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When I finally decided to take the leap and start both a social media consulting business and my travel brand, I knew I had to get serious about my personal social accounts, especially Instagram.

My Instagram used to be an online scrapbook of sorts. I posted pictures to document my travels but made no efforts to edit them. I just uploaded shots from my trips without giving any consideration to the timing, captions, or hashtags. 

But in order to get more exposure, I knew I had to become more strategic. Followers weren’t going to find me if I didn’t take the steps needed to be found in the first place, nor would they follow me if I didn't have interesting enough content.   

Since the world of social media can get overwhelming at times, I decided to implement the following strategies, little by little, over the period of 4 months. It was important to me to keep Instagram still fun and enjoyable while avoiding burnout. 

After integrating these strategies, I went from gaining around 8 new followers per month to 50+ per month – that’s a 545% increase! In addition, I found that I was receiving 44% more likes, and 66% more comments per post.

Posting 2 images per week instead of only when I'm on a trip: As I mentioned earlier, I would only post photos when I traveled, which was maybe every 3 months. I’d typically post one photo a day, and those photos would either be raw or have one of the Instagram filters. There was no pattern, no consistency with timing, no color coordination, no feed theme. To avoid the lull in between trips, I now post 2 times per week. This is key to keeping my audience engaged. Some influencers will post daily to their feed, but I simply don’t have enough content, nor enough time, to post daily. Below, I’ll tell you what I do daily. 

Increased use of Instagram Stories: This is where I post daily – little snapshots throughout my day of what I’m doing. I love Instagram stories because it allows me to post any type of photo without straying from my feed theme. 

Using hashtags, tagging location, tagging accounts: This goes for both the feed posts and Instagram stories. Before, I would use hashtags and location tagging inconsistently, and I would never tag other accounts. Now, before posting, I do a little research (takes about 5 minutes) to find hashtags related to my caption, location, and the general theme of my account. I mix the hashtags between ones that have been used a lot (100K+ posts) and hashtags that are used very little (100-20,000 posts). I try to use at least 25-30 hashtags on each post, I have definitely found that this helps. I also have a list of repost accounts that I tag sometimes and repost hashtags that I use for travel. I’ve been featured on a few other accounts which have given me good exposure and a consistent stream of new followers. For example, I gained 50+ new followers from a Moroccan Instagram account that reposted and featured my photo of me in Chefchaouen.

Using up to 30 hashtags: Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post. I use as many as I can, usually 25-30. I typically post the hashtags directly in my caption, but if my caption is too long, I use the first comment for my hashtags. I’ve found that both tactics work just fine. 

My feed theme/aesthetic/pattern: Think of your Instagram feed as a visual presentation of yourself. I’ve seen some amazing feeds that have beautifully curated photos that are color-coordinated or edited with the same filters/presets. I’m not quite there yet, and I’d like to one day hire someone to do this for me. In the meantime, I’ve chosen my theme to alternate between pictures of me and pictures of scenery for a checkered effect. It’s much more visually appealing than randomized content. In addition, I’ve tried to stay consistent with the color scheme I’m using by sticking with blues, yellows, and browns.

Using more pictures of me: Selfies and pictures with people, in general, do better than photos of scenery unless you are a professional photographer of course. I am not one, and I’m not sure I ever will be. It’s not my preference to even have a bunch of selfies, so I opt for longer-distance shots of me along with scenery to balance it out. The pictures that feature me, on average, get 44% more likes, and 66% more commentsMicro-blogging / long captions: Pictures ARE worth a thousand words, but words are what really create the connection and relationship with your followers. I have a blog for my travels, and I’ve been using my Instagram as a way to micro-blog little updates about my life and record my thoughts. These thoughts have created deeper connections with my followers, which prompts them to respond via the comments, thus increasing engagement. It has been more fulfilling for me as well because I do love connecting with people. That’s what the “social” in “social media” is for!

Interacting with the hashtags I use each day to make new connections: I’ve heard of some people commenting and interacting with others in their space for hours per day, even hiring assistants to do this. I personally don’t have time for this, and as much as I would like to grow super rapidly, I know that balance is key, and I also yearn for super organic connections. So instead, I take 10 minutes each day to comment and like photos that are outside of my follower network. I do this before and after posting a new photo. I also strategically click on the hashtags that I’ve used in prior posts and comment on other content in that space. I’ve found that the first tactic helps with more exposure to your current post, and then the second tactic helps with overall organic growth. 

I’ve utilized these tactics not only for my own account but for a few clients that I do social media consulting for (both with under 1000 followers right now). With my clients, I’m seeing consistent results in terms of organic following and engagement stats on their accounts. 

As we know, “going viral” on any social platform comes with a team, money or luck. I hope I go viral one day, but as we all know, it really takes time, patience, and steady growth to gain a true following. I’m confident that by using the strategies outlined here, I’ll continue to see steady, dependable growth – and you will, too.  

What are some other strategies that you’ve been using to help grow your accounts? I love discussing social strategy. 


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