How to grow your Instagram account in just two weeks

 
 

Ready to take your Instagram content to the next level? Iconosquare is a service that helps you measure and optimize your Instagram performance. Before we get into its benefits and how I used it to grow my account, let’s first address the elephant in the room. 

The Instagram API change

Back in the summer, Instagram changed its API to limit the access third party viewers have to the service. The change effectively removed the grid view several apps were using to show you all your following at once, and forced you to return to your phone to scroll through your feed one by one—a time consuming way to stay engaged with a large audience.

This switch rendered services like Iconosquare less useful (and even caused some services to shut down entirely). I had already paid for a pro account on Iconosquare before the API switch happened and saw great results. After the switch, I decided to keep at it and see if I could still maintain that growth. I did, and with a little work, you can too.

The workaround:

Iconosquare was quick to push a workaround to users after the API switch. You can still get that grid view of your followers, just not all at once. Their solution? Feed groups. The group sizes are capped at 50 and with a pro account, you’re limited to just 3 groups (I recommend trying this with three groups before spending the money on a higher tier account).

Here you can see some of the feeds I created. I follow a lot of artists and I decided to organize them by industry and type of illustration.

FYI - For more than three groups, you'll need to step up to the elite account

FYI - For more than three groups, you'll need to step up to the elite account

Yes, it’s a lot of tedious work on the front end to make these groups, but putting in the time has two benefits—it helps you think more critically about who you are following and why, and the smaller buckets make engagement with specific groups easier to track.

Since the API switch, Iconosquare seems to be leaning into the analytics more than the follower feeds. You could skip this legwork and still get a lot from the service. But if you’re willing to put in some time to make the groups, it’s the easiest way to keep up with all your followers (it’s also the best way to make sure you see posts, since Instagram’s new algorithm sometimes buries things it thinks you might not want to see). 

The analytics

This is where Iconosquare truly shines. These metrics will give you a deeper look into how your content is performing and who it is resonating with.

I’m participating in Inktober this year, which is an art challenge that tasks you with drawing something with ink every day during October. Let’s see what Iconosquare can tell me about how my project is performing so far.

Here’s a snapshot of the changes in my followers since the month started:

More followers gained than lost, and growth is up and to the right. Not bad!

More followers gained than lost, and growth is up and to the right. Not bad!

And here’s some insight into my engagement:

Slightly fewer comments week over week, but overall engagement is up.

Slightly fewer comments week over week, but overall engagement is up.

You can drill deeper in both followers and engagement. For example, in the community section I can see useful information like people I follow who don’t follow me back:

looks like i have followers in alaska!

looks like i have followers in alaska!

For content, I can see things like the performance of hashtags I’m using, compare my posting density to months and years past, and even find out the best time to post each day based on engagement.

it looks like the beset times for me to post are morning and evening. avoid mid-day.

it looks like the beset times for me to post are morning and evening. avoid mid-day.

Looks like my Inktober project is off to a good start! I’ve gained more followers, and because the images all fall under the same topic, each new one seems to be lifting old ones as people go back to explore. Plus, the uncommon hashtag pairings (marvel and mustache) seem to be reaching audiences I normally wouldn’t have.

This just scratches the surface. You can get a lot more information by digging deeper. Pay for an Elite account and you can even designate and track competitors—people who post similar content—and track specific hashtags.

The part where you do work

Iconosquare is a great tool, but it’s not magic. Like any tool, it only works well if you use it right. Engagement is a two-way street, and you’ve got to give some to get more back. So after you’ve gone through the process of setting up groups, try the steps below (these are based off tips I received from other artists, and things I did myself). Give it two weeks of consistent, thoughtful work, adjusting as you incorporate the feedback you get from the analytics. With Iconosquare’s help, you’ll see your followership grow.

1. Post consistently

Decide on a posting schedule and stick to it. For me it was every weekday (weekend posts were bonuses if I could get some new art done).

2. Comment often

Go beyond just liking an image. Leave a comment and tell the author why. I shot for a goal to leave at least one comment on at least three different user’s posts per day (much easier to do if you went through the trouble of setting up feed groups).

3. Follow the trends

Look at what’s trending on Instagram. Can you post something related? What hashtags seem to have a lot of uses? Can you post a picture that relates to those? At least once a week I tried to draw some art related to a trending hashtag, like #gameofthrones.

4. Reply to comments

Reply to people who take the time to comment on your posts. They’ll appreciate the response, and other people will see that you’re willing to jump in and engage with people who leave comments.