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12 tips to grow your Instagram

12 tips to grow your Instagram

Zena Goldman Zena's SuitcaseIf your new year’s resolution is to maximise your Instagram presence or grow your existing brand, BritMums’s Zena Goldman (@ZenasSuitcase) offers hints and tips. Whether you want to know how to increase your Instagram followers, how to get better engagement or jump-start your creativity, these strategies tell you how to grow your Instagram account in a variety of ways. 

We all know that Instagram is a huge deal. Boasting 1 billion active users per month, the platform provides huge potential to build an audience in pretty much any niche you can think of.  If you have been spending time trying to grow your Instagram account but feel like you are treading water, then this post will help you move forward.

Learn to understand Instagram

Before we dive in, I want to talk very quickly about Instagram itself. It’s a social media platform, but if you read the Instagram blog and mission statement you will find some clues straight way about how to make the most of your account.

Instagram is a global community and a place where people can explore their interests and find inspiration. This quote was taken from the Instagram blog:

People come to Instagram to be with their close friends. They stay to be inspired by art, fashion, sports and entertainment — as well as the people behind those crafts.

As a content creator, sharing an inspiring feed, telling your story and making sure you are one of the reasons that your followers want to stay on the platform are going to help kickstart your account. This is the perfect recipe for growing an engaged audience but it’s not the whole story!

Zenas Suitcase Instagram screenshot

1. Get the Instagram influencer mindset

I think it’s safe to say that many content creators have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. The constant algorithm changes, struggling to get engagement on their posts and trying to attract followers really can feel like a grind.

If you spend too much time focusing on any of the above I suspect you will get Instagram burnout pretty quickly – I have definitely worn that t-shirt a few times. If you have experienced Instagram burnout, let’s focus on how to start enjoying Instagram again.

It’s time to start working with Instagram and remember what the platform is aiming to do.

2. Understand what doesn’t work on Instagram

If you just create content and post it on the platform, it’s highly unlikely that your content isn’t going to get seen by many people – as you are not actively taking part in the community.

Even as a content creator, using Instagram as a place to explore your interests and passions and getting to know people on the platform better is the best way to attract engagement to your account. I’m not going to pretend for a minute that I have an insight into the algorithm as such, but I do believe the algorithm isn’t out to get us.

3. Think about what does work on Instagram

What Instagram as a platform is looking for is the relationships you build with people. Growing honest and genuine connections in your niche will improve your visibility and give your audience/potential audience the chance to get to know you. It also makes being on Instagram so much more fun.

4. Refine your Instagram bio

I’m only going to touch on this as there are lots of posts about how to create an Instagram bio for your account out there, but I do want to say this:

Your potential audience will decide in a matter of seconds if they want to follow you or not so here are some things to think about for your bio:

  • Good profile pic – people connect with faces better
  • Tell people what to expect from your account
  • Get a little personality in there
  • Use your branding in your profile
  • Create story highlight covers (Picmonkey or Canva are great)

5. Evaluate your Instagram feed

Always make your Instagram photos look the best they can be and create a style for your images. You can use presets for this or my favourite free photo editing tool is SnapSeed (available on the Apple app store and on Google Play). It has loads of functionality and is great for editing photos for Instagram.

If you are new to photo editing, Instagram is a great place to find inspiration for how to style your photos. When you look at your favourite accounts, what attracts you to them? Do you find you like bright images, muted tones, black and white even. Whatever style of photo you feel inspired by – there is bound to be a tutorial out there about ‘how to create a vintage look with SnapSeed’. It’s just a case of following it and playing with the settings to find the look you like.

6. Get a Content Creator Instagram account + insights

If you really want to understand how to grow your Instagram account and you are wanting to monetise your online presence, then switch to a Content Creator account now (here’s how). By doing this you will get access to Instagram Insights which is the information you need to grow your account.

The thing to realise about Instagram Insights is that all of the data it gives you are things that the algorithm will also be taking into account when it decides who it’s going to show your latest posts too.

When you share you image and caption to Instagram, you want your post to influence some or all of the statistics on the ‘Post Insights’ page.

The top stats are Likes, Comments, Saves and Sends and calls to action are a good way to influence these figures.

7. Build analysis and best practices into your Instagram routine

There are fairly easy steps to take to get better engagement on Instagram. Practice these regularly and you will start to see the difference.

You could include call-to-action language in your text like this:

  • Double tap if you loved this post
  • Leave me a comment with your favourite….
  • Save this post for your next trip
  • Love this post, share it with your followers in Stories now

It’s highly likely that you will be able to influence your likes and comments by being an active member of your community. If you make an effort to go and connect with people in your niche, they are more likely to want to come and see the latest updates on your feed too.

Saves and sends are a great place to focus your energy as these are like super likes and a lot of people believe, me included, that these have more influence in where your photo is featured than likes and comments. Being an active member of the community and saving and sending other people’s posts to your stories will definitely get you noticed and help you build connections.

After you have shared your post, go to your Post Insights and look for improvements or changes compared to your other posts. If your reach and impressions start to grow then keep building on the techniques you used to improve your engagement. If there is a negative change, then you may need to modify something in your next piece of content or until you start to see the statistics improve.

You can also find lots of other useful information in your insights like what types of posts your audience enjoy, when they are most likely to be looking at your content and even where they live, how old they are and how many are male and female.

All of this information is gold when it comes to deciding what type of content to post, when to post it and even which hashtags to engage with to attract more followers. What do I mean by this? Well, are a lot of your followers female and living in London? Do you want to connect with mums in London? Then you might follow #LondonMums or #LondonWithKids, for example.

8. Find Your Instagram Tribe

Just taking it back to what Instagram is about — a global community, getting to know people better, exploring passions and interests — and you’ll find Instagram is one of the best places to find your tribe. You can make real connections and that’s going to help your visibility on the platform no end.

On Instagram you will find lots of people in your niche generating conversations about the topics you are interested in. Join in those conversations and find out more about them. Focus on being a supportive and active member of that community and you will find your own engagement grow as you get noticed for adding value to the conversation. If you see a post in your niche that really resonates with you, and you think your audience will connect with, give them a virtual high five and send it to your stories, or let them know you are saving it for later.

Engaging with other people’s content is the best way to get noticed. I’m not saying that everyone will reciprocate every time, but you are saying ‘I’m here to get involved’ and that will get you noticed in the end.

9. Do giveaways and collaborations

A great way to grow your Instagram account is to offer your followers prizes. It’s a great idea to make sure that the prizes are relevant to your niche or that you target your ideal follower with good hashtags.

Giveaways, whether you collaborate with a brand or you collaborate with other influencers in your niche to offer a prize, can really help your account get noticed. If you ask that entrants to follow your account, leave a comment and tag a friend, share your post etc it can really help improve your visibility on the platform. (Note: It’s important to make sure any giveaway or prize draw adheres both to UK regulations and Instagram’s rules. It’s not difficult to bone up on these but it is important you follow them.)

10. Post less, engage more

If you are in a very popular niche, Instagram really can feel like hard work. If you came here to find shortcuts, honestly, I don’t think there are any. Having a good Instagram account takes effort, and if you try and shortcut it, it will get noticed. There are plenty of tools out there that can audit your account and offer brands insight into the authenticity of your Instagram followers and engagement. Check out HypeAuditor to see what I mean.

When you are not sharing content, and even when you are, use that time to engage with other people on the platform. When you do post, I’d suggest allowing at least an hour, if not more, to join the conversation in your niche and find out what the people you are following are up too.

You can get an idea of who is online now by searching for posts in your niche with active engagement and checking how many minutes ago they left a comment.  Instagram often tells you when comments are made so that’s a good indicator of the people who are online when you are so go check out there content. If you have a connection with them, they will love that you are online and will come and see what you’ve posted that day too.

If Instagram picks up that your content is generating interest, your posts will appear in more feeds and generate more engagement and hopefully followers.

If you want to speed up the commenting process, my favourite Instagram hack is using the microphone feature to dictate your comments and replies into the app. It’s so much quicker than typing and will save you from RSI. You do have to speak clearly and watch for correct spellings though 🙂

11. Use hashtags on Instagram

Using hashtags relevant to your niche and image is a great way of gaining more exposure for your content, but how do you find the right ones? You will need to do some research and it does depend on how many followers you have. If you are growing your account I would suggest avoiding really popular hashtags as they will only feature large or celebrity accounts in the ‘Top’ featured posts.

Instead, find hashtags relevant to your niche and that are less popular (i.e have less posts to them) and where you feel given the number of followers you have you might make it into the top 9. Things to look for are how many followers the accounts in the Top feed have, the level of engagement and how old the content is. If you think you could offer fresher content, with good engagement with a similar number of followers, then add that hashtag to your list.

Creating lists of hashtags, in groups of 30 for maximum exposure, and saving them to your Notes app or even better, to your keyboard shortcuts with a code you recognise will enable you to drop your hashtags into your posts in just a few seconds.

12. Use new features on Instagram

The best advice I can give anyone starting out on Instagram is to use every part of the platform and share video as well as images. When Instagram brings out a new feature like Stories, IGTV, Live etc it is specifically designed to help the platform move towards its business goals. If you use the new features as they are launched, you will get brownie points on the platform for sharing new content to attract users to engage with that feature. Keep an eye on Instagram’s next move – it’s the best way of staying ahead of the game on the platform.


What’s your experience on Instagram? Are you starting out, growing your account or looking to tweak your presence so you continue to lead on that platform? Leave a comment or message with us on social.

–> Share your latest Instagram posts using the #SnapHappyBritMums tag


More on Instagram

Understanding the scandal of Instagram influencer Clemmie Hooper

6 must-have apps for Instagram Stories



About Zena Goldman

Zena Goldman is a UK based travel, family & lifestyle blogger who left her 9-5 job behind in the not-for-profit sector to follow her creative dreams and enjoy a more flexible family life. She began writing Zena’s Suitcase in 2011 and shares the holidays and adventures she goes on with (and without) her 2 young daughters. She wishes her son would join them more often but he’s carving out his own dreams now and enjoying university life. Since beginning Zena’s Suitcase she has worked with a number of brands and also has a regular monthly feature in the ASDA Good Living Magazine feature, ‘Ask The Expert’ where she shares helpful parenting tips. In 2018 she was also a finalist in the prestigious BIBs Awards for Social Media and is also a proud member of the BritMums team.


Tuesday 4th of August 2020

I am so happy I found your blog and I absolutely love your information about Instagram hints tips for influencers! I liked and it is wonderful to know about so many things that are useful for all of us! Thanks a lot for this amazing blog!!

Priya Sharma

Wednesday 15th of July 2020

Hello Zena,

you have written a very good article and have given complete information about how to get free Instagram followers, I think it will be a lot of help for people who will also be able to grow their Instagram followers.


Tuesday 31st of December 2019

This is brilliant Zena so helpful thankyou!

Rowena corderoy

Monday 30th of December 2019

This is a great blog post! Some great tips.


Monday 30th of December 2019

I have to say, a number of PhD thesis could be written about IG and still we wouldn't fully understand it. I have been using it for a while now and still there were quite a few things I learned from your post. Thanks Zena, very helpful

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