Mastering the Instagram Game: How To Succeed on Instagram (Updated June, 2020)
Master Instagram with specific, up-to-date strategies. We share our well-researched advice and personal experience to help you succeed on IG.
Want to master Instagram? You’ve come to the right place. Jodie and I are continually studying, experimenting, and researching to stay on top of all the changes. It’s not enough to post regularly and comment back. There’s a lot more to consider if you want to harness the power of IG. The good news is that we are here to help. We are happy to share, and in fact, we find it truly gratifying to pass on what we learn. You can access more than 20 Instagram help posts here on our blog.
Read on to learn to master Instagram game with these winning strategies.
- 1. Pay Attention
- 2. Reevaluate Constantly to Master Instagram
- 3. Mastering Instagram: Listen to Your Followers
- 4. Take Up Real Estate
- 5. Momentum is Key to Master Instagram
- 6. Aesthetic Always Wins
- 7. The Debate About Giveaways
- 8. Clean Up Your Feed to Master Instagram
- 9. Piggyback Strategy to Master Instagram
- 10. Use Your IG Stories to Master Instagram
- Master Instagram
1. Pay Attention
In order to understand what works best for your feed pay attention to everything. If you are organized about it and willing to do it, we recommend keeping a posting chart. Track your posting times to see success over time. Track the success of your posts and pay close attention to what draws the most likes and the all-important comments. Study your analytics. Study your hashtag results.
Remember, Instagram responds to what cannot be duplicated by computers and what shows authentic engagement. This means that you should be looking at not only the number of likes each post gets, but more importantly the number and QUALITY of comments you get. Instagram is now measuring the quality of your comments too! Quality comments are unique comments of 4 words or more. They want to see REAL engagement, ideally comments that go back and forth and show that a real-time dialogue is taking place. This is the ultimate goal.
2. Reevaluate Constantly to Master Instagram
This may seem obvious, but you really can’t rest on your laurels. Just because a strategy you used last year resulted in growth and engagement last year does not mean that the same strategy will continue to result in growth and success this year and into the future. Instagram is constantly changing which means you have to be ready to change and adopt to the new rules all the time.
Our best advice is to stay up to date with all the latest Instagram updates and latest features. Instagram specifically promotes and rewards accounts that take advantage of new features. Be aware of the changes going on and be ready to shift with the changing tides.
3. Mastering Instagram: Listen to Your Followers
Jodie and I constantly examine how our followers respond. We listen to them when they speak. They are giving you loud cues every time you post in the form of comment and likes, or the absence thereof. If your reaction to a failed post is “Instagram must really hate me” then you are missing and opportunity to learn and grow.
Instead of blaming the algorithm or just getting upset use the information to understand what your followers aren’t loving. Compare your failed posts to your successful posts and analyze the differences. Try to find out what your followers love, what content gets them excited, what texts they respond to and what posts just don’t capture their interest.
Ignoring your followers or taking is a big mistake. They control your success.
4. Take Up Real Estate
Think of your posts (your photos) as real estate. Size matters. When your goal is to stand out in a sea of squares, we believe that the bigger posts (choosing the taller, portrait photo size over the square photo size) are more powerful. If you think about it, it makes sense. People are scrolling, and they are scrolling fast. Using the largest/tallest photo format gives you more time and space to grab their attention and slow them down long enough to draw them into your picture, into your post, and win their love.
In the photo above you can see the difference between the square (default) size photo on the right and the portrait size (taller) photo on the left.
How to select the size and orientation of the photo? First of all, you must start with an original photo that is actually vertical size. If you start with a square photo you won’t have any option to choose the portrait size. We’ve outlined step-by-step instructions how to choose the size of the photo for your post in our Instagram Photo Editing post.
No matter if you are taking your photos with a camera or a phone get used to taking your pictures vertically. This is a general rule of thumb and something to keep in mind, even though there will always be the occasional shot that is framed better in a square.
For the same reasons we do not recommend using horizontally oriented photos. These take up the least amount of space on the scrolling home feed and therefore are the least impactful. There are exceptions to this rule and times when a horizontal photo may be successful, but Instagram is a vertically oriented platform and they will always favor the vertically oriented photos.
5. Momentum is Key to Master Instagram
Instagram is a little like bowling. Success brings more success. A poorly performing post can halt your growth. Successful posts, or those with fast-growing likes and a high level of engagement, will also draw an increase in new followers. You have IG’s attention. It’s super important to take that attention and run with it. As soon as you have a photo that is less successful you go back to having to rebuild that momentum.
6. Aesthetic Always Wins
Sharing our best advice:
- Be careful with collages. Our personal opinions are that these are a faux pas. They compromise aesthetic.
- Avoid words on photos whenever possible. We understand that sometimes they cannot be avoided but realize that there is a real price to placing words over your post. When you are posting something that compromises likes and comments that is a real sacrifice. Make sure it’s worth it.
- Before and after’s are fun and exciting. They can draw engagement, which is great. But now you can do this without sacrifice (without using a split screen). Use the slide caroulsel option. Show your beautiful “after” picture as the first and provide the before pic(s) on the other slides.
7. The Debate About Giveaways
Jodie and I have done a few, very selective giveaways. There are reasons to do them:
- to be generous
- for a good cause
- to gain followers
- promote a brand as part of a collaboration
- to raise brand awareness
But there are reasons to avoid them:
- IG does not like them
- loop giveaways are particularly spam-like
- you risk losing some current followers
- the followers you gain will not be the kind of followers you want
- you want followers who love your style, will like and comment regularly and be engaged
- usually the types of followers you get from a giveaway are not authentic
- a certain percentage will unfollow afterwards
- often a giveaway post is not the most aesthetic photo.
To read much more about giveaways check out our in-depth blog post NOW!
We recommend you weigh the pros and cons carefully before committing to a giveaway.
8. Clean Up Your Feed to Master Instagram
We understand there are occasionally reasons to post photos with words, announcements or other low-performing, less-aesthetic pictures. But once their purpose has been completed, we recommend deleting these posts. Also, if there are posts that no longer showcase your current goals you might want to delete these. For example, if your account used to be your personal account you might want to take away family shots so potential new followers know what to expect. This can help people have confidence in your feed and will be more likely to follow.
Deciding to Delete or Archive. What’s the difference? There is a distinct difference that should make it easier to decide if you want to delete or archive each post. Deleting a post deletes it from your Instagram account so you won’t have access to it anymore. It also deletes the metrics that go with that post. When you archive a post Instagram saves it for you to retrieve and potentially repost at a later date. It also saves the analytics that are connected with that post.
Examples: If a post does poorly and you don’t want those metrics to contribute to your overall analytics then the best idea is to delete the post. Before you delete the post make sure you have a copy of the photo somewhere and a copy of the text if you want it. An example of when I might choose to archive a post might be if I featured another account and it did really well. I might want to take the post down because that photo isn’t mine and doesn’t represent my work, but I don’t want to take those metrics away from my overall analytics. In this case archiving the post is the best idea.
9. Piggyback Strategy to Master Instagram
This is a fairly new strategy that can help with momentum. If you have a low-performing post we recommend following it up rather closely with a powerful post. In other words, don’t let a low-performing post sit on your feed essentially hurting your growth. Because Instagram no longer shows all posts, nor do they show them chronologically it is very likely that your low-performing post will not be shown to very many people, but your attention-drawing post will be.
For example, let’s say you are posting for a sponsor. The photo isn’t great, and you know it’s not going to do well on your feed. This would be the perfect time to post another pic shortly afterward (maybe within the hour). It reminds your followers of the awesome pics they would miss if they unfollowed. It will also act to fill your feed for that time frame if you decide at a later date to delete the sponsored photo.
10. Use Your IG Stories to Master Instagram
IG stories are very useful, so, if you haven’t jumped on board here are lots of reasons to begin:
- build relationship with followers
- add a whole other dimension to you as a person
- post features to share the love and build relationships with others in your IG community
- feature makers and companies that you are collaborating with
- advertise a giveaway
- build awareness for a hashtag
- promote your blog or shop
- sell things directly
- invite others to follow your other social media accounts
Basically, you can accomplish a lot on your stories without jeopardizing your feed’s success or your gallery’s aesthetics. If you aren’t utilizing your stories daily, you are missing out on many opportunities. We suggest mixing it up and using your stories in all the above ways as it suits.
For more tips to master Instagram, read this article by The Guardian, “Ten tips that will make you a master of Instagram.”
Think you know how to succeed on Instagram? Just wait five minutes. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s nearly true. Every couple weeks Jodie and I reevaluate our strategies because things are shifting. Instagram is a defiantly fluid space. The moment you think you have things figured out the rules change again. It can feel like you’ll never really be on top of it all.
It is challenging to say the least. The community is ever-expanding, the algorithm keeps us all guessing, and the platform does its best to shake things up by adding new features at an increasingly fast pace. Stay plugged in with us and sign up for our blog if you haven’t already. We will do our best to keep you updated so you can make the most of your time spent on Instagram.
If you are ready to take your IG success to the next level sign up for our personalized Instagram analysis and strategy session. We’ll study your account and your activity and prescribe a detailed action plan for your success. This service is available in a limited number each month. Contact us to sign up or learn more about our specific services.
jodie & julie