Help Instagram Gurus.
December 27, 2018 6:25 AM   Subscribe

I started using IG about a year ago, and I'm clueless in how to acquire followers. Googling is pretty much useless unless you want to buy followers, and I have no interest in that. I have tried to follow people via compatible hashtags (#bostonfoodie #BostonEats #BostonEater) and rarely get a follow back. I post almost daily. I'm up to 760 followers and seems to be stuck on that number.
posted by Ferrari328 to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no guru, but I am an avid user. This may be a lame answer, but for me, I follow folks with consistently good content. Nothing more complicated than that.

To get more people to find you, you could do the regular stuff like better hashtags, partnering with a company or more popular IGer, or giveaways.

But honestly, the best thing is to have interesting stuff!
posted by jraz at 6:56 AM on December 27, 2018

My daughter who manages the social media content for several companies and a restaurant says what jraz said. It is like real estate but instead of location, location and location, it is all about the content. Great pictures of interesting things, proper hashtags and pithy commentary. One of her companies I think sells bathroom fixtures and she still has an engaged readership.

I looked at your blog. I would be more proactive in promoting your IG. Just having a link buried on the right might not be enough. Try posting an entry on your blog with a statement like, "Additonal pictures on my IG account." Then have additional pictures of the lobstah roll there. Cross promote. Same with your FB account (I am not on FB so did not look at yours.)
posted by AugustWest at 7:10 AM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just had a quick look at a few of your IG posts and I don’t see you using any hashtags? That’s your first major error - Instagram is allll about the hashtags. People follow hashtags that interest them, or browse by hashtag and there’s no character limit so you can use as many as you like. They’re way more important in IG than on Twitter.

So, for your food posts, use hashtags relating to the dish, the cuisine, the location, food in general. You can start typing a particular hashtag and you’ll see a dropdown appear with possible hashtags that start that way (eg typing #food will show you #foodporn, #food, #foodie etc) and you can see next to each how many times it’s been used, so choose the ones that have been used a million times, not the more accurate ones that have only been used a thousand times (or rather, use both).

I usually pick up a few followers from each post that uses multiple hashtags and it soon builds up. Occasionally you seem to hit a sweet spot where IG is obviously showing your pic to a LOT of people searching for a particular hashtag, and I’ll suddenly get 80 likes instead of my more customary 15, which brings in more followers too, but I’ve no idea if you can force that - so far it seems to me like dumb luck. Maybe if your post gets liked by someone well-connected, the algorithm will take a shine to you. But step one - use hashtags.
posted by penguin pie at 7:57 AM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: penguin pie, I put all my hashtags in the first comment.
posted by Ferrari328 at 8:02 AM on December 27, 2018

Ah! Sorry, missed that.
posted by penguin pie at 8:13 AM on December 27, 2018

My honest and hopefully positive feedback? Your captions need to be more creative, more descriptive. You're talking about food - you rarely mention any flavors at all or discuss ingredients. Foodies dig that stuff. Your captions are pretty simplistic - "It was good." "It was excellent." "It was crispy and moist." "Excellent and tasty."

So maybe, for example, when you are talking about a burger: "This beefy bad boy of a burger was just what I was looking for. It was generously sized with fresh lettuce and tomato. The Swiss cheese was nicely melty, and the buttery brioche bun was perfectly toasted."
posted by HeyAllie at 8:17 AM on December 27, 2018 [11 favorites]

Yeah, a lot of this is due to algorithms that are beyond your control. Sometimes IG is your best friend and serves up everything to people viewing that hashtag, other times, nada. I keep note on which pics under perform and try reposting a variant of the image a few weeks later. I'm still under 5k followers, but I also only really post my niche of a niche art - my average post is something in the 200ish area while things that go big can go up to a thousand.

I've found that timing your post for the right time of day helps some and usually aim to post between 10am and noon. You want initial likes as this helps build momentum for your posts and increases the chance the algorithm smiles upon you. Interacting with comments is, in theory, good as well, but I'm too busy during the day to keep track of that. However, I've noticed that the people with lots more followers than I tend to add a Thank You! or hearts or smilies in reply to comments. IG wants people to stay looking, so they might smile kindly on people to encourage interaction.

It might be superstition on my part, but consider using your #hashtags on the initial post. You can drop them down a bit with a period (|carriage return| . |carriage return|) to help keep things neat. Keep the hashtags under 30 (ideally, 14ish?) to again help that algorithm.

Be sure to add locations and @ the places you're getting food from, the people who made the recipe, etc. That helps as well.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:26 AM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Pay for promotions and post consistent, high quality content that follows the "theme" of your page, including stories. Just 10-15 dollars per post gained me 20-50 followers, depending. Hashtags work sometimes (as mentioned above), but the way the algorithm works is paid content seems to receive more reach, even if you have a high follower count.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:52 AM on December 27, 2018

penguin pie, I put all my hashtags in the first comment.

That’s probably not a good idea - put them in your caption. As Instagram says: “Keep in mind that if you add a hashtag to a photo after it was posted, the photo will still appear on the hashtag page according to the time it was originally posted, not the time the hashtag was added.”

So if it takes you even a short time to populate your first comment with hashtags, your photo will have fallen way behind more recent photos on popular hashtag pages.

Relatedly, while using popular hashtags might get you in front of lots of people you’re also, obviously, competing with vast numbers of photos appearing in them really quickly. So using less popular ones too/instead might be worth trying - fewer potential viewers, but they might actually see the photo!
posted by fabius at 9:14 AM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: > Your captions need to be more creative, more descriptive. You're talking about food - you rarely mention any flavors at all or discuss ingredients. Foodies dig that stuff. Your captions are pretty simplistic

Agreed. Looking at the images on your IG I was reminded of the account of our local food critic Ian McNulty. His photos aren't strikingly different from yours, all probably taken with cell phone cameras. But whereas you have a caption like "Lunch Pork Katsu Bento Box was good even if the gyoza and the tatsuta-age was cold. 24 seats including the Sushi bar" his are more like "Traditions evolve. Growing up in New England we always had scallops que sera at Christmas, often with amazing bay scallops from my aunt in Nantucket. Modified it this year in New Orleans to use the excellent local crabmeat from Pete & Clara Seafood via @crescentcityfarmersmkt and a dab of @cajuncaviar (optional for the in-laws). Base, as always, Pepperidge Farms fancy sandwich bread."

He's made a story of it, he's specifically @-mentioning any place or brand involved, and it's conversational and informative. "24 seats including the Sushi bar" - I don't know what you're intending to convey there. Is that good? Bad? Just ... something you happened to notice?

If you want to make your photos a touch more interesting try getting just a little closer on some shots, and vary the height from which they're taken. There's a lot of same-same visual feel when scrolling your feed. I'm not implying you need to change that aspect, only that you can.

But it'll help more if you spice up the words.
posted by komara at 9:14 AM on December 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

Photographs: be aware of the background of your photos. I’m distracted by an electric cord, whatever is behind the table, etc.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:54 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

People who are interested in finding new/good places to eat are both interested in the food and the surroundings. Your photos are repetitive in that they just show a single dish from a single visual perspective. My eyes glaze over a bit. Don't be afraid to be creative. Don't be afraid to show larger and smaller and different views.

I've run the instagram account for my workplace for its entire existence. I've avoided silly techniques to add followers. I post things that I find visually interesting. I interact with other accounts which are thematically similar. I respond to comments. I now have more than 10,000 followers. It took a while.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:54 PM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I hope this doesn't come across as a big critique but I think your profile information on Instagram could be improved.

As a reader, when I click through to see if I should follow you, I want to know your best reason I should. The other information about Facebook and your blog are ok but the part before that where you say you're a blogger trying the Instagram medium doesn't really give me any sense that I can expect daily guidance on where to eat (or whatever your hook is.)
posted by warriorqueen at 1:35 PM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Seconding that your insta profile could be improved, as, importantly, could your icon. To me, the icon doesn't say "this is a food blog", it says "this is a random mishmash of stuff"--I probably wouldn't even bother to click through to find out that I was wrong.

I also think that your captions are flat and uninteresting, and make you come off as a little older than many-to-most of the people on instagram. If you want to build a following there, you need to engage with people there, not give a super terse answer and say that it's "all in the blogpost". I'm sure that you see the insta pic and the blog post as related things, but for many people, they follow people on their media of choice, and that's that. If I'm reading your blog's RSS feed, I'm probably not going to bother following you on a media service where most of what you're posting is basically teasers for a blog post--likewise, if I'm following you on instagram, I'm following you on instagram, and I'm not going to click through to a totally different service to find out what you're posting. Pushing your other platforms seems rude and out of touch to me, and is offputting.
posted by mishafletch at 2:42 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Agrees on the captions front. I don’t want to just hear “[x] was good” - what was good about it? Was it unusual in some good way? What was the best thing about it?

Also, this is mostly personal idiosyncrasy but since you asked - some of your captions include Randomly capitalized Words that don’t seem to be that way for any particular reason, and that drives me up a wall and would definitely stop me from following you.
posted by Stacey at 5:22 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. The responses were more than I hoped for and everything was constructive. Everyone should get the best answer, but I hate when people do that. I, in my innocence, thought that IG was all about the pictures and that's why my captions were so brief. The link to Ian McNulty was an eye-opener. I also learned a lot about hashtags. I wasn't aware of the random uppercases but looking over the posts I see them. I fixed that. Thanks again all.
posted by Ferrari328 at 2:00 PM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

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