Instagram: Six Ways to become a Suggested User

instagram post

There was a time when my heart sank every time I lost a follower because I work really hard at curating content and post regularly on my Instagram.  And then I stopped thinking about it because there just isn’t enough time in a day to live on ‘social media’ and it is admittedly shallow to associate feelings with a social media number on the personal front!

So, what exactly is the algorithm to crack in order to be featured among the millions of users on the network? Instagram is vague and tight lipped about it and various sources have come up with different theories.

So, I shifted gears a little this January as I had some time to work on my own personal branding strategy this December without being caught in the stressful hamster wheel of client deadlines. I have to admit although I work in marketing and specialise in social media, I don’t actually have enough time in a day to work on my own projects, so 2015 is the year to start dialing up efforts to recognise my labour of love for the blog with some strategic direction for JLOH and Chicken Scrawlings the blog.

I’ve noticed that most featured/suggested users seem to have a distinct style and well curated feed – doesn’t necessarily stick within a tight box eg only fitness, only food, only landscapes but alot of them do. My feed is personal and really in line with my blog “food, fun and life” and everything else that goes in between. I use snapseed to clean them up before posting and sometimes I use VSO Cam occasionally and square ready if the photos don’t fit in the square crop.

Before, narcissistic content of selfies and anything that satisfy some voyueristic curiosity seem to perform well along side cute pets before Instagram had updates and fine tuned the app. These days, I’m glad I’m seeing less selfies but more of my subject interests as if you notice now the suggested users to follow are divided into two categories:

i) Based on photos you liked

ii) Based on users you follow

I also love the new intuitive feature whereby once you start following a new user, a bunch of other “suggested users” in the same vein of subject matter pops up so you don’t have to search further. So, being a suggested user had my fan numbers sky rocket over the span over a little over two weeks.

There was a newish app Huntgram that curates the best content by geography and subject matter and has an ‘influencer’ tab that pulls out Key Opinion Leaders. This is particularly helpful for someone working in Marketing and PR wanting to reach a specific audience via Instagram since the legwork has already been done for you.

1. I increased and changed the schedule of my posts. I have always tried my best to post once a day if not at least once every 2-3 days. I found that posting 3 times a day – my mornings from 7am-930am, sometime in the afternoon post lunch 2-5pm and then late at night before bed, 12am-1am was targeting every timezone of users, which resulted in more likes. Since Instagram is based out of the US, I’ve reached them in two time zones, my early mornings and late nights.

7am-9am in Asia Pacific is when people are commuting to work on public transport and often times on their mobile, it’s also evening time in the US while people commute home. 2-5pm is when Europe goes to work, so they are commuting on public transport and in Asia Pacific people are taking post lunch peeks at social channels.

2. I changed nothing in content because I truly believe you should be committed to a clear positioning, your interests and what you stand for to build quality fans who share the same interests. However, there seems to be an aesthetic criteria: Landscapes tend to do well as does beautiful people, and aerial shots of food and feet related photos, reflections, both staged and styled symmetry posts. Pets of course are popular as are babies. Quotes sometimes do well, but there’s irregularity on performance – from a Social Media standpoint, it’s about being current, for eg when the late Maya Angelou passed away, her quotes were flying around like wild fire – a brilliant use in context and time.

3. I also finally  made the decision to take a more personal approach and sharing some photos of myself, I’ve also put more thought into changing the tone and manner. (because Instagram is a tool that feeds self indulgence and narcissism, it’s big part of the equation! We’ll get to insecurities another day.)

4. Posting more photos of Smudge my Beijing rescue tuxedo cat with relevant hashtags – I don’t do this often because I am mindful that not every follower is a cat lover. Once a week or so.

5. Hashtags – I have kept them to less than 3 in the description and sometimes as an afterthought adding them in the comment section – which from experience sometimes helps to gather a few more likes to the post. Again it depends on what your positioning is. This is a personal channel for me, so it includes nuggets of all aspects of my life that I care about and love. (apart from the husband who likes to keep church and state separate so you’ll see very little of him on my Social feeds)

6. Posting daily or regularly, but never more than a photo at each posting.

So over the span of a week, I grew from 938 fans (after their big clean up) to 25.9K  fans over the span of two weeks.

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Juliana Loh

Juliana is a freelance marketing communications strategist with more than a decade of experience in the field of advertising, journalism and luxury hospitality, with a focus on China and the Asia Pacific region.

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