How to Create a Beautiful Instagram Feed + Grow Your Engagement

How to Create a Beautiful Instagram Feed + Grow Your Engagement

Part 1: Picking an Instagram Aesthetic + Creating a Beautiful Feed

I LOVE Instagram and I definitely love having a page that is a representation of me. If I told you to go to my Instagram, you would just see me on a page.

And I know a lot of people struggle with this: how to create something that is uniquely you but also is relevant to other people.

To build a truly organic following, I think that’s what you truly have to do – you have to convey yourself across the feed.

But also…building that engagement is freaking hard. And sometimes it feels like you’re posting this amazing content and no one likes it. I’ve definitely felt that so many times when I post what I think is an amazing photo….and then crickets.

1. Figure out the difference between feeds you LIKE and what actually describes YOU

Here are few of the Instagram feeds I love:

@katgaskin –> here

@_fashionlush_ –> here

@shutthekaleup –> here

However, I know that none of these are truly MY style. My style is kinda of a blend of all of them – I like a lot of white but also a lot of color, love the green colors of food blogging, etc.

2. Now, figure out YOUR style 

What do you naturally gravitate towards? What colors do you put in your home? How do you dress? Where do you live?

All this plays a factor into your personal brand. And your insta should be just another facet of your personal brand.

3. Editing 

Editing is a HUGE deal. It took me months to really figure out how I wanted my photos to look + that is always still evolving.

♡ here are the apps I use

Facetune – love the whitening tool, the Patch tools, and the toning tool –> Facetune is the most like photoshop for your phone –> here

VSCO – yes, everyone and their mother uses this app. But that’s because it creates beautiful photos –> here

Snapseed – Snapseed has great basics like brightening, contrast, shadows, etc. –> here

A Color Story – love this app for bumping up the coloring and playing with the coloring of your photos without it looking fake –> here

In the example below, I used a combo of all these apps.

♡ before

♡ after

4. Lighting

There is only so much editing can do, and if you try to do too much, it’s obvious that your photo is bad to start with.

That’s why people make such a big deal out of Lighting.

♡ do

Find shade – go outside and then find shade. This is why you see so many pics up against walls. With shade, you get outdoor, natural lighting without the contrast of standing in the sun

If you HAVE to take a photo inside, go near a window

Better yet- find multiple windows so the light isn’t just pouring in from one window, creating one side of your pic that’s dark and one side that’s light

The less busy, the better – remove random things from the background. The more simple and solid backgrounds, the more appealing to look at

♡ don’t

Don’t go for direct sunlight usually creates some shadowing and that can start to look harsh if you bump the contrast up.

Take pics inside – go outside always!

Avoid pics at night- obviously, if you’re just having fun with friends and never going to post the Insta, take all the nighttime inside pics you want.

Part 2: Growing Your Instagram Following + Engagement

1. Dedicate time EVERY DAY to growth + engagement

Every single day, you need to be focusing on growing your followers and engagement. I don’t love saying, “I want to hit 1,300 followers by the end of the month” because that is usually an arbitrary goal that doesn’t mean anything.

Instead, get down in the nitty gritty and EXECUTE your strategy every day.

♡ here’s what I do almost every day

1. make a list of 20-30 accounts you LOVE

2. every day, go to their Instagram and leave 1-2 relevant, long comments

good comment: this is so cute! Loved your blog post on how to style this sweater, too!

bad comment: NICE!

3. look at who the 20-30 people on your list follow –> start following some of those people. This brings you to a community of related content/Instagrammers

4. repeat the commenting

3. Tag medium-sized brands + accounts

One of the best ways to quickly expand your following is to get reposted by other accounts. FREE exposure to their thousands of followers!

So, of course, the dream is to get reposted by Free People. But Free People is tagged in literally tens of thousands of photos a day…so start a bit smaller.

  • Find and make a list of medium-sized accounts in your niche –> 10k+ followers
  • Get creative – think about your city, your pet, cool office space accounts, coffee accounts, etc.
  • When you post a photo relevant to those brands + accounts, tag them

♡ below are some examples w/ different types of photos

beach/Sarasota/Florida vibes

coffee vibes –> love a good latte art photo

husky pic

4. Use those hashtags

I know, I think hashtags look cheesy, too. But I’ve learned through trial and error that they are really key to growing your following quickly.

 

This also goes back to your goal of getting reposted by medium sized accounts.

  • Create a note in your phone with all your hashtags written out and broken into categories.
  • Your 20-30 target accounts –> see if they have branded hashtags such as #visitsarasota or #coffeshopvibes
  • Write your hashtags as a comment, so they don’t come off spammy — >use 5 little bullet point dot symbols in your iPhone keyboard to bump down the hashtags even more (see above)

Now, your hashtags are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Over time, these accounts are going to see all the notifications from you tagging them in photos AND using their hashtags –> odds are definitely in your favor to get reposted. 

4. Think about your feed as a whole

Some people might disagree with this, but don’t worry about every single Instagram so much. I’m much quicker to follow someone if I do two quick scrolls, and their feed is consistent and pleasing and balanced.

Examples: I like seeing some white space, some color…a variety.

5. If you’re for real serious, get into analytics –> Sign up for Iconosquare

Totally free, Iconosquare is an Insta analytics tool. It’s SUPER cool.

engagement breakdown

best times to post (mine is Monday at 4 PM ?)

growth overview

hashtag usage

Use my Iconosquare link for yourself + get 20% off any plan upgrades (I used the free version at first but eventually, I did upgrade to get more in-depth) –> here

6. Chill, fam

A beautiful Instagram feed is fun to make, but it’s super easy to get caught up in a numbers game and get really discouraged. I caught myself freaking out when my picture didn’t get a ton of likes or I would think about how lame everyone would think I am….and I realized no one cares. No one’s going back to your Instagram to look at how many likes you got, stop worrying about it.

Growth takes TIME. It’s so easy to look at bloggers with 100k+ followers and think that they exploded overnight or got really lucky somehow.

Forget about luck or going viral – the only way you’re going to seriously build your social media followings with REAL, ENGAGED users is hard work. So stop reading this and start DOING.

7. Be authentic and consistent

The times I would see the fewest likes and most lost followers were times I was being fake. Posting pictures of things I didn’t really like or really really staging in the photo. I found through looking at Iconosquare that my audience just didn’t love that.

But the natural kind of on the go shots that I just randomly took and didn’t put too much thought to where the most successful.

Also, consistency – try to focus your pics around similar and cohesive topics. In my case, I probably wouldn’t post a huge family group photo because it doesn’t really fit in with the lifestyle brand I’m creating.

 

♡ more resources for growing your social media

Eventually, I really want to do a whole series on growing allll social media platforms. For now, though, here are some resources that have been pure magic for me

BoardBooster – a logical buddy for your Instagram is Pinterest. BoardBooster automates pinning across group boards, does analytics for you, and basically completes hours of manual work in a few min. HIGHLY recommend –> after I switched from Tailwind to BoardBooster, my followers shot up + 10X the repins.

use my link to keep Slightly Savvy running 🙂 –> here

Iconosquare – like I said above, gives you amazing analytics tools for growing your Instagram –> sign up here

Buffer – my favorite for automated posting on Twitter and Facebook –> sign up here

♡ to see me walk the walk and not just talk the talk, follow me here

Instagram

Pinterest

Twitter

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  • I absolutely LOVED reading this and hearing about all your tips and tricks… especially the engagement one. I think so many blogger forget how important it is to engage with people and instead worry about numbers, like you said. You are going to go so far girl. So glad I found you at this stage in your career! ❤️

    • Katherine

      Thank you so much! I’ve been loving your posts recently, too – I think you speak so honestly about life in general. It’s so so refreshing! ❤

  • Thanks for the tips! It’s so true that I look at large accounts and just assume that their account exploded over night but that is not the case, it takes work!

  • Robin Rue

    My instagram feed is my life, so I am not into color coding or things like that. I figure if anyone wants to follow a real life mom, I am there 🙂

  • Thanks for these tips. I agree you need to work at it each day. Lighting and good photography is super important.

  • Those are great tips. While I love those accounts that look all pretty sometimes it looks too perfect. I like to keep my account real and raw, I’ll never have one of those perfect feeds but I’ve been told by many they like how I have my feed.

  • This is super helpful! I need to strategize more about who I tag in my photos.

  • These are such great tips! I just started working on socializing my Instagram more and it’s definitely a platform I love but I have much to learn. This was very helpful, thank you for sharing!

  • Thanks for sharing so many great tips. I’ve been working on my feed more and more lately. I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve been curating my style and being smarter about the hashtags I use. It’s great to see my response rate and follower numbers growing.

  • I think my feed is interesting and fun, but you never know how others perceive it. I love the advice about how to build a following. I will start implementing some of those strategies. Thanks.

  • This is great advice, and some i really needed as my feed has seemed kind of stagnant lately. Thanks so much i am newly inspred!

  • Jeanine

    My instagram is older than my blog, so its a mix. This is some great advice as I’m thinking of revamping my instagram, but we will see! I could use some more engagement as my follower count grows, thats for sure!

  • Angela @marathonsandmotivation.com

    These are all great tips! I have been working on growing my Instagram, so I am pinning this to refer too!

  • I totally agree with these tips! It’s important to put good photos out there so you’d have to learn how to edit. Hashtags and tagging are a huge plus too, because people notice and you get more organic likes.

  • I confess I am not on Instagram yet. I am such a perfectionist that I won’t start something unless I can be perfect at it. I know crazy…

  • I am all about having a beautiful, curated Instagram feed and these are great tips. I built my account to almost 20K by having great content and engaging with others!

    • Katherine

      Ah that’s so awesome Chanel! I’m nowhere near 20k, so I’d love to know how you got that far. Thanks for reading this post <3

  • I’m totally bookmarking this! What great tips. I always love boning up on more social media advice!

  • Brittany Muddamalle

    I love your tips! I’ve been doing my best to build my Instagram this year. It’s been going great and a huge part of that is how transparent I’ve been.

  • Chelsea Damon

    Great idea to tag smallish businesses and websites! It’s taken me so long to get an Instagram aesthetic that I’m proud of but I think I’m finally getting there!

  • Wow this is awesome and a really great Idea and really great tips. I feel like I am getting there slowly but surely 🙂

  • Tara Holland

    These tips give such good insight. I am definitely bookmarking this post so I can go through step by step and try them out.

    • Katherine

      Thanks Tara I really appreciate it! If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you <3

  • Rachel Catherine

    I have to say, I hate when other people tag me when it’s not relevant to the photo – meaning it’s not my photo. I actually won’t engage with the account at all then. I just delete my tag.

    • Katherine

      Hey Rachel – I totally see what you are saying! I more mean this…if you run an Instagram account and you post/repost content from Florida beaches, I would tag that account in my Florida beach picture. I would never tag an absolutely random person lol. I would do the same thing as you…most likely block that account!

      Hope that helps! xx

  • Great tips! Thanks!

  • Great post! I found a lot of tips that I will start using! Thanks you for sharing!

  • This is a really helpful post!! I struggle with wanting to post random life snaps and being a professional. It’s a tricky bslance thanks for the tips!

  • Love this post! Thanks for sharing so many useful tips, and not the generic ones that everyone always share. I definitely will start using some of these tips and hopefully I’ll see some growth (:

    Ashlee | ashleemoyo.com

  • Great post, very useful and well explained. I needed the tips.Thanks!

  • Dee

    Great post! Over the last two weeks I have really been intentional in my instagramming and paying attention to what I am doing there. I am seeing so much organic growth! The one thing that still annoys me, however, are the “follow/unfollow” people. I get so excited to see new followers and then a few days later its a bummer to see they have unfollowed. I try to engage with others’ content authentically, only following people who I am interested in following. I wish others did the same.

    -Dee
    http://www.everybodygirl.com

  • As someone just starting out I loved your post so much! Such great tips, I’m totally going to make a plan of attack for my Instagram now! Thanks for all this info 🙂

    http://www.marinatayylor.com

    • Katherine

      Ah thanks Marina, love that !! Let me know if you need anything, DM me on Instagram. Excited to check out your blog, too!

  • Tip #6 FTW! Thanks for a great post!

  • Makenzie

    Yes ! This post was just what i was looking for, Thanks a bunch for all the help already got my brain ticking over 🙂

    • Katherine

      So glad !! That’s the goal. Lmk if you ever need anything!

  • Leslie

    Growing your instagram truly can be a daunting task. But, its great to see someone as successful as yourself say its possible!

    • Katherine

      It can be daunting because it feels like Insta is so saturated with perfection. Good luck girl, I know you’ll do great!

  • I love all of these tips girl! We essentially do all of the same things haha, it’s good to know we’re both on the right track and it works for us!

    • Awesome!! I love that you’re doing all this stuff, too. Following you on Insta to see you in action

  • Emily

    Loved this post – great advice. The hard part is staying patient and waiting for your hard work to pay off! If only Iconosquare was still free… 🙁

    • 100%. I’m the most impatient person on the planet. So someone telling me to stay patient and wait for growth is like my worst nightmare.

  • Any alternatives to Iconosquare?