Okay, so I don’t know if you know but I’m kind of a big deal… Haha no I’m totally kidding, I’m not that much of a dick. But I have been doing pretty well on Instagram as of late. Despite writing this blog for the last 4 years, I only created @heels.in.my.backpack on Instagram about a year ago and it currently has just over 27,000 followers. I mean I’m not Jessica Stein of @tuulavintage or anything (God I love her, is anyone else girl-crushing on this chick?), but it’s not a bad result for a blogger at my level.
So a few travel blogging pals of mine have been asking me for tips and I figured, hey, why not write a blog about it. Because that’s generally how my mind works. You know, I made a great Chicken Itame from scratch and was like, hey I’ll write a blog about it. Who cares if it’s not to do with travelling. I found a lip scrub that is a complete luxury item for backpacking, but hey whatevs I’ll write a blog about it…
But anyway I digress, back to Insta.
Here’s my fool-proof guide to creating great Instagram snaps, attracting a larger audience and engaging with your followers. Let me know what you think.
1. Make sure your bio is solid.
Sometimes people rush the bio and don’t think any more of it, but I’m convinced it’s vital in converting the casual glancer of your page into a fully fledged follower. Firstly, make sure your name and profile image are the same as your other channels, you need people to instantly recognise you if they follow you on Twitter or Facebook. And try to limit changing your profile photo as much as possible. You want that recognition from your followers in their news feeds – so they know who you are straight away.
Then to the bio itself. It’s important. Sometimes I click on someone’s profile, convinced that I’m not going to follow them, then read their bio and click the follow button. It’s an art to say who you are in a sentence and it ain’t easy bro. I use my blog slogan on my Insta profile as I feel like it sums me up: ‘Backpacking for the most fabulous of adventurers’.
Backpacking – I’m all about budget travel.
Fabulous – I’m all about doing it in style and feeling great.
Adventurers – Because I’m overcome with wanderlust and want to jump into every adventure ever.
But that’s just one line of your bio. I also like to include a link to my latest post. It normally relates to the photos I’m posting and I will mention the blog post in my captions so I feel it’s relevant and drives more traffic to my blog. Which is what we all want after all, right? You do this by changing the ‘link’ part of your profile rather than the bio itself.
Finally I add my email address in case anyone wants to get in touch with me. This ranges from brands that like my profile and want to work with me, to followers who want to ask me questions about my travels. Both positive reactions in my book.
2. Perfect and refine your photos.
This isn’t a case of just picking a photo you think looks nice, chucking any old filter on it and posting it. There’s lots to consider here!
Firstly really look at the kinds of photos that do well for you. Say you’ve had a day at the beach and want to post a photo about it, look through your options and think about past posts that have done well. Is a photo that’s half sky/half beach going to cut it? Or does a photo of your flip-flops on your towel with the sand and sea in the background usually work best? Do flat shots of your beach gear work well? Do your followers prefer when you’re actually in the photo? Will a sunset photo work best? Okay that was a red herring, sunset shots always work best. With everyone. But you know what I’m saying, learn from what your followers like and post more photos like it. It’s basically trial and error.
Then it comes to editing the photo. Now I’m just putting it out there, I don’t like Instagram filters. They make my photos look grainy and you lose all of the quality, I’m just saying. So I use another app – VSCO. It’s quite popular with bloggers, has nice filters and you can edit the photo with the usual tools. I reckon 75% of the time I don’t use a filter at all. I just VSCO to edit the photo’s saturation and contrast and that does the trick. But when I do use a filter, they don’t make my photos low-res and shit, so I like it. Yes, that’s the technical terminology.
3. Think about the overall look of your profile.
Now something I’ve heard a lot of bloggers recommend, is picking a filter and sticking with it for all of your photos. Which I totally get, your page will look more cohesive, you’ll develop your own style and it will all flow better. But quite frankly, I’m against it. It does look lovely when someone uses the same filter but I think it looks more like a brand than a blogger. And I like to choose the filter and the edit that works best for a specific photo.
But what I do recommend, is considering how the photos sit together on your page, both in terms of content and style. For example, I won’t post a photo of my Instagram-friendly breakfast and then post a lunch photo straight after it. It will look clunky on the profile. So I’ll post a beach photo, a selfie and a photo of a landmark in between so it’s more spread out. Similarly I won’t post 2 dark photos next to each other, or 2 that have a lot of green in them. I just like to consider what the profile will look like before posting my next photo. A great way of doing this is by looking at the photo reel in VSCO before posting it to Instagram.
4. Timing and frequency are a big fucking deal.
With the whole algorithm change approaching the Insta-community right now, the timing thing may not be completely relevant in a few weeks time. But I think it’s worth saying anyway. Post when your followers are on Instagram, that way you’ll be at the top of their feed. There’s no use posting the best photo you’ve ever taken at 3am when no-one’s online. But like I said, this is soon to change.
Frequency is completely relevant though. You don’t want to flood your followers’ news feeds, they’ll instantly unfollow you. I’ve seen so many bloggers make this mistake. They go away for the weekend and get a load of fabulous shots perfect for Instagram, then they post 10 photos at the same time on their Insta-feed when they get home. No. This is not ok. Post them all on Facebook in an album, sure. But it’s not going to fly on Instagram, you will get unfollowers fo’ sho’.
But at the same time you want to post as much as possible to get new followers. Because every time one of your photos is out there, people will see it and follow you. Fact. So how do you balance it? I post every day, once a day. Unless I’m doing a brand collaboration or am at an event that I want to shout about but even then no more than 2 or 3 a day, max, and definitely spaced out with a few hours apart.
I know what you’re thinking – but if I have all of these great shots, I want to post them! Otherwise it’s a waste, right? Nope, just save them! Post one photo a day from your weekend adventure for the next week. You have a week’s worth of content and you haven’t pissed off your audience. I don’t think Instagram has to be instant like Twitter is, as long as it’s relevant.
5. Use hashtags to your advantage.
I know some people detest hashtags. And I get it, it looks messy on captions sometimes. But YOU NEED THEM when you’re starting out. If you don’t use hashtags, your photos will only be shown to the people following you. If you use a few hashtags you’re opening up the amount of people that can see you post, can like it and can follow you. What’s not to love?
Instagram allows you to post 30 hashtags with each photo but I normally don’t go over 15-20. And I don’t post them in the caption. I post the photo without any hashtags (unless for comedic effect in the caption, you know what I’m saying) and then comment on the photo with the hashtags. That way, as soon as a couple of people comment, the hashtags disappear from view! I know it sounds a bit jammy but I think it’s the best of both worlds. You get the massive reach of using lots of hashtags but it doesn’t mess up your vibe.
Also, I definitely suggest researching what hashtags to use. Look at your fave travel bloggers and see what hashtags they’re using. Or go into explore and type a hashtag you know does well and look at the suggested hashtags at the top of the page. Use those ones! I use hashtags such as #instatravel #travelgram and #globetrotter, they seem to work well. But I stay away from any kind of #likesforlikes or #instalikes, I find that a bit shady, it’s pretty much asking people for likes when I’d rather just produce content that people want to like. But hey, it’s your channel, it’s your call.
Finally a top tip of mine is to use the shortcuts on your iPhone. I use the shortcut ‘insta#’ so that every time I want all of my generic hashtags like the above mentioned, they just appear when I type ‘insta#’! No need to try to remember which ones you should be using. I know, I’m a genius.
6. Engage with the Insta-community!
It took me a long time to figure this out. After 6 months of having @heels.in.my.backpack I was at 500 followers. And completely stuck there. My photos were great, I was using hashtags, but why did my follower count just stop? Because I wasn’t doing anything else. I was just posting photos and coming off of Instagram, bigger fish to fry and all that. But the thing is, you get out what you put in with Instagram. Ain’t that just the way? So what have you got to do….?
Like other people’s stuff. It’s simple, if you like someone’s photos, they’re going to look at you and see what you’re all about. They might give you some likes, they might follow you, it doesn’t hurt to do.
As above! If you comment on people’s photos, you’re going to get a few clicks, not just from the person that posted the photo, but also from other people viewing it. The key here is not to just bulk ‘Great photo’ everyone you see. I mean I’m sure that works to some degree but it’s just a bit lame. If you say something of value you’re more likely to get more clicks over to your page.
The age-old rule of social media management – follow people and they’ll follow you back. It’s a classic because it works. But make sure you’re only following legit people that you want to like your page. Brands that might want to work with you are trained to look at the people following you to see if they match their audience. If it looks like a load of fake accounts or it’s all people in countries that would be irrelevant for the company to market to, you’re not going to get the collab. A good option is to follow the people following a blogger like you. It works. Also make sure you’re using an app like Crowdfire to unfollow the people that aren’t following you back. Unless you really like them, in which case ‘Whitelist’ them. It’s good to follow people for inspiration rather than just because they’ll follow you back. It’s a balance, as ever.
There you have it kids, you officially know all of my secrets when it comes to banging out an Instagram account that gets attention. Please let me know if this was helpful at all and just holler if you have any questions! Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!