Gwennan Rees

Blogger and Illustrator

What I Learnt About Instagram & How YOU Can Implement It Into Your Own Feed.

What I Learnt About Instagram & How YOU Can Implement It Into Your Own Feed.

Instagram, it’s algorithm, it’s shadowbanning and every update it seems to give us is getting the blogging world down. No more are we gaining 50 followers a day, long gone are the days half our followers would actually see our posts and let’s not even get started on hashtags and how on earth do we use them.

We’re learning more and more about the ‘new’ Instagram every day. From the good (hold down the pen to fill the screen instead of shading it in and hold down the colour to bring a whole colour wheel up) to the bad (your images only being shown to 10% of your feed and only then if they are engaged with and liked within a certain time slot of being posted).

A week or so ago I decided to do a bit of my own (very modest) research into how you guys are finding, using and engaging with Instagram to see if it married up with my own thoughts and observations. It wasn’t anything fancy, it was just a run of polls on my Insta story but loads of you (10% of my following coincidentally) voted in them, DM’ed me, had thoughts and made your own conclusions too.

I had a lot of people interested in the results of the polls when they were done and I created a cheeky little summary for my blogging gals when they asked so I thought, after promising to share it on Insta and just not getting round to it, that I’d share my findings and draw some conclusions from it. And that way both you and I can test it out, try and implement some new strategy into our grids and see if there’s any kind of change from it – positive or otherwise.

So what were my polls? For those that missed it I asked a bunch of questions about how you use the app, how you view it and what kind of results you get from it. I asked a bit about whether you prefer to use it as a poster or as a viewer, how much you engage with other users, how often you follow new accounts and how much you like what’s on your feed. I asked about shout outs, about engagement from other users on your accounts and the biggest question; are you gaining or losing followers and why you might think that is.

Let’s get into the results.

Most people were enjoying using the app more as a viewer rather than a poster, but only very marginally – the results being nearly evenly split. This surprised me at first as I personally enjoy using it as a viewer more and find posting can be a bit stressful when you’re trying to negotiate themes and photos are bombing left right and center. But when I came to think a bit more on it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason people are enjoying Instagram as a user more than a viewer quite often is likely to be linked to the fact that as a user you are constantly feeling instaenvy? You know the one, where you wish you’d created that image or you’re jealous of her life or her following or they’ve got the brand collab of your dreams and you know they aren’t even suited to it as much as you are. It’s tough work being a viewer or a poster and neither flip of the coin is that preferable most of the time at the moment.

I asked quite a few questions about Instagram themes, a controversial topic in the Insta world when some still swear by it, lots avoid it and most of us have one of some sort anyway. Most of the people who responded to my polls said they did have a theme and they were more than happy to stay in it, but those who said they were looking to change it said they were currently in between themes which suggests a lot of us have recognised we want to make a change to our feeds and have decided to act on it. Personally when I asked the questions, I was in the middle of two themes and kinda hating on my feed which probably prompted the polls in the first place. I think this time of year is quite a reasonable time to be changing up your Instagram theme – for a start the new year brings a change in all of us and also there’s the slight shift in seasons that means we’re looking to move away from the dark tones of winter and into some bright white for Spring. I know this is exactly what I’m doing.  

My personal fav question I asked was ‘would you follow your own feed based on your last 9 photos?’ Your last 9 are generally what you can judged on or not, what makes people follow you or not, that classic phrase ‘you’re only as good as your last 9’. At the time I asked the questions I definitely wouldn’t have followed myself based on my last 9 because I was between themes and it looked a mess but I think now I have moved on to bright, white and light I definitely would. The overwhelming majority of you said you would follow your own feed which is 100% the way it should be.

The most surprising poll for me was about Insta story shoutouts. I love Insta stories and I engage with it way more than I ever did with Snapchat, both as a poster and as a viewer myself. My Insta stories is also the place I’m getting more and more of a following so I guess I’m doing something right over there? I feel I can be funnier and more off the cuff and show more of my real life behind the scenes and I am gaining regular viewers pretty much on the daily and I get a lot of engagement through people replying to it too. I kinda assumed everyone else would be finding the same themes and one of those themes is shoutouts. I swear by shoutouts, I do them, I have had them done about me and when I have, I have always seen a rise in followers. I have also seen some kinda semi sized bloggers say they’ve had shoutouts from the likes of Vix Meldrew, Hannah Gale and Zoella and gained like a thousand new followers in a day. What surprised me then was that those of you who have had shoutouts done actually didn’t find an increase in following and idk what that’s about.

Maybe the most telling polls were the ones where I asked about people’s habits on Instagram. I asked if people generally liked (literally tapped the heart button) on most of the photos on their feed, how often people engaged (like DM or comments) and whether or not you were following new accounts weekly. The results were pretty much as I expected from my own habits – that yes we tend to like most of the photos but we don’t really engage much. The opinion on following new accounts weekly was near enough a 50/50 split which didn’t surprise me awfully either.

And finally then the biggie; are you gaining followers and why? This was a close run race with almost a half and half split but very marginally you voted you were actually gaining followers; just really really slowly. Those of you who DM’ed to say you thought you were gaining followings attributed it to engaging lots and finding really niche communities or hashtags. Those of you who said (like me) that you were losing followers –or kinda staying on the same kinda number- said either you didn’t know, blamed the algorithm or had really thought about it. A lot of people said they’d recently had a big unfollowing of people to cleanse their own feed and that meant they’d lost loads of followers in return or that you plain didn’t have the time to engage.

My overall verdict? There wasn’t all that much that surprised me and I could’ve probably guessed the majority of the votes. A lot of it reflected my own experiences which I think says a lot about how we’re all feeling about the lil app that is the bane of our lives?

So how can you implement what we have learnt here today?

Post what you like.

If you’re not a fan of your own feed then you’re doing Instagram wrong. I mean sure you can hate your current theme and be thinking of changing it. Sure you can feel shitty about your feed when someone else’s is your dream. But if you’re consistently posting day in day out, month on month and you hate every snap and wouldn’t follow yourself then you need to rethink. Post what you like, create the kind of feed you would enjoy to follow, write the captions you always dreamt of writing, post the colours you wish you could’ve posted in your old theme and enjoy what you’re doing again.

Themes are the best.

I’m sorry but they just are, the majority of us have succumbed – even me who resisted it for a long ol’ time. People like to know what to expect from you, it’s just the same as your blog posts. Consistency is key and people will follow you knowing you’re the gal with the pink theme they can come to for flatlay shots and cute puppies.

Make the most of Insta stories.

It’s growing day on day I swear to you. Instagram feeds and grids people like to inject a little bit of personality but in controlled measures and in a glossy higlights real manner. Instagram stories is where the real life is at and it’s what people want from it. Plug your latest blog post, sure, but also show us what you burnt for dinner, how your dog was sick in your shoe and the outtakes of your failed ootd shoot. Also whilst you’re at it, give a shout out to your favs but remember to tag them because nobody likes it when you can’t click on a new account.

Like what you want to see.

If you see a pic you like on your feed, like it. If you haven’t seen someone you absolutely love on your scrolling for a while then go and like their last 10. You have to like the posts you want to see, show your appreciation but don’t get like happy. If there’s something you don’t actually love that much, even if it’s from someone you adore, then don’t like it. Too many likes and Instagram thinks you’re a bot – not enough likes and you’ll never gain appreciation of your own.

Engage with those you love.

Engagement is king when it comes to Instagram these days and you basically can’t do without it. Take the time out to comment on the posts of people you appreciate, reply to questions they’ve asked or ask them a question about their image or their caption. DM them, reply to their Insta stories, show the people you love some love. You can’t expect engagement on your own content when you don’t give any back.

Find communities or make one.

A lot of bloggers have created their own hashtags in the last few months that I’m sure the majority of us have jumped in on – especially since you can follow hashtags now too. Sophie created #findingthejoyinjanuary which has now become #findingthejoyineveryday, Rhianna has #theuncoolclub, Kate has #myKLVhome and Jemma gave us #shinyhappybloggers. These have fast become the place to be, the place to connect and a community in their own right and a place to find new people to engage with. Maybe think about creating your own or at the very least, taking part in some of these.

Don’t whinge about your following.

You just can’t whinge about your following when you’re not following anyone new either. I think if we really get down to the crux of the matter, the problem with growing an Instagram following (and therefore the problem with Instagram altogether) is that we just aren’t following anyone anymore. Long gone are the days when you’d be following every new bugger who followed you. Now, users have to pass a series of tests before you’ll hit that follow button. You have to like their last 9 photos, their theme has to be on your level, they have to say witty things in their captions and have bants in their Insta stories and have an engaging profile pic. And then maybe then you’ll think about it. We want a small feed, we want to see the people we want to see and we don’t really have room for anyone else – it’s no wonder our own following  is on hold isn’t it? 

And there we have it – the results of my (very rough) Instagram survey and it wasn’t all that much of a shock was it? Big thanks to those of you who took part and sent me big long DM’s with your thoughts.

So go forth my loves. May your Instagram grids make you happy, may your feeds fill you with joy and people you love and make sure you follow the odd new person every now and then.


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