Upgrading Your Instagram Game:
Updated: Mar 3
This is a loaded topic, but one that I know pretty well.
So, you read this title and for one reason or another, you clicked to find out more. Well, you’ve come to the right place. I am going to tell you all of my secrets to stepping up your Instagram game.
First, I want you to pause and think about why you chose to spend the next few minutes reading my opinion/personal experience with upping your insta game. Go ahead, think about it… There are a ton of potential reasons. Maybe you want to appear “trendier” to strangers on the internet, maybe you want to make a career out of it (hi, me too.), or maybe you just want to be able to express yourself in the most authentic way possible. I resonate with all of these reasons, and I am sure, if you are reading this, you’re on a similar path.
At the end of the day, your Instagram should be managed however you think works best for you, but here are the tips that I live by.
Upgrading your Insta game:
So the first piece of advice you’ll hear from leaders in the industry is to “find your niche”, which basically means to channel your content to a certain ‘theme’ or focus and to stick with that. They say this helps you find a more solid and specific audience, which is great. Find what you love, what makes you unique and showcase it. Branding yourself as a specific niche can be helpful in planning and creating as well as finding your community. Then, there are people like me, who’s niche is “not having a niche”, as the iconic Indy Blue would say. And that’s cool too. The important thing is to share what YOU love and to not worry about what people will think.
See, my take is that the world deserves to see absolutely anything that you have to offer. With that, find your style and run with it.
1. Find your style: save posts that you love and want to recreate on Instagram, make a Pinterest board with specific ideas. Find your style and vibe that you resonate most with (this can change as often as you ‘d like, but it helps to have an idea of what you want to be). There are so many types of Instagram accounts, you can literally be whoever you want. I’ve been doing this for over a year, my style has evolved drastically, and I am still trying to figure out exactly who I am on IG. But, whoever you decide to be, having inspiration is always helpful for staying on track.
2. Get content. You will absolutely need someone you’re comfortable posing in front of, who doesn’t mind retaking a shot quite a few times… or, my very best friend, a tripod. Having a tripod can turn your alone time into a photoshoot, which is so handy. Having content is a huge part of upping your insta game, obviously. Getting postable content whenever you can is a must.
Ugh, you only have one day this week to shoot? Bring as many outfits as you like and just have fun with it. There was a time where I shot 8 outfits in 4 hours and it was fabulous, I had content for weeks. Doing this helps to take the stress off of posting daily.
Take pictures of EVERYTHING. The sky, your breakfast, your drinks with the girls, a tree outside of your house, a piece of tonight’s outfit laid out on your bed, an interesting storefront, your shoes, a puddle… literally just start taking pictures of everything that catches your eye. You might not think too much about it at the time, but with the right editing, it could make the most perfect filler picture, or at the very least a story post.
Filler picturessssss. This tends to be one of the most common things that intimidates people about posting on Instagram. Maybe because it might get less likes, or maybe because you worry about what your hometown people will think… who cares. Feed wise, I believe that fillers are a necessity. They are fun to take, fun to look at and they can completely tie an Instagram feed together. A must, if you will.
And honestly, don’t be afraid to get “out there” with your poses, with your outfits or with your locations. Have fun with it and stop being afraid of what others will think. Get creative, every post should be its own. Be unique and be you, that’s the kind of thing that will keep people coming back for more.
3. Utilize alllll of Instagram’s features. Post reels, do story polls, ask questions, engage with others, and go Live on your stories. If IG offers it, do it. They love to push content when they see you using their new or less used features. Remember that all content should be original. Don’t go posting content from other platforms, i.e. posting a TikTok on reels is a big no-no, at the very least, crop out the logo.
4. Utilize story posts. Having around 6-10 stories up each day is my personal goal, it’s pretty easy for me to achieve each day and it gives me a kind of mental checklist to complete. It gives my followers a better sense of who I am and it allows for so much more engagement. I also think it’s important to share your ‘new post’ to your story every time you post a new feed post. This helps because, as we all know, the algorithm ~sucks~, so you show more of your audience when they see it in your stories because, most likely, it hasn’t shown up on their feed yet.
5. Apps that you’ll need:
Editing apps: Lightroom (shamelessly going to S/O my own presets lol (http://www.presetbylex.com), Tezza app, and Picsart (if you like creative edits). You can edit your pictures as naturally or, for a lack of a better word, ~unnaturally~ as you like, but consistency is key for an aesthetic feed!
Feed planning apps: I use one that is called UNUM; personally I love this one the most. I have also heard nice things about the app called Preview. Basically, feed planning apps help you, duh, plan your feed. They link up with your Instagram account and you can see what new pictures will look like once they are posted. If you are really on top of your game, you can add about a week’s worth of pictures to the app at a time and play around with the order until you love it.
6. Use hashtags. Hashtags: Do a little research, check out what creators like you are using and curate a few lists of hashtags to use interchangeably on your posts. You can use up to 30 for each feed post, but I usually stick to 20-25. It is best to use ones that are less concentrated with posts, less than 100k. This is to ensure that your content is more likely to be seen in that hashtag, the less concentrated, the more visibility you will get. It is also very important to not use the same exact hashtags every time. Instagram is very fickle and tends to mark posts and accounts as spam if they are always using the same exact hashtag list, this will basically cancel out your use of hashtags and potentially shadow ban you. When I use hashtags, I like to put a few in my caption and then the rest in the comment section. When I put them in the comment section, I will comment a “:)” (or a cute emoji) and then reply to that comment with my hashtags- as a way to “hide” them. Hashtags can help you reach the most people as possible, grow your audience and connect you with like-minded accounts.
7. Engage. Respond to every comment you get, comment and save other’s posts, respond to people’s stories. You can’t put in all of the hard work and dedication to your own feed and forget that you’re not the only one on the app- building a community is so important! I’ve made SO many friends on Instagram and I talk to them every day because I genuinely love them, and in return they love me back. This is so helpful for the moral support but it also helps with growth too!
8. Be fucking nice. Like, sorry for the aggression, but I notice that people tend to forget that their success comes from their followers. Respond to messages, respond to comments, be a friend. I am so much more likely to engage in every single one of someone’s posts if I respect the commitment they make to their followers… meaning, if I notice that I feel safe DMing them or commenting because I just know that they will respond kindly, I am more likely to follow them and engage forever.
Upping your game is pretty much all about doing what feels the most natural and exciting to you. If something makes you feel pumped, share it. Be who you look for when you follow a new account. Be yourself and, let me reiterate this just one more time, have fun with it. I put such an emphasis on having fun with your Instagram, because that’s what this is for. Even those who use Instagram as their main source of income, they chose this job because it is the path that allows them to live their own personal ‘best life’, so even as a job it is designed for bringing a sense of joy and fulfillment. In the sense of “I do this because it genuinely makes me happy” not in the sense of an instant-validation-kind-of-joy. When you let yourself enjoy the process of creating content, editing and posting it literally shines through the final product that you give your audience, which in return, makes your content more admirable and relatable to your audience.
Finally, if you need a sign to stop giving a shit about what people think, THIS IS IT. Be you, do you, and upgrade that insta game. You got this, besties.
Check out more articles from myself and my talented friends at Cosmic Honey Magazine.