Do you ever stare longingly at the front of Instagram’s Explore page and think, “In what world can I get that many likes?” With 130 million monthly users as of 2013, the sheer scale of the photo-sharing service makes the idea of boosting your standing in the Insta-World somewhat daunting.
Luckily, there are some tried-and-true steps guaranteed to getting you those few extra comments and followers—or, failing that, to at least ensure that your friends will definitely see that amazing brunch you had this morning.
Despite all the gratuitous #selfie or #me tags, Instagram isn’t entirely about narcissism. Instagram as a whole is a giant exercise in which people aim to connect with each other via photos—good ones, bad ones, posed ones, artistic ones, seemingly self-absorbed ones, you name it. It’s normalizing and democratizing for people to embrace the app’s boxy uniformity and express their spontaneity and in-the-momentness. So forgive yourself for that string of selfies—you were just trying on new identities for the Internet!
But we could all be doing it better. Here are 4 tips on how to rock the hell out of your Instagram.
1. Your Best Content: It’s Instagram, Not Instaspam
First—your account isn’t set to private, right? Because no one outside of your followers is going to see your photos otherwise. Go public! Second, your bio is the first thing people will see, so write one that’s both concise and which shows off a little personality.
You want to upload your very best images onto your profile. It’s tempting to provide your audience with a shot-by-shot rehash of last night’s concert, but it’s likely you’ll provoke more annoyance than intrigue. Choose instead one well-composed, well-lit shot, a photo with clean lines and great proportions. Users want to see beautiful photos in their Instagram feed, so it’s important to make sure the images you are uploading are some of your best when it comes to definition, exposure, and composition.
Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. Did that picture of your newly-bought mug not attract much attention, which the shot of your dog taking a bath got an exceptional number of likes? Take note of such trends and try to discern patterns in how people respond to your photos. Weeding out the unnecessary and the ill-received will help shape your Instagram profile into one that others look forward to seeing.
Also, remember that other users enjoy having a voyeuristic peek into your world, so opt for more lifestyle and personal photos rather than the mundane and observational.
2. Timing is Everything
Check Statigr.am’s Optimization tab to see your best time to post photos. Statigr.am collects your Instagram data and provides charts to show content and engagement analyses. Your best bet on a timely released photo is hitting your followers when their activity and interaction are buzzing. My community’s engagement takes a spike on Mondays at 6pm, and again on Fridays at 6pm and 11pm. Comments usually trail off about 12 hours after uploading a photo.
3. Tag. It. Up.
See Also: Top 10 Most Popular Tags on Instagram
A tag on your photo is the one link your little image has to the rest of the Insta-verse. The right hashtags can give your photo exposure, leaving it open to discovery. Tagging a picture with an appropriate hashtag lets your upload sit at the popular table … uh, feed.
The Top 10 hashtags on Instagram haven’t changed much since ReadWrite last checked into them, but think twice before adopting them. Hashtagging with #love, #cute, or #girl will just cast your photo into a pool teeming with hundreds of millions of others—literally—featuring the same tag. The trick here is to hit that sweet, sweet hashtag spot of just the right specificity. So be creative and think about which tag would be the perfect fit for your image’s audience. Perhaps it is the genre of food you are eating, or the new city you are visiting—nothing too general, but nothing too obscure either.
Remember when we said too many spammed photos makes for sad, uninterested followers? The same goes for your tags. You might be trying to cast a wide net by including a dozen hashtags, but have your main viewership—your followers, in mind. Keep it light! One to three hashtags are perfect, five at the most. Don’t be that bundling hashtag guy or gal.
4. Be Social!
You can’t just sit there and expect to make friends, can you? By following other users, liking, and commenting on photos, you can bet on getting some of that love back. Find friends through Instagram’s explore function, but also view suggested users and invite your non-Instagramming friends to join in the fun as well. Utilize your social media community, and repost Instagram photos to your other social networks to maximize their reach.
This ReadWrite infographic shows that Instagram photos flow easily into other various social networking platforms. But the majority of Instagram users aren’t connecting their account to outside networks and thus aren’t making the best possible use of social media. Connect your Instagram to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and Flickr, and share your photos across these platforms to see your number of followers blossom. Friends on these third-party sharing sites will be able to take note of your account name and then like and share your photos across these platforms as well.
And that’s it! Once you hit it big, don’t forget to Instagram your updates when the paparazzi start camping outside of your house.