Maybe you already heard about how and why I became one of those Instagram newbies out there, but it was definitely not my plan to become a content creator. However, once in the game I learned the below 10 Instagram fundamentals from experience and other influencers. But how did I get to that point?
How it all started
Well, last year, we were preparing our wedding and my colleague asked me whether I already had a hashtag for the event. A hashtag? What is that? After a couple of days I decided to create an account that I named @patryalejmon to have a hashtag and be able to collect pictures from our wedding day. I started posting a couple of pictures twice a week of our engagement shooting and quickly discovered how cool this app was. It was possible to find plenty of inspiration for our big day in other accounts. I never thought of Instagram as a business, I did not even know that was possible.
In October, our wedding was over and I decided to post some pictures from our honeymoon in Namibia and South Africa. By November, I saw the potential of Instagram. Traveling has been my biggest passion since I had a chance to go abroad. Looking to big travel influencers inspired me to show the world to others from my perspective. At Christmas, we quit our jobs in Germany in order to follow our dream of working and living in Asia, but first we travelled around Russia for 2 weeks. My account was growing extremely slow and I did not understand the reason why. I was posting 4 times a week, using some hashtags, going sometimes off the beaten path, liking pictures of others, being part of a pod. You might have encountered the same. So frustrating, right?
The 10 Instagram fundamentals for newbies
Then, we arrived to Singapore our future destination. It seemed, that the photos from Singapore were liked more but still not as I imagined it should be. I still had around 3k followers by the end of April. On the 29th of May, I hit the 10k. Wait, whaaat? How? By following the 10 Instagram fundamentals for newbies, you might encounter the same:
1. Choose a professional username
A meaningful username is the first and most important of the 10 Instagram fundamentals for newbies. Until April, my username was @patryalejmon, which to be honest, is not a catchy name. This was the one of the reasons for my difficulty to grow, so I decided to change it even though I already had 3k followers. The username needs to show your audience who you are and add some positive value to your profile. Try to avoid picking first and last name and look for something more attractive. Do not make the same mistake that I did. Do not use numbers or many symbols, that will make the search more complicated.
I chose @oneoceanaway_ since it was the song we chose as our wedding song which represents our life style and love story. Therefore, and since we moved to Singapore (which is one ocean away from home) we decided to make it our name. You can read more about this story here.
Below you will find an exemplary list of attractive usernames:
2. Followers growth should not be your ultimate target
My mission during the first 3 months was just gaining followers. That is wrong! It should not be your ultimate purpose if you want to build a business. Followers matter, but engagement is way more important. Instagram is a social platform for engagement, and IG realizes whether you are interacting with other users. It is crucial that you engage others by liking, commenting on others posts, shouting out your favorite accounts, replying comments, direct messages, etc. You will have issues to collaborate with brands and hotels if you have a low engagement.
Many influencers believe that you need around 10k to get complementary stays at hotels, but that is not entirely true. I had my two first collaborations with hotels when I had 4k. One of the reasons they might have considered me is that my engagement was quite high. It was around 25% at that time. I will soon post about how to approach brands/hotels. Subscribe to my newsletter to be the first in getting the tips.
3. Boost your engagement
Another key topic of the 10 Instagram fundamentals is the engagement. In order to get started and get a high engagement, you can enter an engagement pod. An Instagram pod is a group of users who are keen to help and engage each other. To get a higher outcome, join two or three groups once you get along with the first one, but make sure all the members are in your niche. There are several advantages of pods:
☆ You have the opportunity to meet other content creators and make new friends all around the world.
☆ You are able to discover and share new tips and hacks to beat the algorithm.
☆ By commenting, liking and/or saving shortly after you post, they are going to help you grow your reach and broaden your audience. That means you are likely to get more likes and comments.
☆ These first comments help other users to comment freely, since nobody is usually comfortable being the first one. It is fundamental that comments contain more than 4 words in order to be counted as engagement.
☆ Saves are quite important. The more saves you have the higher the engagement. Ask everyone in the pod to save you photo.
☆ Powerlikes & Powercomments are super helpful, they will push your post. What does that mean? Those are likes and comments from big accounts. They count more than normal likes.
4. Create a theme throughout your feed
Do not use random filters, that won’t help your profile. You will not be able to gain massive following that way. When I first started, I always used filters. At that time, I had no idea about Instagram and I had never heard about presets before. During Christmas, I invested some time to learn Adobe Lightroom, but I was pretty basic at it. However, I realized that this is an important factor in the Instagram fundamentals. Therefore, I watched tutorials for several days and downloaded some presets to practice with them. If you are not willing to dedicate time to learn Lightroom, just buy some presets that you like for your Lightroom app (free) on your cellphone and easily apply them on all your photos to create a consistent colour palette in your feed. One of the main Instagram fundamentals is that you stick to your niche to create an eye-catching feed. Below you will find some exemplary accounts which use very consistent and well fitting colour palettes.
There are some useful free apps which will help you to plan in advance the content your are willing to publish in Instagram. I always use Preview. It allows you to upload your potential content and drag it around to see how it best fits and whether you need to do some more adjustments on your photos. For example, I recently realized that the greens on my new photo are too yellowish compared to the last photo I uploaded, so I went back to Lightroom and adjusted it before I posted it on Instagram.
5. Change to a business account
This is a controversial topic but for me it is an important part of the Instagram fundamentals. Some research says that the algorithm treats business profiles different from personal accounts. However, I have not found any study that proves that. Below you will find some advantages of the business account:
☆ It is completely free.
☆ The business account gives insights into very interesting figures like number of saves, engagement, reach, impressions, …
☆ You will be able to add a link to your own website.
☆ You can add a link in your Instagram stories (Swipe up) in order to promote your blog or any other website of your wish (collaborations).
6. Do not waste excellent content
This Instagram fundamental is about the correct timing. Your best posting time depends mainly on the time zone of your followers. If everyone sleeps when you post, nobody will be able to engage with your post, therefore you will not be able to beat the Instagram algorithm and your post will remain invisible to most of your audience. However, if your post gets a good amount of likes and comments right after posting, Instagram will consider it as good content and it will get a higher reach.
So always post at the time when most of your followers are active. You can get an idea about it in the business account statistics. It shows you what days and times they are mostly online.
7. Post daily or on a regular basis
If you don’t have time or material to post every day, try to post 3-4 times a week on a consistent basis to keep your audience engaged.
8. Use appropriate hashtags, geo-location and tag big accounts
It is important to use all the features Instagram has. Make sure you do not use broken hashtags or twice the same one in one post. The maximum number of hashtags you can use is 30. As the algorithm keeps on changing, I would suggest that you start using around 10-25. If that works well, keep on that number otherwise reduce it considerably or use none to see the results.
I usually try to include some from the below three groups:
☆ hashtags with more than 500k entries
☆ some between 100k-500k
☆ and some with less than 100k.
Among these, make sure you use location hashtags and niche hashtags.
9. If you have the money, participate in a giveaway
Honestly, I have just participated in one small giveaway since it was for free. 🙂 I did not gain a massive number of followers, because the winner prize was not huge and there were some issues with the system they chose to launch it. But hey, it was for free. Many influencers participate in secret giveaways but do not recognize it. Why? There is nothing bad about it and it is currently not illegal or prohibited. It is a quicker way to increase your reach and audience. However, be aware that after the giveaway some of these new followers will unfollow, but some will stay and engage you.
10. Don’t buy followers
One of my main Instagram fundamentals is to not buy any followers. Due to the algorithm, a newly posted photo will only be shown to 10% of your audience in the first minutes. If some of this 10% are fake followers, you will not get enough likes to beat the algorithm and your photo will remain visible just to that 10% of your audience. So, keep that in mind. The first minutes and the first hour are the most important in order to increase your reach.