Instagram is perfect for food bloggers; if you can take pictures that capture attention and make the audience drool – and you’ve got the enthusiasm and drive to keep at it – then you’ll soon be making waves.
“How I Instagram” has been written especially for Food Blogging Collective by Rachel from Rustic Foodie Girl. Although she’s new to the field, Rachel is fast establishing herself in the food-blogging world for her talents as a food photographer. Her pictures are colourful, yet light and airy and, most importantly, they make you want to EAT!
You can follow Rachel @rusticfoodiegirl to see what she gets up to on a daily basis. In the meantime, here’s how Rachel is getting to grips with the social-media giant: Instagram.
Still figuring out this Instagram thing
If there’s one thing I should tell you up front about my love-hate relationship with Instagram, it’s that I am still figuring out how I Instagram, as much as many of you likely are, through trial and error and pretty much as I go. With Instagram, I kind of throw darts at times and hope some of them stick but the truth is, there are a lot of times when my darts don’t stick to anything. So when I was asked to write a blog about how I approach my Instagram page and how I’ve grown it in a little over a year, I first thought, “wait, you’re sure you meant to ask me, right?”
Hi, I’m Rachel and the creator of RusticFoodieGirl.com. I started my Instagram page (@rusticfoodiegirl) in November 2016 as my little way to connect more with the culinary and food photography world, to practice my photography and get helpful feedback on it, to have fun with a new passion of mine and to start off on a journey that will hopefully lead me to quit my job one day soon and actually have this become a real thing.
As in for money.
Okay, I said it, the M word. Maybe it’s a word we don’t want to say out loud but it is an important word and probably a word that all of us are constantly thinking about. I mean, as much fun and excitement as this is, why else are most of us really doing this? A girl’s gotta eat and buy shoes, am I right?!
The purpose of this post is to share with you any tips, advice, and helpful information focused on engaging your audience and growing your Instagram following. I’ve only been on Instagram for a little over a year and my audience is roughly around 500 but I have taken a few workshops and read about what other Instagram influencers do and how they approach this Instagram thing, so I thought I could share the information I’ve learned and am trying to practice with my own Instagram account.
Pin me for later!
Keep going, keep growing
Again, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this and truly want to grow your Instagram following, that your mindset and goal is on monetizing and finding ways to generate income. In order to profit from Instagram, the first and most important rule is to grow more followers. I recently went to a workshop led by a huge Instagram influencer, they have about 497 thousand followers (crazy, right?) and are basically hugely successful from their social media success. I learned right away that our following has to be up there, as in at least 1000, because once it is, the opportunities and offers, to advertise or influence a particular product or restaurant, start coming in. Then, it’s more likely to lead to getting paid and being considered for or offered even bigger opportunities. Therefore, the focus before any of the money can happen and come your way is to grow your audience and be both engaging and influential in doing so.
Top Tip #1: Bigger is better. The more followers you have, the more opportunities you have.
Let’s be friends
The way I approach and treat my Instagram page is very much like I try to treat a good friend. I know, this sounds cheesy but the truth is, if I feel like it’s a chore, a bore, something I dread or something that’s not worth my time, it will likely not be a thing that actually works. In order to maintain a friendship, one has to put in the time, the effort and have it be MUTUAL! This means that you have to engage and connect with others.
Comment on people’s photos that you admire, those that you enjoy looking at and of course, the ones who have tons of followers and a huge Instagram presence. Of course, please don’t just comment on the ones with a huge presence; also engage with your friends, those who are starting out and the ones who have gone out of their way to like and support you since support for everyone is a great thing and we should all be trying to support each other. When someone comments on your page or pictures, rather than just hit the ‘like’ button, I like to respond to each person individually…sure it might take a few extra minutes but you’ll build more relationships and connections that way. Respond authentically.
Something I learned early on which I especially appreciate when someone does this to me, is to take 1 second to click on their page to see if their first name is visible. Everyone loves feeling special so if it is, writing “Thanks so much for that sweet comment, Michelle!” versus just a plain ol’ “Thanks” just goes a bit further in my opinion. If you and another Instagrammer develop a ‘social media friendship’, maintain that through a consistent effort…again, mutual and reciprocal are key.
Top Tip #2: Take the time to connect personally with everyone that you can – you never know who is a potential customer.
Just keepin’ it real
Whatever your writing voice or style is, if you’re funny, sarcastic, witty, kind…be that and be it authentically!
Speak in your actual voice. Be unique, be consistent (post something every day if you can). It’s surprising how fast followers come and then go. Some will like your page for the wrong reasons or maybe they are just weeding out their followers but the number of followers I have can fluctuate in any given day. I learned to not take it personally and to know that even the bigger influencers out there have their successful posts but they also have their misses. Trust me, it happens to everyone which I learned from that workshop I recently attended.
However, there are a few tricks to follow to help figure out which photos will be more successful for you. I’d start by looking through all of your photos, or at least the last 30 to see which ones have generated the largest response. I have some photos that have 55 likes and others that have 135 and I have no clue what the difference was. Was it the time of day? The food itself? The fact that the moon and Mars were aligned? I honestly have no idea. What I do know is that it can be particularly frustrating when a photo that received 55 likes was so much better photographically-speaking than a random photo that I took in a restaurant with so-so light and which somehow received 135 likes.
Some photos will generate more attention and likes and there isn’t always a rhyme or reason.
For me personally, I’ve discovered that any time I post any picture that has a runny yolky egg, chocolate, a picture of tacos (people in the US love their tacos) or vegetables (go figure) I get so many more likes. I attract a much bigger response. The number game doesn’t necessarily always care if the lighting was better, the angle was better, I had all my props set up perfectly or that I spent a few hours cooking or baking.
It’s whatever the audience is most attracted to.
Food trends are a huge thing so if the latest food trend happens to be charcoal-donuts or there’s a hot new brunch place that just opened up serving drool-worthy avocado toast, then those photos will be noticed! Therefore, you may want to keep on top of food trends or food spots that are popular and PS not only in your town, but around the world. If you’re travelling, and find yourself in a fun place with lots of great food choices, check out the most popular restaurants or foods that are trending right then on Instagram.
Top Tip #3: Be yourself!
On that note, hashtags are reallllly important!!! Really important. There are so many hashtags that are among the most popular in the food world. Search this subject online and you’ll discover the ones that are the hottest right now. Clever hashtags that are cute but unique and personal to you are fine if doing only one, but try to use the hashtags that people will actually see. Also, the max number of hashtags on Instagram is 30. And so I often use up all 30!
Note: there are many websites out there (like top-hashtags.com) that contain lists of hashtags for you to copy and paste in your posts. Don’t! Instead, try to combine a number of generic tags: #food #recipe #whatsfordinner #cleaneating, with more specific ones that enable people to find your post: #salad #summer #outdooreating #chicken, and so on. If you copy and paste, you’re missing a huge opportunity for engagement with the right people.
Top Tip #4: Posts with hashtags perform better, so learn how to use them.
There are days of the week and times of day that more people are on Instagram. For example, Wednesday evenings and Thursday nights have always been peak times…so I schedule my postings for when I think my photos and I will have a greater chance of being seen – and then, hopefully, followed. Early mornings, lunch time, driving home from work time and bed time typically do the best. However, depending on where in the world you live, time differences matter. If most of your audience is from a different country, city, or time zone, this will impact who sees your photos and when, so you might want to tweak them if necessary.
If making someone’s recipe or eating in a restaurant, tag everyone and anyone that should be included (the restaurant, the recipe creator, the big food influencers) and make sure you “check in” to register where you are.
Always try to play with any of the new Instagram features that pop up such as the carousel feature that allows you to post more than one picture at a time, or Instagram stories. To make things easier on you, and with stressful busy days that don’t always allow us relaxing time to sit and think of clever captions and hashtags, I love to use the free app ‘Later’ which allows you to store and schedule your Instagram posts in advance, by date and time, and then alerts you when it’s time to post.
Top Tip #5: Try to get into some sort of routine.
It’s ok to not be perfect
Finally, remain humble, human and genuine. If you sporadically reveal to your followers the ‘realness’ of life – I don’t mean the ins and outs of every part of your life but the minor stressors, the mishaps in the kitchen, the craziness of the day…in other words, life – it will make it easier for others to relate to and connect with you. People relate much better to the crazy stress of real life than one that looks and seems so perfectly in place. If you have a particular photography style, food niche or focus, then stick with it since a consistent aesthetic flow on your feed is really important too. Again, all of this is trial and error at times. It doesn’t always go the way I expected or hoped. It can be frustrating. Instagram’s algorithm can make all of this even more frustrating. Don’t give up. Stay in the positive mindset. Pat yourself on the back every day you make effort at your goals. And have fun with it!
Want even more Instagram inspiration? Check out The Secret No-one’s Telling You About Instagram…
This is how I Instagram, but we want to hear from you.
If you have any tips or suggestions to add to this, please comment below! What works for you? What do you struggle with most on Instagram?