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This article was published on June 20, 2017

A millennial’s guide to killing it at Instagram

A millennial’s guide to killing it at Instagram

Are you furious that you only have thirty-four Instagram followers? Do you fantasize about becoming the next hottest influencer in comedy? Would you pay real money to know the secret formula of Insta-success? If you answered yes to any of those questions, yikes.

Just kidding, who wouldn’t want that? Unfortunately, there isn’t a secret formula to fame, but if you follow this guide and happen to come across a little bit of serendipity ー you might become the next Kim K.

1. Create your profile


Start by filling out your profile. It’s always a good idea to fill out every field ー the more information people know about you, the better. A complete profile allows other people to easily find you and verify the authenticity of your account. It also gives people a little overview of who you are. Even though this may seem not important, a thought out profile is better than a vague or incomplete one.

Being transparent and genuine 一 even with something as minor as your profile information 一 is something all successful Instagramers excel in and is something you should strive for.

Name: Your Instagram name should just be your name. No need to get fancy here. Whatever name people know you by, use it.

Username: Again, make it extremely easy for people to find you, so no “JTMoMoney,” “Phat_Boy_|Jesse,” or “MegDanceCrazy9124.” It’s also a good practice to keep your username consistent across every social platform, if possible.

Website: If you have a website, plug it. Instagram allows users one link, so even if you don’t have a website you could link out to your blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Bio: You’ve only got a couple sentences to woo someone ー make them count. This requires a decent amount of creativity and wit (if you have it), so go with your gut. If you find yourself stuck, emoji are a great way to spice up your bio.

Profile picture: You can’t choose your face but you can choose your profile picture. Keep your face visible and show off your personality.

2. Perfect your feed

Your feed is arguably the most important part of Instagram. This is crucial to nail because it’s the whole picture.

What’s your Instagram aesthetic? What kind of vibe do you want to give off? You can fill your feed with nature based photos, your every-day life, business-related images, quotes — whatever your heart desires.

Just don’t make the mistake of trying too hard. As long as the content comes natural to you, you’re gold.

Theme / Filters

Once you nail your Instagram aesthetic, make sure your posts all look consistent. You can do this by using filters (or not if you’re a “no-filter” kind of person).

Choose one or two filters, and stick to it. If one picture goes un-edited, your whole feed is screwed because that one un-edited picture will stick out like a sore thumb. Post with caution and pay close attention to detail. A cohesive theme is of the utmost insta-importance.

Consider photo effects and filter apps like VSCO Cam and A Color Story your best friends. All you need to do is upload your pic, slap a filter on it, post on the gram 一 and you’ll come off as a professional photographer.

Pictures, Videos, and Boomerangs

What you post is entirely up to you, but the only rule of thumb is to post quality content on a regular basis. Keep in mind, quality is subjective. What you think is cool might not line up with what your followers think is cool, but you should always strive to stay authentic and post what feels right to you regardless of negative feedback.

3. Engage with Stories

Your Story is the best way to connect with your followers on a personal level. The photos and videos only last 24 hours, so dig deep into your storytelling skills because you’ll need to make a lasting impact.

The top creators use Stories to provide a massive amount of value to their audience. Business gurus are answering questions directly from their audience, fitness buffs are giving personal weight loss advice, musicians are publishing exclusive sneak peeks to their latest singles, and beauty influencers give shout outs to their fans.

It’s all about figuring out what your audience wants from you.

4. Use Instagram influencers as a source of inspiration


DJ Khaled

If you haven’t heard about the keys to success, you’re probably living under a rock. DJ Khaled became wildly popular on Snapchat for his unorthodox tidbits of life advice, but he’s also going all in on Instagram.

Just imagine what goes on in Khaled’s head for a second ー his feed is exactly that. Every picture and video he posts is so, “DJ Khaled,” that you can tell he’s the only one running his account. 

Michelle Phan

Beauty guru Michelle Phan, exploded on the Youtube scene back in 2006. Her fans (probably a cult) have been dedicated to her art and style for more than ten years and follow her across every platform. On Instagram alone she has amassed a following of over two million.

Of course her followers have high expectations, but the thing is, she always delivers ー and then some. If you go to her profile, you’ll see that each photo and video is practically perfect. Her aesthetic is minimal, with a twist. If you keep scrolling, you’ll see that each row of three seamlessly flows into the next. Trust me, you’ll want to scroll through her feed all night.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Social media mogul and day-trader of attention Gary Vaynerchuk, loves his audience and they (the Vaynernation) love him back. If that relationship sounds weird to you, then you haven’t been exposed to his personable content yet.

Gary knows that his audience is mainly entrepreneurs and businessmen, so he posts relevant lifestyle and business content 一 with his unwavering personality attached. He’s a firm believer in the saying, “be yourself,” and it’s clear to see that his Instagram success is a byproduct of that belief.

Although the influencers mentioned above are all in different industries, the recurring theme is that  their content is genuine, loved by their audience, and is visually pleasing. Simple as that.

5. Follow these pro tips

Use Locations

Whenever you visit a killer location be sure to gram and geo-tag it. This will allow users searching that specific location to find your picture. Geo-tagging your pictures is the easiest way to gain more exposure from people who share the same interests as you.

Always Engage

When I say engagement, I don’t mean people coming to like and comment on your posts. I mean you engaging with other people. Social media is a two-way street; you can’t expect to get when you don’t give.

Best Practices:

  • Collaborate
  • Regram other posts
  • Engage in the comments whether it’s on your post or someone else’s
  • Run contests
  • Don’t be afraid to speak your thoughts and spark a little controversy

Befriend Hashtags

Hashtags serve one purpose 一 engagement. But these symbols are typically overused, underused, or “not know how to use.”

Credit: Hubspot

To clear up the misconceptions ー use hashtags. Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6-percent more engagement than posts without a hashtag, and posts with eleven hashtags receive almost 80-percent interaction, compared to just 22-percent when using ten.

It won’t “clutter” up your pictures or make you look stupid. You’ll gain a ton of exposure and engagement if you use them right.

Best practices:

  • 12-15 well-thought out hashtags per picture (30 is the max)
  • Keep it relevant
  • A mix of long-tail (#bananaacaibowl) and short-tail hashtags (#foodie)
  • Post the hashtags as a separate comment, not in the caption

6. Remember authenticity wins

Want to kill the Instagram game? The only thing you need to nail is yourself. If you’re “doing Instagram” for millions of followers, you’re in the wrong mindset. Getting caught up in trying to be an Instagram influencer or the numbers game will always be a waste of time. Instagram is all about expressing your true self through photos and videos (and boomerangs), so do just that.