Instagram is undoubtedly one of my favoured social media platforms, and one I really enjoy taking time over. Since the beginning of this year I’ve been putting some serious work in to try and grow my following, make my profile and pictures look better and generally make it sit alongside my blog in a more coherent way.
I’m afraid I can’t offer any magic formula’s on how to grow those followers to the dizzying heights of some Instagram stars. In most cases I think it’s probably taken those people a really long time to get to that level, and for those who seem to have done it overnight, there might have been some tom foolery afoot so I wouldn’t worry too much. My advice for a good level of organic growth is simply to create the best content you can and publish it consitently and people will find you. I’m still an extremely small fish in the Instagram ocean – having only just hit my target of 2.5K followers and now working towards my second target of 5K – in fact I might not even be at fish status yet, With such low figures I’m probably still considered a tiny fungi that clings to the coral reef. It’s there but very few people can see it. Still, like any social media platform, there’s always room to grow and over the last few months since I started taking Instagram a bit more seriously, I’ve noticed the numbers growing. But boy is it hard work.
Anyway today’s post isn’t about growing your following (as an Instagram fungi with only 2.5k followers I’m sure my advice wouldn’t be worth your read anyway), instead it’s about making your profile look the best it can look no matter how many followers you have.
For me, it started with a change of attitude. Up until this year I’d been rebelling against the Instagram evolution a bit. I was trying to use it as both a platform for my blog and a platform for me personally. I shared updates for my blog and used images which were edited and blog worthy, along with key hashtags, but then I also wanted to be able to post instant updates without any filters of where I happened to be that day or what I was trying on in Topshop. As a result my feed was messy, incoherent and had no real ‘voice’. Seeing as my Instagram is one of the main platforms in which people find my blog, are made aware of new posts and get an idea of what Bumpkin Betty is all about I realised I needed to focus my Instagram profile more on showcasing this.
Essentially I realised that I needed to make my Instagram a window into my blog – a mini curation of all the things you might expect to see should you click through to read my posts. It needed to be more curated, more design led and have a personality.
In short I wanted to make it look more professional.
I will say however, that the tips below are by no means essential to using the platform. There are lots of ways of using Instagram and many people still champion the instant, care free updates without giving two hoots about their ‘feed aesthetic’ and if you do use Instagram as a personal platform you might well want to ignore all of the below and continue enjoying it as you normally would. Worrying about colour themes and subject matters is probably a whole faff that you really don’t need to bother with.
The biggest lesson for me though, is that as a blogger I really do believe that at least some curation is now essential for those of us using the platform as an extension of our blogs. If you see your blog as a business (or part of a business) then you’ll want to portray that business in the best light possible, and your Instagram profile is the closest thing to a portfolio for your blog, that you can get. So while I do still upload the odd personal post (I write a personal lifestyle blog after all), you may have noticed that my Instagram page is now more reserved for the best of the best – the pretty photos and the curated stories – and you’ll see less of the changing room selfies and drunken snapshots (I’ll keep them for Twitter instead where you can afford to be less curated).
So these are my top 5 tips for making your Instagram more professional…
Update your profile blurb
My first tip is to take a look at your profile and make sure it really gives people the essential info and encourages them to stick around. I tend to think less is more, and the mistake I was making for a long time was trying to tell people everything they could possibly need to know about me in those few sentences. Instead consider what you predominantly use your Instagram for and shout about that. For me, I realised it might not be so essential to describe all of my freelance endeavours and instead focus on the blog a little more – my Instagram is @bumpkinbetty after all and the majority of people who head there are either coming from the blog or hopefully going to the blog, so it made sense to sing about that. If you use your Instagram to show off your baking endeavours, talk about that rather than what you do for a living. If you want it to be all about the city you live in, caption it with hashtags or quotes rather than your life story.
Another trick I’ve only just learned (and it’s honestly so easy I had to pass it on) is how to divide your profile blurb into paragraphed lines rather than one long sentence. Simply open up ‘Notes’ or similar on your phone, write out your profile using the spacing you want and then simply copy and paste that into your profile! Easy peasy!
Consider your profile picture
For a long time I was using profile pictures that didn’t really tell you anything about me or my blog and as such probably weren’t all that successful. For example after our wedding I had a photo of GB and I kissing at the top of the aisle as my profile pic. Nice but pretty personal and more apt for my personal Facebook page than my blog’s social media. Then for a while I was using the picture you see above of me in the jungle in Borneo – a great shot and one I love but again not ideal for showcasing my blog. For starters it doesn’t show my face so makes me a little anonymous to readers/viewers and secondly it’s very much focused on travel when really this is a fairly small part of my blog subject matter.
I’ve now changed it to the image on the right – it’s lighter, brighter, is taken in London (where my blog is based), you can see my face, and it has a greater focus on fashion and lifestyle (my blog’s main subjects).
It’s also advisable to keep all of your profile pics coherent across all of your platforms so that readers can easily recognise your feeds and channels.
Pick your editing software and stick to it
There are lots of great apps for editing photos for Instagram nowadays and I’ve gone through a lot of them, but if you want your feed to be consistent it’s best to find the one that works for you and stick to it. Granted that isn’t always easy, sometimes you edit something a little differently and it can look great, but even so it will probably still stand out like a bit of a sore thumb on your feed.
I have a few apps that I use religiously. The first is Snapseed which I always use to edit the brightness and contrast of my images and make them lighter and clearer. Up until a few months ago I was then using Vsco cam and filter F2 for all of my snaps, but since discovering A Color Story by the a Beautiful Mess girls, I’ve converted (sorry Vsco). I now stick to Punch on the Blush palette for all of my snaps to make the colours pop a little more.
In the pic above you can see a before and after with one of my pink door photos, with the left picture being unedited and the right having my Snapseed/A Color Story formula applied, and I think you’ll agree the colours are much punchier.
It doesn’t matter what app/filter you use but if all of your images look similar your feed will sit together much better.
Choose a colour or aesthetic for your feed
That brings me nicely onto my next point which I think is perhaps the most important for a professional looking feed – choosing an aesthetic. It’s something that took me a while to get my head around as occasionally you’ll have a great picture that’s taken in a totally different way and still want to share it but it may not go with your overall look. I don’t think you need to be too strict with it (you’ll still see me posting black and white images from time to time or a darker night time shot) but I think it helps to have a rough idea of the aesthetic you’re going for as it will help you when taking photos and planning your content.
Don’t have a clue where to start? Ok well for example maybe you want to keep your feed moody, atmospheric and with a country cottage feel like @Marte_marie_forsberg (above)
Or perhaps you prefer everything to look pretty, pastel and fun like the girls at @belleandbunty (top image)
If you tend to shoot everything on a white background and like a clean, fresh approach (often the one favoured by fashion bloggers) consider an all white look like @love_aesthetics (above).
Or for fun, vibrancy and COLOUR keep your feed bright and upbeat like the wonderful @rclayton (above).
The best place to start is probably by looking at your blog and the type of content you produce regularly and use that as the basis. Also pick out a few Instagram profiles that you love and figure out what they all have in common.
For me, it was a little tough as I love all of the above and wanted a bit of everything (story of my life) but I had to really force myself to find my own personality and looked to my blog as the starting point. I mostly shoot flat lays on white or marble backgrounds and so I knew the dark and moody look probably wasn’t right for me. My blog colours and those which often feature in my clothing and lifestyle are pinks, greys and monochromes so I now aim to keep most of my content light, bright and with pink and pastel colours.
Consider your feed topics
The biggest change in this ever evolving social media platform is the fact that, for the most part, it’s no longer Insta – gram but take a bunch of photos, save them up and post them when you like -agram. At first I pined for the instant way of doing things but I soon realised that very few people are using the platform that way anymore and especially for bloggers, it makes sense to be a little more considered with your posting so as to publicise new blog posts at the right time and make sure your feed describes your blog adequately.
So my final tip is to think about the main topics your blog focuses on (or if you don’t have a blog then your business/life/hobby that you’re using Instagram for) and make sure you’re featuring these topics regularly on your feed. For me, my main blog themes are fashion, food, lifestyle and travel so I’m trying to make sure that on any given week there’s a little of all of these subjects. Alongside some more personal content, London life and of course what my week has entailed.
I don’t think you should give up on instant posting altogether as ultimately people like to see an insight into your life through your feed. But if you want to hold on to that pink door photo until you can post it next to that pink dress you wore at the weekend, then by all means do so.
Those are my 5 tips to up your Instagram game a little (and as I say they are mostly geared towards bloggers or those using their Instagram as part of a business) but I’d love to hear yours. As I mentioned I’m still a small fry in this workd so please do share anything you’ve found has worked for you.
Come follow me @bumpkinbetty