I am frequently asked about how I grew the We Are Travel Girls Instagram account and tips for other girls looking to do the same.
I started the Instagram account in late 2015 before the dreaded Instagram algorithm so growth was a little easier back then, but many of the tips for Instagram growth remain the same.
In this guide I share my top tips for growing and engaging your Instagram followers, I also provide an insight into what I did and also the things I didn’t do to reach over 100,000 followers in less than 9 months, and 400,000+ followers in three years!
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And once again, it was confirmed, the tougher is the trekking, the better is the reward on the top: a little gem in Zillertal Valley, south Austria ♥️. The trekking is 6.5 kms round trip and there is a restaurant-shelter at the top where you can recharge your batteries. We recommend you bring water, a hat and sunscreen. By the way, the bridge crosses a river and the riverbed was just some meters below my feet, I am not that crazy! ✧✧✧✧✧ Location: Zillertal (Austria) ✧✧✧✧✧ Traveller Tips and Photos By Travel Girl Cristina @wanderonworld ✧✧✧✧✧ We Are Travel Girls is a community created to inspire, connect, educate and empower female travellers. Go to our website to learn more about how you can get involved in the community! ✧✧✧✧✧ Do you want to see your travel tips and photos featured here?! Go to the Photo Submission link in in our bio to submit your photos ✧✧✧✧✧ #wearetravelgirls #travelgirls #travelcommunity #femaletravelcommunity #travel #austria #amazingdestinations #zillertal #visitaustria #wanderlust #travelgram #beautifuldestinations #mytinyatlas #instatravel #neverstopexploring #exploretocreate #liveauthentic #exploremore #travelphotography #travelstoke
PUT IN THE TIME
When I first started the feature page I spent at least 3 hours per day on Instagram, and I am embarrassed to admit some days a lot more than that! I think this is the single most important thing that led to the success of the page. Obviously this is not sustainable and over time I have had to reduce the hours I spend on Instagram to allow time for other social media channels, writing, managing our website and answering emails (and my day job!). However, I probably still spend a couple of hours a day in total on the app.
ENGAGE WITH PEOPLE IN YOUR COMMUNITY
You are more likely to get followers back to your account by engaging with other people in your industry, whether that’s style, health & fitness, food or travel. There is a cross over in some of these, but I am less likely to follow health & fitness accounts than I am travel.
Brand collaborations are a way of getting you and the brand exposure, often leading to them using your images and crediting back to you. Just be careful to only collaborate with brands you truly like and think your audience would relate to or be interested in. Filling your feed with “salesy” posts may lead to a quick unfollow.
CREATE SMALL BLOGGER GROUPS
I have recently been added to a couple of small blogger groups on Instagram where you can chat and support each others Instagram pages, liking and commenting on the images. This is also a great place to ask questions and get advice. I suggest making a small group in the same genre as your primary focus.
JOIN FACEBOOK BLOGGER GROUPS
There are a lot of blogger groups where you can meet, engage with and in some cases (with very strict rules!) share your content or direct people to your Instagram. These are a great platform to drive traffic to your website or social media pages. Make sure you join our group HERE! Instead of waiting to get noticed and featured on the WATG Instagram account, why not share you pictures, travel tips, questions and blog posts with a community of like minded girls?!
Look for or set up your own meet ups with other bloggers in your field. This will help people find you and grow your network of engaged followers. Naturally I think people are more likely to follow, be engaged and comment on pages of people they have met, they are also more likely to talk about you and show your Instagram to others. Again, Facebook is a great place to find out about meet ups.
Interviewing other bloggers in your field or featuring them in, for example, ‘Best Travel Instagram Accounts To Follow’ posts will often lead to those featured sharing the story on their own social media and driving traffic and followers back to you. If I am featured I repost the story and add it to the Press page on We Are Travel Girls and my blog.
Try to get featured on either other Instagram accounts or other people’s blogs. Reach out to people directly that often do features on their blogs and see if you can be considered for their next post of that kind. Take the time to write to them properly, with links to your social media and blog. I get a huge quantity of emails either requesting collaborations, to write for us or to the be featured on the Instagram.
I have been quite surprised by how many of these I either don’t understand what the person is asking for, have no explanation of who the person is or what social media to look at, or are simply too lazy to even say hi and instead just write ‘post my picture’. Simply being friendly with a short, clear description of what you are asking for can go a long way!
Whilst you are getting started you will have to do guest posts for free, but it gets great exposure to your blog and your social media. You may get approached to do a guest post, but you will have better success by taking the initiative reaching out directly to the websites, blogs, magazines that you think you could write for and tell them why. You can submit a travel post to We Are Travel Girls for consideration here!
Obviously reposting images worked for We Are Travel Girls as it is solely a feature account, but you can do this occasionally on your personal account too. Most people want to be reposted as it sends traffic back to them and increases their exposure. However, make sure to credit appropriately and tag the person in the image! More often than not the person will see the tag and thank you on your post, driving additional traffic to your own page and creating goodwill among fellow Instagrammers.
USE THE RIGHT HASHTAGS
And don’t be afraid to use lots of them. Yes, it doesn’t look great, but we are all doing it! Once you have a huge following you can ditch the 30 hashtags, but until then research which ones work for your genre and check out what other bloggers are using. If you really want to maximise, you can post your image, use 30 hashtags in a comment and then go back to your original text and add another 30 there too! (Don’t forget #WeAreTravelGirls!)
LAYOUT, COLOUR AND STYLE
You don’t need to have super expensive camera to create great content. But even if you are snapping away on your iPhone, you should only post the best pictures and take the time to edit these.
There are great editing tools you can use on your phone such as Google’s Snapseed or VSCO, but I would recommend investing some time and money into learning the basics of Lightroom if you want to take Instagram seriously and create a branded feed. Lightroom will allow you to edit your photos using similar preset filters creating a cohesive style through your page.
LOOK AT OTHER SIMILAR ACCOUNTS
Look at other accounts in your genre and then see who is following, liking and commenting on that person’s’ account, then go over and give that person a bit of love on their page. Often you will find that they will reciprocate!
TIME YOUR POSTS
Timing when you post can affect the engagement so you should select the best times to increase likelihood that your followers will see and engage with your post.
- Check your own analytics
- Using Instagram analytics, or a tool like Later
- Most importantly when you have time to engage. Your best time to post might be 8.17pm, but if you are headed out to dinner, so you post, close the app and forget about it for four hours you won’t get the best engagement on your post. As we have seen you need to be present on the app and you must engage – this is also true when you post.
- Make sure you have 15-30 minutes to dedicate to engaging with people who comment on your post
LOOK AT YOUR METRICS
Get to know your analytics with Instagram Insights. Go to settings / Insights to look at the information and statistics related to your Instagram account.
- Including age, location, gender,
Best times to post:
- Which days of the week your followers are online and at what times of day so you know when best to post
- Which days they are active and interact with you
- Best days for discovery – new accounts finding you
- Which posts and stories performed best by impressions, engagement, comments, likes, follows, emails, reach, shares, profile visits, website clicks. You can also sort this by 7 days, 30days, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. Giving you a lot of insight into your top performing content
- From home
- From hashtags
- From profile
- From explore – if you make it to this page!
- From other
If you click on a specific picture “view insights” you can also look at:
- Sends – when someone shared it
- New follows from the image
This helps you to understand which of your images resonate with your audience and new audiences, so you know what to share in the future.
FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
There is so much advice on how to grow you page, including what I am writing here, but you have to find what works for you and then once you do, do that more! You are much more likely to stick with regular posting once you find a routine that works with your schedule. For me, I found that doing posts during my morning and evening commute was a perfect way to pass the time on the tube. Remember, for most of us this is a hobby and not meant to be a second job, so be sure to find a method that you enjoy!
SAY THANK YOU
A little kindness goes a long way, so try to say thank you if someone features your picture. I am personally more likely to post a girl on We Are Travel Girls more than once if she acknowledges the post. I am not saying you must be eternally grateful and shower us with love when we post you, but it is really nice when I get a little message or a quick thanks for the feature on our page! This applies to when people include you on their blogs or publish your material, so share the good news with your own followers by reposting the story and drop the author a quick email to say thanks.
BE KIND & MAKE FRIENDS
I have made lots of connections with women around the world through Instagram and hope to meet more of them on my travels. People are incredibly receptive to direct contact and will take time to give you advice and offer their own tips on how to increase your followers.
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Wondering where to explore in Washington D.C.? Union Market is one our top recommendations! You are greeted with beautiful murals in every alley. Union Market is not your average food hall, it’s home to many cultural cuisines; from Indian and French to Korean and Latino. It is something about the feel of the city that reminds us that we are home, not to mention the food! We love the local shops all around. Sunday is the best day to visit, no traffic.⠀ ✧✧✧✧✧⠀ Location: Washington DC⠀ ✧✧✧✧✧⠀ Traveller Tips and Photos By Travel Girls Christane @journeyswithkris and Denise @denise.osei⠀ ✧✧✧✧✧⠀ We Are Travel Girls is a community created to inspire, connect, educate and empower female travellers. Go to our website to learn more about how you can get involved in the community!⠀ ✧✧✧✧✧⠀ Do you want to see your travel tips and photos featured here?! Go to the Photo Submission link in in our bio to submit your photos⠀ ✧✧✧✧✧⠀ #wearetravelgirls #travelgirls #travelcommunity #femaletravelcommunity #travel #washingtondc #visitdc #murals #streetart #unionmarketdc ⠀
DON’T PAY FOR LIKES
Nothing is more obvious than when someone is paying for likes. 5,000 likes when someone has 10,000 followers just doesn’t make sense and only dilutes the genuine likes. Now there will be occasions when the percentage ratio is like this, due to Instagram’s algorithms getting you onto the top of someone’s posts you might like page or if you are lucky enough to have one of your pictures go viral, but in general I think it very unusual to get to this level.
… OR FOLLOWERS
If you are looking to eventually earn money from your Instagram or do brand collaborations, why pay for your followers? They will not be engaged and your likes will be way too low compared to the number of followers. Some less savvy brands may not notice this, but the bigger, well known companies will look at your genuine engagement before agreeing to work with you.
DON’T FOLLOW THEN UNFOLLOW
A lot of people follow only to unfollow and say that it really works to gain more followers quickly. While this might be true at the very beginning of your account, your time would be much better spent genuinely engaging with accounts by making thoughtful comments on pictures.
DON’T ASK FOR FOLLOW FOR FOLLOW
I ignore people that post ‘follow for follow’ comments on my Instagram. This is just weird to me and feels very ‘spammy’. If you like my page and are interested in the content I share then follow me, but that doesn’t mean I am obliged to follow you!
FEATURE OTHER PEOPLE’S PHOTOS WITHOUT CREDIT
Often you may not even realise someone has featured your account without credit, but if you do its super annoying (see my comment earlier in the Do’s). If you don’t see it, its likely someone else in your genre will and will alert you to it. It takes a lot of time and effort for people to take that perfect picture, so make sure they get the credit they deserve!
DON’T SPAM OTHER PEOPLE’S ACCOUNTS
Obviously we all want to get noticed, but commenting on every picture on someones account telling their followers to follow you can get annoying! This is especially true if you are a very similar page. For example, I would not go over to Darling Escapes or Sidewalker Daily and ask their followers to follow We Are Travel Girls and use #WeAreTravelGirls on every one of the pictures they feature! If you really want to engage with that persons community, contact the account owner and see if there is a way to promote each others pages in an authentic way instead. I did this with some of the other female travel feature accounts and it’s a far better way to collaborate and support one another.
DON’T BE RUDE
Thankfully I haven’t found hostility to be too much of a problem on We Are Travel Girls, but I have seen some incredibly unkind (bordering on abusive) messages to other girls’ accounts I follow. Remember that there are real people behind every account, so if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, please don’t say it over the Internet! In addition, if the photo is attached to a blog post, take the time to read that post before making assumptions and commenting negatively.
DON’T USE A PAID LIKING SERVICE
Paid liking services are used by many Instagrammers to reduce how much time they spend on social media by automatically liking and commenting for you. These programmes engage with people based on selected hashtags and users that you identify. I wouldn’t rely on these services, primarily because they violate the Instagram Terms & Conditions and could get your account permanently banned. Also, many common hashtags are used for spam and pornographic content, which can mean your account is automatically saying ‘wow, epic view!’ to a naked girl! I saw this happen to a very well know travel blogger which made it clear to me they were using these paid services.
DON’T PARTICIPATE IN LOOPED GIVEAWAYS!
The latest way to gain followers is a looped giveaway done in collaboration with several other influencers. The giveaway usually includes around 20-40 people, and to enter the giveaway your followers must go through a loop of the 20-40 influencers and follow them all until they arrive back at you.
My personal advice (without having done any) is absolutely do not do them – they mess up your demographics, it is essentially buying followers and it is frustrating for everyone else growing organically. Because of these types of methods of growth, the new normal will become 500K-1 million followers and the value of your audience drops because everyone will be at this level.
Some interesting reading to help you understand why you should not follow these tactics:
- Why Looped Giveaways Are Bad For Business
- The Truth And Facts About Looped Giveaways
- I Did A Hidden Giveaway And Here’s What Happened
- Instagram Created A Monster
Brands, PR companies and other businesses are getting wise to the methods used by bloggers and social media influencers to grow their following. Platforms like Social Blade and IG Blade can show you very quickly if someone has used non organic methods to build their following.
DON’T BE COMPETITIVE
With over 500 million active Instagram users per month there are plenty of followers to go around. Accept that your account, style or photography may be imitated, but see this as a positive and not a negative. People obviously love your content and are looking to you for inspiration that will help them to develop their own creative ideas and to improve their own page!
I hope that some of this advice can be integrated into your own growth strategy and help you to reach your follower goals! This is what worked for me, and maybe you have had a different experience with some of my ‘don’ts’ having worked for you.
We hope that this article given you some food for thought on how to grow and engage your Instagram following. If you have any questions about Instagram or blogging, please leave them in the comments!
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