I wrote this post while I was in Norway and I was waiting at the airport to fly home. I’d just posted this photo on Instagram and woah, it did better than any other photo I’d ever posted and I was feeling very smug. Yes, I’d nailed it. I’d finally figured out Instagram and I was beating the algorithm and I was winning. You can just imagine me cracking open a beer and swaggering around the airport like some big shot influencer.
I was on such a high I typed up this blog post in 20 minutes and was all ready to hit publish until….well my next photo flopped. And the one after that. And the one after that. Wtf. What was I doing wrong? Why, Instagram? Why!?
I stored this post into my drafts and figured I couldn’t publish it because I don’t have the stats to back it up. Since then, my Instagram engagement has been up and down like the Grand Old Duke of York and I can’t figure it out.
So I’ve decided to go for a different tactic – to just do my own thing and not worry about algorithms or engagement or what brands think or what anyone thinks really. I just want to go back to having fun on Instagram. I want to share the stuff I love without worrying about the ‘theme’ of my feed or posting a photo that’s the wrong colour scheme.
I want to use Instagram to share little stories of my life. The little stories that don’t make it onto the pages of my blog because they don’t seem important enough, but it’s these little stories that make me who I am and these are the things I’d love to read back in 2-3 years time.
And because of this I’m starting #MyEverydayAdventure
OK, this is a hashtag that’s had a little bit of use already but not a lot and I want to start using it to share…well to share my everyday adventures and little stories from my life. Sometimes those adventures are big but, mostly, those adventures are pretty small.
I’ve only been doing it for a couple of days but it’s already encouraged me to get out with my camera and capture those everyday adventures – whether it’s on my phone or my DSLR.
I’m already excited to look back on this journey in a year or two and read about my daily adventures and remember all those little moments I usually forget.
If you’d like to join me, please do come along for the journey and use the hashtag #MyEverydayAdventure. This isn’t about perfectly curated feeds or setting up glamorous photoshoots like your shooting for a glossy magazine. This is about normal, everyday adventures and capturing them, recording them and remembering them forever.
Now, for anyone who came for the Instagram engagement tips, here’s the original posts I wrote below. These tips do all apply but, come on, yawn. Just have fun and take some pretty pictures!
If all else fails, a photo of a girl in a bikini and an object with leading lines (think roads, railway tracks and staircases) and you’re on to a winner!
Over the past 12 months most bloggers and Instagrammers will have taken a hit on their Instagram engagement. Two years ago you could post anything to Instagram and hundreds of likes would start rolling in within minutes. But then things changed. Algorithms happened, but also Instagrammers got more creative and more skilled as photographers so the bar was raised. Instagram users weren’t satisfied with a simple sunset shot on an iPhone, they wanted more and pictures had to be perfect.
I’m not here to moan about algorithms or say, ‘Poor me, I now have to work quite hard now for people to see my photo. Boohoo.’
I actually think it’s a good thing that it’s harder to get likes on Instagram. It’s forced so many bloggers to try harder, up their skills, learn something new, get creative and think outside the box. It’s an exciting time to be on Instagram and I love seeing what my fellow bloggers create and capture. There are no rules and no limits to what you can do with Instagram and the algorithms are pushing us all to do more.
My Instagram engagement seriously tanked for a while. I swayed between feeling gutted that no one liked my photos and not really caring. I’m primarily a blogger, not an Instagrammer, so Instagram isn’t my main platform and it’s very rare I have any kind of sponsored work through Instagram. But I was seeing more and more of my friends spending more time on Instagram and I knew that if I wanted to attract a new audience I needed to be there and I needed to be trying! I also noticed more people were saying to me, ‘I saw that thing you did on Instagram….’ But fewer people were saying, ‘I read that thing on your blog….’ I don’t think blogs are dying, if anything I think they’re growing, but I think there’s a whole new audience on Instagram.
Over the past few months I’ve been trying out a few strategies to increase my engagement and I’ve finally found some that really work. Here’s what I’ve done to increase my Instagram engagement…
Post less frequently
There was a time when I believed you needed to post every single day to have any kind of engagement but now I’ve realised this just isn’t true. I post about every 3 days now and my engagement is so much higher.
People always like your latest photo so you need to give them time to see it!
But it’s not just about giving people time to see it, it’s also about quality. If you only post 3 times a week then you’re only going to post 3 incredible photos, rather than 3 incredible ones and 4 average ones. Quality over quantity!
Use portrait photos
Forget about those perfect little square photos, it’s all about the portrait view now.
Your photos will still look like squares on your grid but when they appear in a person’s feed (where most people will see them) the portrait pictures do really well simply because they take up more of a person’s screen. The picture seems bigger and it’s clearer to see.
Post at optimum times
I’m still figuring out what ‘optimum times’ are but I know early mornings do well and Friday and Saturday nights are a complete flop. You might need to play around with this to figure out when your audience are online. If you have an Instagram business account you can see some figures in your Insights but mine don’t seem to be 100% accurate so use with caution.
Block the bots
I’ve been on Instagram for a long time so I’ve managed to build up a fairly solid following of 20,000. I know that’s small fry compared to most Instagrammers but I’m primarily a blogger and I’m pretty proud of that number. The only problem is, a lot of those followers are no longer active on Instagram and I’ve somehow collected some bots along the way.
I’d rather have a smaller number of followers with more engagement that have loads of followers with low engagement so I’ve been going through my followers and blocking the inactive accounts or the ones that are obviously bots. It’s quite easy to spot a bot because they usually have lots of numbers in their username, they’ll follow a lot of people and have barely any followers in return and will usually have posted less than 20 photos.
It’s harder to spot the inactive accounts. Just because someone doesn’t post any photos it doesn’t mean they don’t regularly scroll through their feed to see what other people are up to. I also have lots of brands following me and random hotels in random places. These accounts are often inactive and never engage with my pictures so I’m blocking them too.
Tell stories through your captions
Remember the days when you’d just post a pretty picture and use a couple of emotes in your caption? Yea…those days are over!
The best Instagrammers use the platform more like a microblog to tell stories and give their audience the chance to get to know them.
Have a theme
There’s no denying that a ‘theme’ to your photos is what gets you new followers. This is something I still haven’t manged to achieve. It’s so hard to have a consistent theme while you’re travelling because each destination needs its own theme. Some travel bloggers stick to their theme so strictly that they end up not posting photos from certain destinations or they’ll post them six months later when their theme finally fits a photo. I’m not that strict about it because I’d rather post in real time, but I do try to avoid posting anything that would massively jar with my feed. At the minute I’m focusing on posting ‘light’ photos but even that’s tough!
Make an effort
It took me a really really long time to realise that great photos don’t ‘just happen’. OK, sometimes they do but most of the time you need to make an effort. You’re not always just strolling along the street and a perfect photo opportunity jumps in front of you while you just happen to have your camera in your hand on the perfect setting, fully charged with an empty memory card! You often need to get out there and find the perfect photo opportunity…and if you can’t find it, make it. This might mean getting up at 5am to capture a photo while the light is perfectly soft and not too harsh. It might mean researching photography locations and being organised enough to bring along props or clothing that perfectly fits your scene. The best bloggers and Instagrammers I’ve worked with make it look easy but they’ve actually spent hours researching each location and thinking about the type of photo they want to take. They’ll usually have saved photos into different collections so they can keep looking back on them for inspiration and ideas.
It’s quite simple really. Good photos = more likes!
I often find it hard to see what’s a good photo because there’s so much emotional attachment to my own photos. Sometimes it’s not until I look back on a photo months later that I realise it was a good one or a boring one.
One of the best photography tips I ever read was to have something in the foreground and something in the background of every photo. Let’s say you have a photo of a pretty view, yea it’s beautiful but the photo is a bit boring if there’s nothing else in it. I know there’s always an exception to the rule but, generally, a pretty view needs something else in the foreground. Maybe it cute building or a prop, a tree, a flower, an animal or a person. Look at this picture for example, it would have been boring without the church in it.
Don’t rush into sharing the first photo you take and don’t feel the need to post ALL THE PHOTOS. One good photo is better than five average photos and you can always use Instagram Stories or a different social media platform to share the others. Which leads me on to my next point….
Use Instagram stories
I don’t really see a direct correlation between using Insta Stories a lot and photo engagement but I generally find that the more I use the platform, the better I do. The more time I spend on Instagram, the more engagement I have.
Shut it down and enjoy the real world
It’s clear to see that the more time you spend on Instagram, the better you do. Spend 4-5 hours a day on Instagram and you’ll be winning! But will you be winning at life?
I’m currently on a press trip in Finland with a small group of bloggers and the amount of times we’ll all be sat around the table with our heads buried in our phones is unbelievable. I’d much rather sit and have a chat with the person sat next to me than have an online chat with someone on the other side of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I can strike up conversations with anyone across the globe and I think Instagram communities are awesome…but it’s not real life and you can’t beat real conversations!
Do what makes you happy
If you’ve read 101 guides to Instagram success and you know all the ‘rules’ and know how to technically do well on Instagram but something just doesn’t feel right or you just want to post that awesome photo that doesn’t fit your feed because you love it then do it!
I see lots of bloggers getting their knickers in a twist about curating the perfect grid. They worry about it so much they don’t seem to enjoy the fun of photography. You might get more likes but what’s the point if you’re not happy?
If you’re fed up with the Instagram likes games then come over and use the hashtag #MyEverydayAdventure and find a bunch of people who are also just doing it for the fun of it and to share their everyday adventures.