Ah yes, the age-old question: Why isn’t my Instagram photo getting a lot of likes? When you’re focused on growing your Instagram following, this question has likely come up for you at some point. While yes, there have been significant changes to the algorithm. There are things you can control to improve your engagement! It’s not all the algorithm’s fault 😉
*Side note: I’m really, really, really tired of seeing that word. I get it. It sucks. I, too, remember “old Instagram” and miss those days but they ain’t comin’ back. If the past is any indicator, it’s far more likely IG will become more like Facebook. Not less. More ads (we’ve already seen that), more pay-to-play/engage. It is what it is my friends. It’s worthwhile to remember a few hard truths:
- Your followers aren’t yours. They technically belong to Mr. Zuckerberg.
- Yes, they’re there for YOUR content but again, see point 1.
- IG can go away at any point, it’s probably not worth losing energy over worrying about your follower count/engagement. Have fun with it and see it as an experiment.
- Also, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Build your email list. Keep an eye out for new forms of social media and engage there. Work on building a great website. Pin your little heart out on Pinterest. Lots of baskets, my friends.
- If you’re on IG and want to grow your account, you’ll have to do it the way IG wants you to. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it. You can complain all day long about how it’s not organic, how the algorithm hates you, how you can’t just post what you love and get great engagement, on and on. Again. You can’t have it both ways. I mean, you can complain but it’s not going to change anything.
Alright! That was fun. Let’s move on to the things you CAN control, eh?
Quality and Uniqueness
So I have a theory about why high-quality photos is the end all be all for high levels of engagement. I think we’ve (i.e. the social media consumers) have become acclimated to higher and higher quality content. When the bar gets raised by someone doing something new: higher quality photos, stop motion, cute videos, etc. it’s novel. It’s bright, new, shiny and exciting so it stands out. With time, more people start doing the new, trendy thing and sure enough, what was new and shiny becomes routine and boring. It no longer stands out. Rinse and repeat. To stand out you have to be doing something different which is why it is so, so important to find your own voice and your own thing. What makes a photo yours? I think it comes with time and trying lots of different styles but the faster you can hone in on what makes your work, yours. The more you’ll stand out. Don’t be afraid to do something different. When the crowd goes left – go right.
Let’s talk a little about quality. For the above reasons, I think consumers have gotten pickier about what images stand out to them. For me, quality tops any of the other tips. If you can improve the quality of your photos your engagement WILL go up. In my opinion, quality is the end all, be all of high levels of engagement. Period. End of story. You could stop reading here. But maybe you should keep going. It’s going to require you to use a highly critical (not mean girl critical – just remove the emotion and judgement and look at your photo from an outsider’s perspective) eye. Ask yourself, was my photo:
- Clear, in-focus
- Well-lit, not overexposed or underexposed. Do you have specular highlights? Can you see the lovely details on the crumb of the cake?
- Well-composed, using the rule of thirds, Fibonocci Spiral, diagonals, S-curve (to name a few)
- Did my colors work together? Were they interesting?
- Did I capture the most compelling element(s) of the food? For example, melted butter on a biscuit, the texture of a topping, or the gooeyness of a brownie.
- Was my food interesting or pretty to look at? A layer cake or a tart vs cornbread (ok, I’ll be posting a cornbread photo tomorrow so looking at myself here).
- Did I tell a story with my scene?
At least for me, 10/10 times if my post tanks, the answer will be ‘no’ to at least one of those questions. I generally struggle with the last 4 bullet points and particularly the last bullet point. Those are the areas I’m really working on right now! Work on these areas and watch your engagement grow.
The second area that has a big impact on engagement is consistency. By consistency I mean, are you posting:
- At the same time of day (within 30 minutes or so)
- The same number of days per week (every day, Monday-Friday, 1x per week)
- Similar quality photos
- The same kind of food that you normally post? I’ve found posting a different find of food i.e. a savory food when I normally post sweets doesn’t do so hot. But, this could be related to point number one. Quality.
- Are you using:
- Similar hashtags (keeping all but 4-5 the same?)
- All 30 hashtags
- The same number of hashtags (30)
- Are you following and engaging with ONLY food accounts?
- This one will tank your account like no other! Or if you’ve always followed and engaged with accounts outside of the food photography realm, this could be why your account isn’t growing or isn’t growing fast.
I have found the most success with using all 30 hashtags, keeping all but 5 or so the exact same, and posting consistently around 7am, 7 days per week. The best time for your you to post might be different for you! I think it’s most important to find a time and stick to it. Also, I noticed my Instagram growth trended upward significantly when I started posting 7 days per week, instead of 5. I do think consistency matters most of all. So if you don’t think you can keep up with posting 7 days per week, figure out how many days you can stick with consistently and stay the course. For hashtags, I like to use Display Purposes. You’ll want to weed out some of the less-relevant hashtags but it’s a fantastic tool.
Ok, that was a lot. I didn’t even mention commenting on other’s posts! Sending DM’s! Using IG stories and IGTV! Writing stuff on your IG stories so people are more likely to engage longer with your story! There are other posts by other people that go further in to that. Jasmine Star is a great resource on all things growing your IG. I hope this post was helpful!