How To Win At Instagram Without Selling Your Soul

Check out my original article published on Rinse Daily about Instagram.

When I felt the pressure to have a strong social media presence as a model and blogger, at first I was a bit discouraged. I looked at my measly 234 followers and then to my peers’ pushing 100k and felt a bit of “Instagram envy.” I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one trying to live up to these online expectations. Authors, producers, and even yoga teachers confided in me that they were after the same thing.

After interviewing a few “insta-lebrities” I learned that you don’t have to buy followers, nor do you have to post underwear selfies to gain popularity. You don’t even have to be exceptionally beautiful or a model. You just have to put a little time and effort into making an appealing account by following these 5 steps.

1. Make a great first impression.

In just a quick glance, make what you’re all about clear. Keep the pictures you post consistent, polished and specific to what you’re trying to represent. When my little sister made an account and asked me for advice, I told her to keep her bio simple, “Globe Trotting 22-year-old” and to post photos that matched that description.

2. Play it like a game.

When I was trying to figure out how to go from 2 hundred followers to a couple thousand or so, I realized that the more photos I “liked”, the more “likes” I got. Exercise the double-tap on accounts and hashtags that relate to what you post yourself. Active engagement with the accounts of people who would probably be interested in yours gets you in other users’ “Explore” feed as well. Sometimes I’d just sit around double-tapping a ton of pics. Then, a few of the people that posted the photos I liked ended up following me. But you have to pace yourself. If you go too fast with the likes and get a little aggressive, Instagram will find (and flag) you.

3. Don’t hashtag #generic #stuff.

Hashtags can be useful, but they can also be incredibly annoying. They are a great way to make your posts visible, but using the really popular ones like #cute or #love get lost in the thousands of #cute #love posts per second. When you use a hashtag, don’t be too vague with your decryption, i.e. #cranepose instead of #pose, #fender instead of #guitar, or #oilpainting instead of #art. This keeps your posts from getting lost and makes it easier for others posting under the same hashtag to find you and check out your account.

4. Be mindful of timing.

Timing is important — but you don’t have to post every picture at the “right” time. What you can do is comment of your own pictures at peak times, with hashtags. This can boost an old photo’s visibility. Peak hours are 6-8 a.m. or 5-7 p.m. You can then go back and delete the comment of hashtags and re-comment later.

5. Don’t over-post.

Less is more. It’s better to have 10 solid photos that represent you than 50 okay ones. Over-posting just clogs up your account and gets people to unfollow.
These tips may not get you 10 million followers overnight, but it’s how I got 10k real followers in a couple months. That was all I really cared about on my quest to figure this whole Instagram thing out. Building up some followers will make you feel a little cool at first, but for me it was like learning how to play a game. Once I hit 10k I felt like I could either keep playing, or play something else.

Here’s a list of some people I think win at Instagram:
@taliasutra @jeremiahgallagher @gibbsdrinon @chddvs
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