3 Ways to Get Better at Instagram
I’ve been a part of the blogging community for almost 4 years. In that time frame, I’ve seen a lot of changes, especially on Instagram and with changes that relate to the Instagram algorithm.
I’ve also seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t work on social media (again, specifically Instagram) from my own trial and error and watching what others do.
After following a variety of bloggers (fashion bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, and the like), I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go—some good, some awful.
This post isn’t meant to criticize people, just some of the social media practices that have become popular in the blogging community. Keep that in mind.
When it comes to blogging and social media, it’s good to remember that working together and building community and camaraderie—cheering others on and helping out where we can—benefits us all. Sometimes, that includes discarding behaviors or habits that aren’t serving a purpose anymore or aren’t beneficial.
Instagram is notorious for being a breeding ground for bad social media behavior—from follow/unfollow to those dreaded loop giveaways.
We’ve seen these types of things gain popularity in the last few years, to the detriment of the blogging community as a whole. Let’s keep working toward making social media a more positive and meaningful experience, which can only happen if we start changing the way we use it.
Whether you’re trying to build your blog or business on Instagram or just want to enjoy and use the platform in a more efficient way, I hope you find these tips helpful.
Improve Your Instagram In 3 Ways (It’s Probably Not What You’re Thinking.)
1 | Give affiliate links a rest.
Before you panic: no, I don’t mean abandon them completely and never use them again.
But I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed before, but many bloggers (fashion bloggers in particular) tend to leave affiliate links—especially of the Like to Know It variety—in every single one of their captions. And some people leave a link (as well as all the appropriate hashtags for affiliate partnerships) in their captions…and not much else.
Using affiliate links is intentional, of course, because often bloggers can make commissions off of those types of links if followers make a purchase. This is a known thing, and it’s par for the course if you’re a blogger. So, it makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is becoming predictable on social media. And that’s exactly what happens when you’re constantly dropping affiliate links every which way. Sure, it can be a good way for bloggers to monetize their platforms. But for the majority of bloggers, it’s just change or a few bucks here and there.
Is $0.47 really worth risking alienating your audience by posting a barrage of links every time you post to Instagram? For some, the answer may be a resounding “yes.” I know we all saw those who made the choice to post affiliate links for Kate Spade bags the day the designer tragically passed away. Or others who continued to post affiliate links in their 9/11 photos. Hopefully, those who do so represent the minority.
But when you’re always posting some small variation of the exact same thing over and over, your followers’ eyes tend to glaze over when they’re scrolling through their feed and come to your posts. It may be worth it to leave your affiliate links for every other post. So, that one outfit doesn’t make it onto your Like to Know It account. Who cares? Trust me, it won’t be the end of the world. In fact, it might just be crazy enough to work.
Bottom line: Let your audience get to know you. If you want to consistently engage your community on Instagram, don’t do the same thing day after day. Your followers will come to expect affiliate links if you post them all the time. At best, they start ignoring them (or all of your posts in general). At worst, it comes across as greedy, inauthentic, and spammy.
2 | Find your own personal style and own it.
This may seem like common sense. But if you follow any sizable number of bloggers, you start to quickly realize…it isn’t.
I don’t have enough fingers to count how many bloggers are exact duplicates of each other. I see it every day. And this doesn’t go for just fashion bloggers either.
I get it—it can be incredibly hard to stand out on Instagram, regardless of what industry you’re in. It’s an already over-saturated market, with more people joining every day attempting to make their mark.
You try to play the game and instead, the game plays you. Often, that means looking like everyone else. Whether that’s through your outfits, your filters, or the style and subjects of your photos. Of course, when you play the game this way, you’re only hurting yourself in the long run.
Why do you follow who you follow on social media?
I know I follow people who stand out and are unique. People that catch me by surprise with what they wear, what they say, how they say it, and what they do. I don’t like carbon copies. Who does?
There are enough people in the world who are too afraid to be their authentic selves. I don’t want to be that person, and I don’t want you to be that person either. I want to feel comfortable letting it all hang out: the quirks, the weird style, the off-putting sense of humor. Because that’s me, and I’ll never be someone else.
You can’t be anyone else either, so you may as well get better at being who you actually are. Part of that includes finding out who that is when it comes to social media.
For fashion bloggers, try taking a break from the Nordstrom ads and instead try posting your favorite finds from a local boutique. Sure, that may mean you can’t monetize as effectively, but not everything is about the money. And yes I know for some, blogging is your full-time job. It’s still not always about the money. Stop shilling that same belt that 233 other bloggers were gifted in the same exact week. It comes off as disingenuous. I said what I said.
For others, be brave enough to take those photos that are a little weird and out there and uncomfortable. Say those things that no one else is talking about. I’ve seen bloggers taking this step, and I love it. I see you, and I think it’s needed.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in a way that looks different from other people. It’s going to feel uncomfortable, and you’ll probably doubt yourself. Once you get really good and uncomfortable and do the thing anyway, that’s where the magic happens.
3 | Give your followers meaningful takeaways.
This is partly in reference to the first thing I said above.
Don’t just drop your affiliate links and paragraph of hashtags and vacate the building.
Tell your followers about your day, in-depth. As in, more than one sentence.
Share something that’s been on your mind lately. Give your audience a glimpse into the types of things you think about on the regular. I’m not talking about that random quote you found on Pinterest, either.
So many people just copy and paste links and hashtags, and we wonder why so many people don’t take blogging seriously, despite the large amount of work that goes into it.
Discount codes and swipe ups grow an audience of followers—not a community of peers, or anything substantial really. It may seem like that “strategy” works (if it can even be called a strategy). But often, those people you look up to with hundreds of thousands of followers have had to buy their way there because their feed is filled with mindless content that says nothing about who they are as a person.
(I feel obligated to state that obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone who has grown a large following on Instagram.)
Don’t make a half-assed attempt at starting a conversation when you post on social media and then dare to wonder why you’re not growing. Take a break from “TGIF” posts and shots of your Starbucks…and go a little deeper.
Yeah, it takes more work, but I don’t want to read about how the shirt you’re wearing comes in three different colors. I want to know what book is on your nightstand that you can’t put down or that embarrassing thing that happened to you at work the other day.
Depending on the kind of content you post, you may be thinking, “My followers want to know all about my outfit details. That’s sort of the point.”
Which is true, but only to an extent. Your followers originally may have followed you for your style, but now they want to know you, the person.
That link in your bio can function as more than a place for your followers to go shopping.
Bottom line: Don’t be that person who takes and takes and takes from others on social media without ever giving anything back. You could just post superficial things and never go beyond the surface when it comes to yourself or interacting with your followers. But why would you want to?
Let’s be real: growing on Instagram requires more than perfectly styled, high-quality photos and engaging captions. The algorithm has sucker-punched content creators over and over again, gleefully.
And the tips above won’t help you gain thousands of followers overnight. They probably won’t help you gain 10 followers overnight. Hey, at least I’m honest. But that’s not what this post is about.
I’ve noticed that the accounts who consistently do grow over the years take pains to evolve past the shortcomings of the platform and take time to intentionally engage with their audience members in new and creative ways. They don’t blame a lack of growth on algorithms and “pay-to-play” road bumps. Instead, they take a look at what ways they can improve. Usually, this involves asking their followers what they want to see…and then actually listening. It involves saying “no” to doing what’s popular, and saying “yes” more to what feels right for them.
Here’s to fewer dumbed-down versions of what we can do and who we are and more brave, articulate people who fill the world with the stuff that matters.
How do you feel about Instagram and social media in general?
Do you agree or disagree with this post? Tell me what’s on your mind.