How to Gain Traction on Instagram (Updated)

Instagram has an overwhelming flood of photographers, designers, and talented creatives paving the way to a new kind of storytelling. There’s beauty in crafting and broadcasting your passion, but with hashtags flying around from more than 77 million users, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd and gain traction on Instagram.

While jumping on trends and mimicking your favorite grammers is tempting, you’ll be better positioned for Instagram stardom by taking the time to craft your own visual voice with these rules.

Instagram Rulebook

#1 Identify your Purpose: What are your passions? What captures your eye in your day-to-day life? What colors, textures and patterns pop out to you? What’s your message? Are you looking to brand your business, establish yourself as an expert on Paris travel, or create an ode to your favorite pet? You’ll attract a solid set of loyal followers by staying on topic.

Make sure your purpose is realistic and easy to capture. If you’re passionate about mountain climbing, but live in Florida, that could be a challenge. Try it keep it simple enough that you could take a photo any day without too much effort.

Additionally, while you want to keep your topic clear, don’t be afraid to pepper in some variation. Say your purpose is styling flower arrangements; you could add personal and relate-able topics like gardening, coffee (because who doesn’t need coffee), and maybe your sidekick puppy.

@KimGenevieve explains to My Domain:
“Post often, and stay true to yourself. I love California, I love bright colors, and I love having a clean aesthetic. I think that really comes through on my Instagram feed.”

#2 Set your Style: Just like a great fashionista, you should have your staples and go-to pieces, you should know what works best for you, and you should pick and choose what trends to follow. Create your own branded set of style rules for your photos and stick to them. The most followed accounts are like curated collections — with similar color tones, point of views, and filters.

To start, try a mix to see what gets the most engagement. Once you hit a sweet spot, stay there. Your followers will appreciate your consistency. The result is almost like giving them a peek into your life. They might see your repeated coffee cup or repeated chair in their feed and will easily recognize and gravitate towards you.

@lobsterandswan shares a charming collection of cottage living in a palette of muted green, white and wood tones with lots of florals.

#3 Tag it Right: This is an exception that allows you to browse other likeminded accounts for inspiration. Take a look at your favorite Instagrammers to see what hashtags are on their most popular photos. Do a little research on your found tags to confirm it has a good amount of activity and photos are on topic. You can also visit for a list of the most popular tags. And don’t over do it; as a rule of thumb, try to stay under 20 hashtags. Too many may cheapen your style. Bonus: Click here to download my free cheat sheet “How to Instagram Like a Pro”.


#4 Engage: Instagram is a community and you’re there to participate. There’s a give and take to networking so be sure to appreciate what others are sharing by liking and commenting to see action on your side. Always try to reply to comments and follow users back.

Deepen your engagement by using @tags to deepen your engagement. (Quick reference: @people, #hashtags, and don’t forget your location too!) If you’re a coffee aficionado, tag each coffee house where you sip your lattes. You’ll build an audience with others that frequent the same spot. Businesses also love re-gramming user photos that meet their brand standards, so your latte might just make it on the coffee houses official gram.

@lspaceswim loves to use fan photos for brand promotion. 

#5 Check the stats: Login to with your Instagram credentials to view metrics on your account. You’ll get valuable information on how to optimize your performance, like what day/ time your followers are online, what photos and filters get the most attraction, and a list of your follower activity.

Business Perks:

#6 Use it! Not all businesses are using or even on Instagram. Take advantage of that little free space to build a captivating profile and following. Remember, it’s not a place for a sales pitch. Instead, focus on setting a personal approach with beautiful images and pleasant conversation. The best part is it’s mobile – just like your customers.

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