Yes, there are ways to optimize every single thing that you do on Instagram in order to grow faster but, truth be told, you don’t have to slog your life away on the app to have an account that looks good and gets the job done. There’s a way to manage your Instagram in which you can spend 20% of the time and get 80% of the results most dedicated social media managers would garner for you while working full-time. How do I know? Spending as little time as possible managing my Instagrams while still making them visually appealing and fast-growing accounts is what I’ve set out to do for all of my projects on the platform like @potteryforall, @pinlord, @macramemakers, and many others. Some have been successful, some haven’t, but on average I spend less than 45 minutes per day managing 4 accounts that have garnered over 700K followers and help me earn a living. Depending on your niche and your differentiation, this system might not generate the fastest growth for your account but, for most people, it’ll enable you to have an effective Instagram account doing the bare minimum.
Here’s how I do it:
Step 1: Create a strong foundation by optimizing your basic profile elements like your username and profile photo:
The first step to growing any Instagram account is first making sure that your most basic account elements, like your username, profile photo, and bio are well executed. Why? How fast your account grows depends on how many people discover your account AND what percentage of them like your account enough once they discover you. Your username, your profile photo, and your bio are like the paint, branding, and window display in a storefront.
It’s the first thing people see and evaluate when they first come across your account, so if they’re not well executed, people will quickly dismiss it and not even consider following it or checking your content.
Now, how do you optimize these elements? Here’s a quick and simple breakdown of each:
An optimized username is one that has no special characters and is the phase that people are most likely to search for you on Instagram. The more simple and easy to remember it is, the easier it’ll be for people to remember and share it.
Your profile photo:
Profile photos is as visible as your username is within the Instagram ecosystem so the more bold, simple, unique, and easy to identify from a distance it is, the easier it’ll be for people to remember it and associate it to your account.
An effective Instagram bio is one that simply communicates what you offer and how you are differentiated from other accounts that offer something similar in a sentence or two. This enables the group of people who are interested in your topic to identify that you offer it and therefore follow you. What you want to avoid is vague and unnecessarily long bios. Vague bios don’t communicate any information effectively and therefore just make it less likely that the people who are interested in your topic will even know that you offer content about that topic.
Step 2: Plan and execute a visually appealing Instagram grid layout that’ll differentiate you from similar accounts:
When you’ve created a strong foundation by optimizing your username, profile photo, and bio, the next step is to plan and execute a visually appealing grid layout. Why? Instagram is a visual platform so, after your bio, what people who discover your account subconsciously evaluate is how visually appealing your grid layout is in comparison to similar accounts. The more differentiated and well-executed your grid layout is, the more you signal to potential followers that your account will offer high-quality content that respects their time and attention, which increases the likelihood that they’ll follow you.
Planning and executing a visually appealing grid is half art and half science so I recommend that you read my article about the topic but, in summary, you use a grid layout planner (I like to use the one in Onlypult) to upload your future content and organize it to visualize how your grid will look ahead of time, so you know how it’ll look when you post in the future (we’ll get into how to post easily in the next step).
Most people who are thoughtful about their grid make it look visually distinctive by using a “multiples of three” posting pattern (posting in a repeating order of multiples of three that results in a pattern) or a “color scheme coordination” (where they make sure that each photo you post has a degree of color coordination) or a mix of both.
These serve as decent templates, but the most important element of a differentiated grid is that it’s DIFFERENTIATED so the more unique and visually appealing your grid is, the more effective it’ll be. Also, know that they don’t have to be geometrical. As long as the content looks visually appealing from a glance, you’re creating value.
A great grid is not easy to execute, but know that it’s essential and that eventually, you’ll get better with practice.
Step 3: Post once per week and automate the process:
Once you’ve taken care of your account's visual basics like your username, bio, and grid layout, you’re finally ready to start doing the activities that bring people to your account because your account is now optimized to retain them as followers. The most effective way to consistently get people to discover your account on Instagram is to post consistently. Why? Without posting content, there will be no way for people who don’t know you to come across your username and discover you on Instagram.
If you’d like to post at a rate that’ll generate the most followers you can read my article on how to find your optimal posting rate on Instagram, but if you’d like to do the bare minimum, I’d recommend posting once per week. It’s what I do on my @couplescacao account and, in my opinion, at this rate, you minimize the amount of time you spend creating and posting content while still posting enough to make your account seem active and relevant.
Not only does this rate of posting minimize the amount your spend on content creation while still maintaining an active account, it also facilities the automation of the posting process.
If you know that you’ll post once per week, you can then also know that you need around 52 posts to cover a year’s worth of content (52 weeks in a year). With a bit of leg work, you can easily get 26 photos or videos, plan your grid and schedule them out for every week during the next sixth months through a post automation software like Onlypult (you can read my article on how to automate Instagram posts from your computer for a step by step breakdown of how I do it) all in a week or two. By doing that, you’ll effectively have 6 months of Instagram done and you won’t even have to use your Instagram app if you don’t want to. It’s a game-changer and the only reason why I can manage more than 4 accounts at once.
Step 4: Maximize your daily “likes”:
And finally, now that you have your account visuals in order and you’re automating your posts, the only and likely most effective activity I do every weekday is to spend around 5–10 minutes maximizing my daily likes. You can read my article on how to maximize your daily Instagram interactions to get an in-depth explanation of the process, but in summary, every day you “like” as many posts as possible in the hashtags your target audience most densely uses without going over your daily interaction threshold. By doing that, you’ll be maximizing the number of opportunities for relevant people to discover your username on their Activity Feed, without depending on the Instagram algorithm.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, how fast you grow depends on how people discover your account and what percentage of them like it enough to follow you. To grow, you want to get as many people as possible to discover your account but to be discovered you depend on being surfaced by the algorithm (you can read my article breaking down how the Instagram algorithm works if you want to learn more), except when you like the content of other people and they discover your username through that. So, by maximizing your interactions, you maximize the discovery opportunities that are in your control to create, all in 10 minutes a day.
If you get your username, bio, and profile photo in shape and execute a good grid layout, automate your posts and post once per week, and maximize your daily interactions effectively, I’ll guarantee you that you’ll end up with an account that looks proficient and grows consistently without having to spend a lot of time on Instagram. If not, get in touch by DMing me through my Instagram @theeduardomorales and let me know why! I’d love to hear about your experience trying out this strategy.— — —PS — If you have to use Instagram for your business or work or personal reason, treat it as a tool and spend time researching what Instagram really is, how the Instagram algorithm works, and focus on learning about activities that you need to do to have a well-executed and “successful” Instagram (specifically, being able to create engaging Instagram content, a differentiated Instagram grid, posting consistently, or using an Instagram bot to automate the time-consuming but effective tactic of maximizing your daily interactions). If you can, use it as little as possible and spend your time on other activities that bring you well-being.