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.
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.
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.
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 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
coffee vibes –> love a good latte art photo
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.
best times to post (mine is Monday at 4 PM ?)
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