My Top 10 Tips for a Flourishing Instagram Account

 10 tips for a flourishing Instagram account - January Made Design

My most asked question - how do I get clients/how do clients find me - and I am here to let you in on my not so little secret (because I love to tell everyone) - it's Instagram!

Follow @januarymadedesign on Instagram for a quick peak for context :)

Over 80% (I am guesstimating here) of my inquiries come via Instagram, with most people finding my work on there and clicking through to my site to get in touch (the rest of my business comes from referrals, you lovely lovely people). And the wonderful thing is that advertising/showcasing/just using Instagram in general for your business is totally free, so there's no harm in having one for whatever business you are in, with everything to gain!

There are a tonne of things I could talk about in regards to using Instagram for business, drilling into the exact what, how, why and when in different posts, but for now, I will start with an overview/high level my top 10 tips to get your Instagram account really flourishing. Which means, attracting your ideal clients!

01. Consistency is Key

There is a lot of science behind the best posting times (Later app has some great stats here), so I won't reinvent the wheel with regurgitation info like this but I will say, whatever you choose, make it consistent! When I first started out, I found I had to post up to THREE times a day just to maintain followers, but eventually through trial and error I now post consistently always at least once a day but my favourite number would be twice a day, once mid-morning and once midday/early evening to keep my feed and followers up to date. It will be whatever works best for your schedule and unique business, but whenever you choose to post, keep it consistent :)

02. Get Cohesive

Going hand in hand with consistency, is cohesiveness! There is so much inspiration out there for Instagram themes (Preview app has some great ideas here), which you can draw upon when thinking about what your own might be. I think is so important for a flourishing account to have strong theme/style/tone of voice for your posts so you can set yourself apart from other accounts and have a really unique visual look and feel. There's no rule at all that says you have to post the same thing every day so totally mix it up, but keep it true to your business tone and values.

+ Instagram Templates

Instagram templates are a great place to start if you are new to posting, or need help with design. Here's a shameless link to my Instagram templates on Creative Market, but there are literally thousands out there that will fit any and every business, as they are so customisable! I also create personalised Instagram sets so feel free to get in touch if you want everything taken care of design-wise.

+ Stock Photography

One way to ensure your feed looks gorgeously curated and cohesive is with quality photography. But if you aren't a photographer, this can pose a problem right?! Wrong, becuase there are some wonderful stock libraries out there created by experts who have your business in mind, meaning you can sign up and start using these photos right away (without having to spend thorusands of dollars on a new camera + actually learning all the photog basics). My fav is the Jana Bishop Collection (formely TwigyPosts). Her stock library subscription includes a tonne of resources and her imagery is just stunning.

Or, if you are on a bit of a budget, I highly recommend Unsplash and KaboomPics for free CC0 imagery that is also top quality.

03. Be Authentic

The true secret (in my opinion of course!) to creating a sustainable and continually growing account - is being as authentic as possible. It is so so tough to keep posting when everything you are saying/doing/showing isn't your true thoughts or even your true style. It becomes exhausting keeping up that facade in the hope it will resonate with your community, when you don't believe it with all your heart and soul. 

+ Style sidestory

As a small side story, I used to really want a minimalist, black and white account so I strived to only put up pictures and captions like this, until I very quickly realised I was grappling in the dark for this type of content because it wasn't my authentic style, only a style I 'wanted' to present. So now we have the light, bright style you see currently which has come about organically but continues with intention.

+ Captions sidestory

Another story for context - If you check out my account, I tend to...overshare at times haha, I try to be very candid/raw/vulnerable/as real to life as possible. Clever marketing tactic? Nope! Because I work mostly with online clients (but get to meet a very lucky few!) I like to show as much of my personality as possible through my images/captions because I feel this helps my audience get to know me and there are no nasty surprises on the personality front when we connect (like 'OMG you sound so professional on your Instagram but you are a potato IRL'). I like you to know I am a potato always :')

04. Don't forget the Basics!

This probably is another 'Duh Nicole I am not silly' moment, but it's crazy the amount of accounts I have browsed through and they don't have the basics (essentials!) nailed, and by essentials I mean:

  • Public profile (If you want people to see you, be public!)

  • Recognisable account name (that is close to your other social handles)

  • Quality profile photo (matched your other socials closely if possible)

  • Searchable business name

  • On-brand and informative description/bio (you can now add hashtags/mentions as well as the usual emojis and 1 x link, so get creative! I recommend Linktree so you multiple links. Most important would be your website)

  • Email address (in both description and in your account details, so people can contact you)

  • If you have a phone/location, those are also basics to remember to add

Nail the basics and your account will be half way there!

05. Engage and Connect with your community

The fun part about growing a community through your Instagram is getting to engage and connect with everyone! By doing this organically, you open yourself and your business up to real connections and authentic relationships with other businesses, people and future clients. I have the most lovely people via my account simply by reaching out to others I admire, if I see a post I love, I make sure to say so, replying to those sweet people that engage with my posts, and try to always support other accounts when I see something that resounds with me, so these would be my tips to engaging your own community.

+ My thoughts on Instagram Pods

They definitely have their time and place, and the very first pod I was added to I just adore and love the people in it as it is so organic, supportive and filled with like-minded individuals. And I have seen great benefits from being in this pod.

But I find not all pods are made equal. If you do find yourself in several pods, really look at who is in them, what the rules and values are, and if everyone is their to support and grow together organically. I would be leaving quick smart if it ever feels inauthentic/pushy/aggressive/fake.

06. Utilise ALL the Hashtags

This is a big divider among some people, but my big tip for hashtags, is to go big or go home (okay, that's too dramatic), but seriously, you have a 30 tag limit, so I say use them all! I don't mean go silly and start adding #every #hashtag #like #this, but be intentional and thoughtful about how you want people to find you and what applies to your post.

Some tips:

  1. Use the Instagram app itself to see what hashtags have the highest usage/engagement

  2. Save a few different variations/themes to your phone (or use the Planoly hashtag feature) for easy copy and paste

  3. Rotate hashtags frequently to keep your posts from becoming stale/shadow-banned (okay I say this like I know what I am talking about, but really I saw this mentioned somewhere and can't remember the exact reason why rotating is good, but I do it, so yeah...#greatadvice)

  4. Try a blend of both targeted and more broad tags

  5. Add in your own hashtag, get people using it!

  6. Add your hashtags to your comment as soon as you post. This means they are still in action but don't clog up your caption area

Sproutsocial has a lot better hashtag tips so check those out for more info!

07. Get creative with Stories + Highlights

Another amazing feature of Instagram is the Stories functionality, and my most favourite part of Insta to play around on. You can now add Gifs, polls, questions, face filters, mentions, locations, tags, colours, the list goes on! It's pretty limitless as to what you can do with your Stories currently, and the best way to get them to work for your brand/business is to just explore them and put some stuff up :)

Story Highlights are also a great way to add some organisation to your account and keep important Stories (with links/resources/thoughts etc) from expiring. I think there are so many ways to use these and I think most accounts have only scratched the surface of the Highlight functionality.

My big tips would be to:

  • Don't be afraid to show the nitty gritty/behind the scenes/raw shots of your business, this is chance to break a little bit from your curated feed and give your community a great background look

  • Have fun with templates! This post by Later was a life-changer when I found it, and describes how to use templates to level up your stories

  • Make sure to mention/tag other users if you feature them in your shot, it's great exposure for them as well as allowing your audience to visit their account on your recommendation

  • The same goes for location, if you are located in a cool little cafe, add a location so others can find it!

There are a number of posts on how to get really creative on Stories which I will link below (they have WAY more in-depth info):

08. Be Helpful Sally

Don't be a Sales Sally, that account you see just slogging their wares without offering any sort of resource/helpful tip/insight etc, cold and robotic with no brand personality. I'm not saying spill every trade secret and give away all your amazing products/services for free, but sometimes offering something other than exactly what you are selling can help your audience to connect with you on a greater level and help them see what value they are getting from your products/services (and sets you up as an expert in your field!).  

Things I like to do/recommend to provide some relief from sales posts are:

  • Reviews/recommendations on design apps/tools I use

  • Blog posts with some good info your audience will find helpful/actionable

  • Freebie resources like checklists/guides/planners that take seconds to whip up but can be so invaluable

  • Doing free/short Q&A sessions via a Instagram Live or Story (I love these and want to do more!) to answer the real questions your audience is asking without them being worried about needing to pay for advice/a consultation

09. Make tools and apps work for you

In the age where anyone can be anything, there is literally an app for everything social media related, and for any digital literacy level. Not a designer? No problem, there are apps/tools that can help you! Not a content curator/social media manager/marketer/advertiser? Not a worry, there will be an app for that!

If you are time-poor or not creatively-minded, then I definitely recommend reaching out to an expert (ahem, hello!) for things like social media templates and custom design. But if you have a few minutes to spare, a passion and interest in levelling up your Instagram game, and a willingness to learn, then these are the apps I recommend for you!

10. Have fun!

I know, cheesy right? But at the end of the day if you have every second of posting, dislike your style, feel like what you are saying is fake, your followers will eventually see through it. And who has time to do something they aren't fully invested in! So go out there, use your account as a platform to send out your message, have fun, connect, engage, support others, and the results will flow x