back to my journey, I’d get story mentions and never knew what to do with them except to thank the person mentioning me. I found the grid much easier to understand and navigate in comparison. I co-hosted on some hashtags I’d won and did some giveaways and collaborations. But I didn’t put in the time to know more; I just coasted and went with it. By early 2018 I had a following of 3k and still coasted, posting here and there whenever it suited me.
COMPETITIONS AND GIVEAWAYS
I kept playing some competitions using hashtags and participating in some giveaways which I’d never ever won by the way. By autumn 2018 my account had reached 10k. It was around that point someone mentioned story swipe-ups to me which I was clueless about. And so I started looking into it but still not posting stories. I also started getting invites to events which I could not make most of the time as they’re almost always on a Thursday evening which is when I take my son to his football training.
Someone mentioned IGTV to me and I was shocked that something like that even existed. What planet have I been on? I thought I was on Instagram. Apparently, there’s being on Instagram and there’s BEING on Instagram.
By mid-February 2019, without doing anything especially new, my following reached 25k and that’s when I thought I really needed to look into it and do something more than just posting. Not knowing particularly where to start, I decided to start a blog. This is still in the process of refining but I have populated it with some blogs to start with.
As a photographer (which is my day job), I have a long-established blog history, and I also write for a global photography website. The amount of work preparing professional images to go with copy is quite frankly off-putting. But as this is interiors, inanimate objects and predominantly my house, I thought I’d give it a go. It was a pleasant surprise when it turned out blogging interiors and styling is a much easier and quicker process in comparison.
At the time of writing this article, my following is heading towards 47k, a growth of 22k in under 4 months. I’m not exactly sure how this happened but I’d like to share with you some recent deliberate things I did that hopefully contributed to this growth. Our chances of ever understanding Instagram’s algorithm is slim. But there are things we can do to leverage our growth despite the algorithm enigma.
1. CONTENT IS KING
I know this is cliche but it’s true. I have been more intentional with my content, thinking it through instead of the previous “snap and post” routine. Good content always trumps any gimmicks, I believe. When deciding what content to post, I think of my audience / followers and friends. They follow me for a reason. Perhaps they connect with me, perhaps they have similar styles and tastes for colours, perhaps they are looking for inspiration. I choose my content in the hope of connecting with them and maybe even start a conversation.
Even though I like a myriad of styles and accounts on Instagram, I’ve decided to narrow down my grid to a niche. Thankfully, because of my niche – dark interiors, maximalist, eclectic, I don’t feel the pressure of reaching and pleasing everyone. Some people dislike my style and tell me so. That’s okay. They are not my audience. I’m not trying to be a jack of all trades, pleasing everyone and making everyone like my post.
To find out what your niche is that speaks to your followers the most, check your top 5 most popular post and analyse their common denominators. Mine are dark, wide, full and taken at an angle. It’s okay to keep posting the same thing and style! If I want to post close-ups, I just put them in a carousel behind an image that I know looks strong on my grid.
2. CONTENT AND CAPTION RULE
Content may be king but together with a genuine, strong, engaging caption you can rule Instagram. I have found that most effective and strongest captions are personal. It’s like speaking to a friend who can relate or feel that the same thing is happening to them, so that when they read your caption, they could feel it’s them too.
I feel this way exactly with some of the accounts I follow. I can relate to their pains or frustrations or love of a particular film genre or something they found hilarious that I also find funny. A lot of these captions are normal life situations – they don’t always have to be dramatic or sad or happy stories. As long as they’re genuine, they usually work. In the past, I used to talk about the photo I’m posting – impersonal interior descriptions. Now, I often talk about my life – areas that I’m happy to be open about, often completely unconnected to the photo.
I have a friend who told me I’m such a closed person. I don’t share or divulge intensely personal stuff whereas she does, so it’s not fair on her. She has stopped being so friendly with me anymore. But I’m not a person who wears my heart on my sleeve. I listen and if you ask for my opinion, I can be pretty direct. When it comes to deeper issues I’m a bit more guarded – I’d be the first to admit that.
Airing dirty laundry in public is certainly not my thing. However, I find it easier to open up about things like parenting and caring frustrations, my inadequacies or mistakes, and more recently my aspirations. I don’t like showing my face, taking selfies or talking on Instagram or stories but I like being more creative in other ways, using fun giphys, videos and visual effects. I’ve still not tried IGTV but it’s making it’s way in my thoughts. It could take a while yet…
What I’m trying to say here is to be yourself. Don’t give in to the pressures of what others expect you to be and do. Don’t try to copy someone else especially if you look up to them. Find your voice and speak it in the way you feel most comfortable. Other accounts succeed because of their personality, others because of creativity, others because of all the DIYS, others because of how inspiring their feed are.
Own one thing that is you and you’ll do fine.
Instagram rewards presence, whether that be daily, three times a week or once a week. The more frequent the presence, the better the reward. It’s also good for your pals and audience to know roughly when to expect your posts. Find the best time that suits you and be consistent. Turn up as planned.
In the past month, I switched posting from mornings to evenings.
I used to prepare my post in the evening and post it when I wake up in the morning. The trouble with this was that during the time I’ve posted, Instagram rewards immediate engagements. That means replies to comments, commenting on other’s posts, a flurry of engagements within the first few minutes of posting or the first hour. All my pals seems to be on there at the same time in the morning so there’s some chat going on and mutual liking of and commenting on posts etc. For me, this meant I’m on my phone whilst making packed lunches for my kids, giving them breakfast, sorting their hair and bags and sending them off to school.
The engagements would trickle throughout the day which meant I could not focus on my day tasks as there’s always interruptions – my phone was always lighting up. This was not going to be healthy for my family life let alone sustainable long-term.
Superstar cushions Firefly Home
I slowly changed posting times, getting later and later through the day, usually at the break points: lunchtimes, 3pm, early evenings. I was trying to find out what worked for me and my followers too. Insights tell me that my followers are mostly on Instagram in the evenings though the difference from 9am to 9pm is hardly remarkable! I had to find what worked for me.
How can I fit Instagram in my family life and not the other way around?
For weeks now I had been posting between 8-9pm. I block that hour daily for Instagram and my family knows it. It’s kind of a sacred Instagram hour if you like – a focused hour, rather than bitty minutes throughout the day. I post my image, comment on other people’s posts that I like, seek out friends whose posts I want to see and comment on them, reply to comments on my posts or show gratitude by commenting on their posts.
If I have more time later before I go to bed, then I do some more engaging. During the day I get to focus on my job, run my household, style and create content, and sometimes post stories. Finally I have found a time that worked for me. My account is still steadily growing, sometimes with double growth overnight. So it’s a win-win.
Stagnation can happen on Instagram when you just don’t see that follower number move, or worse the numbers start to dwindle. That usually happens when you are absent for a long time. But I encourage you to carry on despite periods of stagnation. When you find yourself in a growing momentum, ride it. Ride it by posting, turning up, engaging and being consistent.
It always surprises me when I look on my Insights and find that an average of 50% of my new followers find me using hashtags. Choose your hashtags carefully. Use a mix of big and small hashtags. Big hashtags usually have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. This decreases the chances of you showing up so balance this with really small hashtags that are just starting up or have a dynamic interiors following. Showing up on the hashtag’s posts is more likely and helps in your account gaining new audiences. Remember to fully utilise your quota of 30 hashtags!
When your post goes on “explore”, you are also likely to be found by a new audience. This is because your post appears on the “following” tab of people who follow you or who comment on your post. In turn, the people who follow them see you on their “following” tab and find you from there. So there’s a fresh audience for your post right there. I don’t exactly know how this happens but I have noticed that when a post of mine garners a steady stream of likes and comments within the first couple of hours of posting, the post likely goes on “explore”
Tree print Linton Art
5. KINDNESS AND GRATITUDE
Last but definitely not least is this: show gratitude to people who have taken the time to comment on your posts. I reply to every single comment on my posts (unless I have inadvertently missed them which can happen when there are a lot of them). I know how it feels when you have written a comment on someone’s posts and they don’t bother replying or they just hit the like button on your comment. It feels so good if you get a proper thank you and you may even have made a new Instagram friend from then on.
If I get a negative comment, which I have done a couple of times, I just thank them anyway – they are entitled to their own opinion. Besides, their commenting is boosting my post on Instagram!
Another way of showing my gratitude is to give something back, not just in the form of comments and like to others, but also helpful blogposts and hopefully inspiring pictures on my feed too. I try and if that hasn’t happened yet, I’ll just keep trying.
This is just my own journey; we all have our own individual ones. I hope you have gleaned something from the above.
Metal Star Rustic Warehouse
Well, there you have it, 5 things that I think contributed to my recent large Instagram growth. I hope these have helped a bit and encouraged you to carry on and keep turning up even when it seems difficult to do so or the results aren’t immediately visible. Update January 2020: I have since added 3 more things I have done to help my account grow by 60k in the 2019. Read it here.
If you found this post helpful, I’d be grateful if you would share on your stories or mention or tag me Instagram layered.home on your posts. I’d love it if you would follow me on there too!