The Secrets to Gaining an Influencer-size Following on Instagram

Tourist taking a photo on her phone

Instagram is one of the world's most popular apps, with over one billion monthly users. Most everyone we know is scrolling, posting, and liking around the clock — but despite the app's ubiquity, there is still some mystery about how to use it to its full potential. If you want to become the next big thing and gain an influencer-size following, we have some tips for you. Here's how to get famous on Instagram (or at least get better at it).

Girl taking photo of pizza on her phone

1. Do Your Research

Just like any new endeavor, it’s good to set out reasonable and attainable goals. Begin your IG revamp by doing research into your favorite accounts, and think about why you like their feeds and what can you do better. Decide what you want out of your Instagram by setting an aesthetic tone. This can be achieved by a certain color palette (white, pastels, or dark earth tones). People are drawn to accounts that are visually consistent. The Preview app is a great tool for testing out posts to better design your grid.

Look to popular accounts for guidance, and take note on which hashtags they use, how they engage with their followers, and even how frequently they are posting.

2. Go for Quality

Take amazing photos. That might sound easier said than done, but there are simple ways to improve your photography. Fill your Instagram grid with quality images that people want to see. A thoughtful selection leads to a consistent aesthetic, which will help in attracting a core follower base.

And when it comes to photo editing, there are a million apps that can assist in the process. Popular apps include Snapseed, VSCO, and Lightroom. Avoid using the Instagram-provided filters, and stick to the editing tools: bump up the contrast, straighten your image, or add some “structure.”

Get more likes with beautiful, bright, colorful photographs. Remember light is the key to every great photograph. Post vertical images to maximize screen "real estate" and grab people's attention.

3. Use Hashtags Wisely

If you can type it, it can be a hashtag. But to make a hashtag work in your favor, you'll need to think strategically. #You #Do #Not #Need #Them #All.

Instagram will let you add up to thirty hashtags in one post, but it’s better to select the top 12 or so that are extremely relevant to your image. Hashtagging the type of photo, the device you used, where it was taken, and the app you edited with are good places to start. There's also a third-party app, called Hashtag Expert, that can offer hashtag suggestions you can copy and paste. (If you want the attention of us here at T+L, add #TLpicks.)

Find hashtags that are not super popular, but instead popular enough. #Cute and #travel won't get you any attention, since your post will immediately get drowned out by all those other posts. But a well-chosen hashtag has people looking at it but not so many people posting.

4. Build on Engagement

Engagement is allowing your follower base to get to know you (or at least a version of you). Consider telling a story or anecdote in the Instagram caption. When you’re commenting on another account's post that you love, share your thoughts and try to personalize it so it doesn’t come across as spam.

Through geotags and localized hashtags, engage with the community around you, as they may be interested in your posts while you’re sharing from that location. The frequency of posting also matters. It’s best to decide what sounds right for you and what times of day you notice your followers are more active — we'd suggest posting at least once a day.

It’s important to follow accounts that you admire and that post similar content as you and even follow some of their followers to attract attention to your profile.

5. Use Instagram Story Tools

In case you haven't noticed, people love giving their opinions. That's why utilizing tools within Instagram stories, such as the question card or poll card, can build interest in your account.

You can use the question card tool in two different ways: you can either prompt your viewers to ask you questions, which you can then respond to by adding another slide to your story, or, you can ask your viewers a question and post their responses to your story.

While the poll card doesn't give the option of sharing your followers' individual responses like the question card does, people like to see how their preferences stand up to the majority. They may even return to your profile later to check on the poll's outcome.

6. Incorporate Story Highlights and Reels

Did you recently post a particularly interesting or engaging story? Give it a permanent home on your profile by adding it to your story highlights. (You can do this by tapping the star icon at the bottom of your story.) The highlights feature is especially helpful for splitting up your best stories into specific categories, since you can create different highlights to show off different things, like your projects, talents, or the places you've traveled. These help followers get a better feel for who you are as an Instagram user.

Reels, a somewhat new feature, is similar to story highlights in that it allows you to add permanent media to your profile without disrupting your grid aesthetic. Reels are essentially short videos, similar to TikToks, that can be edited with music, text, and visual effects. If you post a particularly funny or interesting one, you could be on your way to Instagram fame.

7. Remember What Not to Do

Don't buy followers, don't act like a spammer, and don't regram other people’s posts. Stay true to your own sense of style and personality, and the followers will come.

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