How to grow your following, improve your content and get noticed, according to Instagram

Kim Kardashian and model Naomi Campbell take a selfie. Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Taschen
  • Behind-the-scenes photos and videos are the most sought after content on Instagram.
  • Video is huge. It’s growing 80% YOY on Instagram.
  • “Ghost tagging” is a great option for people who don’t like tags.
  • You still can’t link in comments but Instagram is “working on it”.

Business Insider recently attended an Instagram Masterclass hosted by Eva Chen, Director of Fashion Partnerships for Instagram Global.

Among the many hacks and tidbits were tactics on how users can grow their follower base, increase engagement and visibility.

Chen said the most sought-after content is the “behind-the-scenes” look providing your followers access to things they might not otherwise be privy to.

“That sense of closeness is what Instagram followers are looking for today,” Chen says.

“Instagram has been around at this point for eight years. And just like with anything over the span of eight years it’s changed. What people want from it has changed.

“When it first started it was really raw and people posted whatever… Then what happened is that people started posting really polished images that at the time had never been seen anywhere besides in editorial,” she said, using the example of that perfect photo of avocado toast with a pair of designer sunglasses and a hand delicately holding a cup with a designer watch.

“And now that image might get a lot of likes but anyone can do that image.

“Taking people behind-the-scenes… making it more real is what people are looking for now.”

And if you’re thinking, ‘that’s all well and good but I spend most of my time sitting at a desk,’ she suggests finding inspiration from the things around you as content.

If your desk is covered in shopping bags filled with shoes, “that’s content,” says Chen.

“That’s literally eye candy for your followers”.

In terms of other advice, she says many people ask the same questions over and over again.

“I could be at a cocktail party, I could be picking up my daughter from school, I could literally be in the bathroom, anywhere, and people will stop me and ask me the same questions.”

Here they are — and her tips.

1. How do I get more followers?

“It’s not about the number of followers that you have it’s about deepening the relationship with the followers you do have,” Chen says.

“If you build a deep and meaningful relationship with the followers you do have, almost always new followers will come.”

As part of this “community building” she says it’s important to take your followers on a journey.

“Think about the access you have that your followers don’t get to see,” Chen said using the examples of special events or people that others might not be privy to.

“Think beyond the followers you have… and think about the followers you want to gain. What do they want to learn about your job, what do they want to learn about your day-to-day life?

“As you grow your followers keep in mind that they aren’t always going to be in Sydney, or Melbourne-based. They might be in New York or Tokyo. Show them a slice of your day-to-day life and remember you live in one of the most photogenic cities in the world, so show them those tidbits.

“Don’t feel like every photo has to be of you… it can also be the amazing view of a sunset, the new pair of shoes you just bought. You don’t even have to be in the picture, just take them on a journey with you.”

She said videos don’t have to be perfect or shot on a fancy camera, rather the key to success is posting consistently.

“I always compare building an Instagram account to watering a plant, or for the mothers in the room, raising a child,” she joked.

“You can’t decide some weeks you’re going to water the plant 10 times a day, other times it’s going to be a drought for three weeks. You have to water your Instagram consistently.

“There are people who will say, ‘well, I don’t have time to do it.’ You kind of have to make time to do it.

“Your Instagram should have a cadence that people can be able to predict a little.”

You need to develop your “Instagram version”, which people won’t see anywhere else.”

“To grow, number one: post original content,” she said.

“Number two: post more frequently. The average fashion follower opens Instagram 32.5 times a day. They follow at least a couple of hundred accounts… if you post every other day am I going to see your content? Probably not, because it’s getting buried underneath this avalanche”.

Posting more frequently leads to growth “because you’re giving more content for people to engage with,” she said.

“And the last thing is to think globally.”

2. How do I get more likes?


“This is basically code for ‘how do I boost my engagement?’” she said.

“The algorithm is something that people get very stressed out about… [but] it’s really actually very simple.

“We know that people miss 70% of the Instagram content that other people are posting. So, based on that, we have changed the algorithm to be based on engagement.

The thing to understand is the more you engage with content you like, the more you’re going to see that up top of your feed.

“As content creators, you want to create content that people will either leave comments on, or press the heart button on,” she said

A simple hack Chen used as an example as a way of doing this is to pose questions to you followers when you post, asking them to engage with you.

“Keeping it casual and mobile-first is really important,” she added.

She went on to explain that while posting the final product glamour shot will get some likes, it’s the behind-the-scenes action it will get more engagement.

“Show the things on you can see, and only you have access to,” she says.

3. How important is video on Instagram?


“Video have grown year-on-year by 80% on Instagram,” she says. “Video consumption is booming.”

She continued: “Don’t get too obsessed with the number of likes. People will show you that they like your video by watching it over and over again.

“Take YouTube for example. Do you press the thumbs up or the thumbs down button? No. You replay the video over and over again if you like it.

“Some best practises for video are, number one: mobile,” Chen said, explaining that video shot on your phone usually does better than highly produced content.

“You want to front load with the best content. You don’t need any of the ‘presenting the 10 best new dad sneakers,’ literally just go into the action.

“For your cover image, try to have the image in the middle of the action. Don’t have a black screen or white square.”

Another tip is to think about whether followers will be watching your video with sound.

While most people generally look through their feed without sound, they turn it on when they flick through Stories.

4. How important is the grid?

A screenshot of Eva Chen’s Instagram profile grid. @evachen212/ Instagram

“I have a love-hate relationship with this question,” says Chen.

“People get super obsessed with the grid-view… It’s not as important as you think it is.

“Lose the obsession because 99% of your impressions will come from your overall feed view.

“People still look a profile when choosing to follow, but it’s a snap decision.

“Basically, people will look at a profile and they’ll say ‘oh grandpa sneakers, oh red lipstick, oh Sydney – gorgeous,’ follow and then they don’t go back to the profile ever again.”

She added: “Generally, when you have very strong individual posts it leads to more engagement. More engagement leads to more followers. So then more followers often leads to more influencer deals.”

5. What should I post on Stories versus live?

Valentina Kuleshova, 85, a well-known blogger on Instagram. Valery MatytsinTASS via Getty Images

“[During a live] it usually takes about 10 minutes to start getting viewers,” said Chen, adding: “The best lives tend to happen selfie-style… talking to the camera, showing people where you are.”

It’s also suggested that you pin the comment.

“To pin the comment, type the comment… click the three little buttons that will turn up, press that and it will say pin comment and that means anyone joining the live, that’s the first thing they’ll see. That’s really important.”

(Meanwhile if you’re still wondering about links in comments, Chen says Instagram is “working on it”.)

“Another housekeeping note about live: after finishing your live on the top right hand corner there will be a little arrow that points down to download… and you can also press share which means it will be shared to your stories for 24 hours.”

Content that works best for live video tend to be those where you’re other in the right place or the right time, or you have prepared what you’re going to do, talk to, where you are and whether you have signal.

Meanwhile, Stories should take followers on a journey with you through the day.

For Instagram Stories’, tools such as GIF stickers and text are recommended for keeping people engaged, along with mixing up the mediums throughout your story timeline, incorporating video to photos to boomerangs and more.

“[The way] people stay on and feel entertained,” she said.

“The other thing people will ask is if there is a formula for Instagram Stories.

“Generally not. We do know that the maximum number of Instagram Stories you can post is 100 in a 24-hour period.

“And if you post more than 100 it just starts dropping off from the front and stays at the back.”

She said: “We usually do between 7 and 10 posts a day. But again, with Stories, it’s like snacking, it’s like a bag of potato chips, don’t feel like you have to stick to a number. It’s really low commitment, people can always swipe to the next one and tap through.”

6. How can I get more visibility on my posts?


There five distribution surfaces on Instagram: Feed, Explore, Hashtag page, Location page and Profile.

“As we already discussed profile gets the least amount of distribution,” Chen says.

“The location page, hashtag page, explore: there are three things people underleverage.

“If you use the location… [you] tend to get more visibility.”

She continued, saying some people have an aversion to hashtags, thinking that they’re tacky.

“Millions of people are using hashtags everyday… and they follow their following hashtags now on Stories and on feed.”

Chen admitted sometimes she even hides her hashtags to get around the optics of numerous tags.

“I have this thing that I do that I’ve nicknamed ‘ghost-tagging,’” she says.

This is used on Stories where you shrink the hashtag to a point that you can hide it behind other things in the story, whether it be a sticker or a comment, but still increases the visibility of the post.

“Explore. 200 million people visit Explore every single day. One thing to note is that its algorithmic, so you cannot program it.

“It is based on what you are liking and what your followers are liking.”

Chen said: “If Gigi Haddid wears your glasses and she likes the post that you do, her followers see your post.”

“The last one is Feed, which is really obvious, that’s where your posts go.

“Mythbuster: we don’t hide posts.

“What it is, if you post 10 things and your followers follow 2000 accounts, they might not see all 10 because they will be scattered in, or they’ll be buried at the bottom because they’re not engaging with your content as much.

“Instagram never hides posts.”