And once someone clicks “follow,” keep giving them what they signed up for. “Especially within the design space, the easiest way to gain traction and grow a following is to be consistent,” Janelle says. “If you’re an interior designer, you really just want to be posting interiors, architecture, your own work, or inspiration, over and over.”
Don’t discount the power of captions to grab potential followers’ attention, Blakeney says. “There are so many ways to engage an audience and the picture is only half of it. The copy is extremely important in how you’re telling the story.” It’s about more than simply discussing each photo, Janelle says—captions are a great way to set yourself apart, draw in a new audience, and establish brand voice. “You may have beautiful images, but communicating and letting your personality show through is so important.”
For many visual people like designers, words just aren’t a default way to communicate ideas—they may think best in color and shapes—but it’s essential to consider how a post is going to be received by the audience, not only what’s easiest to create.
Blakeney’s had success boosting her profile by experimenting with how she designs her captions. “It’s unbelievable,” she says, “that the exact same photo can get up to twice the engagement with different types of copy.” Because designers like Blakeney have followers who live and breathe decor, a popular caption could mean sharing sources on the projects she posts, which she makes sure to do generously. “When people are finding that they are learning something from you, they’re going to come back. And that’s the ultimate goal.” It may mean connecting in other ways: discussing her personal career journey, her design process, or asking a thoughtful question to invite followers to engage. “It’s experimentation, practicing every single day and then reflecting,” she says. “Looking back and saying, ‘wow, people really like this thing, I’m gonna continue to do that but put a spin on it.’”
Another trick to get better at writing copy? Don’t forget to make it your own so it feels more fun to do. “As a creative, stop thinking about it [the captions] so much as this power PR and marketing tool—even though that is what it is. Think of it as an art project,” says Blakeney. Words are just another tool to shape her feed and the point of view of her brand. (Using emojis can add a bit of fun, too.) “Think of it as something you’re trying to share, which has a narrative arc that tells a story. That’s how you engage people, that’s how you bring people in, that’s how you get people excited about what you’re doing.”
Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to supercharge your reach by using hashtags—targeted keywords that can help you tap into a whole new community. Taking the time to include relevant hashtags to your captions will increase the likelihood that your content will get in front of the eyeballs of people who are already interested in, and searching for, what you offer. People who—if they like what they see—will be more likely to hit the follow button. But for higher quality engagement, do your research. Before you use popular hashtags, take a look at what other posts are linked to that keyword and ensure sure it’s a group you want your content to be associated with. Taking the time to use accurate and relevant hashtags will not only make your posts look credible to potential followers but also to the Instagram algorithm.
“It’s one thing to put content out there, but if you’re not making some noise, then nobody’s going to discover your content,” Janelle says. “Ultimately this is a social medium, and being social, engaging, and being active is the thing that’s going to help you gain you visibility.” In fact, he says, interacting with other users—ones that you might find on the Explore page, for instance—is just as important as what you post on your feed.