Oh hi again! It’s been awhile but a few things kept me from blogging, one being not sure of what to write about. Yeah, a bit of an issue, huh? ?
Here I am though, and today I want to share my thoughts on being consistent on Instagram and giving value to your followers.
Many moons ago in university, my photography professor told me that my photos were technically good but they had no soul. For a late teen/early twenty-years-old, that was a huge shock! The comment did hurt my ego, especially since the guy I was dating took that photography class also and my professor often used his photos for examples on what good photography should look like. While I still liked taking photos, I wasn’t in love or really into it until Emma was born 13 years ago. I took many photos.
Some were good and some were just ok.
I started scrapbooking and card making regularly then too. Some were good and some were just ok.
Funny enough it was around this time that I truly saw what my professor was talking about! Even though my photo quality wasn’t excellent, I could see more soul and I had an inkling that it may have came from my love for the subject, new mother’s love. I used that feeling to keep me going in photography. Every week I felt like I was getting better.
Have you ever heard of the term fake it until you make it? If not, it basically means that you need to pretend to feel confident until you gain the experience or tool needed so that the confidence becomes real.
Have you ever watched Amy Cuddy’t TedTalk video? If not, here it is below.
Why am I rambling about this?
Because I faked all my confidence in photography, papercrafting, Instagram and like Amy, public speaking. A slight difference in body posture, perspective, tone of voice, courage– to share my work to the world, and how I held my camera, helped me get to where I am now.
I was a C student in public speaking in university. I was terrified of speaking in public. But I faked it until I made it. Before moving to England I spoke at difference conferences and a day before we flew out, I spoke to many business folks from Kansas City, Hallmark was one of them, at one of their marketing development sessions.
Like Amy, I went from faking it to waking up feeling like photography, papercrafting, Instagram, and public speaking have always been my thing; like I was born with them. My photography had a soul and everything just came naturally.
Instagram is a visual platform. Without good to great images, you will not grab your potential audience’s attention. Some people have natural artistic eyes but most of us don’t. This doesn’t mean we are not meant for visually appealing photography, we just have to be confidence that we can do it and keep practicing.
You’ll have good days and many bad days but if you keep it up, you’ll get there!
In the write-up below, I will share screen captures of some of my Instagram friends and with a few, I will also show how we have grown as photographers and Instagrammer. We all started from being a newbie, the key is to believe in yourself, practice, be consistent and give value.
For your Instagram to grow, you need to be consistent in what your share, the frequency and the photography style.
We all love different things. Our families, pets, worldly possession, hobbies etc. If you want to grow an Instagram account, it is most important to have a niche, a small few things to focus on. You can do travel and cafes, cats and roses, food and flatlay, florals and tea, family, knitting and crocheting, or travel, food and floral. Showcasing more than three things are just too much. Look at it from a Venn Diagram point of view:
The more varieties you share, the more difficult it will be to find other IG users who share the same love as you.
For my Instagram, I focused on local (Cambridge area) travel with a bit of travel outside of the island when we can. Within the travel niche, I mostly focus on facades, street views and more villages/towns than cities. Due to this, my feed looks like the below.
This doesn’t mean I can’t have a dog or an image of the girls in there, they’re just not the focus. From a movie/book point of view, the dogs, kids, and people are just supporting actors. For me, they give life to the image. In some instances, the supporting actors give perspective on how big/small a building is.
Lately, I have added interior and I will continue to feature them but just a sprinkle here and there for many reasons, mainly because I rarely get invited to tea by the homeowners of the houses I photograph ?
If you do food and flatlay. You can add all sorts of embellishments to it. Kitchen tools, spices, drinks, etc. But as long as you stay with your theme, a flatlay, and possibly with a home baked bread or cake, your account will grow.
How often should you post?
To grow steadily you need to post everyday. Don’t forget to use hashtags. If you can’t do everyday, it’s fine, but be consistent with your every other day. You can still grow if you post randomly but don’t also expect a steady growth. You get back what you put into Instagram.
How many post per day?
This is really up to you although in my personal experience and from watching other new accounts grow, starting out you should post 2-3/day. You can keep this up if you have the time and photos but if you grow to a rate where you cannot keep up with engagement or you cannot continue to produce quality images, I suggest bumping your post down to 1-2/day. I started out with three. Then when I reached about 1,000 followers I went to 2/day. After about 5,000 followers, I went to 1/day. I’ve been one a day and everyday.
What time to post?
This is a bit tricky. I’ve watched others, use different “what time to post” apps and personal experiment on posting the same time and randomly. What I found for my feed was that it didn’t matter as long as it was a reasonable time. For others, a business for example, it may matter.
According to Iconosquare these are my best times to post:
A bit different, right? But I can say that if I post around 10-11am and 12-1pm, I’ll be ok.
In general people like schedules. We like knowing when a show will come on. We like getting to work and know what will happen when. We like knowing that when we wake up, and look on Instagram for our daily inspiration, our favourite Instagammers will be there for us.
Another factor I use to decide on when to post, especially since I post just once a day, is geographic location of my audience.
Most of my audience are in Europe and American continents. If I post too early, let’s say 9am, the Americans are still sleeping. If I post at 10pm, many of the European peeps will have gone to bed. I do know too I have followers from Asia and Australia and posting around the afternoon gets to most everybody. I also post in the afternoon because mornings are just way too busy for me. Getting kids ready for school, doing house work, etc. On weekends, I sleep in if I can, or on swimming club duty and there’s no Internet in the pool. But by lunch time on any day, I am awake and usually have a bit of time to faff on the phone and post.
Figure out where your target audience are and use this information to help you decide on when the best time to post will be. Experiment a bit. My 1pm may be your worst time and your 7pm will be way better than mine.
If you have a business Instagram account, I believe it will give you the stats above. I am still on a personal account since I don’t see a need to go business; I can get my stats from Iconosquare. I know it’s a paid app but it’s very inexpensive and it’s what I recommend my clients. I need to have it anyways to know how to use it.
You think I made my Instagram the way it is from just deciding on the day what to post?
I am not that good! Many of us Instagrammers use apps to help curate our feed to the way we think it should look like. You can pre-determine how your layout will look like by using a few free apps. The ones I have used are UNUM (iDevice and Android), Planoly (iDevice and Android) and Preview (iDevice and Android). Of the three, I use Preview now. Unlike the others, Preview has a feature to save hashtags into many different groups beside pre-planning how my feed will look. Right now I have a hashtag group for city, house, floral, lifestyle etc. Just a push of a button and voila, hashtags!!
In these apps you can insert photos, move these photos about, and see how they’d look next to, on top of etc, of each other. This is a powerful tool to make your feed aesthetically pleasing. It also can save you a lot of time! I can spend an hour prepping for three or four days worth of posts. I’ll add hashtags, type in the history/story, save and when posting time comes, I can do it in minutes.
Here’s an example of my Preview. I took a photo of the Cambridge Wine Merchant some weeks ago. Should I or should I not post this photo today? Remember, there is no right or wrong here. This is YOUR preference, YOUR visual. According to my eyes, for this image, no. I just posted a forward facing building and under it is also another forward facing building. The next should either have some space, a row of building from the left (since two images before and down centre there are row of building from the right) or even an interior. I’ll post the Wine Merchant another day, maybe. But not today.
This may look a bit much but again, Instagram is a visual platform. You need to do the best to make your feed visually appealing.
Is another important aspect in order to grab the attention of others on Instagram. If your photos are not good, you are not going to grow. If you think you’re using the right hashtags, you’re engaging, staying within a niche, posting regularly and still not growing, it may be time to be brave and ask others to critique your photos.
Try to really find out what is not right with your photos. The edit, the perspective, layout, the background, the colours, etc. And then go from there. There are many tutorials, free even, that you can find online to better your skills. If you need a filter to help with consistency, use something like VSCO, AColorStory, etc.
I hope by now you are getting a better idea on what consistency means. If you look at successful Instagram feeds — grow steadily and with good, 5% is considered good for IG, engagement — you will see similarities: Consistencies between all the things I mentioned above.
Before moving on to value, here’s one fabulous example. A new favourite of mine, @heydavina. If you want to see what life is like in New York with some travels to other cities and fab cafe vibes, she’s the girl to follow. Gorgeous images of outside and inside of buildings, street vibes, and beautifully presented food. To be fair I have not stalked her enough to see if she post at a certain time or how many a day but I do know she posts every day and what caught my attention was where she goes/showcase (in-line with what I love also) and the aesthetics of her feed. Davina is also a very engaged Instagrammer and this is also why I enjoy interacting with her daily on Instagram.
In general, humans are curious beings. We’d hear a noise and we’d look up. We’d hear whispers and we’d strain to listen. We see an intriguing photo and we want to know more.
We are all not great photographers, I know I am not.
If you want to grow your feed and have people engaging, adding value to each post can set you apart from the rest.
I love adding a bit of history and/or life story to my photos. I was a blogger before Instagram, I love history and I am an educator. I didn’t realise until many comments later that many not only come for my photos but also the history/story behind it. Through my writing I’ve connected with so many wonderful people. I got to know them a little bit more and they also learn a little bit from me. It’s a win/win for all of us and it truly makes my Instagramming time worthwhile.
Since my realisation, I’ve noticed many Instagrammers who not only share fantastic photos but also write captions that I know I wouldn’t want to miss reading on a daily basis. Of the wonderful people I follow, I have to give @cookiesncandies the award for always writing out the best captions! She makes me laugh out loud a lot!
Value can come in different form. Mine is history, daily stories and now and then things I’ve learned ever since my
breakdown spiritual awakening (borrowing Brene Brown’s words). Others can be inspirational quotes, recipes, stories about the process of whatever they photographed, silly things their kids said, travel tips, marketing tips, etc.
If you can give a little bit more, I believe you can have growth and followers who look forward to what you’ll post next.
We All Started as Newbies
So many things and the information can be overwhelming but do not be discouraged! Read a little bit, do a little bit and go from there. I have had photography experience in the past and while not even close to good, I could get a hang of that skill the fastest. Instagram was all new to me despite having had an account for many years. Using IG privately and publicly with the want to grow are like apples and oranges. I had to learn and it took me a good month to get the first true 100 followers (my first 122 FB friends don’t count ?). I got better at it and a few months later, thanks to a wisteria photo, I reached 1000 followers.
Below I want to share a few of my friend’s feeds. From earlier on when we were just learning the ropes to today. We didn’t start with a bang and if we can do it, you can too!
My dearest Instagram friend is Ellie. She’s only 15 minutes away and she is really lovely to hangout with. She does more flatlays than I do and hang out more in the city, but she also tries to give value in her captions. This is her now.
This was her about a year ago. That cat. I don’t know why I keep laughing everytime I see it!!
Sometimes last summer Katy asked a group of Instagrammers for feedback on her feed. She wasn’t growing. I gave her some honest feedback, Katy graciously accepted and thought them over.
Have you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Katy may have either read it or she’s just naturally proactive but she used what advice she thought was good for her, made some changes and you can see her evolution.
Her main problem was having a bit too many different things that she was sharing on her feed. Once she chose her niche and aesthetics, she started growing again.
I am guessing here but I think this is her winter look.
A more earth tone autumn feed.
And her then.
Last but not least, here’s mine from about a year ago. Woah I was everywhere!!!
I hope you find this post useful! Until the next one!!