A month of Instagram strategies

Oh, Instagram. Is there any social media platform that makes you feel more frustrated, and less accomplished, than Insta-bloody-gram? As soon as you gain a follower, you lose five, and it seems like no matter how much you work on it, no matter how much you love your photos, no matter what strategies you put in place, it just doesn't make a difference. Of course we can all sit here and say 'it's not about the followers' but let's face it, most bloggers want to gain an audience, and with Instagram becoming more and more important for securing opportunities, the majority of us would like a boost. As I was slowly crawling towards my next milestone of 4000 followers, I decided to set myself a challenge: Throughout June, I'd spend a week dedicated to one of four different growth strategies, and see if I could secure that number. 

Best strategies for gaining Instagram followers


I'd be toying with the idea of promoted posts on Instagram for a while, but it seemed everybody I spoke to said it just wasn't worth the money. Still, it seemed like a low-hassle strategy, and as I'd just got back from my first press trip, I wanted to make a good impression, so thought this was the perfect time to experiment. I chose two different types of photo- one of myself (in a bikini, as it happens) and one of a beach landscape. The process was simple once I got past the hassle of constantly signing in and out of my Facebook account, and my Paypal refusing to sync. I just chose the aim of my promotion (to get more profile views), how many days I wanted the promotion to run for (10) and my daily budget (£1). According to the estimations shown on screen, this budget and time frame would give me between 16 and 43 new profile visits. OK, not exactly Kim K levels but I figured it was worth a try. 

And what do you know? It actually worked. After a week, my bikini photo has exceeded expectations as I've had 69 profile views as a result (heh). The insights also tell you how many people followed after viewing the photo. In this case it was 20, which seems like a very nice result. My landscape photo was less successful, with only 32 profile visits (and no new follows). Still, a total of 70 new followers isn't bad. Is it worth £20 though? I'm not sure. 

EFFORT REQUIRED......... 1/5
RESULTS............................. 4/5


We all know that following others is one of the best ways to secure new followers. It's exactly why follow-unfollow accounts exist. Like it or not, there are people who will follow everybody who hits that button for them first. I do have a tendency to get complacent with my following and not actively seek out others to connect with, so I hoped this strategy would help me liven up my home feed a bit as well as, in theory, boost my own views. 

One of the things that surprised me with this strategy was how hard it was to find people to follow. I decided I'd find 10 new accounts every day but I didn't want to go in with a frantic scatter-gun approach. Instead I made sure I genuinely liked the look of everyone I followed. To find these, I used a mixture of looking through hashtags, checking out the followers (and following) of accounts I admire, and a little bit of the explore tab too, although for me this tends to be filled with athletic girls on beaches and prancing around Milan which isn't really what I'm looking for. To my surprise, some days it would take quite a long time to find 10 accounts that I actually liked. 

By the end of the week, I had gained 58 new followers. Some of these were those I had recently followed but, surprisingly, this wasn't as solid a strategy as I expected. With all the bots about, I felt sure it was failsafe; otherwise why would anyone bother to follow-unfollow? Oh well, they're wasting their own time and reputation, I guess. I'm still coming out on top though. I've got a few new followers and, more importantly, my feed is looking fresher and more varied than ever (and I didn't have to pay a penny!)

EFFORT REQUIRED.......... 3/5
RESULTS............................... 2/5


After the passive approach of promoted posts, and the slightly more stressful following strategy, I was kind of dreading this week. I think we're all guilty of not commenting enough. Everything is just so fast-paced in our lives now, and the 30 seconds it takes to comment on someone's post can just seem like too much effort. Don't pretend you don't feel the same way. 

It actually turned out taking even more effort than I anticipated. Of course, you can't just go "great photo!" because a) that's a crap comment and b) you're just going to look like a bot and probably get blocked. Instead, I made sure I specified exactly what I liked about that specific photo. It's harder than you'd think. Sometimes you just like an image, and you can't put your finger on what it is. Maybe it's the colour cast, or the composition, or general vibe, and it's hard to put that into words. In the end, I ended up with lots of "What a great view!" or "What a cute skirt!" and that just sounded false anyway, even though it was genuine. 

Still, it worked out fairly well. I gained 62 followers, more than I had the previous week, but the biggest bonus for me was the interaction. I found I was getting involved in conversations and it was nice to speak to people who I'd been following for ages but never actually communicated with. It might have taken up more effort, but it was well worth it for that feeling of engagement, rather than just passively double-tapping photos. 

EFFORT REQUIRED......... 5/5
RESULTS.............................. 3/5


I've heard about this strategy before, mainly through passive-aggressive tweets treating it as if there's some kind of etiquette rule that states you must like every. single. post on your feed or else you might as well unfollow the lot because what's the actual point? Well, I don't know about you, but I tend to only like the posts I actually... like. (Also when I see one of those like-everything-ers has liked one of my posts, it feels empty. They tap every photo that appears on their feed, so it doesn't mean anything. They don't actually like this particular post, so don't go getting too excited).

I've tried liking everything before and not only did it feel disingenuous but I found I wasn't really taking anything in. Scroll, tap tap, scroll, tap tap, scroll, tap tap. I wasn't looking at the photo, I wasn't reading the caption, I wasn't engaging with the content in any way. I was on autopilot, my thoughts drifting off while I mindlessly tapped my screen. I'd like to say it was different this time, but it wasn't. I did try really hard to engage my brain, to really take in the image and read the captions, but knowing I was going to like everything anyway, I easily slipped into lazy habits. 

Having said all that, I gained more followers this week than any other, even the promoted post week. I can't say I noticed any of my new followers being people I already followed though, so I'm leaning towards this being a coincidence. I might have got a load new followers, but liking every post feels fake and makes me uncomfortable, so I won't be carrying it over into next month.

EFFORT REQUIRED......... 2/5
RESULTS.............................. 4/5


After a month, I gained a grand total of 263 followers, pushing me past the 4000 mark. Previously, it had taken me three months to gain 250, so that's not bad going. However, there's no way of telling if this is down to the strategies I employed, or whether it's just a result of being more active and devoting more time to the platform. I still feel like I've learned some lessons from this, though. Photos of myself do better than landscapes (especially for promoted posts), commenting really does build engagement, and following new people isn't as solid a strategy as people would believe, although it's always nice to find a gorgeous account you haven't seen before. In future, I might promote the odd post every few weeks, but I'm definitely going to devote more time to interacting with others. Let's see if I can reach 5000 before Christmas! 

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  1. I love this idea and I might follow your experiment and see how it works out for me! If I end up writing a post I’ll make sure to tweet it to you so we can see how the results differ xx

    1. Yes, please do! I'd love to see how you get on

  2. I am REALLY impressed with this post! Utterly fascinating experiment. I tried to do something (not-quite) similar on Tumblr with wayyy worse results XD Would-not-recommend!

    Thank you for sharing


  3. Very interesting! People seem to like photos of me(why?) and my house rather than my dog or food. I find commenting and interacting really works, I joined a few facebook groups including 'Influencer support' and find their pods and comment swaps handy as this tips my photos into the discover feed.

  4. This is really interesting. I've been struggling to up my instagram followers so it's useful to see someone try a few things and report back :) I'm going to pin this to my blog promo guide board because I doubt I'm the only person who's also struggling!

  5. I've noticed that my instagram engagement is far better when I've been spending more time liking/commenting and actually engaging with others myself. It's just hard to keep that up when you're trying to keep up with everything else too! Interesting to see your results on the different methods.

  6. These results are fascinating! Instagram is such a tricksy platform because it seems to change every five minutes, but it seems like real, genuine engagement and devoting time to it seems to be the way forward.

    Cordelia ||

  7. Oh so that's why you commented looks like saggy boobs on my post ... lol. Honestly I may try a couple of these myself been trying so hard to get over 1000 but i can expect to get there without trying.. xox

  8. What a nice read :). Tbf the statistician in me thinks some followers in some weeks might be the result of a previous week's effort, but even so it's cool.

    I prefer the commenting strategy, even though I need to remember to do it again.
    I feel like it is easier for me to comment on my feed, as I follow many artists, but I also follow local accounts and it's quite difficult to say 'this is the third nicest view of that castle i've seen today' in a polite way.

    And I agree with you, I also tend to 'like' obly things I really enjoy - I treat it like a favourites button anyway.

  9. You're right, sometimes I just wanna say: Nice photo! and I genuinely mean it, but it feels fake! :D


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